I’m currently helping my sister-in-law, Aria, who just got her drivers license last month, look for her first car. Exciting, right! We have a particular search requirement that I was hoping this knowledgable community could help us with. At a very early age Aria lost both of her hands in an accident. So, her arms go down a few inches below her elbows. You’d never know it though because she does everything a typical high school girl would do - she plays soccer, she writes, she texts, she swims, she’s totally social, and is all around just an amazing young woman. She even plays the trombone! And now she drives! She doesn’t use prosthetics. So…Aria needs an automatic transmission with a shifter that doesn’t have a button on it that you have to push before you move it from Park to Drive, etc. A button requires her to use both of her arms to move the shifter, which isn’t convenient at all. So, that’s a primary requirement. For example, her Mom’s Toyota Sienna mini-van doesn’t have a shifter but her father’s Toyota Corolla does, so does my VW Passat. To make it even a little tougher search requirement, we’re looking for a car in the price range of $2K. Perhaps we could go as high as $4K-$5K but currently the goal is around $2K. Oh, and she doesn’t want a mini-van, she wants a normal, smaller car. For starters, we’d just like to zone in on the models that don’t have a button to push on the shifter. I suppose we could go with a car that has the shifter near the steering wheel, but I haven’t seen too many of those for quite a while. Thanks for your help!
Instead of limiting your choice of cars, look into adaptive equipment. Something like this:
would probably work, especially if you replaced the handle grip with a ring instead that she could put her arm through.
One could mechanically disable that device.
On my Expedition it could be as simple as taping the lever in the released position, in others a person could disassemble the shifter and remove or modify the lock lever to NOT lock.
Yes, absolutely, shadowfax. The proper equipment, properly installed can make driving a pleasure instead of an ordeal. The rehabilitation clinic near here has subbed out installation of equipment to me and usually brought the driver in to consult prior to installation and then for final adjustments and acceptance. I hope the Nate can find someone as helpful in his area.
I’m with Ken. Its been a while since I took a shift knob off but if I recall, the button simply operates a rod that operates a detent lock. disconnect the detent and no need to use the button but nothing destroyed.
My Chrysler 300 has no button on the console shifter. You move the shifter over, then down to engage it. But you shouldn’t let a button on the shifter discourage you from getting the car she wants. The button can be disabled or even just taped down. Or you can have the car modified to better accommodate her needs. In fact, it may not be legal for her to drive an unmodified car in her condition, but I don’t know the law.
A button may not even get in her way—I had a friend whose father had no arms below the elbows and he was able to nudge a console shifter the right way to make it work. It was mind blowing how well he could cope with his situation.
And if you want to disable the button, one of those screw-type hose clamps might be a more-permanent type of solution. But know that the shifter will then easily move through the gears, like from drive to reverse. OOPS! Our Subaru Forester doesn’t have a button, instead it has a zig-zag shift gate. But Subarus in her price range are not a good deal, too many things to go wrong. I think some Chevy Impalas had a column shifter, that might even work better.
Crown Vics / Grand Marq’s have a column mounted shift with no button…A good mechanic can remove / disable the button on almost any car…
Small cars like the Civic and Corolla and Focus are in high demand, and come at a premium. A step up in class will yield better results. Accord, Camry and Fusion or Taurus come to mind. And since Honda and Toyota command premiums just because of the badge on the car, Chevy Malibu or Impala or Ford Fusion or Taurus or Mazda 6 would be good choices to look at.
Most cars I’ve seen with a shifter in the center console without a button have a gated shifter (the button being there to try to prevent accidental shifts from D to R, for example, and the gating does the same thing).
I’m not sure things would be any easier with a gated shifter. But if you want to try that, I know most Mazdas have them. Our Mazda6 does - and the 2012s are screaming deals right now (~$18k for an automatic well-equipped - well below even Hyundais or Kias)
On some cars you can simply disable that feature by inserting a dummy key in a slot in front of the shifter. It basically moves this solenoid plunger that normally locks the stick in park until you insert your key in the ignition, have your foot on the brake and press that button on the shifter.
My car has the gear shift on the floor. There’s no button, but you have to push down while pulling/pushing the lever into gear, like opening an asprin bottle. Finding one with a button she can have disabled might actually be easier than wrestling with that all the time. The shifters on the tree I’ve used also had to be pushed in toward the steering column to be moved.