How to Motorize a Manual Wheelchair

how to motorize a manual wheelchair

Manual wheelchairs are mostly utilized by active disabled individuals who can still make great use of the limbs and parts of the body.

There are various types of manual wheelchairs; they range from standard chairs to light chairs and Hemi height chairs. They all give the disabled the desired and much yearned independence.

In addition, manual wheelchairs help to reduce the stress on caregivers and are very easy to transport and handle.

They can also accommodate lots of accessories desired by an individual like extra armrests, luggage carriers, side guards (these particularly help you to grow several inches, protect your clothes from getting dirty, and slim your waist, *winks*), cup holders, spoke guards, handlebars, or any other tailored needs of the individual.

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How to Make a Manual Wheelchair Electric

You can turn your manual wheelchair into a light electric wheelchair to make it motorized using attachments.

They are fantastic assets to your wheelchair because you would have no issues with rough surfaces or steep inclines.

It is also important to know that motorizing your wheelchair is a distinctive solution that will restructure your ability to move, especially outdoors without having to give up the overall primacy of a manual wheelchair.

Below, you will find out about these wonderful attachments and how you can get them to serve you and your manual wheelchair.

Related: List of Reputable Places to Sell Wheelchairs

Add-ons to Motorize Your Manual Wheelchair

First and foremost, you need to know why these attachments are called powered add-ons. This is because they are attached to manual wheelchairs to supply electric power when in motion.

They make moving easier and rid you of some of the physical strains you always experience when propelling yourself. They are also easy to fix and can be done by yourself or with help from someone.

Using these electric add-ons to motorize your wheelchair suggests that you don’t have to bother about being tired because your energy will be preserved and your shoulders won’t have to hurt occasionally from propelling the wheels forward.

how to make a manual wheelchair electric

Types of powered add-ons to help motorize your chair includes Bike add-ons, Power/drive wheels inclusive of rear wheels (e.g. SmartDrive), ergonomic control elements (joystick, touch screens, controls on push handles – basically for your caregiver), batteries, switch controls, and push tracker (requires Bluetooth).

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of them.

Power/Drive Wheels

Most times, this comes as a complete pack – magnetic plug, light battery pack, swivel arm base to fix joystick, touchpad, switch control, brake, and rear wheels. They are attached as electric motors into the wheel brackets of the chairs.

It comes with a battery that helps set the chair in motion.

You can fix the drive wheels with the aid of the brackets. Then insert the light battery because this is what will provide the power to make everything else (that you’re going to attach) function.

The rear wheel is quite firm and doesn’t even affect the size of the wheelchair. Hence, you will have no issues navigating your movements both indoor and outdoor. You can confidently go anywhere with this attached wheel without feeling tired or developing shoulder pain.

You can use any of your smart devices (Bluetooth, Smart Watch, and Phone) to control it if you don’t want to use the switch control.   

Also, if you feel you need the joystick, depending on the severity of your injury (for example, this would be necessary for an individual who has lost a whole part of the body to paralysis), then fix it.

This way, you expend very little energy and you feel like you are making use of an actual power wheelchair, except that you can attach and detach all electrical components. 

All of these add-ons enable you to turn on the spot and aid a swift and smooth turnaround. They are great when you need to pass or go across hilly terrains.

No matter your type of disability, as long as you can still use your limbs, these add-on options will greatly help motorize your manual wheelchair.

Related: 13 Top Reasons for Wheelchair Use

Bike Attachments

Handbikes or cycles are electric add-ons that are attached to the front of the wheelchair. So, instead of using your hand to propel yourself, you ride your wheelchair like a bike. It can even be connected to your smartphone to help you navigate perfectly.

However, it is rather unfortunate that it is best for only outdoor settings because you’d encounter constraints when controlling it indoors. This add-on might also make the wheelchair a bit difficult to transport. 

Other Add-ons That Can Help You

Push Tracker

This makes controlling your rear wheel a lot easier as the technology works with gestures like tapping your hands.

Switch Control

The switch control also enables you to control your rear wheel by just pressing it. It is usually placed on the wheelchair frame close to your legs. There’s nothing more versatile and fitting than control switches.

Types of Add-on Products That Can Help Motorize Your Manual Wheelchair

how to motorize a manual wheelchair
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  • Wheelchair Power Packs
  • Invacare SMOOV One
  • R20 Empulse Folding Powerpack
  • Permobil SmartDrive, Push Tracker, Push Tracker E2
  • SMOOV One add-on
  • E-Fix
  • E-Motion
  • E-Pilot
  • Alber E-Pilot Hand bike
  • Firefly Wheelchair Handcycle
  • Alber E Fix E35
  • FreeWheel
  • Alber Twion

Related: How to Choose a Reliable Transport Wheelchair (Complete Guide)

Benefits of Motorizing Your Manual Wheelchair

  • The attachments are designed to give you an added surge of power whenever you need it
  • They are lightweight and easy to fix
  • Your wheelchair becomes a two-in-one wheelchair; how awesome!
  • It makes you independent and gives you the desired confidence you need, especially in public settings and spaces
  • The power add-on kits can be attached and detached whenever there’s a need, and they are very portable. They are even compatible with all types of manual wheelchairs
  • The weight of some of the add-ons isn’t significant to the overall weight of your wheelchair. So, you need not worry about having extra kilograms attached to the chair
  • Newer models can be controlled and managed through your smart devices. Also, a huge percentage of the battery types are approved for transport in passenger planes, so you need not panic
  • These motorized manual wheelchairs are now usually termed Active User Wheelchairs mainly because the disabled individuals using them are independent and very active
  • Producers are now making these types of wheelchairs with features such as smaller frames (making them very fit for users), bigger wheels, and lower backrests
  • You might mostly find Parathletics and Paralympics using this type of wheelchair. Some types of active wheelchairs are Helium Pro, Ultra Light, and K-Series
How to Motorize a Manual Wheelchair


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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