The objective of any vehicle lift-buying process should be to get a quality lift properly matched to its intended application. Selecting the appropriate lift will pay back in enhanced technician and shop productivity and safety, plus reliable, long lift life.
Vehicle lifts are intended to help speed more effective vehicle maintenance for greater shop productivity. Designed to safely raise and hold up vehicles, they facilitate maintenance by allowing technicians to work underneath the vehicle while standing up so they may work in a more natural position. With greater access, visibility and clearance to work, and the ability to have tools and parts conveniently located nearby, technicians can be more efficient and productive while working more safely - a positive impact to a shop's bottom line.
Another benefit of vehicle lifts is improved vehicle maintenance. By being able to walk under a vehicle and better see underneath, a technician can more easily spot any "trouble" signs such as leaks, wear or missing or broken parts, which helps to prevent a more expensive breakdown.
Conversely, a lift that is not right for the job will have detrimental effects. Poorly designed and constructed lifts, or lifts that don't have the necessary lifting capacities, arm configurations, adapters and optional equipment, can be overworked. This leads to additional maintenance or more frequent repair, causing added downtime and reduced shop productivity.
Productivity and efficiency can be further impacted because an "improper" or poorly designed lift will hamper a technician's productivity, costing the loss of valuable "billable" time. Simply stated, some lifts allow a technician to work faster than other models.
The consensus among many lift manufacturers is that a light duty vehicle lift is one that is capable of lifting a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight 7,000 to no more than 16,000 pounds. Mohawk Lifts, however, recommends a load-lifting capacity of up to 25,000 pounds, "as the readers of Fleet Maintenance have a more varied fleet than does a general repair shop," says Steve Perlstein, owner of Mohawk Lifts.
The higher capacity helps insure lift stability in those instances when there is a vehicle on the lift that is heavily loaded on the rear, which puts a lot of stress on a lift by flexing it backwards, or when an engine, transfer case or transmission is removed, which changes the center of gravity, he says.
There are several main types of light duty vehicle lifts used in maintenance facilities:
• In-ground lifts - These come with one or two posts and are available with a range of vehicle contact configurations, including three-stage arms and pad adapters.
• Two-post surface lifts - These have two sets of lifting arms attached to two columns. The vehicle is driven between the columns. The arms are then manually positioned under the vehicle to lift it at designated pickup points on the frame. Industry-wide, two-thirds of all lifts sold in the U.S. are two-post, side-by-side above-ground lifts, notes Perlstein. The main reason is that these lifts allow the most unobstructed under access to the raised vehicle. Along with allowing the operator to safely raise a vehicle to a comfortable working height without restricting under vehicle access, two-post lifts provide another key benefit, adds Jeff Kritzer Sr. senior vice president of sales and marketing for BendPak. "The wheels and assemblies hang free, making it the most convenient method for performing wheel service. We estimate that about 50 percent of all 'repairs' are wheel service related, so it's easy to see why two-post lifts are generally preferred by commercial shops and garages."
• Low/mid-rise lifts - These lifts are designed to raise vehicles two to four feet off the ground. Pad contact configurations are used for quick-lifting operations.
• Four-post surface lifts - With these types of lifts, the vehicle is driven onto runways which are then raised. Drive-on lifts are the fastest lifts to use because no set-up is required to raise the vehicle, says Rotary Lift's director of marketing John Rylee.