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The Lifetime Costs of Power Wheelchair Maintenance

By Matt Lalande in Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyer, Spinal Cord Injuries on September 15, 2023

The Lifetime Costs of Power Wheelchair Maintenance

The Lifetime Costs of Power Wheelchair Maintenance

Serious car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accident and even slip and falls can result catastrophic outcomes, with spinal cord injuries standing out as some of the most severe. Car accidents, due to their frequency and the force involved, are among the top causes of such injuries. The abrupt jolts and impacts during these collisions can severely damage the spine. Truck accidents, given the sheer size and weight of these vehicles, often result in even more profound spinal trauma, making the injuries more complex and severe.

On the other hand, motorcyclists and cyclists, devoid of the protective encasement that cars offer, are directly exposed to impacts. Any collision or fall can lead to direct trauma to their spine, even if they’re wearing protective gear. Similarly, pedestrians, having no shield against the force of an oncoming vehicle, can suffer spinal cord injuries when struck, as their bodies might be thrown or dragged, causing significant spinal trauma. Lastly, slip and fall incidents, which might seem benign compared to vehicular accidents, can be just as damaging. A fall, whether from height or on a flat surface, can lead to awkward landings that injure the spine. In essence, the dynamics of each accident might differ, but their potential to cause brutal spinal cord injuries is a grim commonality, underscoring the critical importance of safety in all situations.

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can have profound and life-altering effects on an individual’s mobility and overall quality of life. The extent of the injury, whether it’s complete or incomplete, and its location on the spinal cord, often determines the level of mobility impairment. A significant number of individuals with SCIs find themselves reliant on mobility aids, with wheelchairs being the most common. While not all spinal cord injury victims require a wheelchair, many do, especially those with injuries at the cervical or thoracic levels. Wheelchairs provide spinal cord injury victims with a means to navigate their environment, maintain a level of independence, and engage in daily activities. It’s essential to understand that the need for a wheelchair is not solely based on the injury itself but also on the victims’s rehabilitation progress, support systems, and personal choices.

The Different Types of Wheelchairs

The following is a comprehensive description of the different types of wheelchairs designed for individuals or victims with spinal cord injuries:

Manual Wheelchairs:

  • Standard Wheelchairs: These are the most basic type, often used temporarily, such as in hospitals. They are heavier and may not be as customizable as other types.
  • Lightweight Wheelchairs: Designed for daily use, they are lighter than standard wheelchairs, making them easier to propel and transport.
  • Ultra-lightweight Wheelchairs: Even lighter than the lightweight versions, these are highly customizable and are often chosen by active users.
  • Sports Wheelchairs: Specifically designed for various sports, they have unique features like angled wheels for stability and agility.

Power Wheelchairs:

  • Standard Power Wheelchairs: Operated by a joystick or alternative control method, they offer mobility without the need for manual propulsion.
  • Power Tilt and Recline Wheelchairs: These allow the user to adjust their position for comfort, pressure relief, or specific activities.
  • Standing Power Wheelchairs: These wheelchairs enable users to stand upright, which can be beneficial for bone density, circulation, and social interactions.

Specialty Wheelchairs:

  • Tilt-in-Space Wheelchairs: These manual wheelchairs allow the seat to tilt while keeping the hip, knee, and ankle angles consistent. This feature helps in pressure relief and positioning.
  • Hemi Wheelchairs: Designed for individuals who can use only one side of their body, the chair is set up to allow propulsion with a single hand or foot.

Custom Wheelchairs: These are tailored to the specific needs of the user. They can be manual or powered and are designed considering the user’s body measurements, injury level, and lifestyle.

All-Terrain Wheelchairs: Designed for outdoor enthusiasts, these wheelchairs can navigate rough terrains like sand, gravel, and grass. They often have larger, wider wheels or even tracks.

Pediatric Wheelchairs: Specifically designed for children, they are adjustable to accommodate growth. They can be manual or powered and are often more colorful and playful in design.

Each type of wheelchair can come with various customization options, such as cushioning, backrests, armrests, and positioning aids, to cater to the unique needs of individuals with spinal cord injuries. The choice of wheelchair often depends on the severity of the injury, the user’s lifestyle, and specific requirements.

The Important Components of a Wheelchair

Before understanding the requirements of wheelchair maintenance and wheelchair upkeep it is important to understand the various components of power wheelchairs and how they interact with one another.

A power wheelchair, as the name suggests, is a motorized version of the traditional wheelchair, designed to offer enhanced mobility to individuals with limited or no ability to propel a manual wheelchair. At its core, a power wheelchair is a combination of advanced engineering and thoughtful design, ensuring the user’s comfort, safety, and independence.

Base and Frame: The foundation of the power wheelchair is its sturdy base and frame, typically made of reinforced materials like steel or aluminum. This base houses the motor, batteries, and wheels, providing stability and durability.

Motor and Batteries: The heart of a power wheelchair is its motor, powered by rechargeable batteries. These batteries are usually located beneath the seat or at the back of the chair. They provide the necessary energy to drive the motors, allowing the wheelchair to move. Depending on the model, these batteries can last for several hours on a single charge.

Wheels: Most power wheelchairs come with six wheels – two larger drive wheels in the center, two smaller caster wheels in the front, and another two at the back. This design ensures stability, especially during turns. The tires can be solid, foam-filled, or pneumatic, depending on the intended use and terrain.

Joystick Control: One of the most recognizable components is the joystick, typically mounted on one of the armrests. This joystick allows the user to control the direction and speed of the wheelchair. For those who cannot use a joystick, alternative control methods, such as head arrays or sip-and-puff systems, can be implemented.

Seat and Backrest: Ensuring the user’s comfort, the seat and backrest are often padded and can be adjusted to fit the user’s body shape and size. Some models offer specialized cushioning systems for pressure relief and posture support.

Armrests and Footrests: These components provide support for the arms and legs. They can be adjusted in height and angle, and in some models, they can be swung away or removed for easier transfers.

Safety Features: For added safety, power wheelchairs come equipped with anti-tip wheels at the back, ensuring the chair doesn’t tip backward. Some models also feature seat belts, lights, and horns.

Additional Accessories: Depending on the user’s needs, various accessories can be added, such as cup holders, storage bags, or even advanced electronic systems for communication or environmental control.

In essence, a power wheelchair is quite a sophisticated piece of mobility equipment designed to offer mobility and independence to those with physical limitations. It’s a blend of technology and comfort, ensuring that the user can navigate their environment with ease and confidence. For families of spinal cord injury victims, understanding the different components and how a power wheelchair works or functions can be instrumental in making good informed decisions and ensuring the best quality of life for their injured loved one.

Power Wheelchair Maintenance and Costs

Power wheelchairs in Canada are VERY expensive and must be maintained on a regular basis. For example, power wheelchairs at Vital Mobility start at $2,799.00. As wheelchairs becomes more complex, the price tag can increase significantly. Prices can increase to well over $5000.00.


Wheelchair batteries have a lifespan and must be replaced every few years. The length of wheelchair battery life is influenced by several factors, including its usage, the cold, maintenance, and the specific type of battery. Normally and on average, a wheelchair battery is expected to last around two years, as mentioned by Northeast Battery.

However, some sources, such as Battery Guy, state that the average lifespan can extend up beyond 2 years. Again, these sources state that the lifespan on a wheelchair battery can vary based on how frequently the wheelchair is used, how well the battery is maintained, and the conditions under which it’s used. Regular maintenance and proper charging habits can extend the battery’s life. As of 2023, the cost of a wheelchair battery in Canada can range from $122.00 to close to over $300.00.

Wheelchair Motors

Wheelchair motors also need maintenance and replacement. Maintaining a wheelchair motor is very important for ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of the wheelchair. Regular maintenance of wheelchair motors helps in preventing potential issues and to ensure the safety of the spinal cord injury victim. According to Physiopedia, it’s a good idea to inspect the wheelchair motor daily. As mentioned in the Maintenance Guide for Users of Manual and Power Wheelchairs, it’s also important to be attentive to any unusual motor noises.

Remember to do regular checks, to clean, and ensure that the motor is free from obstructions can help in its smooth functioning. If the motor exhibits any signs of wear or malfunction, it’s advisable to get it looked at right away.

Wheelchair Wheels

Wheelchair wheels, over time, the wheels of a power wheelchair can wear out due to regular use, rough terrains, or external factors. When wheelchair wheels wear down it could lead to reduced traction, compromised safety, and most importantly – an uncomfortable ride for the user. Therefore, it’s important that wheelchair users or their family inspect the wheels as regularly as possible and replace them when they show signs of significant wear or damage.

The time for replacement mainly depends on the frequency of use and the terrains navigated. As for seasonal changes, while standard wheels are designed to function efficiently in most conditions, snow or ice in winter might necessitate specialized or better wheels for better grip and safety. Wheelchair wheels and rims can cost in the range of $50.00 to $125 each.

Joystick Controls

Joystick controls also must be maintained and if necessary, replaced if they become non-functional. Over time, due to regular use, exposure to environmental factors, or accidental spills, the joystick might experience wear and tear or reduced responsiveness. Dust, debris, or moisture can infiltrate the joystick mechanism, leading to erratic movements or even complete malfunction. Therefore, it’s imperative to periodically check and maintain the joystick controls to ensure they function optimally. Mobility Equipment for Less is a US company offers replacement joystick controllers for power chairs which range from $400 to $1000 USD.

Wheelchair Cushions

Wheelchair cushions are important for utmost comfort for spinal cord injury victims. Wheelchair cushions ensure the comfort and well-being of spinal cord injury victims. Given the prolonged periods of sitting, a cushion that doesn’t provide adequate support can lead to complications. One of the primary concerns is the development of pressure sores, which are painful ulcers that form when the skin and underlying tissue break down due to prolonged pressure. These sores can lead to infections and other very serious health issues if not addressed promptly.

What is the lifespan of a wheelchair cushion? This can vary based on its type and material such as:

  • Comfort Cushions
  • Gel Cushions
  • Positioning Cushions
  • Air & Skin Protection Cushions
  • Foam Cushions
  • Bariatric Cushions
  • Cushion Covers
  • Pediatric Cushions and
  • Back Support

It is very important to regularly inspect and assess the condition of wheelchair cushions to make sure that they provide the necessary support and pressure relief. If a cushion no longer offers the required support, it’s time to consider a replacement to prevent potential health issues like pressure sores or rashes. The cost of cushions, as noted 1800wheelchair.ca can range from $100 to $500.

Armrests and Footrests

Wheelchair armrests or footrests also need to be checked on a regular basis to guarantee their optimal functionality. Over time, armrests, which are exposed to elements, can show signs of wear, such as loosening or fraying, which can compromise the user’s support and stability. Similarly, footrests, being constantly exposed to external elements, can become misaligned or damaged, potentially leading to posture issues or even accidents. Regular maintenance, including tightening screws, replacing worn-out parts, and ensuring proper alignment, is crucial to keep the wheelchair in top condition and provide a safe and comfortable experience for the user. The cost of replacing armrests on power wheelchairs can vary depending on factors such as the wheelchair’s brand, model, and specific features. Most armrest replacement costs range from $70.00 to $100.00. Footrest replacement costs range from $50.00 to $200.00.

Wheelchair Replacement

At one point or another, wheelchairs will need to be replaced. On average and what our spinal cord injury lawyers have learned from life-care planners and overall experience, the lifespan of a power wheelchair is between 6 to 9 years. However, some high-quality models, when well-maintained, can actually a decade or more. It’s essential to note that while the frame might remain sturdy, components such as batteries, motors, and seating systems may need replacement or significant repair over time. Regular maintenance and addressing minor issues promptly can extend a power wheelchair’s longevity, but after years of daily use, replacing the entire unit might become more cost-effective and ensure continued reliability for the user.


The lifetime costs of a wheelchair can be very expensive, based on a few factors:

  • The age of the spinal cord injury victim- the younger the victim, the more expensive the lifetime costs will be;
  • The type and model of chair;
  • Frequency of use;
  • Quality of components;
  • Regular maintenance;
  • Repair costs;
  • Warranty coverage;
  • Accessibility to service providers; and
  • DIY vs. Professional Repairs.

It’s challenging to provide an exact figure for the lifetime costs of wheelchair maintenance and repair in Canada because it can vary widely from one disabled victim to another. In order to discover the exact amount of maintenance or repair costs – or replacement costs – our spinal cord injury lawyers retain typically life care planners who will investigate these costs.

Life care planner plays a very important role in assessing and quantifying the future needs and costs of spinal cord injury victims. When it comes to determining the cost of power wheelchair maintenance, repair, and replacement, a comprehensive approach is undertaken. Initially, the life care planner will evaluate the specific model of the power wheelchair, its features, lifespan, and the individual’s unique needs and usage patterns. They will research into the manufacturer’s guidelines, as well as consultation with equipment specialists or suppliers, provides information about recommended maintenance schedules and common repair issues. The planner will also gather data on the average costs of regular maintenance, parts, labor, and potential upgrades. Additionally, the planner will estimate the lifespan of the power wheelchair and incorporate the cost of eventual replacement. All these factors are then compiled to provide a detailed and accurate projection of the long-term expenses associated with the power wheelchair over the individual’s anticipated lifetime or period of need.

Paying for the Maintenance, Repair and Replacement of a Power Wheelchair

If you or a loved one are involved in a serious motor vehicle accident (as opposed to a slip and fall) then you will be entitled to access no-fault benefits. In the case of paraplegic or quadriplegic injuries, you will be entitled to various benefits including:

  • If you were working at the time of an accident, an Income Replacement Benefit of up to 70% of your gross income up to $400 a week unless optional benefits are purchased;
  • Medical and Rehabilitation benefits that are not covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) or a private health insurance plan – up to $1,000,000.00 unless optional benefits are purchased;
  • Caregiver Benefits is you were acting as the primary caregiver to someone and can no longer perform this role due to their injuries, they may be entitled to this benefit. It’s worth noting that this benefit is only available if the injured person was not paid for their caregiving services and they need to hire someone to replace them;
  • A Non-Earner Benefit – is for those who do not qualify for the Income Replacement Benefit, such as students or retirees;
  • Housekeeping Beneftis are available if you cannot maintain your home due to your injuries. It provides up to $100 per week;
  • Visitor Expenses are available to cover the expenses incurred by family members or those living with the injured person when visiting them during treatment or recovery;

In addition, of the accident is not your fault, you may entitled to damages for your pain and suffering up to approximately $450,000 (2023) as well as damages for past and future loss of income, future health care expenses over and above your no-fault benefits, capacity for the loss of housekeeping capacity, among other things. There is no cap on wage losses or other pecuniary damages. Remember however tha the limits of what compensation you are able to recover are limited to the at-fault drivers insurance policy limits. Therefore, if the person that hits you possesses $2,000,000.00 in limits, then your maximum recovery would be $2,000,000.00 in addition to your no-fault benefits coverage.

Have you or a Loved one Suffered a Spinal Cord Injury?

Since 2003 Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyer Matt Lalande has extensive experience with traumatic spinal cord injury victims who have suffered complete and imcomplete spinal cord injuries due to the negligence of others. We understand that suffering a spinal cord injury is among the most devastating traumas an individual can endure, often resulting in profound life-altering consequences. We also understand that these injuries not only disrupt the body’s central communication system, leading to paralysis and loss of sensation, but they also shatter dreams, aspirations, and the very essence of one’s daily existence. We also understand that the emotional and psychological toll of suffering a spinal cord injury is immense, with many grappling with feelings of grief, anger, and depression as they mourn the loss of their former selves.

If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, it is absolutely imperative that you consult with a spinal cord injury lawyer to ensure that all of your legal need are met and that you recover every penny that you deserve. Spinal cord injuries are not only among the most devastating injuries which one could suffer – but the most expensive.

Call our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers today no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Hamilton/GTA/Niagara regions at 905-333-8888 and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, you may contact us online, confidentially, by filling out a contact form or having your social worker or nurse practitioner reach out to us on your behalf if you are unable to do do.  We will get back to you within 24 hours.

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