Deciding whether or not a garage lift is right for you is not exactly a difficult decision to make, but you also need to keep in mind that there different types and sizes available, and install the one that best suits your purposes. If you do as much of your own automotive work as possible, a car lift may be good idea, but getting the wrong one could mean that you are never able to realize the full potential of what this tool can do.
Making the Car Lift Decision
If the only work you do on your car is washing it and putting on protective products, you may not need the expense and installation of a car lift. If you perform repairs such as oil changes, swapping out the alternator or starter and other light to medium jobs, a car lift could save you a lot of time and money in automotive repair costs, and if you perform serious auto work, you will quickly begin to wonder how you were ever able to do without one.
The Purpose of a Car Lift
The idea behind a vehicle lift is to assist you in lifting the entire vehicle up at one time. This provides you with a faster and convenient method than the use of a floor jack and stands, and will get your car up high enough to perform many types of repairs. By contrast, using ordinary car ramps will only lift one side or one end at a time, forcing you to remove the car from the ramps and reposition them before moving on to the other side or end of the vehicle. Car ramps are fine for a quick oil change or when you don’t need a lot of clearance to work. While jack stands and car ramps are generally very safe when used correctly, car lifts have a much lower possibility of user error which could result in injury or worse. Another benefit is that a vehicle lift allows you to collect all of the necessary tools so that they are conveniently available and placed exactly where you can reach the ones you need.
Choosing the Right Lift
Installing a lift that is poorly made or manufactured for the wrong size vehicle introduces risks to your auto work. It’s always a good idea to invest a little more for a top-rated product than to trust your life to a machine of questionable origins. Similarly, it is not a good idea to scrimp on the weight rating of the lift. You will fare much better to buy a lift that is rated for heavier vehicles than to install one that cannot safely lift and hold the car you drive.
Scissor Car Lifts
A scissors lift, or one that has four “wings” which can be adjusted to fit the width and length of your vehicle, is often the least expensive type of garage car lift to buy and quite popular for the home garage. Since it can be adjusted for different vehicles, you eliminate some of the concerns over vehicle size and safety. Additionally, a scissors type lift provides lifting action to the vehicle frame, which means you can use it to more easily rotate tires, change brakes or other servicing that requires you to access all four wheels. When not in use, the lift retracts into a low profile so can can park directly over it. The biggest disadvantage is that you can not work directly underneath the vehicle where the lift is.
Two-Post Car Lifts
More common in professional auto shops, two-post car lifts are also seen in many garages of DIYers. They are made up of two heavy duty posts (one on each side of the car) that can easily lift and hold a lot of weight. With a small footprint, they will fit in a variety of garages and allow easy access to all wheels and underneath the vehicle. Two-post lifts are recommended if they’ll be getting a lot of use throughout the day.
Four-Post Car Lifts
Four-post lifts offer a lot of advantages over other types of lifts but at a higher cost. You’ll typically find these at those quick lube oil change places or shops that work on exhaust systems but more and more of these are seen in home garages these days. With four heavy duty posts, they can lift and hold the heaviest of vehicles. Using one is as simply as driving on it and raising the lift. One of the biggest benefits is the fact that a second vehicle can be stored directly underneath the lifted vehicle so it is ideal for small garages. The biggest drawback is that you aren’t able to do any work with the wheels since they are in contact with the lift.
You should also be aware that lift manufacturers generally have disclaimers which absolve them of any obligation if the lift is not installed exactly as intended. For your own protection, it is better to hire an established contractor who is experienced in lift installations, and make sure that you have a warranty in writing in case the unthinkable happens.