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Knucklebuster blues

Well, although I’ve longed ever since having a limb or three chopped off two years ago to be able to get up and turn a wrench again, I never dreamed my return to the ranks of the Most Honorable and Exalted Order of the Gearhead™ would involve working on a blasted…wheelchair?!?

No shit, folks, Memezapoppin’ is delayed tonight due to the fact that I have just spent the last two hours re-installing a wandering hex-head shoulder bolt that somehow worked itself loose from the left backrest riser—without, thankfully, backing out altogether, hitting dirt, and skedaddling off to someplace betwixt here and Timbuktu.

I guess the stupid thing musta rattled out of its assigned threaded orifice because of excessive vibration from the high RPMs the stroked-out big-block Cobra Jet engine installed on this contraption that I…oh God, I can’t even joke about this shit, that’s how not fuckin’ funny it is.

Yep, it’s a long way from banging up my delicate concert-pianist and guitarslinger hands on Harley V-Twins and beater-classic Fords to rasslin’ recalcitranrt wheelchair hardware, all of it straight down. Mind you, the chair I have is actually a no-shit, for-real racing model: Clinton River’s Tailwind, a sweet $800 dealio which was taken off the market years ago ‘cause some doctor fella got hisself hurt in one, sued the company for 8 million simoleons, and won.

How I got mine was, a close friend of mine is always scouting around at the wheelchair store in CLT—his mom has MS and has been locked down in a chair for as long as I’ve known him, which is a lotta years—and happened to see my Tailwind sitting out by the dumpster in back of the store one day, waiting to be hauled off and scrapped. Shane looked it over real good—knowing a thing or two about a thing or two concerning such things as he does—was aware that I’d be in the market for one once I got out of hospital durance vile, and tossed it into his pickup to bring home for me.

I like the thing, actually; the battery-assist never has worked, since the strange-o battery packs have long since gone the way of the dodo just like the chair itself has. Also, it has no brakes on it of any kind, which has taken a great deal of getting used to and requires much careful forethought and attention.

That said, though, it also has quick-detach main wheels and the seat-back folds down flat, making it a lead-pipe cinch to break down, toss into the back seat of the car, and motor on off when the walls here at home begin to close in on me and I just GOTTA get out and go somewhere…ANYwhere. Which is usually about once a week or thereabouts.

The no-parking-brake thingie, though downright dangerous when it isn’t just an ordinary pain in the ass, admits of a blood-simple, inexpensive workaround which I’ve already worked out in my head and plan to implement as soon as possible, transforming this already-rare wheelchair into a true one-of-a-kind custom build. Someday, it’d be nice if I could figure out a way to do away with the heavy electric motors on each of the main wheels and lighten this little jewel up a bit, but since that’s where the splined shafts of the detachable wheels go in and attach, I haven’t got that one figured out yet in such a way that wouldn’t require full-machine-shop access and some serious fabrication.

What can I say; once a gearhead, always a gearhead, I guess.


4 thoughts on “Knucklebuster blues

  1. Wheel Chair Hot Rodding – sounds like a nice hobby. I couldn’t find the battery data other than 8.4 Ah. Any clue what the voltage was? Perhaps I could come up with a replacement. Originally an NIMH type, we could get a lot more bang with a lithium battery. Any idea if the control system is operational, just needing power? Sounds like a nice design to me. I can see exactly how it would work, mechanically, electrically, and the software to convert the input data to the motion desired (of course that’s the stuff I do).

    Looks like the lawsuit was over the fact that there were no brakes available when there was a failure of a regenerative braking system. At least that’s what I read between the lines. We build lots of regenerative braking systems to control unwinding tension and they all have an emergency friction brake for this reason.

    1. God, can’t remember the voltage, seems like it was maybe 7, 7.5? I do remember reading complaints that it was entirely inadequate for what it was supposed to do, ran out of juice in no time at all. Shane and another close friend of mine, his brother-in-law Zach, searched high and low for a couple of months trying to find one, but no joy.

      Saw a lot of pics of the original battery, which was kind of a flat-pack looking thing consisting of multiple cells inside a plastic shell that slid into a horizontal slot. The control switches and charge-level meter are mounted beside the seat, one on each side. They’re still there, actually.

      The general idea behind the no-brakes thing was that, with the battery installed and charged, the wheel-motors would function as a parking brake; when the power switch was OFF, the motors locked and the wheels couldn’t roll. Without a battery, all those bets are obviously off.

      Another of my big ideas early on was to mount a 12v Sportster battery, which I still have one or two of lying around, in a homemade bracket under the seat, all of which was eminently doable without too much hassle. But then again it would add too much weight and make it harder for me to load into the car, so in the end I just said heck with it. According to the manufacturer, the main wheels are 10 pounds apiece; the chair itself is 56 pounds with wheels on, dropping to 36 without ’em.

      Nice thing is, my arms are now so pumped up and muscle-y from rolling this thing around I can hardly believe it. I didn’t even notice until the day my daughter saw my biceps in a T-shirt one day and exclaimed, “DADDY, you got MUSCLES!” I pulled a sleeve up and looked, and damned if she wasn’t right: my arms haven’t looked this good since back when I was hitting King’s Gym with my brother twice a day, three hours a day, seven days a week. Powering this thing around all day is work, believe you me.

      All the pro rasslers used to work out at Kings, until Ricky Steamboat opened his place up out on the east side of town. When they all moved over there, me and Jeff went with ’em, naturally. Used to love hanging out with them crazy fuckers, it was too much fun.

      1. There’s pics of a disassembled battery pack here. Looks like a bunch of garden-variety D batteries daisy-chained together. Lots of complaints about ’em there also, apparently they were just about worthless.

        1. Looks like 20 NiCad D cells(1.2v) wired in series for 24 volts.

          Damn tiny battery for moving a person in a chair. Hell, it’s tiny to just move a light chair…

          Anyway, 24 V is easy as two 12 v lithium battery’s in series will do it and yield a boatload more power at little weight.

          Some systems used a battery that had a BMS talking to the system and required the original battery pack. I don’t see that here. Might be an interesting experiment. I’ll think about it and get back with you.

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