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Clogging up the Works

in Mobility, Stairlifts, User Manuals by Andrew Mackintosh Comments are off

Clogging up the Works

In my last post about User Manuals and Safety Warnings, I suggested that in future I might share with you some of the mishaps that the customers of Newbury Mobility have experienced – despite all those safety warnings.

Well blow me done with a feather and no mistake guvnor, but this very week we were called out by a customer who reported that her stair lift was completely jammed and simply wouldn’t go.

It didn’t exactly take us long to diagnose what the problem was when we arrived. Hanging from the seat was a duvet. Most of a duvet anyway. The rest of it was stuck fast in the stairlift mechanism.

The customer, who shall of course remain nameless, sheepishly explained that she had brought the duvet downstairs earlier on that night because, let’s face it, winter has finally arrived with a vengeance, and she didn’t want to be cold while she watched tele.

Then, when it was time for bed, she had decided to go upstairs, still wrapped up all snug and warm in her duvet.

This is what we in the trade tend to call A BAD IDEA.

Look, there are no two ways about it – getting old is tough. You can’t hear so well anymore, your eyesight’s getting progressively worse (and you can never remember where you put your glasses), your knees creak and your hips ache, you need to use the loo more frequently and your teeth have developed minds of their own.


This is what I’ll probably look like not so many years from now

This is what I’ll probably look like not so many years from now


On top of that, elderly people are constantly being told to make sure they stay warm enough in winter and yet, the price of heating their homes when it’s turned properly cold outside is something that many pensioners find very difficult to afford.

We understand this at Newbury Mobility because most of our lovely customers are getting on a bit. But nevertheless, please, please don’t be tempted to wear a duvet when using your stair lift. Or any other loose and long-hanging clothing for that matter – like your favourite Dr Who scarf, for instance.

Or you could end up like Isadora Duncan, the so-called ‘Mother of Modern Dance’ who, in 1927, came to an untimely end when her long, flowing scarf became caught in the rear-wheel spokes of an open-topped French Amilcar. You can imagine the outcome.


1920s Amilcar

1920s Amilcar


Mercifully, most modern stairlifts are carefully designed to help prevent the possibility of clothing becoming caught or entangled in the mechanism and their overall safety record is very high. They have to be manufactured and tested to conform to the latest European and British safety standards and they go through rigorous testing and analysis to ensure critical factors of safety are achieved throughout the design and manufacture process.

That being said, you can design and test a stair lift ‘til it’s blue in the face but you can still manage to get something trapped in the mechanism if you try hard enough.

So best to err on the side of caution, wouldn’t you agree?

(If you’d like further information on stair lift safety, you can check out the RICA (Research Institute for Consumer Affairs) website. Or you can contact us or call on 01635 229228.)

Anyway, back to our sheepish customer.

Shouldn’t take long to fix this thought I, as I surveyed the wreckage of her duvet. Oh, how wrong could I have been?!

Cutting away the majority was the work of a couple of minutes but then, removing the rest turned into a bit of a jolly old nightmare. The fabric had become comprehensively jammed in the mechanism and it turns out that cloth can be remarkably strong when it puts its mind to it. No amount of pulling and tugging had any effect whatsoever.

The lift had reached the top landing so at least our friend had been able to clamber off and wasn’t stuck, like Kermit, half way up the stairs for the night. However, because hers is a custom-made curved stair lift, the screws and bolts that we would normally access to manually remove the carriage were obscured by the stair lift mechanism itself. So our only option was to dismantle the entire track from the bottom up, in order to free the mechanism. And then we had to pretty much reinstall the whole thing.

Here – let me share my pain with you. (Personally I can only look at this through my fingers.)


It’s amazing how strong fabric can be

It’s amazing how strong fabric can be


Thankfully, because we’re never more than an hour away from any of our customers throughout Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, we were able to get out to her promptly so she wasn’t stuck upstairs for ages without so much as a cuppa.

In all, we were there for a good two hours, which, considering the work involved, actually wasn’t too bad. So no harm done in the end, thank goodness.

And she did make us lots of cups of coffee.


Coffee is always a good idea


All part of a typical day’s work at Newbury Mobility.



All the very best,

Andy and the Team




Stair Lift User Manuals

in Mobility, Stairlifts, Tips, User Manuals by Andrew Mackintosh Comments are off

Stair Lift User Manuals – What They Don’t Tell You

The other day, a client asked me a specific question about the remote control on his newly-fitted straight stair lift. So I opened up the User Manual at the relevant page and explained to him what each button is for and how best to use them.

It struck me as I was doing so that I haven’t actually read a user manual – not properly anyway – in a fair while.

Now, while that might seem a little strange, the thing is, when you’ve been in the business for as long as all of us here at Newbury Mobility have, you come to know the equipment inside out. So you carry most of the knowledge around inside your head and to be honest, it’s much, much more extensive than the information given in a User Manual.

That being said, I thought it might be quite interesting to give myself a refresher so when I got home, I sat down and read a manual from cover to cover to see what I might be missing.

User Manual

I’ve never written a User Manual and I have to say, I don’t envy those whose job it is to produce them. The challenge appears to be to provide all of the essential information without overwhelming the user with stuff they don’t need to know and will never use. But woe betide you if you miss out something vital.

The first thing that struck me was that some of the Warnings and Precautions seemed a little…er…how do I put this nicely?


A bit like the warning on a Swedish chain-saw that read, “Do not stop chain by hand.”

Or the caution on an American-made PVC water bed that said, “This item is not to be eaten.”

But then again, you’d be amazed at some of things that people manage to do. (We might share some of those with you in future posts!).

And let’s face it, we all have our “D’oh!” moments.


So, when you see a warning in a user manual not to pour hot tea into the electronic controls of your stair lift, that’s because there are people out there who will happily say. “But you never told me I shouldn’t pour hot tea into the electronic controls of my stairlift, so it’s all your fault.”

And of course, in this litigious age, with TV adverts encouraging us to sue for compensation, manufacturers and suppliers have to be very careful that they don’t make themselves vulnerable to being taken to court.

Don’t get me wrong – if a manufacturer or supplier does something wrong or is careless or negligent, then they should get everything they deserve. But sometimes it would be nice if common sense were to prevail. Or is that me just getting old?

Anyway –

While there’s nothing we like more than visiting our lovely customers throughout Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire, I thought it might be helpful if I were to share some little fault-finding and problem-solving tips with you. So that if a pesky problem does occur, you might just be able to fix it yourself.


Seat 2


Number 1 – Stair lift won’t go

Without wishing to insult your intelligence, is the key under the arm rest switched to “on”? (This is a classic D’oh! moment which we’ve seen happen a squillion times – so if it happens to you, don’t worry. You are not alone!)


Number 2 – Stairlift going slow

If your stair lift is moving slower than continental drift and error code “n” is flashing on your diagnostic display, the most likely reason is that your batteries are coming to the end of their useful life. Which means that you’re going to have to give us a call on 01635 229228 so that we can supply new ones. Sorry – can’t do this one yourself, so get the kettle on. We’ll be with you shortly.


Number 3 – Bleeping Stairlift and Error Code 2

That bleeping stair lift! Well…this just means the poor thing is hungry. If you’ve got Error Code 2 with a bleeping sound, then it’s not charging – even though it’s been parked on the charging point. In this case, check that the power is switched on/plugged in and that there is a green light on the charger. If not, and there are no other obvious reasons like power cuts or a fuse tripped, then it’s time to call us on 01635 229228 and get that kettle on again. Because we’re really not very far away.


Number 4 – Stair lift won’t go again

Check that the large black power switch on the base of the unit is switched to “on”. Also, if there is a large red button to the side of your seat, check that it is not pushed in.


Number 5 – Error Codes 4 and 6

Both of these codes mean that the footplate safety edge function has activated. Check that there are no obvious obstructions and then place your hands either side of the foot plate and push to the left and right. (Or get someone else to do this for you.) That should reset the function and allow the stairlift to move again. If not…well, you know the drill by now.


So, I hope that some of these might be of some use to you.

Unlike the warning on a set of Chinese Christmas lights that said, “For indoor and outdoor use only.”

Or the rather baffling instructions on a Japanese-made food processor that read, “Not to be used for the other use.”

We’ll share some more useful tips with you in future posts but meanwhile I will leave you with this – once, when fitting a stair lift in a client’s home, I noticed a hand-written warning stuck onto a wall above a power socket which simply said, “Don’t.”

So I didn’t.


All the very best,

Andy and the Team