Skip to main content

Mobile Lifestyle Advisor

Need answers to your mobility questions?? Want to know the latest in Assistive Technology? Would you like to learn money saving tips on how to purchase your next van, scooter or lift? Get these answers and more from “The Mobile Lifestyle Advisor”. This monthly blog might make you roll with laughter, cringe with fear, or jump for joy, but it guarantees to produce solutions that you can take to the bank. So “Let’s Get Rolling”.

Q. I cannot find a suitable two door sedan any longer that will replace my old car. I use a manual chair and have been putting the folded chair behind my front seat for years. When I called my local mobility dealer they suggest a lowered floor minivan which is WAY out of my price range. Do you have any other suggestions? Pat W.—VA

A. The old standby solution to your dilemma has been a car topper that was manufactured and sold by Braun dealers throughout the country. Braun has recently “spiffed up” the topper design with more of a stream line appearance and can be mounted using the OEM roof brackets of the vehicle. This makes it easier for installing and does not ruin the resale value of your automobile because of roof holes. The unit can be mounted for either passenger or driver side use and works with most folding manual chairs. CAUTION: I would NOT go out and buy a vehicle with a roof top carrier in advance of visiting your local mobility dealer do you can get the specific measurement requirements for the proper install of this product.

Q. I have a Jazzy 1450 power wheelchair that weighs without me in it 400+ pounds. I have finally been accepted into the Virginia waiver program and can get a lift for free. My Toyota Highlander has a hitch rating of 500 lbs. I have been told that because of the chair size, there is not a lift that will accommodate my chair, which does not make sense to me if my tow hitch can handle the weight. What other options do you suggest? Misty S.-VA

A. A 500lbs tongue weight maximum on your Toyota is the culprit. Most outside lifts that are built with a swing away option, (allows for access to the back hatch) weight over 100 lbs. and also have a maximum lifting capacity of 350 lbs. The combined weight of the chair AND the lift would push the total over the 500lb. limit, consequently manufactures do not suggest using a hitch mounted lift. Your chair weight also exceeds the lifting capacity of any wheelchair lift. Bruno has designed a pull along trailer style lift that lessens the hitch weight and makes is safe and convenient for transporting your chair. It is called a “Chariot”, or lift on wheels; however it has a lifting capacity of only 350lbs. so it is NOT a viable solution for you either. Unfortunately you have a chair that can only be safely transported with a ramp system in a minivan or a platform lift on a full size van. Platform lifts are the cheaper options, however prepare to pay out of pocket as most platform lifts are now running well over the $5000.00 waiver maximum and remember you still have the cost of the van to consider.

Q. My husband was recently diagnosed with ALS. We are told that you can find specialized equipment for FREE through their services, however vans are not included. Is there a lease program that will lease these vans? Wilma T. –WV

A. The ALS association is one of those miracle associations that really come through for their clients. The loan closet program that you mentioned has an abundance of specialized DME equipment that is free to ALS patients. Please take advantage of this program as the cost for this type of equipment is exorbitant. I have heard that ALS does have funds for short term rental of wheelchair vans, so you may want to ask about that benefit. The mobility industry does have lease options for wheelchair accessible vehicles however you will want to check the monthly lease payment price as most plans are also extremely high. My suggestion is to check out this magazine and the national web site for good used vans that are affordable that you can purchase, and then used the same site for resale after you no longer need the van. Good question.

Keep those questions coming in and keep those wheels rolling on! Send your questions and comments and receive a “free gift” from “The Mobile Lifestyle Advisor”, % Richard Baldwin, 2075 W. Main St. Waynesboro Va. 22980, or email him at

Q. HELP!! I was in an accident and the value the insurance has offered me is very low. So low that I cannot find a replacement van for the money offered. What is the next step. Judy T.--VA

A. Judy, I get several of these calls every winter and the answer is always the same. Have a NMEDA dealer evaluate the modifications on your van and give you a formal quotation both on the replacement value and the current market value of those modifications. This is information that is NOT readily available to the insurance companies and I have found that most adjustors don’t realize the values of modifications on these specialized vans. Fight the system. You will NEVER realize a fair valuation without doing some homework on your own. As I mentioned last month, the system is not built in your favor. If you can convince the insurance company to repair the van you will be money ahead. It will take longer and the insurance allocation for rental vans will not cover the complete time you are without a van. Patients and determination is the name of the game. Don’t settle until you have played all the cards.

As a follow up to the above question, I will also recommend that you demand that your repaired van be inspected by a NMEDA dealer BEFORE you settle with the insurance company. Many times minor body damage leads to problems with specialized switches, kneel motors, low effort steering racks and ramp runners. These hidden damages may not be ready seen by a body shop and may lead to long term issues if not repaired immediately. You surely don’t want to find out you have other problems as a result of the accident after the bills are paid and the van is in your driveway.

Q. Most of the older vans and cars for that manner that I have owned will at some point have a “Check Engine” dash light come on. Some I have driven for years with the light on, (it seems to never go off once it is on) with no noticeable issues. I have heard that these "dummy lights” are just the manufacture’s way of getting you into the dealership for expensive service. Yesterday however while driving my van had the “Check Engine” light was flashing on and off. Should I be concerned or let it go like I usually do?? Ed P.--WV

A. You have an unusual circumstance with the flashing “Check Engine” light that I would defiantly have looked at immediately. I am told this flashing light as opposed to the constant on light means that the catalytic converter is being damaged. Now as you know this IS a major expense and much more costly to the long term performance of your van than the standard “vacuum leak” that is so common with this light. Flashing Check Engine means your van is not burning all the fuel being sent to the cylinders thus sending raw gas to the converter and ruining it in short order. Get to a dealer quickly and have the van looked at. It may be an inexpensive fix now but very costly later. Great question Ed!

Need to “up fit” your next car, truck or van for mobility needs?? Want to make sure your mobility equipment will transfer to your next vehicle. Don’t know what style of vehicle to buy. Let the Mobile Lifestyle Advisor help solve your mobility needs. Keep those questions coming in and keep those wheels rolling on! Send your questions and comments to “The Mobile Lifestyle Advisor”, % Richard Baldwin, 2075 W. Main St. Waynesboro Va. 22980, or email him at