Raising Wheelchair Legs:

Ever wonder if the product you are using was designed by someone who uses it or someone who just wanted to make a product that would catch a person’s eye and sell quickly. In over 17 years as a quadriplegic, I have had a number of different power wheelchairs for "normal" usage as well as two designed for Off Road Travel. Most of the chairs, with the exception of the one I have now, a Permobil C350, have some glaring design flaws which led me to believe the engineers designing them were not wheelchair-bound-. The most severe flaws involved ground clearance.


It seems absolutely ridiculous to me that wheelchair manufacturers would place the hardware that holds the foot plate in place underneath the plate rather than on the side. Anything underneath the footplate reduces the ground clearance. I am a tall man and have long legs so ground clearance is a particularly important issue to me especially, when it comes to a 4X4 wheelchair which will be driven off-road. Even so the regular power wheelchair I had prior to this one the ground clearance was atrocious. The Invacare Storms Ranger Series X showed a tremendous lack of forethought in design. Damage to the legs because of contact with the ground became such a problem that over the five years of ownership, Medicare refused to pay for the numerous leg replacements the chair needed.


When I received my new Extreme X8 last year I was confronted with the same problem. Footplates were held in place by approximately 2 inches of hardware fixed underneath them (see right). Ground clearance was so limited I knew would be an issue from the beginning. If you look at the page entitled Extreme X8 you can see what was done immediately to increase the ground clearance. This May toward the end of turkey season even my first modifications proved insufficient and the legs got caught and were terribly twisted. Something else would have to be done to raise them higher.


I called my friend Jeff, who is a welder and well-versed in problem solving. Together we brainstormed and created the solution here. Jeff removed 2 1/2" from the down tube of the leg by cutting it out with a hack saw. Next he made a sleeve out of tubular steel whose inside diameter was the same as the outside diameter of the tubing on the leg. A small 3/8" hole was drilled through the sleeve about a half inch up from the bottom. Then the top of the sleeve was tack welded to the original upper leg piece. Two 3/8" holes were drilled near the top and the bottom of the lower piece of the original leg tubing. The lower piece with then slid inside the sleeve until the lower holes lined up and a cotter pin inserted through the holes. The yellow wire holds pin in place and makes it easier to move. Doing so increases ground clearance an additional 2 1/2". When that much clearance isn't  necessary one can remove the pin, lower the leg tubing and reinsert the pin through the sleeve and the upper hole returning the legs to their normal length. The cotter pin will be replaced by a quick release pin as soon as we can buy a couple. The legs are very stable and there have been no additional clearence problems.

Diagram of leg change

Care must be taken when raising the legs that new position does not place additional pressure on the buttock increasing the chance pressure sores.

Leg Up (left)/ Leg down (right)

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Original Legs

Hardware underneath footplate

First change

Cotter Pin

Quick Change Pin

Leg with proposed cuts

Chair with legs up

Chair with legs down

Test drive

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