Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Making it easier to change gear

Easy-release gear changer from Alfred Bekker

Easy-release gear changer

Most standard cars have either manual or automatic transmission for changing gears. On a manual, you have to use your foot on the clutch pedal and your hand on the gear lever to change gear. 

On an automatic, you just have to use your hand to select between Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive (you have to apply the brake while shifting, though), and the car automatically selects the right gear when you are driving. 

Some cars have a form of semi-automatic transmission, where you use a lever or buttons on the steering wheel to select the right gear, but you don't have to use a clutch pedal.

The gear lever is usually on the dashboard or transmission tunnel on your left, though some cars (mostly automatics) have them on the steering column.

Look for:

  • solutions that give you full control without adapting the car more than necessary
  • controls where you can find the biting point easily and ride the clutch if you have to
  • hill-start assist - holds the brake until you pull away
  • controls that leave you free to reach other controls that you might need to operate while changing gear

Safety:

  • you need to have at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times - whatever solution you choose must allow this

Simple solutions

Semi-automatic transmission

If you can't use your left foot, you might be able to use a semi-automatic. You just have to be able to operate the gear selector, which doesn't require a lot of strength. Make sure the car has a hill-start function. Some semi-automatics have gear change buttons on the steering wheel.

This solution won't work if you use hand controls for braking, though, because you won't be able to brake, steer and change gear at the same time.

Automatic transmission

This is another solution if you can't use your left foot. Automatic cars are much easier to drive but they are less fuel efficient and they cost more. You need some strength in your hand to operate the gear selector on most cars, though. You can get an easy-release gear changer, which is a simple adaptation, to make it easier to use.

Companies supplying easy-release gear changers
Supplier Price
Adaptacar £130
Alfred Bekker £68
Jeff Gosling from £90

More complex solutions

Elap duck clutch
'Duck' clutch

Adapted clutch

You can adapt the clutch on a manual car so that you can operate it with the hand you change gear with instead of your foot.

Companies supplying adapted clutches
Supplier Price
Alfred Bekker £1,975
Elap £2,145
Vehvac £1,395

Push-button gear selector

Push-button gear selector from AdaptacarFitted to an automatic car, a push-button gear selector allows you to select Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive settings with one finger. It can be mounted wherever you need it. You have to apply the brake to change gear.

Companies supplying push-button gear selectors
Supplier Product Price
Adaptacar Memory Shift £1,517
Spacedrive n/a

Last updated: June 2012


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