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2019 Chrysler Pacifica Limited "S" • BraunAbility Side Entry Foldout Ramp Conversion
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Discussion Starter #1
I know this may seem like an unusual inquiry, but that is probably because my needs are probably not that of the average Pacifica owner.

I am the proud owner of a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Limited S. Since I am a full time wheelchair user, I had BraunAbility perform their Lowered Floor Side Entry Foldout Ramp Conversion on the vehicle. I love everything about the Pacifica and it suits my needs quite nicely. Except for the steering! Since I use hand controls for both the accelerator and braking, I am always steering one handed, so I find the steering resistance or "weight" quite heavy and fatiguing. Especially on long trips and prolonged town driving.

So my question is; Since the Pacifica has Electronically Controlled Steering, is there an OEM solution to this problem, such as a Steering PSCM/ECM software/firmware flash modification to "lighten" the steering effort? I have been told by some technicians that the Pacifica’s equipped with the “S” Package have a "heavier" steering feel than that of Non-“S” equipped Pacifica's, so I thought it may be possible for a knowledgable FCA tech to perform such a modification.

After some research, I found that there are a couple of companies that are producing "Low-Effort Steering" Modification Kits for the 2017-20 Pacifica (IDS, Inc. & ColleBuilt, Inc.) but these systems seem quite complex and expensive. And are probably somewhat overboard for my needs. So I was in hope that there may be a simpler more straightforward OEM solution available.

Thank You in Advance for any information concerning this matter.
 

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I don't know the answer to your main question, but I doubt the S Package has different steering from other Pacificas. Does BraunAbility have any suggestion? I assume they installed your hand controls.
 

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My 2020 is currently at Braun waiting for conversion.

Back when I used to drive (2010-2014) and before electric steering the local mobility dealer in Dayton would send the steering gear to Drivemaster and they would modify it for low effort or no effort steering. The big expense was the backup power steering system they required in case the normal power system failed.

Another problem was if someone else drove the van the steering was so easy it was difficult for them to control the van especially on the highway. I don't think this is a problem with electric steering because you can change it from low/no effort back to normal with a switch.

I would check with the mobility company that you used to send your van to Braun and see what they say.

Even if it's possible for the FCA tech to do it I don't think they would because of the liability.
 

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2019 Chrysler Pacifica Limited "S" • BraunAbility Side Entry Foldout Ramp Conversion
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Discussion Starter #4
I don't know the answer to your main question, but I doubt the S Package has different steering from other Pacificas.
Hi Waldo, Thank you for joining in on my post.

I believe you are correct about there not being any difference in "S" Package Pacifica's steering "weight". After speaking with, who seemed to be a very knowledgable Service Manager, I was told that may have been possible in the previous generation of Chrysler minivans, such as the Dodge Grand Caravan R/T. The R/T came from the factory with what Chrysler called "Performance-Tuned Suspension and Steering". So the R/T's suspension and steering "feel" did differ from the other Grand Caravans in the lineup. Whereas the Pacifica "S Appearance Package" is just that, an "Appearance" package, and does not include any mechanical/performance differences. He went on to say that the only option that may alter the steering "feel" slightly is the "Advaced Safety Tec Group" (which my van does have) because of the "Lane Departure Warning Plus" system (which I keep off, personal preference).

Does BraunAbility have any suggestion? I assume they installed your hand controls.
Actually BraunAbility only did the Lowered Floor Side Entry Ramp Conversion (at their plant in Winamac, IN). They leave hand controls and such to their local mobility dealers to install, as these are much more personalized setups which definitely require the driver to be present. In my case it was AbilitiesUnlimited in Deer Park NY.

As far as a "Low-Effort" Steering modifications go, AbilitiesUnlimited recommended the system from IDS, Inc. that I mentioned in my original post. But like I said, I was kind of hoping to find a simpler (and hopefully less costly) mod.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
My 2020 is currently at Braun waiting for conversion.

Back when I used to drive (2010-2014) and before electric steering the local mobility dealer in Dayton would send the steering gear to Drivemaster and they would modify it for low effort or no effort steering. The big expense was the backup power steering system they required in case the normal power system failed.
Hi turbomikestr, Thank you for joining in on my post.
Congrats on your 2020! Nice color!

That's funny, Drivemaster did all the modifications on my first Accessible Vehicle also, which was a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan ES with an IMS RampVan lowered-floor side-entry conversion. It also had the steering rack modified by Drivemaster. That rack leaked like a sieve from day one! And the handful of times when the backup system was needed to kick in, it never would!

Another problem was if someone else drove the van the steering was so easy it was difficult for them to control the van especially on the highway. I don't think this is a problem with electric steering because you can change it from low/no effort back to normal with a switch.
So true. Luckily, in my 26 years of driving accessible vehicles, I only had to have someone else (besides techs) drive my van once! And that was because my hand control broke. Which was another Drivemaster product! (their Ultra-Lite XL Hand Control).

I would check with the mobility company that you used to send your van to Braun and see what they say.
In my case that is AbilitiesUnlimited in Deer Park NY. As far as a "Low-Effort" Steering modifications go, AbilitiesUnlimited recommended the system from IDS, Inc. that I mentioned in my original post. But like I said, I was kind of hoping to find a simpler (and hopefully less costly) mod. Also, Drivemaster partnered with IDS, Inc. to develope that system, so based on my past experiences with Drivemaster products, I think you can start to see why I have reservations.

Even if it's possible for the FCA tech to do it I don't think they would because of the liability.
Probably true.
 

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I had 3 vans modified by Drivemaster with no effort steering and never had any problems but maybe I was just lucky. My understanding on the manual systems is that all they had to do was enlarge a hole in the rack to make the steering easier.

I'm pretty sure there are new performance cars that vary the steering effort according to speed and/or how you set it so maybe someone out there is familiar with that.
 

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Not a direct answer to your question but you might want to consider adding OpenPilot to your setup. It is a 3rd party "auto pilot" type device that on the Pacifica basically improves the lane keep assistance so it can stay in the center of a lane. The result is while you must maintain vigilance you wouldn't need to be explicitly steering on most highways or long drives. That could help with the fatigue issues. Your Pacifica needs to be equipped with the lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control to support it and on the 2019 it will only steer going >39MPH. Their site doesn't list the 2019 as supported (the 2018 is listed) but it can work with a little tweaking and will hopefully be fully supported soon.

comma.ai – Introducing openpilot
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I had 3 vans modified by Drivemaster with no effort steering and never had any problems but maybe I was just lucky. My understanding on the manual systems is that all they had to do was enlarge a hole in the rack to make the steering easier.
Happy to hear you had good experiences with Drivemaster. Sorry if I came across as bashing Drivemaster. Drivemaster is a fine company, and one of the pioneers of the industry. They have been around since 1952, that says something! I am sure that your experience with them was not just good luck, my experience was probably just bad luck! Or bad timing anyway. I ordered that van very early ('95) for a '96 and that was a complete re-design that year (to the egg shaped Caravans). I believe my van was the first '96 Drivemaster had in their shop. At that point none of the shops had experience with them or conversion parts for them, and IMS in New Mexico was the only company doing Lowered Floor Conversions on them at that point. I believe my van was one of the first 96's IMS converted as well. And to Drivemaster's credit, I drove that van for over two decades and that Hand Control only broke once!

I'm pretty sure there are new performance cars that vary the steering effort according to speed and/or how you set it so maybe someone out there is familiar with that.
That is my hope. With all the aftermarket companies out there offering performance upgrades (mostly engine and suspension) through software/firmware upgrades, I know it is possible, but the question is; Is anybody doing it for the Pacifica? In a less invasive way than IDS, Inc.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Not a direct answer to your question but you might want to consider adding OpenPilot to your setup. It is a 3rd party "auto pilot" type device that on the Pacifica basically improves the lane keep assistance so it can stay in the center of a lane. The result is while you must maintain vigilance you wouldn't need to be explicitly steering on most highways or long drives. That could help with the fatigue issues. Your Pacifica needs to be equipped with the lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control to support it and on the 2019 it will only steer going >39MPH. Their site doesn't list the 2019 as supported (the 2018 is listed) but it can work with a little tweaking and will hopefully be fully supported soon.

comma.ai – Introducing openpilot
Hi apnar, Thank you for joining in on my post, and thank you for the info on OpenPilot. That sounds like something I will definitely look into and possibly consider. Like you said, It doesn't sound like it quite addresses my main concern which is steering resistance or "weight", but it sounds like it could be quite helpful for highway driving. Unfortunately, about 95% of my driving is town/city driving. The constant turning at low speeds during town/city driving is my main cause of fatigue while driving, an therefore my main concern. There are companies out there addressing this issue (IDS, Inc. & ColleBuilt Inc.), but I was in hope of finding less invasive solutions to the problem.
 

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Just a thought -- although the industry "standard" seems to be third party modifications rather than direct product alternatives under ADA guidelines, I am sure that at some level Chrysler may want to accommodate owners needs and this seems to be something that is fairly easy to accomplish. I suggest you write to a top level FCA official asking if this type of software patch for steering effort could be applied to help owners like you.

Big Three Executives: FCA 2019 - DBusiness Magazine lists a lot of the top management. You would need to did a little more research to make sure they are still in those positions and get mailing addresses.
I would think that these names/titles would be your best bet (pick one):

Mark M. Chernoby*, Chief Technical Compliance Officer. (In addition to his role as CTCO, Chernoby is responsible for North America vehicle safety and regulatory compliance.)

Ralph V. Gilles, Head of Design

Robert “Bob” E. Lee, Head of Engine, Powertrain, Electrified Propulsion, and Systems Engineering, FCA-North America.

Philip Jansen, Head of Product Development, FCA-North America

Steven Beahm, Head of Passenger Car Brands, Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT,

Mark Stewart, Chief Operating Officer North America Region


You could also cc one of these two from the Board of Directors, or start at the top by writing to one of them directly:
Mike Manley, CEO, FCA N.V. COO, NAFTA Region
or
Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales, Chairman, President and CEO, FCA Canada Inc.

Good luck.
 

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I have a 2019 Pacifica S with a Braun XT conversion and Collebuilt reduced effort steering and reduced effort braking installed. Previously, I had a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan with an IMS conversion and a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan with a Braun Conversion. Both the 1996 an 2006 had the steering racks modified by Drivemaster for reduced effort steering.

I've been driving with the Collebuilt reduced effort steering for about 6 months now and I haven't had any problems. The steering system does make a slight groaning noise when you move the wheel quickly when you are stopped our moving slowly. I asked my mobility dealer about this and they said the noise is normal. Both the steering and braking modifications have performed flawlessly.

There is an annoying and very loud alarm that comes on with the reduced effort braking system when the backup system is pressurizing. This alarm comes on at startup, when you are stopped and ESS shuts down the engine and when you brake heavily in quick succession. I have found the workaround to avoiding the alarm by using the remote start and turning off the ESS when I drive. I asked my mobility dealer if this alarm could be turned off but Collebuilt requires it for safety reasons. I haven't encountered an alarm with the reduced effort steering.

Let me know if you want anymore details about either system.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Just a thought -- although the industry "standard" seems to be third party modifications rather than direct product alternatives under ADA guidelines, I am sure that at some level Chrysler may want to accommodate owners needs and this seems to be something that is fairly easy to accomplish. I suggest you write to a top level FCA official asking if this type of software patch for steering effort could be applied to help owners like you.

Big Three Executives: FCA 2019 - DBusiness Magazine lists a lot of the top management. You would need to did a little more research to make sure they are still in those positions and get mailing addresses.
I would think that these names/titles would be your best bet (pick one):

Mark M. Chernoby*, Chief Technical Compliance Officer. (In addition to his role as CTCO, Chernoby is responsible for North America vehicle safety and regulatory compliance.)

Ralph V. Gilles, Head of Design

Robert “Bob” E. Lee, Head of Engine, Powertrain, Electrified Propulsion, and Systems Engineering, FCA-North America.

Philip Jansen, Head of Product Development, FCA-North America

Steven Beahm, Head of Passenger Car Brands, Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT,

Mark Stewart, Chief Operating Officer North America Region


You could also cc one of these two from the Board of Directors, or start at the top by writing to one of them directly:
Mike Manley, CEO, FCA N.V. COO, NAFTA Region
or
Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales, Chairman, President and CEO, FCA Canada Inc.

Good luck.
Hi jerry17,
Thank you for the suggestion and the extensive list of FCA officials. I had similar thoughts but was not sure how much immediate success I would have by trying to influence the top brass. So I figured I would start at the bottom and see what I discover on my way up! I agree that it seems like a fairly easy modification to accomplish with all the advancements in Vehicle Electronics.

Chrysler has a long history of helping the disabled community getting behind the wheel. They even have a dedicated program DriveAbility FCA which sole purpose is to assist people with disabilities with choosing vehicles and equipment that will get them on the road. They even offer up to a $1,000 rebate on adaptive equipment that is installed in one of their vehicles.

Chrysler Minivans have been top sellers amongst people who are full time wheelchair users (such as myself) and their families for decades now. So you would think that adding a feature such as driver adjustable "Variable Steering Effort" would help set them apart from the competition.

Thank you again for that list. I will definitely be getting some letters out to a few of those names!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I have a 2019 Pacifica S with a Braun XT conversion and Collebuilt reduced effort steering and reduced effort braking installed. Previously, I had a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan with an IMS conversion and a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan with a Braun Conversion. Both the 1996 an 2006 had the steering racks modified by Drivemaster for reduced effort steering.

I've been driving with the Collebuilt reduced effort steering for about 6 months now and I haven't had any problems. The steering system does make a slight groaning noise when you move the wheel quickly when you are stopped our moving slowly. I asked my mobility dealer about this and they said the noise is normal. Both the steering and braking modifications have performed flawlessly.

There is an annoying and very loud alarm that comes on with the reduced effort braking system when the backup system is pressurizing. This alarm comes on at startup, when you are stopped and ESS shuts down the engine and when you brake heavily in quick succession. I have found the workaround to avoiding the alarm by using the remote start and turning off the ESS when I drive. I asked my mobility dealer if this alarm could be turned off but Collebuilt requires it for safety reasons. I haven't encountered an alarm with the reduced effort steering.

Let me know if you want anymore details about either system.
Hi tamburello, thank you for joining in on my post.

That's funny, I had 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan ES with an IMS RampVan lowered-floor side-entry conversion. It also had the steering rack modified by Drivemaster. That van served me well for over two decades! With lots of repairs along the way of course!

Good luck with your 2019 Pacifica! And thank you for all the info on the ColleBuilt Reduced Effort Steering.

I have a couple of questions if you don't mind? 1. What made you choose the ColleBuilt System over the Drivemaster/IDS System? 2. Did the install of the Collebuilt System require the Steering Column to be removed and sent to ColleBuilt? I could not find any info about this on their website. Drivemaster/IDS claim their GEN-XR System is Plug-N-Play and does not require the Steering Column to be removed on the Pacifica.

Thanks Again!
 

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Hi jerry17,
Thank you for the suggestion and the extensive list of FCA officials. I had similar thoughts but was not sure how much immediate success I would have by trying to influence the top brass. So I figured I would start at the bottom and see what I discover on my way up! I agree that it seems like a fairly easy modification to accomplish with all the advancements in Vehicle Electronics. <snip>
While the knowledge certainly resides at the lower levels of design, it would require top level clearance to "diddle" with a critical safety system, so a request from upper management to investigate is already halfway to approval if the safety referees are OK with it. No harm in finding out if someone at the tech level thinks can be done -- if the executives come back to you with a negative response you can point out their technical people think it is realistic.

I have great respect for the "middlemen [and women]" here -- I once was tasked with converting a fleet of individual (self sufficient) subway cars into units of 5 cars permanently coupled to reduce maintenance by sharing some equipment and improving reliability by removing now unneeded operating controls. The best suggestions and workarounds came from the floor mechanics and their immediate supervisors. But my engineering team had to vet every modification for safety.
 

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Hi Vinman,

Yeah my 1996 IMS van needed a lot of repairs along the way too. I kept it as a backup van until last year when I purchased my Pacifica. Here are my answers, as best as possible to your questions:

1. What made you choose the ColleBuilt System over the Drivemaster/IDS System?

I live in Los Angeles and ColleBuilt is in San Diego so there was a shorter turnaround on getting the system. Also, my mobility dealer installs more ColleBuilt systems and has more experience with them. I went with their recommendation to go with Collebuilt. The plug-n-play Drivemaster system looks pretty cool. That would be a nice feature to be able to adjust the level of assist or bypass the system if someone else is driving. I don't recall that being an option when I was getting my van modified.

My last van had a full EMC AEVIT drive by wire system installed. The EMC systems are great for those who need them but it was much more complex that what fits my needs. My philosophy is to install the least amount of assistive technology to allow me to drive safely and to go with the simplest systems to avoid breakdowns and maintenance headaches.

2. Did the install of the Collebuilt System require the Steering Column to be removed and sent to ColleBuilt? I could not find any info about this on their website. Drivemaster/IDS claim their GEN-XR System is Plug-N-Play and does not require the Steering Column to be removed on the Pacifica.

From what I recall there are certain components from the steering system that they needed to send to ColleBuilt but I don't believe they had to remove the entire steering rack to send it out.

It would be nice if Chrysler could add the ability to program in reduced effort steering to the factory settings so we didn't have to spend a bunch of extra cash to get this done aftermarket. Maybe they could make the programming accessible with a code that they only give to NMEDA certified technicians that are trained in setting up adapted vehicles. FYI - My ColleBuilt steering system was about $4,400 installed.

Let me know if you have any other questions.
 

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I know this may seem like an unusual inquiry, but that is probably because my needs are probably not that of the average Pacifica owner.

I am the proud owner of a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Limited S. Since I am a full time wheelchair user, I had BraunAbility perform their Lowered Floor Side Entry Foldout Ramp Conversion on the vehicle. I love everything about the Pacifica and it suits my needs quite nicely. Except for the steering! Since I use hand controls for both the accelerator and braking, I am always steering one handed, so I find the steering resistance or "weight" quite heavy and fatiguing. Especially on long trips and prolonged town driving.

So my question is; Since the Pacifica has Electronically Controlled Steering, is there an OEM solution to this problem, such as a Steering PSCM/ECM software/firmware flash modification to "lighten" the steering effort? I have been told by some technicians that the Pacifica’s equipped with the “S” Package have a "heavier" steering feel than that of Non-“S” equipped Pacifica's, so I thought it may be possible for a knowledgable FCA tech to perform such a modification.

After some research, I found that there are a couple of companies that are producing "Low-Effort Steering" Modification Kits for the 2017-20 Pacifica (IDS, Inc. & ColleBuilt, Inc.) but these systems seem quite complex and expensive. And are probably somewhat overboard for my needs. So I was in hope that there may be a simpler more straightforward OEM solution available.

Thank You in Advance for any information concerning this matter.
Just a thought, I had a 2016 Chrysler 300c and it had a software option in the settings to change the steering effort for comfort (easiest), normal and sport which required more effort. Possibly Chrysler might have the ability to modify the software on your Pacifica. Wouldn't hurt to ask.







0, normal or spert which made the steering stiffer. Possibly Chrysler might be able to mosify the software for ypur
 
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