Long car journeys - easier with automatic ?? - NRAS


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Long car journeys - easier with automatic ??


Hi all , I’ve driven 90 miles to help care for a frail relative on Friday, back home again today , its my first long drive since i had disc surgery in june . Im very tired and have pain down the outside of my thigh , this could be bursitis related as well . Does an automatic car make it much easier to manage ? Its my left leg that’s the problem and i might have to make this journey once a week. It would be good to hear anyone’s experiences . Thanks for your help 🌸

42 Replies

Yes yes yes! I haven’t touched our family car for nearly a year because of weak left arm and leg. As you know I have herniated L5,S1 and C5,6 - but probably not any severe enough for surgery yet. I also suffer from severe fatigue which means my gear manoeuvres were becoming increasingly far from ideal!

When my husband got a new job and needed the car he bought me a second hand automatic mini convertible and I swear it’s been life changing for me! Your left leg has to rest as it has nothing to do and same for left arm which I can focus on holding the steering wheel all the time now. So I would recommend getting an automatic wholeheartedly! X

weathervane in reply to Hidden

Thanks twitchy, I know ive asked you about this a while ago , im just exhausted tonight and sore 🙁 . Im going to be changing my car if I ever get a chance to look for one , I need my husband with me and our weekends are pretty booked up so I’ll have to make an appointment with him . I had thought of a car thats a bit higher of the ground as well to make it easier to get out of so I might try getting in and out of a few makes to see what might suit . In an ideal world id like a chauffeur with a cap , but might be like Driving Miss Daisy LOL

I agree I've had auto now a few yrs and they are so easy just got my new one on mobility BMW a dream just like driving an armchair lot easier on joints and concentration

weathervane in reply to Nsmith13

Oooh , i like the thought of driving an armchair !! Ive only driven an automatic for short distances on holiday, i think I would have to practice with one .

I've bought a Toyota CHR hybrid about eight weeks ago. It was a choice between that and a RAV4 which I found a bit big. Both higher off the ground but not as much as a Range Rover which still towers over me at the lights. It's automatic and I do find that helps with fatigue on journeys as my left leg doesn't do anything.

But more than that I find my hands don't get so painful. The automatic brake is excellent. No tugging on the brake at all with my left hand while holding the wheel in my right. The automatic holds the car in position on hills (lots of those around here) and I can keep both hands on the wheel.

But I have still had to put my 'back friend' in the driving seat as despite the multiple adjustments available and lumbar support, the seat slopes up at the front (i.e. the wrong way) and causes pain in my hips. The 'back friend' (which I used in previous cars) corrects this and gives me good support.

I'm sure that there are cheaper cars which fit this specification but I did want a hybrid, but not a plug in as there are no places to do that out in the countryside here! But I can recommend an automatic gear change with an automatic brake.

helixhelix in reply to oldtimer

We don't have an automatic, but I do have a backfriend. Wouldn't be without it! A lot of car seats push your thighs inward, which isn't that obvious but does put pressure on the hip joint. Which I really feel if I don't have my backfriend.

Thanks oldtimer thats alot of great information . Yes , im convinced its the way i will have to go , when i get my energy back i will be out doing research ! Im not so bad on the short journeys but if i have to drive more than 1/2 hr it takes its toll. My relative is very frail so I will be driving up and down regularly as family have organised a rota , thank goodness its a big family. I drive a Toyota at the moment so i will check out your suggestion 😀

Very easy rev an go heated seats that hug you a special button on side of seat all electric yes treat yourself !!!!!

Hidden in reply to Nsmith13

Yes I forgot to say that my mini has heated seats too and they are magical!

weathervane in reply to Nsmith13

Heated seats are great , my husband has them ( he drives quite a distance to work) ,i love them on a cold day , they also soothethe back !

I drive automatic and it's the best thing! My problem is with my left foot too and it doesn't effect my driving coz I don't use it! It's definitely the way forward!! Good luck. X

Aren’t we lucky its not the right foot !! Thanks Catty

Yes lol. My right knee is swollen tho but not effected when driving luckily. Just takes the pressure off as sometimes no strength in my wrists to pull handbrake down or turn the key so it just allows me to have less to worry about if I was driving manual so many different movements!

Love my automatic. I wouldn’t be without it. I do quite a bit of driving and it’s much more enjoyable and easier. Parking is a doddle! This time, I got a car with a seat that can be adjusted in multiple ways which is much comfier. My old car had heated seats which was a luxury and very nice for a sore back.

Im a bit worried about getting used to driving one , mind you the one i used on holiday was left hand drive !

I tell everyone it’s like driving a bumper car. 🤣

I hope that’s because its easy to drive and not because you get alot of bumps crashdoll 🤨

sylvi in reply to weathervane

You can always ask for a test drive before you buy darling.xxx

weathervane in reply to sylvi

Oh I would definitely have to do a test drive sylvi as cars are all so different x

YES, YES, Yes I bought first one about 9 years ago and love it . My husband then changed his to automatic as so easy to drive. My Jazz has a flappy paddle system on the steering wheel if needed but never have. It's nippy easy to park and has a huge load. I love it ! x


My OH has a very stiff inflamed L ankle with his RA. I have bad OA in L hand. Bought first automatic a few months ago so OH could drive again. Splendid!!!!!

weathervane in reply to Hidden

Norisa that’s brilliant , a car means independence , i know i have difficulty getting to a bus stop as id have to walk 3/4 of a mile up a step hill . Wishing you both lots of happy safe driving 🚙

I like the sound of that medway 😀 this is all very positive feedback, I can’t wait to start looking . I haven’t been this tired for ages so i need to do something . X


Hi - I’ve just changed my car for an automatic for the same reasons as you. It does initially feel odd but will only take you a couple of weeks to get used to it and has made a huge difference for me. Go for it!

weathervane in reply to Hidden

Thanks Jenny , I imagine i will be the same , thankfully most of my journeys are quite short .

I have an automatic Honda jazz, as with others who have posted I love,love my car. What I also like is the cruise control, if you are driving on the motorway or big road with speed restrictions just set cruise at the speed you want and you can take both feet off and do a little jiggle to move your hips and knees. X

My hubby drives an automatic and definitely says it's easier on joints he has to now as he shattered an elbow and can't rotate the hand that would change the gears now anyway. I'm going to learn in an automatic with psoriatic arthritis and try not to let it stop me!

It’s difficult when joint flare up , hopefully an automatic will help !

Although I passed my test in a manual, since hip replacements I can only drive an automatic - much easier anyway.

weathervane in reply to BoneyC

Thanks BoneyC

Pat64 in reply to BoneyC

Hi Boney C, I'm waiting for a hip replacement so I was wondering why you can now only drive an automatic car. I'm hoping to be able to do everything I used to do. I would also appreciate any other tips and info you might have on having this surgery. I'm not looking forward to it at all! Thanks, Pat 64.

BoneyC in reply to Pat64

Hi Pat,

I am very stiff in my lower back and hips, I cannot operate clutch/accelerator up to biting point any more. To put things into perspective I was dx in 1971 age 6; at 38 in 2002 I had my cervical spine decompressed and fused; at 44 in Dec 2008 I had my first THR on the right. However, that hip became infected in Feb 2009 and required a Girdlestone's Procedure in May 2009. From May to October that year I had no hip and unable to walk. When a second THR was put in, they cut a gluteal tendon and inserted two rather than one screw to fix the prosthesis. Result being I have a stiffer THR on the right and no external rotation due to the cut tendon. The following year, 2010, I had my left THR done. I cannot bend to put shoes on/tie laces or put socks on etc., I use a long handled grabber and long handled shoe horn. I have to pay a chiropodist to cut toe nails etc. Before THR's I could manage.

The thing to remember is everyone's RA is different to the next person and everyone has different drug tolerances/combinations. I went 38 years before surgery which I thought was pretty good. I don't know how long you've had the disease, but hopefully your new hip wont stop you doing what you do now. The best part of a THR is being free from the constant pain. Good luck!

Oh yes auto for sure. I got a Toyota auris hybrid because of a new shoulder on left. Gears really stopped me from driving. I have had disk surgery, two new hips so I reckon I have nailed it. My first drive of 50miles each way to tomorrow.

Because of no driving I have not seen my sister since January..she is not mobile. Go for it


weathervane in reply to LadyJan

I have a manual Toyota auris which i love but its obviously time to let it go , pity it can take so long to change cars

Not only long journeys but around town too. It's the slow traffic, stopping & slowing down. We live in a seaside town, many retired & elderly who pop into town at a slower pace. This causes the rest of the traffic to drive similarly, changing down a gear when following. That's what made me change my mind & go to an automatic. We're on our second & wouldn't considered going back to a manual when this one is ready for changing.

Another big consideration next time will be different ride settings. Our current car has a few but the most used is the comfort option which is definitely a comfortable ride, much kinder on the joints. I also like that I can change the length of my seat base, helps ease the pressure on my back on longer drives. The heated back option too, not bothered about my behind being warmed! Wonderful when the weather turns cold.

Thanks heels , its the longer journeys that really hurt , I probably should have had a break halfway at the weekend but the traffic was so bad on Friday I felt it was easier to keep going, the roadworks meant hour and 1/4 journey was over 2 hours 😖

automatic definitely easier in so many ways. less stress on body throughout. good luck.

It's a no brainer.......one of the first things I changed in my life when diagnosed 20 years ago was to get an automatic car.

No more changing gear & grinding pain in knee,hip & ankle pressing on the clutch......when you think about it......it's like a physical workout driving a Manual!

You will probably still have people ask "are they reliable" " always going wrong"?

Ignore them-these days automatic calls are no less reliable and certainly much more comfortable than a manual.

I drive a Honda Jazz now....I feel just like Postman Pat - as although not a large car it has good all round vision & is high enough not to need a hoist to get in & out!

Go for an automatic asap....I'm sure you will very soon appreciate how less stressful driving can be without all that gear changing.

The only downside I have found is that it's nigh on impossible to hire a reasonably priced automatic car in Europe....so now I'm a whizz on the buses... ...in French,Spanish & Italian!!

Happy driving!

Like others, I can recommend changing to an automatic car to make driving easier when your feet/hands are a problem, especially on the left side like me. Bought my first automatic (20-month old Kia Venga) two months ago and only tried to change gears a couple of times before getting used to it! Things I love about it: seat adjustable to a high up position for me; adjustable steering wheel position; easy to get in and out of; very roomy inside (6'4" friend easily fits in back seat without knees jamming into the front seat); good sized boot; very nippy; cruise control; remainder of manufacturer's 7-year warranty. We've just taken it from Lancs to S.Wales and Devon and back - my 6'1" hubby did most of the driving and found it very comfy to drive, as was the passenger seat for me! I'm looking forward to the heated seats when the weather gets colder. The only whinge so far is that the big sat nav touch screen is not particularly responsive - you have to be quite firm and precise when choosing the options but I suppose my sore sausage fingers might be the issue there.

Thanks nanapa , i need a roomy car as my youngest is 6’5” and hes a big rugby player.

Hi, this might be a stupid question but instead of driving have you thought of going by train when you can’t manage to drive ? I never go by car on long journeys it’s so much better to be able to get up stretch your legs, get a coffee and also there’s a loo. Probably not very cheap to do it all the while but now and then sooo much better.

weathervane in reply to Leics

Unfortunately Leics i live in the north of Ireland and our train service is quite limited , also need to walk 3/4 of a mile up a steep hill to get a bus , so a car is a big help . I love the train when i visit my oldest in England !

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