Customize your car for cheap. 10+ aids for more comfort, less pain.

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arthritis friendly car modifications

Customize your car for cheap

Is your arthritis beginning to affect your driving?
Are you looking for more comfort when driving?
Don’t want to buy a new car - but need to make your current ride more arthritis-friendly?

This article is full of useful tips and tricks that you can use with your existing car to make it more arthritis friendly. Customize your car cheaply with the options suggested in this article.

Learn about driving aids for your arthritis
Achieve more comfort, less pain when driving

Table of Contents

You can make this change at no cost!

Start consciously thinking about how you get in and out of your car.

To get in: Open your car door and stand with your back to the car seat. DO NOT try to put your feet into the car yet. Now engage your core muscles and lower your bottom towards the seat with care. Use the internal door handle, or door frame to assist you if needed. Once seated, swivel your legs in. 

To get out: Swivel out facing away from your seat. Shuffle your hips forward as much as possible so that it is at the edge of the seat. Bring your toes so that they are back beneath your knees. Lean forward a little to bring your nose over your toes. Engage your core muscles and push up with your legs to a standing position. You may choose to use your arms to push off the chair, car door frame or off your knees.

Adaptations for your current car

Aids to help you (on a budget)

Getting in and out of the car

more comfort less pain getting in and out of the car

Portable grab bar (also known as an Auto Cane)

A portable grab bar is a useful driving aid for arthritis sufferers. Wedge it into the latch hole (also referred to as a striker plate) inside your door frame, and use it to place your weight on, when getting in or out of the car. Its purpose is to provide an additional contact point when lifting yourself out of the seat. They fit most car doors, the most popular being ones that fit a U-shaped door striker or door latch. YOu can locate this latch on the inside of your open door. Use the visual guide below, if you are not sure what it looks like.


  • Small – will fit into glove box/handbag (<10” x 1”)
  • Easy to use
  • No installation or modifications required
  • Non-slip grip handle
  • Weight capacity up to 150kg
Locating your latch hole

Additional features that different makes/brands offer can include:

  • Slightly larger ones can contain a built-in key compartment to keep a spare key close at hand
  • Built-in LED Flashlight
  • Window breaker hammer in case of emergency
  • Seat belt cutter in case of emergency


Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $25-$60

Portable vehicle mobility support handle (also called a Hand Hook)

Portable vehicle mobility support handle (also called a hand hook) . If the small grab handle above is not enough for you, try a hanging support handle. It gives you a wide grip and steady support while getting in and out of your car. The strap is adjustable for your height and it is lightweight and can be easily packed away when you don’t need it. This driving aid for arthritis is extremely useful in many other contexts too.


  • Non-slip car bar grip to easily stand from your vehicle
  • Buckles around window frames in most cars, trucks, or vans
  • Length adjustable nylon strap from 7″-16″
  • Ergonomic handle for a comfortable transfer
  • Weight capacity: 110kg – 150kg
  • Multi-function: It is not only suitable for your car, but can be used wherever you want, as long as you have a strong column or frame, you can install them there
Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $ 10 - 100

Aids for your seat

driving aids for arthritis - seat

When a seat belt is within easy reach, goes on quickly and releases without difficulty, it’s more likely to be used. Seat belts should be buckled low on the hips, crossing the bony pelvic bones, and the shoulder strap should cross mid-shoulder.

A plastic bag, silk scarf or towel

Try lining the seat of your car with a plastic  bag or silk scarf. The slippy surface makes it much easier for sliding on your seat.  DONT FORGET to remove it before starting your drive as you wont want to slip while you are driving.

Towels are a great idea if you are driving someone else’s car or you don’t have the budget to buy specialized equipment. Place a rolled or folded towel behind your back, shoulders, neck or elbows. Towels can reduce pressure and provide extra support for your joints.

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $0 - $30

Rotating (Swivel) car cushion

Designed for use on car seats, these cushions feature a special low-friction design that offers a smooth pivot action. Users simply sit and swivel to enter and exit the vehicle.

Look out for:

  • 360 degree swivel action
  • padding for extra comfort
  • removable cushion cover for cleaning
  • check the base of the seat – you don’t want a thin flimsy base that can break easily
  • if you have bucket seats (so your seats  are not flat) check that the swivel seat can sit flat between the side curves
Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $15 - $100

Beaded seat cover

A staple in many drivers’ vehicles for years, the wood beaded seat cushion has been celebrated by many for the massaging effect and comfort it gives to drivers. It’s a go to driving aid for arthritis, back injuries and many other conditions too.

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $20 - $100

Heated seat cover (with padding)

A padded and heated chair cover can be the difference between a comfortable drive and a crippling one. Heat can help to keep your joints and muscles loose, whilst padding increases comfort and support.

Consider the following:

  • durability
  • high/low temperature control
  • light and portable
  • washable cover
  • size to suit your car seat
  • speed at which it heats up
  • can you regulate the back heat and the seat heat separately
  • non slip base
  • adjustable dual straps to maintain position
  • overheat protection thermostat
  • timer
  • automatic turn off
  • resistance to moisture

NOTE: Some guidelines warn that applying heat to joints should continue for no more than 20 minutes at a time. 

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $30 - $70

Ergonomic Seat pillow or doughnut

Sciatica, hip, leg and tailbone pain can be relieved with a seat pillow. These offer support whilst also relieving pressure on affected areas. Memory foam or gel pillows will keep their shape for longer and offer firmer support than traditional padding. 

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD$30 - $70

Centre console armrest

Arm rests in cars are often too hard, low, or narrow for people with arthritis. Especially if their wrist, elbow or shoulder joints are affected. Buy a padded arm rest that you can strap over the existing one.

Consider the following:

  • does it have extra pockets, which can help with aoiding having to reach too far
  • fabric breathe-ability
  • memory foam
  • ease of installation. ensure straps do not conflict with the open/close mechanism
  • wrist support

Note: measure your centre console to ensure the item fits your car, prior to purchase.

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD$ 25- $80

Take control of your steering wheel

iconfinder steering wheel car part controller 4118381

Steering wheel cover

A padded steering wheel cover can put less pressure on your hands and require less grip strength. This can increase your comfort when driving and prevent dangerous slips.


  • the material being used ie: rubber, silicone, leather. Choose ‘grippy’material
  • the amount of padding. A bulkier wheel cover can reduce the amount of bend your fingers need to perform
  • you may need some help to fit the cover onto your steering wheel
  • In hot climates, considering the covers location – will the material heat up uncomfortable through the windscreen?
  • ensure you know the size of your steering wheel prior to buying a cover
Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $8 - $55

Wear Gloves/Splints

Wearing gloves is one of the cheapest driving aid for arthritis sufferers. They can reduce the amount of grip needed by giving greater traction. Thumb or wrist splints can provide additional support and comfort to tires and aching joints.


  • the material being used ie: rubber, silicone, leather. Choose ‘grippy’material
  • ensure any splints do not restrict necessary  movement for safe driving
Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $10 - $40

Manage your seat belt

seat belt

Seatbelt ID

People with arthritis can have complicated medical histories. In case of an accident or other emergency situation this information is vital. A simple fabric seat belt ID band attaches to the part of your seatbelt that crosses your chest. It contains your health history and will help emergency responders. Add whatever details you feel are most important. Include things like medications, blood type, and surgeries.


  • Personal information e.g. Name, DOB, Address
  • Contact information e.g. Emergency contacts, Medical Insurance Company, Doctor, Dentist
  • Primary language information
  • Medical information, Medications
  • Special needs
Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $10 - $25

Buckle holder for seat belt

Do you have difficulty fishing out the receiving end of the seat belt in your car? Is it wedged or twisted between the seats? Extracting it can be a lesson in pain and frustration. It is definitely not arthritis-friendly. Slide a buckle holder (sometimes called a band) around the attaching part of the seat belt. This helps to keep it upright and in a good position for holding on to.

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $10 - $30

Seatbelt Unbuckler (sometimes called a release tool)

A car seat buckle release tool helps to eliminate thumb pain and grip issues. It can reduce the force needed to unbuckle your, or a child’s seatbelt, by 50%. Keep it in a convenient place inside the car.

Note: Take care where you place the unbuckler as you don’t want a young child to be able to undo their seatbelt in transit

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $10 - $30

Seat Belt Grabber Handle

The seat belt grabber is the answer for those with should pain, arthritis or a limited range of movement. It attaches easilty without tools and adds an instant addition of 15cm (6 inches). This helps reduce twisting and turning. 

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $25 - $40

Seatbelt Extender

Changing the angle of your belt may make it easier to reach and buckle. A seat belt extender can make it more accessible. It helps to reduce the distance that you need to reach comfortably by reducing the amount of work required from the joints as you  twist, grasp and maneuver a seat belt.


  1. flexible or rigid options
  2. consult your OT to decide what length of extension will most suit your needs
Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $10 - $50

Make your key work for you

Car key

Car Key Turner (or topper)

Using a car key turner requires less force to turn the key. It also gives a much larger surface area to grip. Getting the key into the ignition and turning it can be tricky and very painful. So this device is a necessity for people dealing with arthritis in their hands. Key toppers help you hold the slippery key and also to find it more easily, should you lose your grip of it.

Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $10 - $60

Check your mirrors

check your mirrors

Panoramic rear view and blind spot mirrors

A panoramic mirror is an invaluable driving aid for arthritis warriors as it increases safety and visibility by eliminating blind spots when driving. It decreases the need and range required to twist and turn. Switching lanes, navigating a roundabout, parking or entering a major road such as a highway is much easier. Add extra blind spot mirrors to the wing mirrors too.
  • anti-glare and shatterproof glass
  • clip onto existing mirror – or replaces?
  • is it suitable for your car (reconsider if you have built in GPS/Auto Saftey technology)
Note: These mirrors can be helpful but they cannot guarantee safety.
Customize your car for cheap! Costs can range from AUD $15 - $35
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