Which Wheel Drive?
18 Oct 2013
Powered wheelchairs are often advertised as having a certain drive, such as being “rear wheel drive”. For those inexperienced with wheelchairs, it can be confusing what exactly the difference is, and what the pros and cons of each are. Put simply, it refers to which wheels are powered by the motors. This can affect the performance of the wheelchair, particularly its manoeuvrability.
Rear wheel drive is the one most commonly found, and is what most people would recognise on a powerchair. Like a car or mobility scooter, the motor powers the rear wheels, making them simple to drive. However, it does mean they need a larger space to turn, which can affect their usage indoors. Rear wheel drive wheelchairs can be good outdoors, but often at the expense of indoor manoeuvrability.
Much rarer is front wheel drive – these powerchairs are more compact, and have a smaller turning circle. However, they are less intuitive to drive and move in the opposite direction to the joystick. Front wheel drive offers stability and the ability to get close to desks and objects, and is often found on bariatric powerchairs.
Mid wheel drive is a fairly modern development, and proving popular. They are the best powered wheelchairs to use inside, as they can literally turn on the spot. More basic models can struggle on ramps and uneven surfaces, as the drive wheels lose traction. However, the top mid-wheel drive powerchairs, such as the Sunrise Medical Jive or Salsa, have all-wheel independent suspension that allows them to excel outside too.
For many people after a basic wheelchair, rear or mid wheel drive are chosen as they are the most commonly available. If you’re considering taking a wheelchair long-term, then it is worth giving some thought to which option to go for. While personal preference is ultimately the decider for many people, our specialists are also on hand to advise which would be most suitable for your situation.