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Powered Wheelchair Made From ATV
When Paul Winkler decided to build a motorized wheel chair for a paraplegic friend, he started with a new Kawasaki Bayou 220 ATV and the frame of an old wheelchair.
  "Everything just seemed to fall into place as I went along," he says. "Any competent welder/mechanic could do what I did."
  The first step was to cut the fiberglass body in two, removing part of the front end to make a place to mount the wheelchair. The gas tank and part of the original seat had to be removed.
  "The frame of the ATV looked like it was made for the wheelchair. I didn't have to cut anything except the fiberglass body. I put three bolts from the rear of the wheelchair frame into the existing ATV frame and a couple more in front. The chair sits solidly on the frame, but can be unbolted and moved out of the way if you need to work on the engine," he says.
  Winkler replaced the seat in the wheelchair with a piece of solid steel. He puts a cushion over that and says it's comfortable.
  The trickiest part of rebuilding the ATV was moving the steering farther forward and extending the other controls on the handlebars.
  "I used a shaft with a universal joint to lengthen the steering column and remounted it so it swings out of the way as he gets onto the ATV. Once he's seated, it swings into place in front of him and locks there," he says. Lengthening the throttle cable was probably his toughest task. "It took some time to get it right, but it finally worked," he says. "I found out later I could have bought a cable at a bicycle shop that was approximately the right length."
  He left the brake control levers and the throttle button in place, but moved the ignition switch and the choke. With the wheelchair seat in the center, he had to relocate the lights onto the fenders.
  Since the chair extends back into the area where the original seat had been, Winkler had to come up with a different place to mount the gas tank. Since the configuration of the original tank wouldn't work anywhere else, he pieced together a new tank from sheet metal, welding the edges with his torch, and mounted it behind the original seat, right over the rear axle.
  "What was really amazing was I didn't have to touch the engine or drive train," he says. "In fact, I did everything with just hand tools, an electric drill, and my welder," he says. "I didn't have to do any machining at all."
  While he cut off part of the original seat, more than half of it remains, so his friend can take a rider along. Some additional adjustments were necessary to fit the machine to his friend's disabilities. "He can't grip tightly with his hands, so the brake levers were rotated to the other side of the handlebars. Now he can push on them instead of having to squeeze them," Winkler says.
  There were some problems as he went along. "When I cut the fiberglass body apart, it disrupted the physical integrity of the frame and stress cracks developed around the mountings that remained. I was able to correct this by adding some steel strap supports," he says. Also, mounting the wheelchair changed the weight distribution on the machine. "With the weight so far forward, the front wheels had a negative camber. When he noticed this was causing unusual tire wear, he replaced the old spring-assisted shock absorbers on the front with some heavier ones made for motorcycles and that restored the camber," he says.
  Beyond the original $3,100 cost of the 4-wheeler, cost of the conversion was minimal. The most expensive part was the shaft and universal joint to extend the steering shaft, which Winkler says cost about $50.
  "We selected this model ATV because it was the least expensive one we could find with a 4-cycle engine that had both electric start and reverse. He didn't want the bother of mixing fuel for a 2-cycle engine. And with no use of his legs and limited use of his arms, the electric starter and reverse were necessary to give him the amount of independence he wanted."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Paul Donald Winkler, 408 East 11th Street, North Platte, Neb. 69101 (ph 308 532-09

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2002 - Volume #26, Issue #3