Putting a gel battery power wheelchair on its side

  • Putting a gel battery power wheelchair on its side

    Posted by Josh Grisdale on October 21, 2020 at 10:55 am


    When I was using lead acid batteries in my power wheelchair (ages ago!), you couldn’t put the wheelchair on its side because the battery acid would leak out.

    I now use gel batteries.

    Sometimes when flying on a smaller plane I will be asked if they can put my wheelchair on its side to fit it in the storage area of the plane. I always resist this and recline the seat, remove footrests and headrests etc.

    But, I was wondering, is it ok to put gel batteries on their side? Could the gel leak out?

    (Obviously, chairs aren’t designed to bear weight on the armrests etc… but mostly concerned about batteries.)

    Josh Grisdale replied 3 years, 7 months ago 2 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • gbgb

    October 21, 2020 at 11:41 am

    In theory a gel cell can be mounted in any position except upside down. But, frankly I think you should keep resisting unless you are really really stuck.

    Two reasons:

    The structure of the battery is stronger when on its bottom. On it’s side and especially on its end it is POSSIBLE for the plates to separate from the gel mat. This may be worse with the bumping and banging it will get in handling and landing.

    The gel mat shrinks a little during the life of the battery. placing it on its side MAY cause gaps between the plates and the mats.

    Both of these reasons can affect the capacity and life of the battery. I don’t think anyone has tested this empirically, but you don’t need to test it at your expense

  • Josh Grisdale

    October 21, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    Great! Thank you very much!

    Don’t worry, I won’t test it myself ?

    I was told once that the size was fine, but just before liftoff, the crew came and told me it wouldn’t fit! The battery was disconnected, so I couldn’t get them to recline the seat and other customers were getting a bit upset that the flight was being held up. So, I relented and let them put it on its side.

    It was only a 1hr flight, but I could only think about whether my wheelchair would be alright or not the whole time!

    Thankfully it was. But I’m always sure to ask about door sizes etc and to recline it regardless…

  • gbgb

    October 31, 2020 at 3:32 am

    While reading an other discussion I had an other thought about this topic.

    Most wheelchair batteries are easily removable. They either slide right out or can be unplugged and removed. In fact years ago we had to routinely remove the lead acid batteries from the chair and double bag them.

    This can still work. Bag the battery, keep it vertical, and tip the chair to your heart’s content. Then you only have to worry about arm rests, foot rests, cup holders, phone holders, cushions……….. Ok so you have lots to worry about, but at least the batteries won’t lay on their sides.

  • Josh Grisdale

    October 31, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Haha, yup – still lots to worry about, but good idea about removing the battery.

    I really think that every airport (not airline) should have a trained wheelchair technician on staff. That person can be the one to do required battery checks, disassembly, advising etc. It would remove so much stress from all parties!

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