How to Repair a Panasonic Massage Chair

I have a Panasonic EP1004 massage chair that’s about 14.5 years old.

ep1004

For the past several years, it has had problems getting going.  When I tried to use it, the motors would spin for a while, but there would be no motion, and after a while, it would beep 3 times, and then stop.  I would then have to power cycle it, and try again over and over.  After several tries, it would finally start working.  Over time, it took longer and longer to get it working.  Finally, it became impossible to get it going.  I searched the internet, and found the service manual for it.

Unfortunately, the manual didn’t really help me diagnose the problem, but I figured out that the massage and up/down clutches had gone bad.  The clutches were expensive, and were unavailable for purchase anywhere.  I figured out how to repair them without spending a cent!  The step by step procedure is documented below.

To do the repair, you will need the following:

  1. Philips screwdriver
  2. 10mm socket wrench
  3. x-acto knife
  4. pliers
  5. a sheet of plastic

First, remove the screws which hold the back cover on.  They are covered by plastic caps, which must be pried open to expose the Philips screw head:

coveredscrew

Next, remove the two 10mm bolts attached to the metal bar at the bottom of the cover:

bolts

Here is a close-up of one of the bolts:

bolt

After flipping the outer cover out of the way, you will find a stretchy fabric cover below it.

innercover

To remove the fabric inner cover, flip the chair over, and look for two Philips screws at the circled positions:

bottom

Circled in red below is a close-up of one of them:

bottomscrew

After removing the screws, the inner fabric cover can easily be lifted out of the way, revealing the motor and control assembly.  Remove the two Philips screws at the top of the black plastic cover, and remove it:

gutscover

Inside, you will find the controller.  I have labeled the clutches which were faulty in my chair:

guts

There are 3 other clutches, which you can find by looking at the diagram in the service manual.  Fortunately, I was having problems with only two of them.  We are not going to remove the clutches.  Fortunately, the drive pulleys can be removed without taking the clutches out.  First, remove the 10mm bolt that secures the pulley:

udclutch1

After you remove the pulley, you will find 4 parts: 1) a spring steel disk, 2) a rubber washer under it, 3) a small metal washer under that, and 4) the clutch plate below it.  Make note of the layout of the parts as you remove them:

udclutch2

Here is the cuprit:

udclutch3

The clutches suffer from a basic design flaw. The rubber ring which serves as a noise damper for the clutch disintegrates over time, and becomes a sticky mess. It becomes so sticky that the clutch solenoid is too weak to overcome its grip, and can no longer drive the clutch plate into the pulley.  Thus, the clutch plate can’t contact the pulley, and it just freewheels.  Using the clutch plate as a template, cut out a ring of plastic as pictured below:

udclutch4

I used some hard plastic from some discarded packaging.  I used scissors to cut the outline, and an x-acto knife to cut out the hole. Draw an outline around a US nickel to get a nice, round hole.  Next, slide the plastic donut over the clutch plate:

udclutch5

What the plastic does is keep the sticky black goo from touching the clutch plate, so that the solenoid can move it up and down.  Assembly is the reverse of the disassembly process.

When disassembling the massage clutch, you find find that the metal plate that holds the control box cover gets in the way.  Carefully bend it out of the way with a pair of large pliers just enough so that the pulley can be removed.  After reassembling the massage clutch, bend the metal plate back into the original position.

My shiatsu massage rollers were also squeaking when I put a lot of pressure on them. Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust the belt tension, and I couldn’t find my bottle of belt dressing.  I ended up using a large screwdriver to just bend the motor mounts outwards a little bit to tighten up the belt.

Reassemble the rest of the chair by following the disassembly steps in reverse. Voila, your Panasonic massage chair is good as new again!

Downloads: Panasonic EP1004 Service Manual

There are 26 Comments to "How to Repair a Panasonic Massage Chair"

  • Jerry says:

    Thank you very much for this detailed explanation. I had a similar problem, but was able to solve it following your instructions. Much obliged. This is Internet at its best.

  • Steve says:

    Thank you for posting this up man! You ROCK bro! Worked on this chair for several days and was about to assume the pc board was bad. Came across your article after several searches over several days. My symptoms were a little different and the rubber inside wasn’t completely deteriorated, but it had gotten soft enough to make the clutch stick and the chair not work. I doubt I would have ever thought to look there for the problem.
    Your The Man!
    Thank you! And my back REALLY thanks you!!

  • Julienne says:

    Thank you for your detailed post! I’ve never done this kind of repair myself before but decided to attempt this following your instructions. The up/down function of our massage chair was not working and would beep and stop. Your ingenious use of the plastic donut over the clutch plate worked! Now all functions on the massage chair is working again and hopefully keeps going for a long time. Thank you so much for sharing! Saved me $300 in service call and diagnostic fee!

  • John says:

    WOW! Not sure how to THANK YOU! I knew the cost of repair was more then what i wanted to pay and with it non-operational i could never sell it and now that it’s working… it’s not going anywhere. Thanks for the post….fixed the issue as described!

    • David says:

      John, I’m trying to fix my chair and can’t figure out how to remove the pulley nut. What tool / technique did you apply?

      Thanks,

      David

      • lincomatic says:

        I just used a nut driver (socket wrench)

        • Ed says:

          I had a similar problem trying to remove the nuts. The shaft would spin with the nut and I could not loosen them. Without doing the clutch repair, I got the mechanicals (everything except the remote control, where my problem now lies) working with some cleaning, adjusting, etc. So I suspect that if the shaft just spins with the nut then the clutch has not failed and does not need to be repaired, which is why I did not try very hard to do it. Does this make sense?

          Also, thanks a lot for this post with the photos. It is a very clear explanation of how to get to the mechanicals, which really is step 1 for most repairs. I did download the service manual, and can highlight one very useful thing: follow your instructions to get to the mechanicals, and then in the lower left corner of the main circuit board, there is a button switch. With power on, press and hold that button for 3 seconds, and the unit goes through a 1.5 minute test sequence. The service manual has a full troubleshooting flowchart, circuit diagrams, etc.

          • lincomatic says:

            Yes, the manual is quite detailed. Unfortunately, the test sequence didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.

  • June says:

    Hi thank you for this post. I attempted repair of my old Panasonic massage chair and thought it was electrical. It is a slightly different unit but uses same mechanism, and has same symptom. Once in 30 tries or so, the up/down movement works.
    Don’t remove the entire motor assembly off the rail, it has a position sensor that detects unit at top/bottom of the rail, and calibrated at factory. It is a small plastic wheel that slowly rotates as assembly moves up/down. Removing it will lose the calibration.

  • David says:

    This looks great. I’m 90% through disassembling the chair. I’m trying to figure out how to remove the pulley nut. Any suggestions on tools and technique are appreciated.

    • Brad says:

      Use a fast drill driver with 10mm socket, and take a tiny screw driver and jam in small Space between wheel that spins and housing. That should do the trick.

    • andrea says:

      im having the same problem david had with getting the nut off cause its just spinning. and I don’t see space for a screw driver. what else works?

  • Brad says:

    You are a genius. Problem is, before I found this article that fixed it, I screwed with the little brown positioning wheel. So my massage mechanism went too high on the track and stopped. Do you know how to adjust the little clicking wheel to let it know where it is?

  • DS Ski says:

    Thank you very much for posting that. We were ready to throw our massage chair away. Works great now. Ours was just the up/down clutch.

  • thomas park says:

    Wow ! ! ! i admired you are a life saver been scraching my head for the same thing Wonder somebody can talk to me since i am not good computer 1st time sending e-mail over 60 years #303 469 3399 @Fed.Hts.’..Colorado 80260

  • thomas park says:

    Anybody have a service manual available? How about e-mail me one if are available!

  • How thick is the ‘plastic donut”? I f it is too flimsy, it seems likely that the repair won’t last very long.

    • lincomatic says:

      it’s about 1/2mm thick. Actually, the thickness doesn’t really matter.. the donut is there just to keep the rotted black rubber bits from sticking.

  • Dinah says:

    I’m trying to build a glove that is composed of some of the parts that are in a massgse chair but i don’t know what type of motor to use in it. I’d like to know what type of motor is used in the chair above, please contact me when possible.

  • Betty says:

    I am replacing the belts in my recliner. two are no longer avalible. Any idea on how to substitute a different belt. ie. vacuume etc.?

  • larry lee says:

    Hi I tried every step following your instructions. disassemble and clean the rubber mess and put them back. the motor still stops itself after 10 second. Do I need to clean the other pulleys? I believe there are five of them. thanks.

  • Ed says:

    I have this chair, and was able to get it working again, but the remote control seems dead. By pressing the small test button on the circuit board within the chair, I can confirm that all motors, etc. work fine. But without a remote control, it is not very useful. Does anyone have a spare remote for sale or could point me to a source for one? I tried Panasonic, but got nowhere. Thanks.

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