Project Garage: Part XI – Car Lifts


Parkmatic designs both automatic and mechanical parking systems.  The automatic ones can identify an empty spot and store a car in place as well as retrieve it via a robotic system.  No more valets test driving your ride!

Other types of lifts include alignment lifts and parking lifts which are often seen in large city parking garages for convenience.  It might take you 5 minutes to get up to the fourth floor of a building but your car will be lifted up there in no time.  

There are a number of safety features you may want to look for when researching car lifts. Hydraulic lifts can benefit from a hydraulic flow restrictor or velocity fuses that keep the lift from suddenly descending if the hydraulics were to fail.  Automotive safety locks will lock the lift structure as the car is being raised, also keeping it from free-falling if something were to fail. These locks are usually spaced in less than 4-5 inch increments.  Typically, the car must then be raised slightly to release the locks once engaged. Similar to those equipped in elevators, a slack cable will act as a backup if a cable fails while lifting or lowering a vehicle. Manual wheel chocks located at the ends of the runways should be employed to keep vehicles from doing an endo to the garage floor. 

Four post lifts may need anti-sway blocks to keep the lift from swinging when a vehicle is being lifted or lowered.  Two post lifts should use automatic arm restraints so once the arms are in place for a particular vehicle, they can’t move as the lift begins to rise.  The restraints will disengage once the lift is back to its lowered state.
Rotary hydraulic car lift
Rotary hydraulic car lift.
A two post car lift will tend to run between $3000-4000 and only go up from there based on the optional features added.  Lifts that can accommodate larger capacity and heavier vehicles will run higher.  Consider the shipping and installation price when looking at quotes.  Inground lifts will run more for installation but a standard two or four post lift will probably run about $500-1000 for installation.  Make sure your concrete slab can support the lift and its capacity.  Don’t install the lift near a seam or the edge of the concrete.   Keep in mind that overhead cross bars can limit the amount of vertical capacity the lift can provide.
Look for a warranty and negotiate – if you can’t get the price down, you might at least get some accessories thrown in for free.  And used lifts are um…  questionable.  At least take it for a test drive and check what kind of regular maintenance was performed, exactly like you would with a car.  Check for wear cracks and inspect the welds to see if they require some more reinforcement.  Examine all the pivot pins and change the hydraulic fluid.  Ask yourself do you trust it to lift a car over your head?
This is a great example of what not to do…
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to the style of lift you’re looking for, do some homework and check out reviews.  Look for ALI/ETL certification (no other initials need apply) which should separate safe lifts from something that might wallop you like a whack-a-mole game. ALI certified members can be found here:
I’m a fan of BendPak/Ranger products for above ground two or four post lifts- well engineered, tested and certified, functional, sturdy, and professional looking.  The Mohawk stuff is nice but probably a little over-engineered for residential use.  Rotary lifts are ALI certified and within an enthusiast’s budget- they have the greatest number of certified distributer and installer employees.  Direct Lifts sells ALI certified four-post lifts but their two post and midrise lifts are not yet certified.  Ben Pearson/Quest offer some well-priced options but look for the ALI certification as they’ve started offering imported models that don’t carry the ALI certification.  Gemini and Worth lifts are not ALI certified and typically rebranded and sold under other names.
Look for a company that can provide excellent support in case you run into any issues mid-engine swap. And invite me over – I have a few car projects I need to get done!  MIQ readers, who has a lift in their garage?
Project Garage wet dream.

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