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 nut that secures the pulley:

screwdriver

It is difficult to get the nut loose, because turning the nut also rotates the driven shaft. To keep the driven shaft from rotating when you turn the nut, jam a thin flat-bladed screwdriver between the two clutch plates, as shown in the photo above. A commenter below suggests that a bit of WD-40 may help, but be extremely careful if you try that… if it gets on the friction surface of the pulley, it will make your belt slip, or even eat your belt over time.

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. Note: Even though the clutch plate has teeth in it, these teeth are on the bottom, and they are not deep enough to dig into the plastic disc that we are adding. The friction that the clutch uses to drive the pulley is between the other side of the clutch plate, and the flywheel, which is the inner face of the pulley. The only purpose for the plastic disc we are adding is to keep the black goo from sticking to the bottom of the clutch plate. Try use a thin piece of hard plastic, as I did. Do not try to substitute a thicker piece of rubber… we don’t want any friction on between the bottom side of the clutch plate and the clutch body. 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.

Another issue which could cause your chair to stop working is loose or broken belts. Check all of the belts for proper tension. My shiatsu massage rollers were also squeaking when I put a lot of pressure on them. This was because the lower left belt was stretched, and was quite loose. Unfortunately, even after loosening the motor mount screws and sliding the motor as far left as the adjustment slots would allow, the belt was still too loose.  I ended up using a large screwdriver to just bend the motor mounts outwards a little bit to tighten up the belt. [UPDATE: This eventually failed, and the belt got loose again… see Part 2.]

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
EP1005 Operating Instructions
EP1004,1005 Simplified Service Manual

Next related article: How to Repair a Panasonic Massage Chair, Part 2

There are 55 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.

    • lincomatic says:

      Does the red LED blink on your remote when you flip the power switch on the back on/off? If so, I’m thinking maybe it’s just the On switch is faulty? You could take it apart and try shorting the on switch to see if it fires up.

  • ted says:

    My Ep1004 stopped working. When the lock on/off button on the back of the chair is turned “on” then “off”, the controller beeps 5 time with all of the lights flashing on the controller and the massage chair does not start. The rollers are at the bottom of the chair, so they are at the bottom of your back when you sit in the chair. Is this stuck? I have not tried your outlined repair yet.

    Any ideas on the problem? I have unplugged it and tried everything.Any suggestions?

    • lincomatic says:

      That’s exactly the symptom that my chair had before I repaired it. It’s probably either stuck clutches like mine, or a broken belt.

      • Sean says:

        I have an EP1005 with a similar problem in that I get the 5 beeps, all the belts spin and then nothing. My massage mechanism was stuck at the top before I started taking the clutches apart, but by using the drill on the bottom right clutch (tightening the nut) I made the massage mechanism move down. I tried the “test switch” button for 3 seconds but it doesn’t do anything. :( I checked all the clutches on the right side and found the rubber disks to be in great shape. I’m beginning the process of checking the voltages/resistance values as laid out in the troubleshoot guide. Has anyone else gone down this road? Since the motor spins up, all the belts look fine, and the clutches look like they are in great shape (rubber washer wise) I’m hoping to find one bad component on the board. Replacing the whole circuit board is the last thing I want to do :(

  • Sean says:

    Has anyone found the appropriate manual for the EP1005? When initial plugged into an outlet mine spins all the belts, flashes/beeps 5 times and shuts off without any of the clutches engaging. The test switch does nothing. The leg vibration button is the only button that does anything. I opened all the clutches and found them all to be clean. My PCB is labeled EP 589 UL/CSA. Resistance values for all the clutches is 57.7 ohm, V at the board connectors for the clutches was measured at 1.4 V DC. If anyone has any ideas I’d appreciate it. Thx.

    • lincomatic says:

      Are you saying the clutch voltage is a constant 1.4V? The chair is supposed to activate one of them when you power it up. I would try measuring the voltage at each of them when it first powers up and see if it goes up for a few seconds.

    • Ed says:

      I have a .pdf document that is titled Service Manual for the EP1004, 1005. I don’t know if it has exactly what you need. It looks like the part number for the manual is mew/hpd9603-1005. If you google for that you may find it. If you post contact info, I can email my copy to you.

      • lincomatic says:

        Thanks to Ed for sending me the Simplfied EP1004,1005 Service Manual. It’s more of a dissassembly manual and parts list than an actual service manual, though. The file is linked above at the end of the article.

  • JohnS says:

    Thank you for saving my Panasonic chair. After a few hours of trying to get the bolts off the clutches, I decided to try some WD40. I sprayed a few mico sprays right below the freespinning brass wheels. That did the trick. I don’t know how long it will last but now my back is really sore from leaning over this thing.

  • Doug in Oakland, CA says:

    I am the original owner of a Panasonic EP574 massage chair with VERY few hours on it. I forget to use it. (shrug)

    PROBLEM: The massage carriage unit would move to the top of the track and then descend about 12″, stop, then shut off. The massage rollers would not move. The lights on the hand controller would flash.

    After reading your description of the electric clutches, I took them apart, bending the frame out of the way, as you suggested.

    Both rubber thingies were intact and not destroyed as you pictured, although they were gooey-like. Not knowing what else I could do, I just reassembled everything. BUT, lo and behold, the chair now works, again. The massage carriage now moves up and down the full length of the track and the massage rollers now function, too.

    However, during my prior investigation I thought it was an “electric eye” sensor issue and removed that “black disc with all those holes and slots”. I believe the electric eye reads those patterns cut into the “black disc” to control the movement of the massage carriage on the track.

    My question is: How do I fine tune the position of that “black disc”? I suspect when I reassembled that “black disc” I’m off a few teeth. When the carriage unit descends, it appears to try to go further than the track allows. I noticed a “white hash mark” on the backside of the disc, but don’t know what its alignment point is. Anyone know?

    Thanks,
    Doug
    Oakland, CA

    • lincomatic says:

      Hi, It sounds like the reason it’s working is because when you took the clutches apart, they got unstuck… mine weren’t all destroyed; one of them was just gooey. Your symptoms sound exactly the same as mine were before I serviced the clutches. Have a look at the service manual I linked above.. the Adjustments section tells you how to adjust the position of the carriage.

  • Doug in Oakland, CA says:

    Nevermind. I figured out the “black disc” issue. I just repositioned it by rotating it one tooth. The “white hash mark” is now perpendicular to the frame.

    The massage carriage box now doesn’t try to go beyond the bottom of the track.

    I understand your “clear plastic disc” solution. But if you cover those tiny teeth with that disc, aren’t you preventing them from engaging against that gooey rubber?.

    Thanks, John, for taking the time and effort to post your solution. I couldn’t figure out why this chair, with so few hours on it, would suddenly stop working. Since all I did was reassemble the clutches, I assume the outer nut holding the clutch together had become too loose.

    John, drop me a note when you’re in the San Francisco area!

    • lincomatic says:

      The tightness of the nut doesn’t affect the performance. If you examine the mechanism, the splines are what drive the pulley. As far as blocking the teeth, my plastic disc doesn’t do that. The teeth grip into the plastic on one side, and the friction on the other side is provided by the remaining glop. The proof in the pudding is that the fix works. If you want to get fancy, you can use a thin rubber ring, instead, but I didn’t find that to be necessary.

      • Doug in Oakland, CA says:

        Get fancy? Heck no. If it works, that’s good enough for me. I’m just trying to wrap my head around why it works.

        So, John, do you think dusting that goo with some talc would have the same result?

        Where on the planet are you, BTW?

        • lincomatic says:

          Doug,
          Ah, OK, now I get it… I think you mixed me up, the writer of this blog w/ John, a commenter in this thread.

          Since your clutches haven’t gotten so gooey yet, talc may actually help keep extend their lives. I think that’s a good idea, but it’s only speculation on my part.

          I’m on So. Cal. Oakland is actually a nice town. A friend of mine moved there recently, and showed me that it isn’t such an urban jungle. Lake Merritt was particularly nice.

  • Doug in Oakland, CA says:

    Oh, yeah. I saw the name “John” addressed somewhere and, of course, I thought they were addressing you. :O

    I rechecked the operation of my chair last night to bask in the sun of my success. I pressed the button AND the same problem came back. So I get to open the chair, again. Oh, joy.

    That clutch must be pretty darn strong to grip through your plastic washer. I’ll see if I can find a jumbo, thin, rubber washer at the hardware store.

    I’m a two block walk from Lake Merritt. The weather is SO much better than SF and Berkeley, too. Life is good. It’ll be better when I can get this damn chair to work reliably. GRRRRRR!

    SF, one bedroom rentals are $3,500. That’s pouring a lot of folks into Oakland, which is a short hope on the BART train into the city.

    The two notorious parts of Oakland, which give it it’s bad reputation, are West and East Oakland. West Oakland is the first BART station out of SF. I suspect, perhaps not in my lifetime, that that part of Oakland will gentrify. Part of it has already started. GoogleX recently hired the foremost researcher on life extension. Who knows? Perhaps I may live long enough to see all that happen. :)

    Talk to you later. I’ve got a date with a chair and she’s wearing basic black!

    Doug

    • lincomatic says:

      If you can’t find a washer, you might try fashioning one out of a bike inner tube or patch. I think the thickness of the rubber might be close to what you need. Good luck, and please report back how it goes. [UPDATE: DON’T TRY THIS.. IT DOESN’T WORK.. USE THIN PLASTIC DISCS AS DESCRIBED ABOVE]

      My friend has become a total Oakland advocate. She lives near the art galleries off Broadway, and always tells me what a foodie paradise it is. I’m still most enchanted w/ Lake Merritt… what an unexpected urban paradise. Who would have thought that Oakland would have a bird sanctuary? I ran there early in the morning and it was so serene.

  • Doug in Oakland, CA says:

    I think you’re right about the bike inner tube thickness being the right amount of thinness. I’ll drop by a bike shop and see if they’re tossing out any bad innertubes. GREAT IDEA!

    You’re fairly inventive. Are you an M.E.?

    Did you know the jogging craze actually began in Oakland? It was because of the muggers chasing us! :)

    • lincomatic says:

      I was a bit apprehensive about jogging in the area I was staying … near Jack London Square .. it’s still pretty seedy, I had a lot of company by the time I arrived @ Lake Merritt.

      I thought about being an ME, but decided that being an EE had a bigger job market. I’m a MSEE, but I still like to tinker w/ mechanical stuff.

  • Doug in Oakland, CA says:

    MSEE? Impressive. Hot stuff.

    I had a buddy that started off with EE in school and switched to ME, because he needed something more physical to wrap his head around.

    I’m into Product Development (inventor). I had one invention go national through 550+ retailers. Managing 3 startups currently; one hardware and two websites. I have Technical Co-founders on the websites, because I don’t code. I handle the BizDev-side of the project.

    Will I be seeing you on Indiegogo anytime?

  • Doug in Oakland, CA says:

    Ok. After taking it apart and back together 3 times, I FINALLY fixed my chair!

    At first, because it’s thin, I tried using aluminum foil to cover the goo. It worked for a day. Then failed. Don’t know why it would work and then not work.

    I then went with a version suggested on this blog. I used what appears to be acetate film, which Amazon used to sleeve over new Kindles. The film is very shiny with near photographic crystal clarity.

    After three days the acetate film solution still works.

    Hope any of my comments helps any others that come after me.

    It was such a struggle to find the solution contained in this blog. WHEW!

    • lincomatic says:

      OK, I had to take mine apart again today, because it stopped moving up and down. It turns out that my bottom left belt was so stretched that my rubber hose shim hack still wouldn’t shim it out far enough to take out the slack. I wrapped the pulleys in a few layers of electrical tape, and it seems to be working perfectly again. While I was at it, I decided to try replacing my clear plastic discs with thin sheets of silicone rubber, thinking they would give better grip. It was a very bad idea. The chair started squeaking very loudly, the motor kept jamming, and the clutches got extremely hot.. so hot that I couldn’t even touch them. I had forgotten how the clutches work. The reason that the thin sheet of plastic works is because the clutches actually engage by squeezing the two metal plates together. Even though the bottom of the inner splined plate has teeth on it, it MUST slip against the plastic disc, or the motor will not turn. The plastic goo that we’re trying to cover up is attached to a fixed flat plastic disc that DOES NOT MOVE. After I took out my rubber discs and replaced them with my original clear plastic discs (which, by the way, were still holding up after a year), it’s now working well again.

  • Kim Vargo says:

    Hello. We have the same Panasonic massage chair. When my husband and daughter moved the chair, the remote was in the side or back of the seat and was crushed by the weight of parts of the mechanism there. Do you know where I can get a replacement remote? Thanks for your help! – Kim

  • Yee says:

    My lounger model number is ep1000, The on/off switch doesn’t work, any suggestion, please

  • Al says:

    Thanks so much for your help. I really was lost in how to address the chair rollers not moving at all. Using your diagrams I was able to disassemble the clutches were the problem was. Now it works fine…..Thanks

  • Kathy k says:

    Hi! Wish I could hire you to fix mine. I am in NJ. You are in CA? Know anyone in Northern NJ who could help me?

    • Betty says:

      My Handiman took my chair apart following the directions on this site and directions from Panosonic. We ordered all the new belts that were avalible and made new clutches out of plastic, ( cutting circles out of plastic containers) I even got new 2 1/2 inch wheels at Home Depo and he replaced the old wheels that had turned into a sticky mess. It works pretty well. I just plain like this chair. I bought a new Massage chair but gravitate back to my old one that is so comfortable. Good Luck.

  • Mark says:

    I had same problem on my Panasonic EP-750 massage chair.
    Since this up-down motion clutch is placed up side down, it requires more magnetic power to engage the clutch plate.
    I just simply took off a black rubber ring and spring plate then started working without problem.
    Thank you for a good hint.

    Mark

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