Safety Is Always Important When Operating Vehicle Lifting Systems

A guide to ensuring long, safe vehicle lift service

To verify a lift’s status, look for the gold “ALI Certified/Validated by ETL” label on it, advises Perlstein. This label indicates that the lift has been tested and certified to meet the current ANSI/ALI ALCTV standards.

It is legal in North America to sell lifts that do not meet the ANSI safety and performance standards, points out John Rylee, director of marketing for Rotary Lift, the leading brand of vehicle lifts and equipment designed to increase technician productivity ( Installing non-certified lifts, however, is another matter.

In the U.S., building codes in all 50 states and Washington, DC, require that any lifts installed be certified, he explains. These states and many Canadian provinces have adopted the International Building Code (IBC) which specifically requires that all lifts be certified to the ANSI/ALI standards. If a non-certified lift is being used in one of these areas, building inspectors are authorized to tag it out of service.


A commonly overlooked mistake is using an uncertified option or accessory on a certified lift, observes Perlstein of Mohawk. Doing so will void the lift’s certification and could put safety and lift performance at risk.

ALI/ETL, ANSI and IBC standards require that all accessories, such as rolling jacks, truck adapters, lighting for runway lifts and special lifting pads, be certified, he says.

Although certification is good for the life of the lift, older models may not meet the most current standards, which typically change every five to seven years, he adds. Some lifts and options that were certified in 2000 wouldn’t pass the 2011 ANSI/ALI ALCTV standard.


Training those who will be operating vehicle lifting systems is essential, MAHA USA’s Pop stresses, because no matter how advanced the lift is, its operation is defined by a user.

ANSI requires that technicians be trained annually in proper lift use, add Mohawk’s Perlstein.

Each lift comes with an operator’s manual and additional lifting safety manuals that are required with the delivery of a certified lift, they both note. Yet, many shops tend to disregard those manuals and start using the equipment without being aware of proper safety procedures, says Pop.

Accidents have happened and more than 90 percent are caused by operator error, he points out. Proper training will ensure safe and efficient operation and prepare the user for an emergency situation. What’s more, by using the lift correctly, service life will be extended.


Most lifts have an overload protection, says Pop of MAHA USA. However, common sense should prevail and the user should make sure the lift is not overloaded and that the weight is distributed evenly or centered properly when using mobile wheel-engaging lifts, also known as mobile column lifts.

Mobile wheel-engaging lifts utilize individual lifting columns that are used in sets of two, four, six or more units, he explains. Each column is mobile and contains an electric power unit interconnected with the other columns. A master control unit synchronizes all columns so that they operate in unison.

With mobile column lifts, before you begin, always lift on a firm foundation on level ground, Stertil-Koni’s DellAmore recommends. When lifting outdoors, be aware of wind loads. Also, make certain that all personnel are clear of the vehicle and that the wheels on the vehicle being raised are properly engaged with the forks on the mobile column lifts.

For in-ground piston lifts and axle-engaging scissor-style lifts, operators should check that the contact points are properly positioned, he says.

While many mobile wheel-engaging lift manufacturers offer capacities of more than 18,000 pounds per column, tires are rated at a maximum of 14,500 pounds, Pop points out. Always check tire pressure before lifting and make sure rated tire capacity is not exceeded during the lifting operation. The user also needs to check the surroundings and ensure that there’s enough ceiling clearance to perform the lifting operation.


Typically, heavy duty vehicle lifts are equipped with mechanical locks, especially hydraulic units, and they need to be used, stresses Mohawk’s Perlstein.

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