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Types of Automotive Lifts

Auto lifts come in all shapes and sizes. Which one is the “best one” depends on the work, circumstances, and location where one intends to use the lift. A change in these variables might change which auto lift is the best to use. Many auto lifts try to accommodate all types of automotive repairs, however each have their advantages.

Whether you're running a car repair shop from home, or a high-end repair shop, choosing the right lift is vital.

If you are running a home repair shop, and fixing your own car, a classic car, or your friend's car, the lift you get will be on a completely different budget than one designed for the automotive repair industry. Grade of equipment, maintenance requirements, and capacity all vary as widely as does the cost. The point is, you don't need an industrial lift if you plan on home use only. If you are going to use the automotive lift in a professional capacity you need to get a lift that lasts and is built for that purpose. A home lift is not going to cut it in the long run.

The lift industry categorizes lifts into two classes – ones that engage by the wheel and ones that engage by the frame. Four post lifts are by far the most popular of all lifts. Two post lifts are the most popular frame engagement lifts.

The available automotive lifts covered in this article are:

  1. Four-Post Automotive Lifts
  2. Two-Post Automotive Lifts
  3. Automotive Scissor Lifts
  4. Portable Automotive Lifts
  5. Column Lifts
  6. In-Ground Automotive Lifts
  7. Alignment Auomotive Lifts
  8. Parking Lifts
  9. Specialty Lifts

Here is a brief rundown these lifts with their pros and cons:

(If you are looking for a more in depth look at all aspects of lift design check out Bendpak's "A Study in Lift Design")

 

1. Four-Post Automotive Lifts

This is the wheel-engaging type auto lift, also known as a type of alignment lift (see below).

Four-post automotive lifts are the most common solution used in the automotive repair industry. Due to the additional support given by four posts, these lifts are known to be sturdier than their counterparts, two-post lifts.

Some four-post home automotive lifts require no anchorage to the floor. They can be moved with relative ease when needed, using manufacturer-supplied casters. This makes them a popular choice for some hobbyists and home-owners, as their placement is not “set in concrete” and one can always move them temporarily if needed. They can also be used for storage, for example, when stacking two cars in one spot.

Four-post lifts are usually priced slightly higher than the two post lifts, due to the extra mechanics and materials involved in manufacturing them.

More on the Four-Post Lift:

If you're a car enthusiast, you can just do so much more with a lift in your garage. As car lifts get more reliable and cheaper, they are becoming more of a household item. The use of car lifts has skyrocketed recently, even in these troubling times. With a car lift at home, you can basically see it pay for itself with each routine maintenance. For dropping a transmission or replacing an engine, you've already paid for your car lift in just that one use instead of taking it to a mechanic.

The reason mechanically-inclined people pay for a mechanic to do their car work for them is simple: most people just can not do that work at home. They have the ability, they just lack the means. A car lift takes the middle man out of it, and puts your car into the hands of the person you trust the most: yourself.

 

2. Two-Post Automotive Lifts

Two-post lifts are the best-selling "frame engaging" lifts. They are recommended as the “drive-through” garage solution – drive it in, lift it, fix it, put it down, and drive it out.

There are two types of two-post lifts on the market: symmetric lifts, and asymmetric lifts.

They both work great. However, with a symmetric two-post lift, one needs to take care not to bump the car doors after one has driven the vehicle into position for the lift. There's only so much space available, to open the doors between the posts. Really, it's not a problem providing you stay alert of what’s happening while you work with the lift. There are also wider symmetric two post lifts available on the market that address this problem.

Asymmetric lifts are specifically designed to handle the problem of accidentally denting car doors. Their posts have been rotated at a thirty-degree angles of each other and the front arms are shorter than the back arms – this balances the car’s weight distribution so you don't have to worry about denting the doors (you stop the car about a one third the way in, in as opposed to half-way between the posts – eliminating car-door dent syndrome).

With all that in mind, the biggest advantage of having a two-post car lift is that it works out cheaper than a four-post lift and still provides full access to the wheels (as well as the rest of the car body).

More on the Two-Post Lift:

With rugged car and truck lifts, GES knows that there is a high demand for uncompromising quality from the top of the industry manufacturers. The 2-post lifts from BendPak and Dannmar deliver on the promise of superior quality and performance that their clients have come to expect.

BendPak 2-post lifts and Dannmar two-post lifts are world-renowned for setting the benchmark of quality. Other lift manufacturers take Chinese cookie-cutter lifts and rebrand them for the American market.

Our manufacturers design all their lifts right here in California. They come through their California warehouse and examine them thoroughly for quality just the way you would expect out of the USA. Meeting all requirements for ALI/ETL certification for most of their lifts, you would be juggling your life in your hands if you went with another brand.

There are so many different types of automotive lifts, each having features developed to assist mechanics within their unique framework, that it's sometimes hard to decide which one will work best for you.

If you have a small shop, if you are getting your first professional lift, or if you mainly work on cars, light trucks and vans, I would suggest looking into the two-post lift.

Here are some of the benefits of a two-post lift:

• Cost: One thing that many people like about this type of lift is it's relatively low cost. With prices starting at $2500, it's quite affordable, especially when you consider that it's larger cousin, the four-post lift, usually starts at around $4500.

• Space: Two post lifts will generally fit into any shop because there are only the two columns with their folding arms, requiring less floor space than the larger types of lifts (such as four-post lifts or scissor lifts).

• Functionality: This is why many mechanics prefer two-post lifts over other lifts, you only have the four arms holding the lift points from the side, meaning that the rest of the vehicle can be easily reached from any angle. With four-post lifts and scissor lifts, you need to work around the platform tracks.

A few facts to keep in mind regarding two-post auto lifts:

• Two-post lifts are probably one of the most popular types of auto lifts.

• They're called two-post lifts because they literally consist of two columns positioned on either side of the vehicle you're lifting.

• Two-post lifts take the weight of the vehicle using the lift points in the undercarriage, or frame, leaving the wheels and suspension hanging free.

• Each column in a two-post lift has two arms that can be adjusted to the lift point of the particular vehicle you're working on. There are also extensions that can be placed on the lifting points, allowing you to safely lift a low-profile vehicle, or vehicles with other obstructions (such as a gas tank hanging lower than the lift points).

• Two-post lifts are ideal for general repair of cars and light trucks, and they're great for working on the brakes, wheels, suspension, exhaust systems, grease points, oil changes, and much more. For heavier types of vehicles or specialized work, you may want to look into other auto lifts - but in the main, the two-post lift is a great lift to have in any shop.

• The low cost and the functionality of a two-post lift makes it quite affordable, as compared to four-post lifts or alignment lifts.

• Two-post lifts, particularly symmetric two-post lifts, have had problems with dinging the doors on the columns; but asymmetric designs have gotten around this glitch, and modern two-post lifts have a wider base to prevent this from happening.

• Two-post lifts can be either symmetric or asymmetric. More can be said in later articles about the difference between these - but to be brief, symmetric posts have the weight of the car evenly balanced between them, so if you look at the lift from the side you will see about 50% of the of the vehicle sticking out the front and 50% sticking out the back; good for vans and mid-sized trucks. Asymmetric posts have about 20% of the vehicle sticking out the front, with the rest seeming to hang in the air out the back; good for cars and light trucks. There are several reasons for this which will be covered separately.

• Some two-post lifts can be used as both symmetric and asymmetric lifts.

• Two-post lifts need to be bolted to the floor, meaning you won't be able to move them around the shop, as you can with some four post lifts or scissor lifts.

• With any auto lift you must ensure that it can handle the weight of the vehicles you work on. This is extremely important - an undersized lift is dangerous and will break down, so be sure to ask your sales representative about the weight tolerance levels of whatever lift you're considering purchasing.

Some people like using two-post lifts for most jobs because they give free access to all parts of the vehicle; with a four-post lift or a scissor lift, it can be difficult to reach some areas, due to the platforms.

 

3. Automotive Scissor Lifts

Scissor lifts are named as such because they raise vehicles with an accordion-like mechanism beneath the runways; a metal frame of X's joined to raise the platform on which the vehicle is standing.

Scissor lifts come in a variety of capacities and heights for both home and professional automotive repair shops, and are quite capable of lifting very heavy vehicles. From a low height of three feet, to anything beyond that. They are built as both wheel and frame engaging models.

When the scissor lift is not lowered and in use, it is much more pleasing to the eye than then four-post lift, as it shrinks itself to the ground.

 

4. Portable Automotive Lifts

Space is always an issue and that is where portable automotive lifts come in. Want to pack your lift away when you're done sorting out your car? Then it's a portable automotive lift you're after.

Portable auto lifts are an efficient solution for the home or for the small businesses. They have a limited lift capacity, so if they are used for business, be aware that they can’t lift larger, heavier vehicles. Be sure to check the capacity of these lifts for their intended uses.

Either way, portable auto lifts, such as two-post MaxJax lifts, are very popular and are a great solution when space is an issue. They are also available in four-post, scissor, and even single-post models.

 

5. Column Lifts

Mobile column lifts are wheel engaging lifts. The way they work, is you wheel your column in place by a wheel (for every wheel of the vehicle) and they lift your car simultaneously for an even lift. Each column is a completely separate unit and when put in place at each wheel work together to lift the vehicle. These generally heavy duty lifts are not your typical homeowner's choice.

 

6. In-Ground Auto Lifts

For many years, in-ground auto lifts were the industry standard for car and truck lifting. The best feature being that you can keep them down low on the floor of your repair facility when they aren’t being used.

Depending on the design, in-ground auto lifts can be either frame or wheel engaging.

In-ground auto lifts are generally more expensive than other lifts, and there is also the cost of the installation which has to be taken into consideration.

7. Alignment Auto Lifts

The alignment automotive lift has runways which the vehicle is driven onto. It is a special type of lift because it comes with extra features that make it easier to perform alignment services on cars and trucks. Special turn-and-slip plates are built into the runways to allow the wheels to easily turn without resistance. This is type of lift is also called a “wheel engaging lift”.

There are two different types of alignments lifts – the scissor lift and the four-post lift.

More on Alignment Lifts

The automotive lift is an essential part of any professional work shop - a tool no mechanic can do without, as it provides the mechanic access beneath the vehicles he is repairing. Without a proper automotive lift, some repair jobs are nearly impossible to carry out. Thus choosing the right lift for you and your automotive repair facility can make a considerable difference in your profit margin.

Even though alignment lifts are well known as automotive repair lifts, which choices do you have, and what are the differences?

To clearly define the term, an alignment lift is an automotive lift with runways that allow one to drive a vehicle onto it. It is a special type of lift because it comes with extra features that make it easier to perform alignment services on cars and trucks. Special turn-and-slip plates are built into the runways to allow the wheels to easily turn without resistance, permitting the mechanic to easily make the adjustments he needs to make.

The lifting is done on the tires as opposed to the frame of the vehicle. The vehicle is driven onto and parked on the runways of the lift. (A lift with this feature is commonly referred to as a wheel engaging lift.)

There are two different types of alignments lifts – the scissor lift and the four post lift, which both come in various capacities, sizes, and qualities These lifts each perform the function of lifting up a vehicle for repair, with some models being more suited for certain vehicle types than others.

In general, the four-post lift can handle heavier vehicles than any other model can, and is therefore one of the more popular lifts available.

Most automotive alignment lifts are now fitted with rolling or sliding bridge jacks, which lift the wheels off the runway so that any work on the brakes, wheels, or axles can be done easily. These are usually connected to the rest of the hydraulic system, so lifting the vehicle from the frame is done with ease.

Some of the lower capacity four-post automotive lifts require no anchorage to the floor and can be moved with relative ease when needed. Lift manufacturers supply casters which can easily be fitted onto the bottom side of the lift so that it can be rolled away in its entirety.

The only downside of the four-poster is that, due to the extra mechanics and material involved, they are usually priced slightly higher than other lifts.

Scissor lifts raise vehicles with an accordion-like mechanism beneath the runways; a metal frame of X'es joined together which raise the platform the vehicle is standing on. Scissor automotive lifts come in a variety of heights and capacities for both home and professional automotive repair shops, and are capable of lifting very heavy vehicles.

The scissor alignment lift leaves less space for the mechanic to work underneath the car, as compared to the four-post lift. But this is only relative, and they give more than enough space for the mechanic to move around. When the scissor-lift is not in use and is in a lowered position, it is much more pleasing to the eye than then four-post lift, as it shrinks itself to the ground 

In contrast, the four-post lift has more space to move around underneath, but it takes up a lot more space in the repair shop; so if space is a consideration, the scissor lift is a viable option.

Safety features in both the scissor lift and four-post lift are standard. They include front and back plates; when the vehicle is raised it can't roll off. Safety lock bolts engage automatically, and many include a second set of backup locks. Modern four-post lifts normally have a lock switch installed that locks or unlocks all four posts at the same time (saving one from going around unlocking/locking each post individually, and allowing for human error).

We offer BendPak lifts exclusively for alignment:

BendPak's innovations in wheel alignment technology present the opportunity for shops to realize their full-profit potential with premium wheel alignment service capabilities. Their well-equipped HD-Series 4-Post Alignment Lifts enhance productivity by simplifying the entire wheel alignment process and cutting down on the number of trips a technician must take around the vehicle. For those interested in preserving precious floor space, we carry the X-Rack™, the ultimate space-saver. This exclusive design is so efficient that it installs into a minimum overall bay space and fits into even the most challenging shop floor layouts. With unmatched capabilities and such miniscule site requirements, BendPak's advancements in wheel alignment technology combine to form the ultimate system for virtually any shop looking to expand their capabilities with the most efficient and profitable wheel alignment service available.

BendPak wheel alignment car lifts help improve your bottom line by allowing you to perform complex wheel alignments faster than ever before. Industrial-strength slip plates and turn plates are integrated directly into the runways for maximum convenience. Vehicle wheels always respond to your slightest adjustment with our non-resistant, free-floating front turn plates, and our rear slip plates are guaranteed to maintain accuracy year after year thanks to their debris-resistant inverted caster design. These impressive innovations have become the calling card of all BendPak alignment lifts. As with all their lift models, each one comes in a wide array of alternate configurations to perfectly suit your lifting and wheel alignment needs.

BendPak lifts are supplied with installation instructions and concrete fasteners meeting the criteria as prescribed by the American National Standard "Automotive Lifts - Safety Requirements for Construction, Testing, and Validation" ANSI/ALI ALCTV-2006. Lift buyers are responsible for any special regional structural and/or seismic anchoring requirements specified by any other agencies and/or codes such as the Uniform Building Code (UBC) and/or International Building Code (IBC).

 

8. Parking Lifts

Public or private parking benefit from parking lifts. The idea being that a single parking space – given enough room vertically - can be occupied by two cars. These lifts are smaller than four-post lifts as they generally use one or two posts and have a lifting platform under the car that prevents fluids from leaking onto a vehicle parked underneath it; therefore, these lifts cannot be used to repair a car from underneath.

More on parking lifts

BendPak specializes in providing car parking storage lifts to both commercial and private sectors. Their strength as a leader in the parking lift industry assures that they provide the highest quality and most technically advanced car parking solutions to our customers. The integrity of their car parking lifts, as evidenced by the thousands of systems currently installed worldwide has remained a constant characteristic of their products.

BendPak's all new tilt parking lift is one of their bestBendPak parking lifts can be placed very close together

Whether you're the owner of a public parking structure or just want to make the most out of your private garage, BendPak has a selection of premium parking lifts to truly maximize your workspace. We offer both two-post, single-post and four-post three-level stacker configurations with the smallest footprints possible. As with every BendPak product, safety and durability are our primary concern, so these rugged, compact parking lifts feature automatically engaging spring-actuated locks, plenty of hard-working muscle for busy garages and ergonomic operator control for superior ease-of use.

Dannmar equipment has 4-post and 2-post parking lift solutions as well, built with rugged durability and strength in mind. These lifts will last longer than the garage you put them in. As with every Dannmar lift, they're built with heavy-duty aircraft cables and a durable steel construction, rendering them practically "bullet-proof" compared to other lifts on the market.

So whether you decide Dannmar or BendPak, Garage Equipment Supply has the lift you need, when you need it.

All lifts are ALI certified, meaning they've been rigorously tested by the only nationally recognized standard for all car lift models.

 

9. Specialty Lifts

Garage Equipment Supply offers a variety of specialty automotive lifts, many with the unique scissor lift design. Lifts are available specialized for boat storage, wheel alignment, bus storage, pit work, and drive-on fleet parking. Scissor lifts are designed as low-rise, mid-rise, or full rise. Portable column lift systems have four or six columns.

We carry the BendPak Quatra, a state-of-the-art scissor lift that's truly an amazing sight. We also carry from mid-rise scissor lifts such as the BendPak MD-6XP or the Dannmar Cadet 6000 XL. Each specialty lift we carry is unique in its own way: it allows you to get the job done with the right equipment, no matter how small or large your garage is, and no matter how small or large your vehicle is. We have just what you need, right here, at the lowest possible price ever.

As you can see, there are quite a few types of vehicle lifts, and many factors to be considered prior to investing in the right lift for your home or establishment. For advice or consultation on the best lift for your needs, feel free contact us by email or at 888-437-5438.

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