Clogging up the Works

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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




in Mobility, Stairlifts, User Manuals by David Allworthy Comments are off