For anyone who has a disability, going out to your local surroundings is very important, whether you're going to work or just exploring the sights around town. For us, we have a van equipped with a wheelchair lift. Correction. Our van has had two wheelchair lifts installed in it since we've had it. One that folded up in three stages in order to be all stowed away and the new one which folds up the more traditional way.
- The first one was a Vangater II, made by Braun, which was handy as hell when it worked properly but having all your weight on one post is not a great engineering marvel. Over time, the lift sagged to one side under that weight. Braun no longer makes it.
The first wheelchair lift started giving us problems at the beginning of last year when we came back from a road trip to San Quintin and Ensenada in Mexico. During that time, we were without the lift and van for a three week period.
- Next came the time when the lift would not fold up properly and we found a bolt sheared inside. We took it to the mobility dealer who fixed it at no charge.
I can't really remember all the things that ended up being repaired on the lift during this time, but I do remember it wasn't functioning very well after taking all kinds of punishing abuse from the dirt roads down south.
- A little while later, while we were getting ready to leave on another road trip, another bolt sheared. As we headed out of town, we stopped again at the mobility dealer, who did a spot repair and said a bunch of (expensive) parts needed to be ordered. We jury rigged the lift with c-clamps and bungie cords to get us by in the meantime.
- I asked how much a complete overhaul would be and the dealer said it would cost thousands but that since Braun didn't make the lift anymore, they probably wouldn't even be able to get the parts needed.
After that trip to Mexico and the initial repairs to the lift afterwards, we would still have to take the van to Mobility Specialists in Pasadena every now and then for routine maintenance or if there was a loose bolt or screw here and there or even if a blown fuse had to be replaced.
- After the trip, I called Steve Causus at Mobility Works in Pasadena. We negotiated back and forth a little bit and we decided to go ahead and replace the Vangater II with a Century lift, also made by Braun. It was around $7,000 for the whole thing.
- Once installed, we found that the lip of the lift was too high to close against the wheelchair footplates. We asked if we could take it to a metal worker to cut it lower, Braun said no dice...that would void the warranty.
- So, Letty and I set to work on Tim's wheelchair, moving the seat and footplates back a bit
- Now, the chair fits on the lift...barely.
It's been a little over a year since that fateful trip to Mexico and the the first rickety van lift has now been replaced with a different one. Oh and did I mention that a fuse has already been replaced on the second lift after a couple months of use? Here's to keeping our fingers crossed in the continuing adventure of The Rickety Van Lift.
- Let's hope so, Tim. The new lift is rock-solid but barely fits in our van. It has two posts, instead of one, so it shouldn't start sagging like the old one. It's a bit more difficult to get in, since it doesn't fold up, but at least it works.
Tim Musick (with bullet points by Darryl Musick
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