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Smallest vehicle that can fit a power chair lift and be modified for reduced effort steering

I need to get a vehicle that can be fitted with a lift in the cargo area for an electric wheelchair, like the Bruno lift ( and that can also be modified to have reduced effort steering. I am told that for the lift to fit, the opening of the cargo area needs to 35" high and 22" wide and also 22" deep. I also understand that for the power steering system to be modified for reduced effort steering, it has to be 100% hydraulic (and not electric). Can you suggest a car with a cargo area of at least 22w X35h X 22d and with a hydraulic power steering system? I would like to go for the smallest vehicle I can get away with and hopefully avoid a minivan. I also need hand controls installed but I assume this can be done in any automatic car. If you need one more boundary condition, I am 5’ tall and the RAV4 is just about too high for me to climb into. Since all these modifications are so complicated, I would like to get a new vehicle to get the maximum life out of it. it sounds like Honda Element could have been an option but it has been discontinued and it doesn’t seem possible to get an unused one. I would appreciate any suggestions

Ford makes a small commercial vehicle called the Transit Connect. I don’t know it’s specific internal dimensions, but that is where I would start.

You might also contact the firms that do the conversions, they’ll know what the smallest vehicle they’ve converted is.

Top of this page, select ‘Car Info’.
Scroll down into the ‘owning’ section and select ‘Special Needs Zone’.
There’s links to modifiers and info.

I’d let the customisers tell you which vehicle they can modify best.
You could find quite a price increase if you bring them some off the wall vehicle that they’ve never worked on before and it has them scratching their heads “ooh, you want us to do THAT to THIS ?”

With the right minivan, it could even be adapted for you to stay in the wheelchair to drive.
If you’re the only driver this is a possibility to explore.

I like the Transit Connect idea too.

Like most people(new parents usually), the one vehicle you want to avoid is probably the best vehicle for you.

Thanks for all the comments. The Transit Connect seems to have rack and pinion steering which I assume is different than the hydraulic power steering that I need for the reduced effort steering. Also, it is even uglier than the minivan option :slight_smile: Asking the handicap conversion company would make the most sense, wouldn’t it? Only, the answer I get is “you find the vehicle you want converted, we will tell you if we can.” When I ask them about their conversions in the past, they tell me everyone needs a different set of conversions and there is no one solution that fits everyone. Can anyone even just tell me how I can find a list of vehicles that have 100% hydraulic (with no electrical components) power steering? Then I can find about the cargo size more easily.

Just about every vehicle around as rack and pinion hydraulic power steering. Some of the newer vehicles have electric power steering, but those are usually hybrids and other vehicles with advanced technology. Stop worrying about the technical terms and see what works best for you.

Yes, it’s ugly, but what’s more important? It’s designed to be a commercial vehicle.

The reason I am worrying about the technical terms is to find a solution that will work for me. I don’t get the impression that hydraulic power steering is as common as you say. For instance, I’ve considered Scion XB, Ford Flex and Edge, Nissan Cube, Toyota RAV4, Acura MDX, RDX, Mazda 5, none of which had completely hydraulic power steering. You may not think the size and looks of a car are important; and I may have to resort to a minivan or commercial delivery vehicle in the end. But first, I would like to find out if I can find a solution that is also fuel economic and aesthetically pleasing to me. So if anyone has a helpful lead, I am still waiting.

To put it bluntly, we cannot, realistically, know what you find aesthetically pleasing and what you don’t.

Something that sits low to the ground, but has enough cargo space for the wheel chair, leads to only one conclusion in most of our minds.

Here is another alternative to that solution most of us are thinking; it’s already modified for wheelchairs from the factory, but it’s expensive.

I wasn’t asking for suggestion for aesthetic cars-- I’ll be the judge of that :slight_smile: I also defy you to find anyone that will think Transit Connect is aesthetically pleasing :slight_smile:

I am still asking where/how to find a list of vehicles that have 100% hydraulic power steering. I am even dropping the part of my original question about the cargo area size-- I can find out about that more easily myself once I narrow down the search space by finding vehicles with 100% hydraulic power steering.

MV-1 is nice, but I neither need nor want a ramp. It is very restrictive in terms of finding parking spots with enough space on the side for the ramp. Even most handicapped parking spaces don’t have that much space. I will use a lift (think of it like a crane) to put the wheelchair in the trunk/cargo. I can operate the lift myself and walk over to the driver’s seat. Also, if I can find a car with the right power steering and size, I don’t need to pay upwards of $40k for a car that is meant for someone with more severe needs than myself (like having to ride into the car on a wheelchair through a side ramp). The lift costs only about $3k.

I happen to like the Transit Connect.

I seriously doubt anyone has a list of vehicles with 100% hydraulic power steering because today, none do. Vehicles either come with electric power steering or variable assist hydraulic power steering. Besides, what the hell does “100% hydraulic power steering” even mean?

By latching on to this term, I think you’ve effectively ruled out every modern vehicle available, and I will reiterate my advice to test vehicles to see which ones you can easily steer or find one that can be modified to make steering easier.

If the car has power steering, it will be easy to drive whether the steering is electric or hydralic. Virtually all cars use a rack and pinion system so that is not an issue, it is all you are going to find. Power steering works fine with rack and pinion. Power steering means low steering effort for parking etc., whether it is an electric or hydralic system providing the assist.

A hydralic pump can be installed on the car you choose if that is needed to run the wheelchair ramp. Most of the ramps I’ve seen use electric motors to drive the mechanism. The companies that install the wheel chair lifts know the vehicles they can work with and will accept an installation.

Most of the vehicles that accept wheel chair apparatus are not too aestheticly pleasing. If you don’t like vans, or mini-vans, or raised roof vans you are pretty much up the creek.

There is a company designing a vehicle from the ground up just for wheelchair access. It is still a van, but lower to the ground and you might like it. I think this is still in the prototype stage and don’t know if they have started regular production. Perhaps a Google search will turn up the article I read about it. I often read NY Times Auto section, USA Today auto sections, and MSN auto. So the article most like came from one of those sites. I believe the vehicle was in developement to be a NYC taxi. NYC has a requirement that a % of taxi cabs be wheel chair accessible at some point in the future.

I remember years ago a guy I mistakenly called a “friend” had a sister with some health issues. She drove a van that had a modified steering system. I was slightly surprised when he showed it to me. Sitting in park, you just had to slightly push the steering wheel, and it would turn from lock to lock without being touched again. IIRC, there was an additional high flow pump installed to provide the pressure necessary for this to function properly.

If the OP has this particular requirement, that may be why he’s after a 100% hydraulic system. Having said that, technologies have changed a lot, and I doubt they’ve left the disabled world behind. There surely must be some modification that can give this effect with newer technologies in place.

I think every power steering set-up these days is “variable assist,” which means it helps you turn the steering while the vehicle is stopped or moving slowly, but at higher speeds, provides less assistance or no assistance at all. This is unlike earlier cars, like the 1969 Dodge Dart I used to drive. That car had continuous power steering, meaning it functioned the same whether I was sitting still or driving 70 MPH. I think that is what the OP is looking for, a system that will provide the same maximum assistance regardless of speed, and you won’t find that on any of today’s new vehicles. Maybe someone knows how to modify the “variable assist” function so that full assistance is provided all the time. That is why I recommend you try to find a vehicle with steering that can be easily modified to remove the “variable assist” function.

Something else that might help is replacing the steering wheel with a larger one. With airbags, this isn’t as easy as it used to be, but a larger steering wheel will give you more leverage, and the wheel will be easier to turn.

You’re a guy, right? :slight_smile:

What gave it away, the facial hair?

Sorry, I had meant my previous “guy” comment for the person who said they liked the Transit Connect :slight_smile:

Thank you all for trying so hard to understand my situation and give advice. Chaissos is correct. There is something called “reduced effort steering” which reduces the power (at whatever speed you’re at) to about 40% of what it would have been in an unmodified car. This is obviously for people who don’t have enough arm strength for the usual steering effort. There is even “zero effort steering” for the extreme case of minimal arm strength. "Reduced effort steering " is what I have in the car I bought 16 years ago. My able-bodied friend gets a kick out of steering with this little finger on the rare occasion that I let him drive. 16 years ago when I was getting a new car, they told me I had to get an American car because it had to go back to the factory to have the steering modification. Now I heard they can do it to other cars, too, but have not been able to get a positive response from any modification company to any of the possible cars I suggested. I tried this company: and they told me that I needed cars with “100% hydraulic power steering”. This is the reason I am latching on to this term, admittedly without understanding what it means.

Thanks again for all the time and advice. You can’t imagine how much I appreciate it.

Unfortunately, the first vehicle that came to my mind when I read this post was the old Ford Econoline vans from the late '70s through the '80s. They were frequently modified for handicap access and came from the factory with a power steering system that allowed the steering wheel to be turned with your little finger while parked, no modifications needed. As for new cars, I’m not sure what comes with 100% hydraulic power steering anymore, but it seems to be going the way of the dodo more and more every year.

Manufacturers tend to make changes in things like steering only when they redesign a car. So your best bet will be something that has been around for years without major changes. The Ford Escape comes to mind. The new model is just coming out, but the 2012 is going to be plentiful for a few months, and probably marked down. It has been around for 12 years, so the chances are better that it is a plain old hydraulic system. But I don’t know for sure. Alas, it’s about as tall as a RAV4 and the styling is kind of old-school mini-SUV, so it may not look good to you. It doesn’t do much for me, but they’re so common I hardly notice them. Oh, and I do think the Transit Connect is attractive, but I like straightforward, functional design. It’s no odder in proportions than a Cube or Element, and less gimmicky than either. Its low cost, low floor, and overall boxiness makes it an obvious candidate for transformation into many kinds of useful niche vehicles. Yes, I am a guy, but also gay, so should be immune to its trucky appeal.