Just a few weeks ago I was living it up in Portugal with some of my favourite accessible travel bloggers. The trip and everyone who was part of it were all amazing and I can’t wait to share more about it very soon. Looking back on the trip, I have such fond memories of it all. Apart from the beginning. The beginning and what we like to call ‘Pre-Portugal’ was stressful and frustrating. Let me explain. If the title didn’t already give it away, then this spoiler will. Our wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) had a breakdown and needed to be repaired. RIGHT BEFORE LEAVING FOR PORTUGAL! This is how we dealt with it and some advice to you if/when your Motability Scheme WAV breaks down. I hope it doesn’t though.
How Did Our WAV Break Down?
Our flight to Lisbon was from Manchester, so we planned on driving the four/five hours from Scotland to Manchester the day before the flight. That was going to give us time to get there just in time for dinner at the hotel, relax and try and get a good nights sleep before our morning flight the next day.
Everything was planned and organised.
We set off just after 2pm on Tuesday with the aim to be at our Manchester airport hotel for around 7pm. We pulled off our driveway to begin the journey when our car suddenly came to a halt.
At first we thought the car had stalled. Jumped out of gear possibly. Allan tried to start it up. Nothing. He tried again and again. Nothing. We waited for a few minutes and tried again. Nothing. It was completely dead.
This could not have happened at a more inconvenient time. We had a five-hour car journey to get on with and a flight to catch. Of course, breaking down is never convenient but why could it not have happened when we were nipping to the supermarket. Not the moment we are going on a trip. Typical!
The only positive to come from it was that it happened in our street, just a few doors from our home and not in the middle of the motorway halfway to Manchester. That would have created even more problems. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. I’ve never seen a wheelchair accessible vehicle broken down on the motorway. Where does the wheelchair user go in those circumstances? We can’t step over the metal barrier and wait on the verge so what is the protocol in that situation? Do we stay put in the car and wait?
Thankfully one of our neighbours noticed we were having some car trouble. He came out and helped Allan push the car over to the side of the street.
What To Do When Your Motability Scheme WAV Breaks Down
Internally I was panicking and worried I’d have to cancel our trip to Portugal. We had to act quick. These are the steps we took as soon as we realised the car wouldn’t start up again.
1. Call RAC Motability Assist
Not wanting to waste any more time, I called the RAC Motability Assist and within 25 minutes the roadside mechanic was with us. He hooked the car up to his computer and quickly diagnosed a problem with the fuel pump. We were hopeful he was going to fix it there and then, but he hit us with the bad news that he couldn’t fix it. He explained that he would have to take it to our nearest Peoples Ford garage.
That’s when the panic really set in.
Our travel plans were up in the air. Whether we were going to be up in the air on a plane to Lisbon was a different story.
The only way we would get to Manchester was if we had another car. Not any car. A wheelchair-accessible car. If you have a wheelchair accessible car and it has broken down, then you will know that it’s not easy to get a replacement quickly.
The standard time for delivery of a wheelchair accessible car is usually around 52 hours. If you are a Motability customer then they will do their best to keep you mobile while they organise a hire vehicle or until your car is fixed. In the meantime, they will arrange and pay for taxis to get you from A to B.
Whereas if you need a standard hire car, you can get one straight away.
2. Call Motability To Arrange Alternative Travel
After several calls with Motability, I was passed to a company called Promixo who deal with arranging alternative methods of travel on behalf of Motability. To my surprise, they mentioned the possibility of arranging a taxi to drive us to Manchester if a hire car was not possible or if the taxi was a cheaper option.
The thought of five hours in a taxi to Manchester was not a pleasant one. We would then have to do it again on the way back from Manchester. I’m not going to lie, I hated the thought of having to do that.
We were against the clock as it was almost the end of the working day for most. It wasn’t looking good. After many calls and hours later, the phone rang and we heard the words we didn’t want to hear. “We can arrange a hire car but the earliest we can get it out to you will be sometime tomorrow and that is really pushing it.”
My heart sank. I was devastated at the thought of cancelling our trip.
Again, I explained tomorrow was no good – I needed a hire vehicle tonight. That’s when the case manager laughed at me before offering to call the hire car company’s local branch and ask if it was possible to bring the car out to us that night. Although he believed it was highly unlikely.
In a way, I felt like it was pointless as he had already told me it was doubtful I’d get a hire vehicle. We didn’t have anything to lose though. So we waited for him to call us back. Bracing ourselves for more bad news when the phone rang twenty minutes later.
It was good news. Things were looking up and hopefully, it would be us up in the air. The branch manager at the hire car company heard our story and said he couldn’t let us miss our flight. He personally drove the car to us and arrived around 6pm that night.
Portugal was back on!
3. Arranging A Temporary Replacement Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
It was a positive outcome for us, but it could have been very different. Especially if that particular branch manager had not been on shift. We were extremely grateful for his help, understanding and willingness to drive the car to us straight away. Sadly, I’m not sure many people would do that.
Like many disabled people, I am heavily reliant on my wheelchair accessible car. It’s not until I don’t have my car that I realise just how much I rely upon and need it to get about. I appreciate on this occasion it worked out and we made our flight, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out like that.
I wish it was easier to get a wheelchair accessible car, just like it is to get a standard hire car.
4. Arranging Collection Of Hire Care
A week later we arrived home after our trip to Portugal. Our car was still in the garage being repaired. Two days later the repair work was complete (a new fuel pump) and Peoples Ford returned our car to us. I called Promixo and informed them our car was repaired and we no longer needed the hire car. They arranged collection that same day and within two hours someone had collected it from our home address.
If only it was that quick for people to get a wheelchair accessible hire vehicle delivered than it is for it to be taken back!
Tips When Your Motability Scheme WAV Breaks Down
- Call RAC Motability Assist on 0800 73 111 73
- RAC Motability Assist will try to fix your vehicle at the roadside, but if not, they will take it to the nearest repair garage.
- Call Motability and explain the situation. They will then start off the process of arranging alternative methods of travels e.g taxi or hire car.
- Motability will collect your personal details and ask about the breakdown. They will ask if you have any hospital/doctor appointments, medical emergencies etc.
- Motability will liaise with the company arranging transport (i.e Promixo)
- You will be assigned a case manager from Promixo who will deal with your case until your WAV is repaired and returned to you.
Has your Motability Scheme vehicle had a breakdown? Did you manage to get a replacement quickly?