Project Garage: Part XI – Car Lifts


BendPak two post lift.

The inground hydraulic lift is one option you have for residential lifts, and probably one of the best in terms of not taking up too much space but providing exactly the lift you need for most at home garage projects. The two or four post options are also possible if you have the space. Assuming your township is a little more lenient (or you can circumvent the entire permit process), your first choice is four post (wheel engaging) or two post (frame engaging) lifts.  Four post lifts are most manageable- simply drive on and off. They don’t typically need to be anchored to the floor and can even be made portable using a caster accessory package.  If ceiling height isn’t an issue, they can provide space to park two cars where there was only enough floor space for one.  But for obvious reasons, they tend to cost more and require a bigger footprint on the ground.  

Danmar four post lift.

Two post lifts are a better option for most enthusiasts because they’re cheaper and don’t take up as much space.  Two post lifts can be symmetrical or asymmetrical.  With symmetrical lifts, the posts face each other and the weight of the vehicle is distributed equally to both support arms.  With asymmetrical lifts, the swing arms are different lengths front to back and they feature a rotated post design.  This provides a transferred center of gravity, preferable for trucks with a skewed front to back weight ratio.  The asymmetrical design also allows the doors to be opened more easily.  A versymmetrical lift can provide both symmetrical and asymmetrical capabilities so they accommodate a much greater line of vehicles in one lift.  

Symmetrical liftAssymetrical lift
Symmetrical lift
Asymmetrical lift

Typically, both two post and four post lifts aren’t too common in residential garages due to the amount of height they require.  There are even smaller options for enthusiasts with little space.  Scissor lifts use accordion style mechanisms to raise vehicles.  The scissor lift comes in numerous configurations from parallelogram to pantograph to “X” type.  Parallelogram style scissor lifts are extremely heavy so you’ll need to consider your concrete’s strength.  A low-rise lift can provide up to 3’ of lift above ground.  A mid-rise is good for 3-4’ of lift while a full-rise scissor lift can go even higher.  Scissor lifts retract to a low profile when not being used but they don’t offer much ability to work on many components underneath the car.  Scissor lifts can be wheel engaging or frame engaging as well.

Parallelogram lift
Parallelogram car lift

Portable car lifts such as the MaxJax (some ALI certified) or mobile scissor style lifts offer portable functionality but they won’t be able to lift heavier or larger vehicles.  Inground lifts keep the lift hidden when not being used making them an appealing option for some shops or enthusiasts.  They cost more since installation involves cutting and prepping the concrete for the lift’s body and due to the potential for hydraulic fluid to leak into the ground, have earned a reputation for being harmful to the environment, especially since it’s very difficult to detect a leak if it occurs.  Safeguards on inground lifts are now mandated to prevent seepage into ground water supplies and non-toxic hydraulic fluid puts this option back into favor.  

MaxJax portable car lift.


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