Is.lowering my dad's new truck a terrible idea?
May 7, 2016 9:17 AM   Subscribe

My father is 80 and has a form of Muscular Dystrophy that is making it increasingly difficult for him to get in and out of his truck. He recently traded his Ford F-150 for a 2016 Chevrolet Colorado, hoping he would have an easier time, but he hasn't had the results he was hoping for. He is now thinking of having it lowered. I have some questions.

Everyone know about lowering a vehicle for looks, but I have never heard of doing it for accessibility reasons. Is this a bad idea? Will the few inches of benefit outweigh what he will lose in safety and handling? Also, if we get this done by someone who knows what they are doing, what should we expect to pay?

Thanks as always for your help.
posted by 4ster to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Aren't there aftermarket steps and running boards that could be added?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:24 AM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

a) How fast is his condition changing?

b) Does he have trouble climbing up/down from a high seat; or lowering himself into/raising himself up from a low seat? All four of those can be issues, depending. I'd suggest figuring out what height the truck seat would be at, if it were lowered, and see if you can find a vehicle (rental car?) that has a seat at that height so he can test out what it would be like to get in and out of.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:35 AM on May 7, 2016

Chevrolet sells assist steps, if that helps.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:36 AM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

These turning auto seats might help.
posted by firstdrop at 9:42 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

the few inches of benefit outweigh what he will lose in safety and handling?

If the few inches transforms the truck from unusable to usable, then it's worth it. Also, I'm unaware of safety and handling issues on lowering a pickup an inch or two.
posted by zippy at 9:55 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Will the few inches of benefit outweigh what he will lose in safety and handling?

Well, that really depends on whether having it a few inches lower would really help your father or not, and how much he cares about handling. If he's driving the truck off road or something, handling is probably pretty important, and loosing clearance from under the vehicle will be an issue. Very low vehicles will have trouble clearing speed bumps and some driveways. As to safety, this is the first time I've ever heard anything about a safety tradeoff for lowering a vehicle -- the center of gravity will be lower. Although, if he is hauling loads at the weight or towing capacity of the truck it would be good to check if the weight limits will be different, which would be a safety issue.

There are aftermarket handles to help with entry/exit.

A general article on cars for limited mobility you might find useful.
posted by yohko at 9:58 AM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

One thing to consider: lowering the truck may kill its resale value, which could be relevant if his condition reaches the point where he has to stop driving. That point was BTW reached very suddenly with the older people I know who've had to stop driving; I know a surprisingly large number of Baby Boomers who've had to deal with an extra car from Mom or Dad, or in my parents' case Aunt Diane, whose Aztek still haunts us to this very day.

I would look into accessibility options that the dealer is willing to install, anyway. Not that you have the dealer install it per se, but rather that you avoid unusual or extremely custom stuff.

I got about $600 off my current car because the previous owner went with a spoiler.
posted by SMPA at 10:36 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you really want to go whole hog, you could replace the suspension with air, and then it could just raise and lower as needed. Just lowering the suspension should be fine though, as long as he doesn't plan on hauling heavy things. Something else to be aware of is that this may only be a few months of effective driving time left, at least based on my family members, pretty much all of whom stopped (or should have stopped) driving in their early 80s.
posted by rockindata at 10:37 AM on May 7, 2016

I know it's not an answer to your question, but if he can hardly get in and out of the vehicle, is he really safe to be driving it? A lot of people with progressive physical disabilities wait until they have an accident to stop driving, but I wish it didn't need to be that way.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:10 PM on May 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

If your father is 80, with Muscular Dystrophy, I suspect he's not using the truck for anything that yo'd typically need a truck (over a different car) for. If he is not driving off road (like, genuinely off road, not unpaved roads) and not putting more than 50% of the load capacity of the truck into it, then lowering it will actually make it MORE stable and safe for on-rod driving.

This is assuming you get it lowered professionally, of course, not just have the springs cut or anything silly. Shorter springs/reduced ride height with the same rate and keep the stock shock absorbers would be fine, because you're essentially just running closer to the fully laden ride height, but without the extra weight, which should be no issue at all for handling or suspension geometry.
posted by Brockles at 12:13 PM on May 7, 2016

There are a number of 'turning automotive seats', some that merely pivot, some offering a full, lowering to the ground and lifting in solution. I would consider one which could be used on either driver/passenger side, in the event he is unable to drive himself later. Bruno have a brand, there is Adapt and Access Unlimited is another. There are a some which are more suitable to trucks as well (like this). The people you need to talk to are vehicle adaptations specialists (call your local rehab hospital, for local contacts). If at ALL possible, he needs to try a seat system in a similar vehicle to be sure it will work for him. These systems are not cheap, but done right, shouldn't affect the resale value of the vehicle, as they are removable. You may also have luck looking on a local buy/sell list for second hand.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 1:19 PM on May 7, 2016

Nobody wants to lose their independence, but I'm gonna be the bad guy and say if your father is 80, has MD, and is having trouble getting in and out of the truck on his own, maybe instead of modifying the truck, it's time for him to give up driving. Especially if he has the weakness that typically comes with MD, If he can't enter and exit the vehicle safely on his own, how are his reflexes and reactions going to be in an emergency situation?
posted by xedrik at 8:50 PM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

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