Tell me about automotive lifts

May 1, 2016 | By Staff


How about an article on lifts? I am debating if I should buy a 2-post or a 4-post lift. The lifts are almost all made in China or some Asian country and are not very expensive. I wonder if any readers have experience good or bad with various brands.


How about it restorers? Has anyone had experience with a certain lift as far as safety, convenience, manufacturer integrity, delivery or maintenance? Let us know what your experience has been. Meanwhile here are a few thoughts and tips from our Auto Restorer experts:

Two-post lifts are the easiest to install, and they take up the least room. However, it is crucially important with any lift to determine the thickness of the concrete onto which you will be bolting it, and also how long the cement has had to cure. For safety reasons, you need a minimum of four-inch-thick concrete, and six would be better. Drill a test hole using a masonry bit chucked into a household drill to verify the depth of existing concrete.

Also, the posts must stand exactly 90 degrees to the floor after installation. If the concrete on which the lift is mounted is not level, you will need to use a spirit level and metal shims under the retaining bolts to correct for any lean. It is important that the weight of the car is born straight down on the posts for safety reasons.

Keep in mind that with a two-poster, you will be hoisting a 3000- to 5000-pound car on only the footprint of the two post points, and proceed accordingly. The concrete must be a proper mix, and needs to be aged at least 30 days as well.

You will also need a 220-volt connection for your lift, and ideally a dedicated circuit with a 20-30-amp breaker on it. Another thing to consider is that, even though 3000-pound capacity lifts are available, it would be prudent to purchase one in the 7000- to 9000-pound capacity range because most cars weigh at least 3000 pounds and many American classics are well over that.

Four-post lifts take up more space, but they are more convenient because you can just drive a car right onto them. However four-posters can be more expensive, especially if you need to have them shipped to your location. Also, any lift you purchase will be heavy, so if you are on a budget, make sure you take shipping into consideration.

A four-post lift is certainly more convenient and stable for storing two cars with one on the bottom and one on top. But a two-post lift is great for routine maintenance. Two-post lifts are easier to install, and there are manufacturers that produce two-posters that are designed so each post can be wheeled into place when the lift is needed, and then wheeled to a corner when they are not. Such mobile lifts are quite expensive though.

Most of us working at home have height constraints to consider too. Measure to the ceiling in your garage, and then measure the heights of the cars you will be storing, if that is your aim. You will want at least six inches of top clearance for each car. Width and length are considerations too. You will want plenty of room to maneuver around your cars and the lift on the sides as well as at the ends.

If you go for a two-post lift, consider whether you want a symmetrical or asymmetrical model. The reason for that is the posts of the lift may interfere with opening the doors of your car when you are working on it. Most of us are in and out of our cars several times when doing tune-ups and brake jobs. So depending on the types of cars you will be working on, you may wish to go to an asymmetrical lift with unequal support arms for easier access, or even spend a little more for a four-post model.

There is some heavy work in assembling a lift, so you will want to invite a few husky young friends over to help push things into place. You will need a torque wrench for sure, and furniture dollies would be a big help too. You will also want to contact local authorities to see if you need a permit to erect a lift in your locality.

As for whether your new lift comes from a foreign country or is made locally, it is important to know what standards were followed in the construction of the lift and whether the welds were done correctly, and whether it is made of quality steel in any case. I would not necessarily condemn a lift from overseas, but I would check with the Automotive Lift Institute before committing to a particular brand. Here’s how to get in touch with them:

Automotive Lift Institute 80 Wheeler Ave. Cortland, NY 13045

Two makers of quality liftshere in the United States that are worth checking into are:

Backyard Buddy 140 Dana St. N.E. Warren, OH 44483

Atlas Automotive Equipment

Atlas lifts are professional quality and sell through a network of dealers in the United States.