Every car guy wants at least one automobile lift in their garage. There are different types of lifts for different applications though. Let’s go over a few things about car lifts so you have a better understanding of what lift may suit you best.
Why do you want a car lift ?
The first question is to understand the main purpose of getting the lift. Are you getting a lift for the extra storage space to fit another car in your garage? Or are you getting a lift because you want an easier way to work on your cars? Or is it a bit of both? If you plan to store a car on the lift, you’ll want either a single post or a four post lift. If you plan to work on cars on the lift, and you don’t plan on using it for storage, you’ll want a two post lift. If you plan to store a car on the lift, but also want to be able to work on it, you’ll want a four post lift possibly with some options to make working on cars easier.
Can you fit a car lift into your garage?
Most guys who want a lift in their home garage are primarily going to use the lift for storage on either a single post or four post lift. It’s always nice to be able to squeeze in another car into your garage. The usual limiting factor is ceiling height. The general rule of thumb for ceiling height is to measure the height of the two cars you plan on stacking and add ten inches to that height. The extra ten inches is needed to compensate for the height of the deck that the top car will drive onto and the locking positions in the posts so that you can safely secure the upper car once it’s raised. Also be aware of any obstacles that may be in the way, like garage door openers or ceiling lights, which may need to be relocated. Generally the height of the four post lift isn’t a problem since the posts usually aren’t that tall. You will want to keep in mind the length and width of four posts lifts to make sure they fit into your garage with your other vehicles.
If you are planning on getting a two post lift so that you can work on your car easier, you’ll need to take a measurement of your ceiling height because the posts of the lift are going to be tall. Depending on the two post lift, you will either have the connecting bracket for the lift across the top of the posts or running on the floor, so keep that in mind when you measure your ceiling clearances. When you have the connecting bracket on the top, you will have to be aware when you raise the car not to hit the bracket (although some lifts will have a switch preventing this), and when you have the connecting bracket on the bottom it can get in the way when you roll tools or stools between the posts. Either way, the connection is what keeps the lifting arms going up and down in unison.
The concrete specifications for car lifts vary depending on the lift. You will want to check the installation instructions for the lift to find the manufacturer's recommendation. If you do not know your concrete specifications, there is no real way to test what they might be because the thickness of the concrete in one spot may not be the same a few inches away. You will need to have pads cut out from your floor where the lift will be placed and concrete re-poured in those pads to make sure you are within the proper specifications so that the concrete does not crack. The basic rule is that you need the pads to be 12" wider on each side from the base plates of the lift. For a 2 post, you'll need to go down at least 2 feet. For a 4 post, you'll need to go down at least 6 inches. New concrete also must also cure at least 28 days before installing your car lift. Of course a 4 post lift is the most stable lift with the least amount of stress on the concrete, just as a car usually has 4 wheels on the ground.
There are safety locks in the posts of car lifts to prevent disaster. You can think of them much in the same way a rollercoaster has a locking mechanism you hear clicking as you are taken up a hill. These locks on a car lift are in place in case the power goes out or there is a mechanical failure. When you bring the car back down, you will need to disengage these locks. Some car lifts have a lever you hold, others use a small amount of compressed air to disengage these locks. If the car lift you are installing needs compressed air, you will want to run an airline from your compressor to the lift along with the electricity.
Depending on the car lift, you may need to run 110v or 220v electrical wires to the lift. You will also need to know the amperage draw for the lift so you are able to supply it enough power to operate. Similar to other electrical motors, like air conditioners, the initial current draw on the lift is where the most amperage will be used, and it will taper off once the motor is running. You will need to give the motor enough head room so that this initial draw does not trip your circuit breaker.
Four Post Lift Car Measurements
Aside from making sure the length, width, and height of a four post lift can fit into your garage, you will also need to measure the cars you plan on storing on them to make sure they’ll fit. The car on top will need to be able to drive onto the deck, and you’ll want to measure the inside and outside distance between the tires to make sure the tires will be in contact with the decks. If you plan on storing large vehicles, you’ll also want to make sure the cars will clear the inside of the posts with enough extra room that you will be comfortable driving between them.
Two Post Lift Car Measurements
Aside from the height and width of a two post lift physically fitting into your garage, you’ll also want to make sure that you can easily use it to pick up your cars. Most people these days want an asymmetrical two post lift. This means that the rear lifting points of the lift extend out farther than the front. What this allows you to do is drive up to the lift and still be able to open the car door to get out of the car. With a symmetrical lift, you would have to get out of the car and then push the car forward to line it up at the lifting points. Symmetric lifts are still used for specific types of vehicles, like box trucks, where there is a higher center of gravity. For most applications though, the asymmetric lift is the easier option. Another thing to keep in mind is the height of the car off the ground. You will need to position the lift arms under the car, and if the car has a low profile you will want to make sure you have arms that can slide under the frame or you’ll end up having to use a floor jack or ramps. Obviously having to use another jack or ramps to get onto the lift defeats the purpose of having a lift to make working on the car easier.
Working on a Four Post Lift
For the guys who usually use their lift for storing a car, but also want to be able to work on them, you’re going to want a bridge jack. This is a built in jack that slides between the ramps that allows you to pick the car up by the frame. Usually, a four post lift would limit how you can service a vehicle because the tires need to be in contact with the ramps. By using a bridge jack and picking the car up by the frame you can take off the car tire and do things like service your brakes. It is an expensive option, but well worth it because it essentially turns your four post storage lift into a two post service lift.
Shipping and Installation
Because of the size and weight of car lifts, they will usually arrive to you on an open semi truck. You will need a way to get the lift off the truck and bring it into your garage. If you do not have the equipment to do this, the best option is to rent a forklift from a local rental company. The fork lift will not only be able to take the lift off the delivery truck, but also aid you in assembling the lift. Another option is to call a local tow company and arrange to have a tow truck with a boom on the back at your delivery location when the delivery truck arrives. Most of the lifts on our web site have links to the assembly instructions in their descriptions. Overall, a lift is not very complicated to assemble, but the pieces can be heavy, so you’ll want either machinery or a bunch of guys to help.