My Permobil M300 is now about 2 years old but problems began to reveal themselves just before the first year. I do wonder if it will hold together until I'm eligible to apply for assistance in purchasing a new model. You can be sure it won't be a Permobil, nor will I be doing repeat business with my current wheelchair provider. (more on that later)
I wrote about some of the features and some of the problems with the Permobil M300 a few posts back (Permobil M300 Update) but rather than go back and insert photos, I just though I'd reiterate my frustration here in a new post. Since that post I have heard from others (electronically & verbally) with similar Permobil problems.
The Permobil M300 is a good looking chair - that may be its best selling feature. Headlights, turning signals, hazard flashers -wow. While my understanding is that these are mandatory in Europe. not so here in Ontario, Canada. So, they are wired but not connected. To save money, I was told, they order one model of joystick/controller from the manufacturer in China, and then mount this standard unit on every model of chair where appropriate.
Here is the Permobil 300M controller that came with my chair. It has an inoperable headlight switch, hazard flasher switch &turn signal buttons in addition to the standard on/off switch, an power selection switches. The standard switches are operation but I was told that to activate the other features would cost an additional $1000 Cnd. The are partially wired or powered already as they indicator lights within the switch will light up when activated unintentionally. This can be distracting when activated unintentionally, momentary thinking some error has occurred.
(Above) Nonoperational headlight/reflector found on the Permobil M300. (Below) Rear reflectors & turn signals. Turn signals are also nonoperational. While required by law in Europe, it is optional where I live and costs an additional $1000 Cnd to activate if desired. A money grab no doubt - a thousand dollars to turn the lights on, really?
When I was first considering purchasing the Permobil M300, I was concerned by the rather flimsy side arms. They had a side to side displacement of up to 2 inches (5 cm) -that is up to 1 inch or 2.5 cm to either side off center. If you have limited use of your legs, naturally you compensate by using your arms. Hold the arm to stabilize and shift your bottom from the surface you are on, to the chair. The Permobil sales person observed how I transferred but raised no concerns. I however was concerned and pointed this out. The salesperson assured me that the arms were strong enough for my use but that in three months a new model, under development, would be released. He promised that I could swap out my arms for these new ones that would be "rock solid" (I remember his description) at no charge. I asked that this be written on the sales invoice. I have subsequently learned that Permobil only has two arms for this model chair and both were available at the time of my purchase. There was no "Rock Solid" are being developed. I feel this was an outright lie to make the sale.
The arm rest is attached to the frame by means of a single square post that is attached to a curved bar. The bar itself has a hinged attachment at the lower rear of the seat pan near at the a backrest. The other point of attachment is in a 'multi-component' latch point nearer to the front of the seat pan frane. The single square post allows the arm rest to twist. The attachment points at the seat pan/frame are both responsible for the large degree of side to side play of the arm. I remedied the problem to some degree by purchasing some large washers from the local hardware supplier. The larger radius helped somewhat but can't cure a poor design.
(Above) Why go complex when simple is better? This photo shows the complex hinge mechanism at the arm's rear attachment point. A knurled knob, a thin tin sliding mechanism and a chrome coloured latch. Not sure what each is specifically for though I have played with each. A simpler, more effective and stable mechanism would suit this chair better. After all, it is basically a hinge to raise and lower the arm. The KISS principle - Keep It Simple Stupid.!!!
The red arrow points to the larger washers I added to provide additional support.
Note: the amber side reflectors are a practical feature for this chair -all around reflectors do provide visibility in the dark even if lights are not operational.
(Above) This photo shows the forward attachment point of the arm. When the are swings down from the rear hinge, the post drops into the center of this mechanism and latches. The multi-component assembly of this 'catch' seems excessive for its intended purpose. A catch cast or machined from metal makes more sense to me.
Red Arrows from top to bottom: (1) Spacers -scalloped to attach to the tubular frame and flat on the opposite side whee it meets a somewhat oval shaped metal plate (2). This plate lies flat against an almost identical plate (3), which has a notch for the latch to catch. (4) Short tubular spacers which are the diameter of the arm tube which it will receive and latch on to when lowered. (5) (6), the same as (2) & (4) in reverse. Six components X 2 (front & back) plus two bolts and nuts (front & back) to secure the mechanism to the chair frame. That's 16 separate pieces of hardware to make up the front arm catch (one per side).
(Above) Photo shows the arm "nested" in the catch. The Red Arrow points to a thin metal spring which provides the "springiness" or tension needed to lock the arm in the catch. This mechanism is intended to lock the arm in place and keep it secure, however I have found that sometimes several attempts have to be made before the latch catches and locks. The spring itself is no thicker than the walls of a soup can. A simpler design with a coiled spring would be more effective.
The two silver bolt heads visible on the outside plate are what I'll discuss next.
Okay, the arms are flimsy, moving side to side with up to a 2" or 5 cm total displacement. So every time I lean on an arm, brace myself against it, or push on it to stand up, or use it to transfer, the arm is pulled or pushed to it's extreme position. Repeated "wobbles" from side to side appear to score or etch a mark around the circumference somewhere along the length of the bolt. Just like cutting glass, you score a line to weaken the glass/metal and then you snap it along this defect you created. Or perhaps it is simply repeated flexing -micro bends, which weaken the metal. That's what this design allows to happen to the bolt. If you use the arm for anything but daintily resting your wrist upon it, the bolts will break!
Now, the bolts have broken numerous times in the past and on each occasion, after a few swear words, I went down to my local hardware supplier and purchased replacement bolts, of even a higher tensile strength. Still the poor design has them break. On the last occasion the bolt had broken without my notice. It decided to fall apart while riding on a transit bus. The bus driver saw the parts rolling around under the chair and handed what he could to me. It wasn't until I reached home that I realized the bus driver had not retrieved all my parts as the rolled about on the floor. I was missing the crucial spacer between the plates. I suppose I could try to sandwich a number of washers together to make up the distance, but I was fed up and after much difficulty, sent it to the shop (more on that later too).
(Above) Photo shows the Permobil M300 arm Assembly. The cushioned Arm Rest (AR) is supported by a square post (P) which allows for height adjustment. The square post is attached to a curved arm (A) which is hinged at the rear of the chair and latches in the catch mechanism (discussed in previous photos).
The entire arm mechanism does not provide a usable surface on which to attach a bag, pouch or other such container in which you can secure your personal property (wallet, keys, etc.) that may not be safe in a backpack hung on the back of the chair.
My solution was to remove the arm cushion and sling some straps over the bar supporting the arm cushion, then re-attaching the arm cushion, thereby sandwiching the straps between the bar and the cushion. The straps can be stitched to a zippered bag, which I found in a local hardware store.
(Above) Difficult to see but there are two straps (1), forming loops, which extend from the zippered bag and loop around the metal tube which supports the arm cushion. The cushion is removed by loosening two screws underneath, then replaced sandwiching the strap material in between. (2) Points to premature cracks developing in the faux-leatherette material covering the spongy arm rest. Cracks after a year and a half of normal use for a chair that is intended to last 5 years before replacement. This chair was not built to last!