Mobile LIfestyle Advisor

Q. While driving my mom’s older Dodge wheelchair ramp van, I noticed that the gas gauge did not move off of the full mark until I had driven over 75 miles. It also rapidly moved toward empty after passing the half full mark. Should I take it to a Dodge dealer for adjustment or a mobility dealer? Jason D.–WV

A. I hear comments about gas consumption and low MPG on wheelchair vans from individuals that drive them on occasions. After contacting several manufactures here is the scoop. In earlier year lowered floor wheelchair minivans and in some full size vans, the manufacture used an after market fuel tank for cash testing reasons and also space confinement. These tanks were usually NOT the same gallon capacity as the OEM tank. Therefore a “tweaking” of the fuel gauge paddle was necessary to approximate the calibration of a full tank. If this was not done or done incorrectly the fuel gauge would give you a correct reading as to full or empty but not move quite in sync with consumption. This gives you the full reading longer and after the half full mark you will notice a quick consumption rate to the empty mark. While this makes it harder to calculate MPG, it is not necessary something that I would bother with fixing. Newer vans (after 2008) don’t seem to have this problem for what ever reason. Don’t take it to a Dodge dealer as the tank is not original and they may have problems with the fuel pump gasket after disassembling it. Your mobility dealer would be the best to check it but again, cost and time involved may cause you to overlook the annoyance. Good time to also point out another reason for filling up the tank of any vehicle before seeing the LOW FUEL warning light. The gas acts as a coolant for the fuel pump. If the fuel level is low the pump heats up causing premature internal wear. If it happens enough the pump life is shorten. Without a service contract or warranty the replacement cost is upwards of $500.00! Not the mention the hassle of becoming stranded when it fails. I recommend you always keep more than ΒΌ tank of gas in your van.

Q. My car was in an accident and was totaled. I forgot to have the steering knob and signal light switch lever removed before the insurance had it towed away. When I went to the mobility dealer to have new ones installed on new car they refused to put the steering knob on because it was NOT listed as a restriction on my current driver’s license. I have been driving since 2003 and these guys installed BOTH items per the local driving evaluator’s recommendation. What can I do so I can drive my new car? Ellis P.–VA

A. Feel like you have fallen into the black hole of state and federal regulations? Want to strangle some bureaucrat behind the counter? Don’t start with mobility dealer; he was only doing his job per current regulations. Most all driver adaptation installations are subject to DMV reporting and also to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA. You are required to show prove of evaluation and training, along with passing a DMV driving test in a vehicle equipped with the adaptation needed. Your mobility dealer can install the equipment BEFORE going to the DMV if you show both him both evaluation and training certification and a letter of future appointment for the DMV test. You then have 30 days to complete the driving test. DMV will then issue a new license with the proper restrictions on the back show what type of driving equipment you need to safely operate your vehicle. It sounds as if the DMV forgot to code your license for the steering knob back in 2003. This is the reason why the mobility dealer cannot install it. I would first go the DMV and explain that a error was made and you need the steering knob restriction marked on your license. Then go back to the mobility dealer and he can install it. If this does not work contact your evaluator from 2003 and see if you can get the original evaluation recommendation, then call the DMV and set up the driver test. Your mobility dealer can then install the knob. You can then go back to the DMV, get the test and then make sure ALL the restrictions are noted on the back of the license. It seems very convoluted, but with Big Brother looking over everyone’s shoulders, it’s they only way the system will work. Good luck!

It is that time of year when old man winter knocks on our door. Don’t let him knock your van out of service. I highly recommend a complete cold weather service check up on your ENTIRE van, not just the mobility equipment. Belts, batteries, lubrication points and even windshield washer fluid are all subject to cold weather breakdown, especially if they have not been changed in sometime. Don’t delay, it could mean a costly tow bill or more.