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Thread: Do lowered floor minivans high center?

  1. #1

    Do lowered floor minivans high center?

    I am looking to improve my driving options. Crawling into the Express van and lifting myself up into the seat is no longer working out. I've gotten too paralyzed to do it. So we are looking at options.
    Currently there is an older mini with brand new everything, ramp, 6 way slider seats, hand controls, and lowered floor. That last item is what bugs me. It makes the ramp usable, but to lower the floor you loose ground clearance. Why is that not a major concern? Rerouting the brakes, gas, and exhaust bothers me also. My main question is has lowered floors been an issue with minivans?
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  2. #2
    Senior Member tooley's Avatar
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    I've rode with some pretty terrible drivers in these type of vehicles and they have never been concerned with this.

    Why I never considered any type of modified vehicle was the fact that when you start cutting galvanized steel that most vehicles today are made of you open the door for corrosion (rust). The companies that do these conversions do a great job of covering up everything with plastic body panels that would hide it, but I always was from the school that if something engineered by the manufacturer to do something you don't just start hacking on it to suit your needs.

    Without knowing what you need in regards to space/functionality, consider a Mazda5. With the driver side rear passenger seat removed I am down the rode smiling in less than a minute without any wear and tear on my wheelchair. Honestly I think it's quicker than any ramp-style van. And nothing to break down and leave you stranded. Mine just kicked over 120k miles, 10 years old, great little vehicle.

  3. #3
    WOW...this is a monster can of worms you're opening. What do you mean by "an issue?" Never having actually measured ground clearance I cant give you any numbers but I do believe some conversions sit lower. A friend who helped me when I was looking for my first van told of the time he backed into a parking spot. When the van knelt it crushed the fuel tank and exhaust on the parking curb. I think it was an older Dodge conversion. Have scraped the bottom a few times climbing steep driveways or rolling over big speed bumps but never enough to get stuck.

    If you go with a lowered floor vehicle to behooves you to consider what you drive over. Have you stopped at Kersey in Sumner to check out different models? Absolute might be closer depending your location. The guys in the shop should be able to answer your questions. I bet every conversion company does it differently. Here are a couple vids to give you an idea how major the modifications are.

    https://www.vantagemobility.com/how-is-a-vmi-van-built/

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8Od9mne6Gw

    More specific questions might be easier to answer.
    "Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed." - Hunter Thompson
    T5/6 complete

  4. #4
    There are times when our vans have high centered. Those times include certain profiles of speed bumps and coming out of underground garages with steep ramp/sidewalk transitions. It is those times that you will hear a terrible grinding sound. In 35 years (one full sized van and 3 mini vans) this high centering has happened a dozen times. But, this same thing can happen in some sedans and sports car models.

    Buying a van that has been converted by one of the large conversion companies is important. These van conversion designs are crash tested to assure that they meet at least the safety requirements of the unconverted vehicles.

    I live in northern California, where the weather is mild and temperate. I've never had any issues with rust. I understand the concern with rust in other climates. But, the undercoating on my van conversions has been done incredibly well and I would guess that even unconverted vehicles have rust issues in certain climates.

    As for ramp brake downs...yeah it can happen to you, probably will happen to you, and has happened to me. The major conversion companies do have a manual emergency ramp deployment system to get you in or out of the van (something my early vans did not have...ARGH!) Here again, break downs happen, but you are more likely to have a failure of a part of the vehicle that hasn't been converted.

    Power wheelchair users have little option but to use full sized or mini vans with the conversion features. Someone who has had years of wear on their shoulders can get relief from the repetitive rigors of transferring and breaking down a wheelchair. Sure there are trade offs, but do your homework and understand what the conversion manufacturers do.

  5. #5
    I use a full sized Econoline without raised roof or lowered floor. I love the space this gives me to carry all kinds of stuff. I am 6'2" tall and still have enough headroom after bending a bit to get through the door. If I can avoid it I never want a minivan with dropped floor although I worry about the alternatives available with the demise of the Econoline. Because my wife and I are both chair users we have 2 power seats up front and this requires a single stancion (left side), side mounted lift. In one of our 2 vans we have a power folding rear seat which converts to a bed installed at good transfer height. Good option for getting off the butt on longer trips. Mobility providers just want to sell minivans.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by tooley View Post
    ...Without knowing what you need in regards to space/functionality, consider a Mazda5. With the driver side rear passenger seat removed I am down the rode smiling in less than a minute without any wear and tear on my wheelchair....
    That type is under consideration. What is the seat to ground distance of the Mazda seat? I ask because I keep getting weaker. Five years ago it was not a problem getting out of our Taurus which sits lower than my wheelchair, but now I struggle to get out.
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ancientgimp View Post
    I use a full sized Econoline without raised roof or lowered floor. I love the space this gives me to carry all kinds of stuff. I am 6'2" tall and still have enough headroom after bending a bit to get through the door. If I can avoid it I never want a minivan with dropped floor although I worry about the alternatives available with the demise of the Econoline. Because my wife and I are both chair users we have 2 power seats up front and this requires a single stancion (left side), side mounted lift. In one of our 2 vans we have a power folding rear seat which converts to a bed installed at good transfer height. Good option for getting off the butt on longer trips. Mobility providers just want to sell minivans.
    I've driven a full sized van for about 45 years, call it an addiction, I love them. Minis seem like station wagons. I had one of those too.
    What is a stancion lift?
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  8. #8
    Hi nonoise. The answer is yes, minivans can and do high center. I have owned 2, both with lowered floors (Dodges) and there just isn't much clearance. I now own a Mazda 5 conversion, same as tooley mentioned. Main reason I switched over is because I flipped over backward a couple of times going up the ramp in my minivan. No fun. If I had it to do over, honestly I would buy a full size van w a lift. I'm a para, use a manual chair, but as I get older, my shoulders hurt more, and a no effort lift is appealing. I would suggest that you think 5 years ahead, and make a decision based on where you may be physically, in terms of your function, also whether you will be using a manual or power chair. Minivans do take some effort pushing up the ramp, and it just got harder for me as I got older, and we all will lose function as we age. Best of luck, Rebecca

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Rook98006 View Post
    WOW...this is a monster can of worms you're opening. What do you mean by "an issue?" Never having actually measured ground clearance I cant give you any numbers but I do believe some conversions sit lower. A friend who helped me when I was looking for my first van told of the time he backed into a parking spot. When the van knelt it crushed the fuel tank and exhaust on the parking curb. I think it was an older Dodge conversion. Have scraped the bottom a few times climbing steep driveways or rolling over big speed bumps but never enough to get stuck.

    If you go with a lowered floor vehicle to behooves you to consider what you drive over. Have you stopped at Kersey in Sumner to check out different models? Absolute might be closer depending your location. The guys in the shop should be able to answer your questions. I bet every conversion company does it differently. Here are a couple vids to give you an idea how major the modifications are.

    https://www.vantagemobility.com/how-is-a-vmi-van-built/

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8Od9mne6Gw

    More specific questions might be easier to answer.
    An issue is exactly what you mentioned, crushed exhaust. I am feeling a little better about lowered floors though, but so much has to be redone it creates opportunity for bad wire splices, bad hose splices, etc.

    Absolute and Kelsey have about a dozen on the web that are partially converted, but nothing usable.
    I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.

  10. #10
    Senior Member tooley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonoise View Post
    That type is under consideration. What is the seat to ground distance of the Mazda seat? I ask because I keep getting weaker. Five years ago it was not a problem getting out of our Taurus which sits lower than my wheelchair, but now I struggle to get out.
    definitely higher than a sedan/coupe. Without running out to the 5 (I call it my blunderbuss) I will say 24" using my tape measure comparing to the FSH of my wheelchair. So likely a little up getting in and a little down getting out.

    I also have this - http://www.adaptsolutions.ca/products/index.php?prd=3 - but many of the 5 drivers here do not and manage just fine pulling their chair into the back space once they are perched on the driver seat. I like the XL-Board, its just great insurance because there's snow on the ground here 5 months of the year. The one offered for the 5 is non-motorized.

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