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Choosing The Proper Garage Car Lift - What's Your Problem?

Lift Tech
Norman Willis; Dawson, IL: With This Guy's Garage, you have done a good job presenting a page that most aspiring car crafters definitely pay attention to. I find the car lifts quite affordable these days and personally have an interest in the one featured in the Nov. '10 issue (Tom Owens' garage). If you could interject in your articles some info on garage lifts, I think readers would find that helpful in planning and use in their garages. Thank you for the fine job.

Jeff Smith: Above-ground car hoists can be separated into three basic configurations of two-post, four-post, and scissor lifts. Let's start with the popular two-post style. This hoist places the car between two outside posts using arms that swing under the car after the vehicle is in position. This requires the operator to place the four arms under the car in the proper places. The most popular two-post hoist is the overhead style, using a beam that connects the two posts together at the top. The baseplate-style lift places a panel on the floor between the posts. It is less convenient for using undercar accessories such as a trans jack or tall stand supports since the plate is often in the way. Baseplate two-post lifts are most often used with low ceilings because the overall height of the lift is shorter. There is normally a beam or connector between the posts that connects the lifting cable or chain across both uprights.

Within the two-post hoist is the variable of symmetrical or asymmetrical arms. The most popular version is the asymmetrical: The front arms are shorter than the rears. With the arms folded back, the operator drives the car between the posts, and because the front arms are shorter, only 30 to 40 percent of the vehicle is placed ahead of the posts. This allows more room to open the door to exit the vehicle. It also allows the uprights to be placed closer together for space considerations. Because symmetrical hoist front arms are longer, they require the vehicle to be centered between the uprights. This reduces the clearance for opening the vehicle door to exit, requiring the posts to be farther apart. One disadvantage to the two-post hoist is that it is time consuming to properly set the four lift points on some vehicles such as medium-duty trucks because of their kick-up frame sections. There are also portable two-post hoists for small shops with limited floor space that can be stored when not in use. Garage Equipment Supply sells a portable Dannmar medium lift called the MaxxJax that will lift 6,000 pounds about 4 feet in the air. This independent-two-post hoist design uses compressed air instead of hydraulic pressure to lift the vehicle. Each post employs wheels that allow it to be moved when not in use.

The four-post-style lift is also called a drive-on lift, using two ramps that are supported by the posts. This simplifies placing the vehicle on the hoist but hinders work on tires and suspension because the car must then be lifted off the ramps with a second hydraulic or pneumatic jack. Four-post hoists also tend to cost more than two-post versions because of the extra material and mechanics. But an advantage is that many four-post hoists only require a 115-volt power supply. All the two-post hoists we looked at require a 220-volt, single-phase power supply with a minimum of a 30-amp circuit. Keep in mind that most home garages are not equipped with 220-volt service, which will add to the cost of installation. Another advantage to four-post lifts is that some versions offer optional casters that make the hoist portable within the shop.

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