Driving as a full-time Wheelie (part 2)

I didn’t expect to be writing a “part-2” to my last post but unfortunately changing to my new car hasn’t gone smoothly. As I mentioned in my last post when cars have as many adaptations as mine, things tend to go wrong and the hand-over on my new car was delayed due to a problem with the ramp. Well things have got worse since then! Here’s the list:

  1. After my car was delivered it took another three or four days for the ramp to be fixed (which is fine) and when the guy (Lee) came up to fix it, he ran through things with me again and immediately identified that I could do with an extender for the gear switch (It’s like a round twisty thing not a standard gear stick). Unfortunately when I spoke to the stage two converter to ask for one, they had no idea what I’m talking about so that is still outstanding.
  2. I keep getting the warning come up to say my tyre pressure needs to be reset – I do this and it goes away for the rest of the journey but then the next time I start the car up the warning message comes up again. I’ve been to Kwik Fit and they say my tyre pressure is fine. Spoke to someone from stage one converter and they said they have the same issue on one of their demo cars and they don’t know why it happens so I just need to ignore it.
  3. We had some family friends over during that intense heat earlier this week – I had agreed to take them into town. I was particularly excited about this as I can finally have more than one passenger without it being a real faff! I got in the car, excited but also melting, only for the ramp not to close up. In the end the family friend had to force the ramp up and the boot down and I rang Lee who talked me through resetting it. Luckily it worked and I got them into town only 15 minutes late. Now hopefully this is just a hot weather issue – let’s face it that heat was extreme and my car isn’t parked in the shade, however I don’t think it is. I suspect it’s a battery issue, as I’ve had times when the boot/ramp hasn’t opened/closed straight away, but luckily it has done in the end. Yes I have RAC cover so if it happened when I don’t have someone with me I do have a plan, but I really hope this car isn’t going to be THAT temperamental. Lee has said that if I don’t use the car for a few days I should start it up and let it run to keep the battery topped up. I don’t really think this is a realistic thing to suggest, firstly isn’t that illegal? secondly, it’s bad for the environment and thirdly, let’s just burn petrol, that sounds economical!
  4. For me to be able to drive from my wheelchair the car has to be able to automatically lock my chair into place at the drivers position. They install a ‘lockdown’ system where I just drive my chair into place and press a button to release it. When I was assessed for the new car I said that I’m aware the system I was using isn’t being made anymore and I’m really concerned about having the alternative system because they involve a pin that comes down under your chair. The pin goes really low to the ground, partly because my chair is made really low to the ground. With my old system there was a pin but it was more of a hook and gave me a lot more ground clearance. I would ‘ground’ my chair occasionally but I managed fairly uneven ground. Anyway the person from Motability who was assessing me, said that it shouldn’t be a problem because the Dahl system works with my chair and thats more of a hook as well. He put on the instructions to use the Dahl or to transfer my old system to the new car. Conversion company two ignored this and fitted a pin. The pin is so low I can see it easily under my chair and I have to swerve around pavements that aren’t even to avoid grounding. The advice was ‘make sure you take curbs or edges head on’…. yeah I do anyway where possible but it’s not always possible due to space and people getting in the way. I went to Hillsborough park the other day and some of the paths are smooth but they are slightly curved, meaning that I was grounding just walking along a path that for most people wouldn’t even register as being any kind of problematic. I spoke to the second stage converter and they said that they fitted that because with the Dahl you have to approach it dead straight on and they were concerned that I come in the car at a slight angle. My issue here is that we didn’t test it or even discuss it with me. I’m worried that if I ground my chair too many times or in the wrong place I’m going to damage the pin, my chair or myself.
  5. The worst issue (and unfortunately the most costly to fix) is that my steering is FAR too heavy. I usually have my steering lightened to just a couple of pounds resistance and in my last car I was starting to struggle with that! It turns out with the new cars the steering involves something electrical now and so can’t be lightened (in the usual way) lighter than ten pounds. I don’t get why, when this was discovered to be the case on my car, the conversion didn’t stop and additional advice sought! I’ve driven my car a few times and it’s hurting my elbow. I’m reluctant to drive it too often now as I really don’t want an arm fracture. My summer plans are now cancelled for the third year in a row – I will go out a bit but not to the extent I was hoping to, because Motability can’t come out to assess me for a new system until mid-august. They will then have to take my car away and it’s a complex system to install so it’s won’t be a quick job.

All in all, I love the car itself – the Peugeot part, but the adaptations are really letting me down. I acknowledge that adapting cars is getting harder because cars are getting more and more automated and so it’s harder and harder to override these systems, but it seems to me like many of the issues I’m having are down to a lack of communication, not lack of solutions.

I’m now waiting for the assessment of the new steering system. I’m going to have to have a ‘Space Drive’ system which is super super light and sensitive – it’s also extremely costly. Thankfully it’s been confirmed that I won’t have to apply for an additional grant, it will be put through as an extension to the one I had which I’m really grateful for, but it’s frustrating that my summer is now canceled (again) and that grant money has been wasted on a system that doesn’t work. Grants for Motability come from the charity side of the business. I’m also waiting for someone to contact me about what we are going to do about the pin. I suspect because of my steering system this is going to get ignored, but stage two converter initially said they would come out and see if they could shorten the pin or look at installing the Dahl system (again at more cost to undo all that’s been completed and put a new system in). When I spoke to Motability about the new steering system I mentioned the situation with the lockdown system (I rightly guessed this hadn’t been mentioned), and he said that there is a new version of the system I have in my car which is more of a hook and so should solve the issue, however it’s been available for six months but no-one has actually seen it yet.

If you want to see a very similar set up to mine, my friend Gem has done a YouTube Video about her car adaptations. My current system isn’t as complex, but Gem’s steering system I think, is basically what I will be getting. I’m not sure how much of the other controls will have to be moved like Gems have.

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