I’ve bought a lemon and I want my money back, Part 3…

Pride Quantum 6000, List of Defects.

Compiled September 14 2009.

Pride’s Spherical Omni-castors are a gross misrepresentation – they are simply ordinary castors, albeit with absurdly rock-hard tyres, with utterly useless, somewhat less than hemispherical shells bolted to them. All these shells do is amplify the clatter from the hard castors, and collect rubbish.

The rear castors are prone to flipping side-ways**, and snagging on the edges of uneven paving slabs, making progress at anything other than a crawl dangerous as well as extremely uncomfortable. They can – very briefly – stop the chair, which could cause some users to be tipped out.

**This can be clearly seen on the video on the dealer’s website, assuming they don’t take it down as a result of my complaints

Complicating matters even more is the fact that it will descend only a low kerb, because as with ramps, the drive wheels would be off the ground descending a high kerb, which makes some places totally inaccessible. It is capable of climbing a small – 1-inch – kerb only slowly, and with a painful jolt. It would not, of course, tackle a kerb higher than the radius of the front castors. Not that I would want to.

I don’t think that this chair was ever intended as a road-going chair, as it’s positively purgatorial on anything less than a smooth surface. At home, indoors, or in the supermarket, it’s brilliant. It’s even great traversing the vast, smooth, supermarket car-park. On the road, though, or on council-standard pavement, with no two adjacent slabs at the same level, it’s totally abysmal. I firmly believe that the Q6000 was  intended primarily as an indoor machine, at which it excels, and that adding the high-speed pack and lights was a serious misjudgement by Pride, which takes it far outside its natural capabilities.

When fitted with the optional high-speed (8mph), pack, and the optional lights and indicators pack, it is sold in the UK as a Class 3, road-legal outdoor machine. However, there is a stern injunction against using it in wet weather, which means it can’t be used outdoors in Britain most of the time. Going out in dry weather, you could encounter rain, especially where I live, on the coast, where the weather can change with the tides. This would make it all but useless anywhere but the sunnier states of the US, as here in the UK, the last few years, it’s rained almost incessantly at times, and it’s a rare day, where I live, when it doesn’t rain at some point.

The design of the machine makes it impossible to load it into a taxi – when going up the ramp, once the front castors are on the ramp, they lift the drive wheels off the ground. This materially affects the next point.

The range appears to be lower than one might reasonably expect, given that I got around 14 miles from a similar Pride powerchair, the Jazzy 1120 XL. However it is impossible to check the range accurately as, if I were to go too far, I could not put it in a taxi to come home. I would be stranded.

The machine has no actual suspension. The power-unit and seat balance on the drive wheels, which have no suspension – what looks like, and is claimed to be, suspension, are sprung stabilisers to keep the main part upright on its wheels. The yellow spring units keep the whole thing upright, and do provide suspension for the castors, primitive though it may be, but the big drive wheels slam over every lump and pothole, with no cushioning at all. This make the machine, unless the tyres are kept soft, extremely uncomfortable, even painful to use, and it bounces and vibrates so much it can be hard to control. As I type this I am still suffering from back-ache, caused by my 7-mile round trip to the supermarket 4 days ago.

Returning home on that journey, the chair became very hard to steer when going uphill. When I got home I attributed it to the fact that one of the rear castors was so stuffed with debris, from cutting across a grass verge (it’s sold as a go-anywhere machine, so why not?), that I assumed that had impeded the castor from turning. I have since retraced my steps, without cutting across the grass this time, with the same result – the chair is very hard to steer going up hill – keeping it in a straight line is impossible, a sort of sine-wave progress is the best that can be achieved. Note that I have over a decade’s experience of powerchair use – I am more than capable of keeping it in a straight line if that was actually possible. Going down the same hill is fine.

Note: For those unfamiliar with powerchair use, steering is like riding a bike – and almost subliminal. As a bike will wobble if you focus on what you’re doing, so a powerchair will veer if you actively concentrate on trying to keep it straight, and the harder you try, the worse it gets, the reason being that it takes only minute hand movements to affect the straight-line steering – smaller than can be consciously achieved – just like a bike. You need to look where you’re going, obviously, but otherwise your joystick hand, with experience, does its own thing without conscious input.

When I removed a bolt to fit a tax disc holder recently, I found I couldn’t tighten it again as the hole had virtually no thread – all that held the bolt in place was a dollop of locking compound, which was stubbled with fragments of broken thread. Luckily, it’s not structurally vital, though it does make me wonder about the build quality overall, the more so as several minor bolts come loose every time it’s used which, as I said, is very little. This seems to be a common problem with Pride – the drive-wheel nuts of my Jazzy kept coming loose, even though they were Nyloc-style nuts – Pride’s solution to this was to pour in so much locking compound that the wheels were locked immovably onto their shafts – not much help with a puncture. This is why I haven’t sent this chair back to have the fastener problems fixed – they’d probably never move again.

I noticed, too, that my seat creaked, and a check showed that the alternative bolt I used for the tax disc holder won’t tighten fully and feels very “soft”. The two bolts in question hold the seat back to its sub-frame, on the left-hand side.

Until relatively recently Pride have always sold their products with Imperial fasteners, no matter that the rest of the world had gone metric (well, most of it), but a couple of  years ago Australia, insisted that they comply with everyone else and fit metric fasteners if they wanted to continue selling in the Australian market.

My chair has metric fasteners,  and I think the threads are fragile because Pride have just lazily re-tapped Imperial-threaded holes, instead of making components from scratch with metric threads, for the market outside of the US.

I have an engineering background, and I can think of no other reason why these threads should be so fragile. Frankly, if I’m right, that’s unacceptable – it would work well enough the first time, during assembly, where the torque could be closely controlled, and it would be fine until a bolt was removed, when Pride’s obsession with locking compound would cause the vestigial thread to tear out, as it did on the first bolt (why they don’t use locking washers is beyond me). And if I’m wrong their manufacturing standards, and quality control, must be abysmal.

And finally, the manual advises, in the event of a puncture, to lift the chair “on blocks” to remove the wheel. As it weighs in at around 160kg/352lb, is there a anybody who’s not an Olympic weight-lifter who can do that? And where does one put the blocks? The manual doesn’t say and I’ve looked in vain for a safe jacking point that won’t cause damage – I can’t find one. If I ever get a puncture – unlikely as the chair is unusable outdoors – I have no way to repair it.

September 16 – The left-hand motor has developed an ominous whining noise. This started on the way home after my last outing, but I put it down to rubbish caught up somewhere (see previous comments re this), but it appears not to be. It’s mechanical.

It is my view, based on my considerable experience of powerchairs, that the Pride Quantum 6000 is, under the terms of the Supply of Goods and Services Act, unsuitable for the purpose for which it was sold, to whit, as a go-anywhere, road legal, Class 3 powerchair. It is also, in some respects, dangerous.