Ideas needed for car mods for right leg above knee amputee to drive a manual trans - Fuelly Forums

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Old 10-01-2009, 08:17 AM   #1
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Red face Ideas needed for car mods for right leg above knee amputee to drive a manual trans

I became an RAK (right leg above knee) amputee on Sept. 6th.

Although the simplest solution to my dilemma is to buy a car with an automatic trans and drive with my left foot, I really don't want to give up driving my 5 speed vehicles (Honda Civic, Honda CRX HF (still a project car), Nissan 240SX and a Honda Accord I had just converted from auto trans to 5 speed 1 month before my accident).

Here are the ideas/options that I have so far, but I'd like your feedback:

1. Attach a lever to the clutch pedal that would allow me to push it down with my left arm. I would work the brake and gas pedals with my left leg.

Advantage- simple/easy mod, could easily be installed/removed depending on if I or my wife was driving the vehicle, braking with left leg would be very safe

Disadvantage- while shifting, there would be a second or so when the right arm is working the shifter and the left arm is working the clutch lever. I'd need to find a way to grab the steering wheel- I have good control/mobility of my right leg stub so perhaps I could wrap it with a non slip sleeve and press against the steering wheel to keep it from moving.

2. Use a left hand control for accelerating/braking, and use my left foot for the clutch.

This is what many paraplegics use to drive automatics, but the same issue remains with both hands being occupied at times and none to grip the steering wheel while shifting. I also think the left thumb would get tired pushing releasing the accelerator button.

3. There is a chance that I can get good enough control of the right prosthetic leg to work the accelerator/brake pedals like this guy- a double above knee amputee.

Driving a 6 speed- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyymejDnUeM

Driving an auto corvette (great accelerator/brake control with right leg prosthesis)- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67Wrf...eature=related


Disadvantage- this may only be 99% safe- but maybe this could be increased to 100% if I added a vertical barrier on the left edge of the brake pedal. In a panic stop situation, I raise the prosthesis off the gas pedal, swing it hard to the left til it hits the vertical barrier, and then push down- my prosthesis would have to be coming straight down on the brake pedal.

4. Rigging up a new clutch linkage that I could press down with my right stump. This would be easier for the Civic and CRX (which have cable operated clutches) than the Accord and 240SX (which have hydraulic clutches)

Advantage- at least one hand always on the wheel
Disadvantage- It would take a few days to design, fabricate and install, fairly permanent, likely too awkward for my wife to use

5. There is a company that can install a device that automatically controls the clutch pedal (http://www.accessunlimited.com/drive...rivematic.html). But I'm sure this would be too expensive to have installed on an $800 car like my 22 year old civic.

Any other ideas? Which would you go for in my situation?





If you are interested in the background story of what happened to my leg, here it is:

Around 2pm on Wed Sept 2nd (a sunny 80 degree day), I was riding my 305cc Kawasaki at about 35-40 mph on a two lane residential street (speed limit was 45). Suddenly, an older mid size car sitting at a stop sign of a side street on my right accelerates quickly (he was making a left turn across my lane- getting onto the same highway but headed in the opposite direction). I braked and swerved hard left, but could not avoid him.

My helmet protected my head for the initial impact (it has a dent on the lower right side), but then it popped off as I and the bike ricocheted/skidded across to the left hand side of the highway. I came to rest laying flat on my back with my left hand still wrapped around the left handgrip of my motorcycle. There were no sharp pains, but there was a very strong deep ache coming from my right lower leg and I instinctively put my hand over my right eye which felt wet but I could see out of it. Another driver (a really nice calm middle aged guy) came over within 20 seconds and began talking to me. He politely chatted with me and said, "just lay still and don't look at your leg". I never blacked out and tried to think of useful things that I could do at the moment. I thought about my keys (my house/office/car/motorcycle keys were on the same keychain) and asked the guy if he could remove them from my bike and put them in my right pants pocket. I also checked to see if I still had my wallet- and I did.

The ambulance came within 4-5 minutes and then I got to ride the helicopter to the nearest regional trauma center in Nashville, TN. About halfway through the 30 minute helicopter flight it seemed like the pain meds were making me more comfortable and I gave the nurse my wife's phone number.

I ended up with 15-20 stitches around my right eye and lower eyelid (not sure what cut me there). My right leg's skin had been degloved (peeled back from ankle to above my knee), my lower leg bones were crushed and exposed and there were 4 inches of them missing (still back at the accident site). According to the doctors, the skinned area was full of paint chips, road debris and pine needles.

I had three major surgeries- #1 to clean the wound, #2 was a below the knee amputation and finally #3 the above the knee amputation on Sept 6th (when they went back in to do skin grafts/finish the below knee amputation, they found that much of the muscle around the knee was turning black and dying due to lack of blood supply- this meant they needed to go above the knee or they could have done dozens of surgeries to try to make it work, but I didn't want that and the risk of infection was high).

I was able to leave the hospital on Wed Sept 9th, stopped taking my pain meds on Sept 11 (I hate that zombie feeling) and have been recovering at home ever since. My stitches were removed yesterday, I am up on crutches and I hope to have a prosthetic leg by the end of this month.

My wife and my faith in Christ have been essential in helping me to keep a positive attitude throughout this. This is just an inconvenience, it is not going to ruin my life or interfere with my love of working on cars and hypermiling (especially if I can figure out how to keep driving a 5 speed). I will be riding motorcycles off road again, but I don't think I'll ever want to ride on the highway.
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Old 10-01-2009, 10:16 AM   #2
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I think I'd want to try getting a clutch rigged to a ring under the steering wheel (So you can hand operate it at any wheel position)

Or easier would just be to have a left side half circle bar to a hand clutch, that you'd have to slide your fingers along, and would only allow half turn either side from center while using clutch.

Or another idea, would be to mount a motorcycle hand clutch on the gear shift, clutch and shift with the same hand.
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Old 10-01-2009, 10:21 AM   #3
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Wow! That's one hell of a story, and one hell of an attitude! Hat's off to you!

What about a hand-operated clutch lever on the shifter? I can visualize it clearly, and I think I've seen something like it in top fuel dragsters or maybe locomotives.

Edit: RW beat me to it while I was googling for a pic...
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Old 10-01-2009, 03:19 PM   #4
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I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your leg, although I must say you seem to be handling the issue very well.

I now know four people that have been injured in motorcycle accidents in teh past two years. Only one of them was the rider's fault, if you can call it that (slid on gravel strewn across the highway).

Good luck in finding a way to stick with a manual! I think that the cable-operated clutch attached to the shifter would be the easiest solution, as long as it does not interfere with the operations of the rest of the car (i.e. it doesn't get in the way of the HVAC controls, etc.
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:42 PM   #5
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Thanks for the ideas guys!

I had thought of a motorcycle type squeeze action lever on the shifter- but I believed the force required to squeeze it would be too great for a normal person. I figured that most car clutch pedals have significant resistance for at least 4-5 inches of travel. A motorcycle type clutch lever only pulls the clutch cable in about 1 inch- so that would mean that I would lose leverage and my hand would need need to supply 4x the force that my foot would in order to do the same amount of work with less travel.

I believe that this could work, if there was some sort of vacuum assist motor or air powered hydraulic cylinder helping me to pull the clutch lever in (or just pushing the pedal down for me) so I would just need to slowly release the cable with the hand grip.

Modifying the shifter mounted control idea- maybe I could use a small onboard air compressor (running just 40-50 psi) and a very small hydraulic cylinder with a stroke long enough to fully press and release the clutch pedal. I could have two air valves on the shifter- one to shoot air to the cylinder and press down the pedal, and the other to bleed air out of the system and release the pedal slowly. The disadvantage would be those situations with a clutch where the engine bogs down a lot so you press the clutch pedal back in a little more and give it a little more on the accelerator pedal.

Another simpler idea with hydraulic cylinders would be to use two hydraulic cylinders linked with hoses so that as one is pushed in (shortened), the other extends. This would eliminate complex mechanical linkages when using any type of remote lever to operate the clutch pedal.

I like RW's steering wheel aligned clutch lever- something like a long turn signal lever 1 inch behind the wheel that would allow me to pull it down and grip the steering wheel at the same time.

Keep the ideas/feedback coming!
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:48 PM   #6
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Would it be possible to simply add a spring pressing against the clutch to even out its force, making it light enough to operate by hand?

What about a longer lever that you operate with a long whole arm movement? You can operate the lever until it's up against the shifter, clamp it to the shifter with your hand, shift, then operate the lever with your whole arm again. I doubt there'd be room, though.

You could put in a dog box and do most of your shifting without the clutch. For that matter, you could just abuse your synchros (or shift really slow with a lot of rev-matching work) and do most of your shifting without the clutch with your existing transmission.
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:58 PM   #7
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That's a point, a lot of clutches require more than a little finger pressure. Hydraulic clutch might be easy(er) to boost with a brake booster, but then would you run out of vacuum if accelerating up through the gears? Might get 2 shifts then run out.

However, google threw me up some stuff for you...

Clutch assist mechanism including kit and method of utilizing mechanism
http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/7243771/claims.html

Clutch assist kit for a harley (Modify?)
http://www.latus-harley-davidson.com...Kit-Chrome.htm

Supplier of modifications based in UK...
http://www.alfredbekker.co.uk/alfred...ht-hand-clutch
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Old 10-01-2009, 05:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoadWarrior View Post
but then would you run out of vacuum
Aux vacuum resevoir?
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Old 10-01-2009, 05:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theholycow View Post
Would it be possible to simply add a spring pressing against the clutch to even out its force, making it light enough to operate by hand?
It would be nice if it was that simple, but there needs to be some unsprung free play in the clutch mechanism so that the release bearing isn't always touching the fingers of the pressure plate (which would result in the release bearing always spinning and wearing out prematurely).

I feel that most of the pedal resistance is the result of the spring loaded pressure plate.

Motorcycle pressure plate springs are much weaker because motorcycle clutches typically consist of multiple clutch disks and steel plates that are all stacked together, so a little pressure results in a lot of friction from multiple surfaces.

I'm afraid of the long term results of shifting without using the clutch. I have done it in an emergency situation (one of the hub springs popped out of the clutch disk and wedged itself against a flywheel bolt effectively locking the flywheel/trans together). I felt bad for my synchros as I was trying to rev match and applying extra pressure while shifting...
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Old 10-01-2009, 05:38 PM   #10
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Good point on using a vacuum reservoir- I'm sure I could find a spot for a 1 gallon reservoir.

Any ideas on a junkyard/cheap source of a fairly strong vacuum motor? I recall that ooooold cars had vacuum operated windshield wipers- but would one of these be strong enough to work a clutch. Maybe use several cruise control vacuum motors in parallel?

RW- I like the last link- the right hand clutch link (would need to be left hand for this side of the "pond"). Pulling the lever forward until it nearly contacts the steering wheel would seem to work well.
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