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NickV

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So I have been looking up and down the internet for Full Size Mobility Vans and while there are some available not many here in Calif.

It seems that the mobility van market is largely made up on converted mini vans and that has been my dilemma in my search.

After chasing down the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, GMC Savannah, I've decided on the Ram Promaster for a few very distinct reasons. ( large door opening height, dual sliding doors,front wheel drive)

But I have a few questions that maybe someone can help me out with ?

Because all the Promasters come as a commercial cargo van they all need to convertedfor passenger use. What Upfitter or Conversion do you have? (Some of the ones that are available in Calif are the Tempest or the Rev Group) Outside maybe the Sherry.

I am looking at the Ricon Slide Away Lift now, but my first choice was the Braun UVL lift that they tell me that there is not an install kit for the Promaster. What lift are you using or like or would recommend ?

Has anyone put a transfer seat in on the passenger side ?

Is anyone using the EZ Lock or the Q'Straint docking system ?

And I guess my last question (for now anyways) is what other van modifications or options are a must have ?

Thanks in advance for any replies,

Nick
 

KarenNWendyn

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Hi Nick and welcome to the forum.

The only one of your questions I can really address is regarding the Q’straint docking system. I have one on my Toyota Sienna converted minivan. It works well, feels solid and secure, and there is a manual override should it fail.

If the wheelchair is not properly locked into the dock, there is an uncomfortable high pitched sound that gets one’s attention. The only problem is that the ground clearance of a front wheel drive wheelchair is reduced significantly by the bracket that has to be installed under the chair (even with the bolt shortened). In fact, I needed to swap out my front door threshold for a flatter one so my chair could clear it. The alternative would have been tie downs which are much more cumbersome.

I can still transfer from the wheelchair seat to the driver’s seat as both seats are at the same height and close enough together.

I wish had gotten a full sized van because the only real storage is on the back seat or behind it. If I were to travel with a Hoyer lift, I would need more space than what the minivan can provide. But I got a sweet deal on the minivan I couldn’t turn down.

Hopefully someone will chime in to answer your other questions.
 

dldugan

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We have found a local transport group that will pickup for around $5 a trip. There is also a place to rent van for a day at ~$150. I seem to be progressing fairly quickly or I would purchase one, but don’t overlook other options.
 

KarenNWendyn

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Yes, I can see that having a minivan for everyday excursions and then renting a full sized van for extended travel may be an option for those of us with minivans.
 

KateEmerson

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Hi Nick and welcome.

We had the same problem. I went to Mobility Works and all the choices were minivan conversions. I looked at a number of them, different manufacturers and layouts, and none of them would have met our needs, and the prices were high. We ended up buying a used commercial wheelchair van with only 30,000 miles on it for only $24,000. It was a Ford E-250, extended, high top, with a Braun Century2 rear lift and manual retractable tie downs.

I liked the rear lift as it gave us more options for parking and loved the high top as us caregivers could walk around standing up to attend to my husband plus he was very tall and gave him plenty of head room. Although we could of done it without the extension, it did give us plenty of room for all his equipment ( he was trached/vented 24/7) and to move around comfortably. In the whole rear section we only had a single seat.

The one big negative was the difficulty he had to see out the windows as he was higher than seat level in his wheelchair. Minor negative was it didn't have a lot of creature comforts.

I think the key to finding the full size vans is under commercial .Also, we got a gently used one by buying it as it came off a lease to a group home.

Kate
 

swalker

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I decided pretty early on that a minivan conversion would not work for us. I started focusing on full size vans and wound up with a used Chevy Express conversion van with an Explorer SE conversion. It has a raised roof.

It is a 1500 (1 ton) with rear side doors on both the driver's and passenger's sides. The side doors are normal height. It was outfitted by the previous owner with a Braun Vangater II lift that folds out of the way when stowed so that the passenger side rear doors can be used to enter and exit the van.

When the previous owners had the lift installed, they had the rear bench seat removed and moved the original middle row captain's chairs to the rear row. That limits capacity to 4 people plus the wheelchair. But, it allows us to remove the driver's side rear captain's chair and haul and extra wheelchair in that space. This has been invaluable. I am spoiled by being able to carry around 2 wheelchairs and would not consider a vehicle that would only accommodate 1 wheelchair.

Our van has an EZLock for the wheelchair and a seatbelt system for me. I rarely ride in the wheelchair, as I can transfer to one of the front seats (I can still drive).

We purchased our 2004 van in February 2015. It had 82,000 miles on it and had a few deferred maintenance issues that needed to be resolved. It had been reasonably well maintained, but the exterior was a bit rough. We paid $11,000 for the van and put another $1,000 into it initially to address deferred maintenance items.

The van now has 172,000 miles on it and we have put an additional $1500 into additional maintenance items (not including all the oil changes, tires, etc.).

Here is what I like:

1. The van has been very reliable and low maintenance.
2. We can put a lot of cargo into it, which would not be possible with a minivan
3. The captain's chairs included with the Explorer SE conversion are very comfortable and supportive for me. I have trouble sitting in most chairs, but find those captain's chairs to work very well even on long trips.
4. Parts are readily available and quite reasonably priced.
5. The EZ lock secures the chair nicely
6. The seatbelt system allows me to ride in the wheelchair when necessary
7. It does everything essential to solve our current mobility needs.
8. The lift on the passenger side works well in the handicap parking places where we live.
9. The van does surprisingly well in snow (we get a LOT of snow here). We have good all season tires on it (M+S rated) and those work great.
10. The modifications to make the van wheelchair accessible are pretty limited. The floor is not lowered, for example. I prefer fewer modifications, because I believe it is impractical to engineer those modifications as well as the original vehicle was engineered.

Here is what I don't like:

1. The doors for the lift are not power doors. I must manually open them and close them. Opening them when I am inside the van is becoming almost impossible for me. Closing them from inside the van is pretty easy. Opening and closing them from outside the van is still within my ability. When we replace the van, I believe it will be because of mileage and the lack of power doors.
2. The doors are not tall enough for me to fit through unless the wheelchair is reclined and tilted. This is an inconvenience, but would not cause me to look for another van.
3. The lift uses electric motors, which draw a lot of power. We go through a battery about once every year. The van does not have remote start, but if it did, we could run the engine while operating lift. Our batteries would last much longer that way.
4. A half ton van (1500) is insufficient to carry the weight of the Explorer SE conversion, wheelchair lift conversion, my wheelchair, passengers, and substantial cargo. With the wheelchair, my wife, me, and a modest amount of cargo, the van weighs about 70 pounds less than the allowable Gross Vehicle Weight Restriction (GVWR), as determined by measuring it on a truck scale. Our van always sags in the rear.
5. There is a safety interlock that prevents me from unlocking the EZLock so I can undock the wheelchair while the engine is running. That means it is impractical to leave the engine running while I use the lift to unload me and the chair. Perhaps the interlock would be useful for someone cognitively impaired, but it is unnecessary for me (at least I like to think so:)).
6. The quality of the Explorer SE conversion package is stunningly poor. It appears this is typical in the conversion van industry. The wiring for that conversion is pretty unbelievable. Most of the trim pieces are cheap and easily detached. Many of the interior panels are backed by something a bit more substantial than cardboard. It all looks good when new, but under the facade it is just junk.
7. Our van has plastic skirting (part of the Explorer SE package). That skirting interferes with placing a jack under the car when a tire is flat. When I had a flat rear tire, it took 3 different service folks showing up before a young kid (who's mother was in a wheelchair) figured out that he could use the van's jack under the hitch receiver to lift up the van just enough to slide his jack under the vehicle to the appropriate jack point.
8. When sitting in the wheelchair, my view of the outside is pretty limited. When I am no longer able to transfer to a regular seat, we will replace the van.

Steve
 

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Nick, we bought the Ram Promaster 2500, already upfitted. It’s a Sherry van, and was originally in the 9 passenger configuration. Then he had seats removed and a lift put in.

I wish that I’d known that Sherry buys them from Sherrod in Georgia, and that we could have ordered it from Sherrod in the configuration we wanted from the start. It would have been cheaper.

I have the van with the lift (all leather interior, heat/AC in the back, and even a TV in the back. We traveled far... It has the Ricon slide away lift.

I also still have all the power seats that were originally in the back. We have one seat installed because we hauled a lot of equipment on our trips. The long couch seat could be reinstalled in the normal mobility van configuration. Oh, we also put in the power sliding door.

I’m having some repairs done and then I will be looking to sell it. If you want new and decide to go with Sherry, do yourself a favor and go straight to the factory—Sherrod Vans in Georgia. Sherry sells one version of Sherrod vans, they would not special order the configuration we wanted, which cost us a lot more.

The downside of the Promaster—you cannot remove the front passenger seat to allow a wheelchair next to the driver. There is a step up from the cargo area to the front area. One upside to this is that you can tow with the Promaster (it’s not recommended with converted minivans)
 

NickV

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Thanks for all the replies.

A special SHOUT OUT to Steve (swalker) for your very thorough evaluation of your van. And Nut's thank you for being brand specific on your evaluation.

After a few days now there has been some movement and I am now closer than I've ever been but still have not signed on the dotted line.

There was not enough room to really use a Q'straint or EZ Lock docking system (they measured for me ) and like "Karen" mentioned they also said it significantly reduces ground clearance as I am using a F5 Permobil.

I did find "The Guy" to contact if anyone is looking for a Tempest Conversion. They convert a lot of Ram Promasters. He appears to be at least one of the factory reps , can get the options that you want (I'm not going to settle) and is a hard worker that has gotten the ball rolling for me. Thank you Jay (tempestvans.com) (Arizona) contact me if you would like his phone #... not sure if I can post it here.

The Slide Away Lift is not available and has not been available due to a design issue recall of some type for a year now , but Son-of-a-Gun if Jay did not find me one in New York state somewhere, but my problem is that the VA will not sign off on it because of the design issue.

Now I am looking at the Braun Millennium with 51" ramp. It will block the whole doorway when stowed (ugh) but there will be a sliding door on the drivers side. That kinda sealed the deal and why we went with the Promaster. The lift has options for Automatic Door Operation (a power slide opener) and will be needed to open the door from the inside as you cannot open the door due to the lift ramp filling the doorway.

Even if a passenger transfer seat was available, with the Braun two post lift, it absolutely will not fit.

Hope that helps somebody decide on a full size van.

Nick
 

swalker

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Good luck in your search!

I well remember buying our van. It took about 3 months to figure out what I thought we needed. Then, I searched high and low for solutions that would meet all my requirements.

I found that there was nothing out there that would do all that I had identified as essential. I had to make a bunch of compromises.

One thing that worked well was to take my wheelchair along with me (it will just barely fit in the back of our SUV using 8 foot suitcase ramps) and test the wheelchair in the van. I use the C500, which is the forerunner of the f5, so know what it is like to fit a big chair into a van.

I gave up on four wheel drive (it snows a lot here), being able to put the wheelchair in the front seat space, and being able to fit the van in our garage.

I am glad we were able to find a used van, as that saved us a bunch of money. Unfortunately, the van I found is apparently incompatible with automatic doors. I sorely miss those.

Steve
 

Nuts

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Nick,

Thank you for the update. I will have to check on the lift in my van before I sell it to see if it's under recall. I have not received any notification, but that could be because I didn't mail in some registration or another...

Becky
 

NickV

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Becky,

I don't want to alarm you or any other users of the Slide Away Lift. I hope 'Recall" was not overstating it. Sorry if I misled anyone, because I don't know if there is an actual physical recall. All the Mobility Dealers that I had talked too said they could not get one and had been waiting 9 months or so with no delivery date in site. When I talked to the sales dept at Ricon they did confirm that yes, there has been some issues, production has stopped and did not know when it would resume.

I still would have gotten the Lift and waited for the fix , as I think it allows normal use of that door, easier to strap the chair down and also lets the passenger seat recline and possibly still transfer into it if able. Of course the VA's reasoning is different than mine.

If we were closer I would surely considered your van. But the VA has issues with that too. I'm not knocking them. I am truly grateful.

Nick
 

NickV

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Steve,

Thanks again for your recent reply.

Having read a lot of your posts, I have concluded that you are a very clever guy. I like to modify everything I have also. I would love to see any mods that you have done either on you chairs or your van. I'm going to take a few pictures of my chair mods and post in a new thread . I'm inviting you to join me.

Nick
 
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