Fourth in a Series of Occasional Posts on Shop Maintenance
Photography and Story by Jim Marotta
Whether you use the in-ground or above-ground variety, a lift is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your shop and should be foremost on your inspection and maintenance list. Not only do malfunctioning lifts pose a safety concern, but it's difficult to perform your work without one.
Every type of lift requires specific safety procedures for safely lifting vehicles. The most common type of vehicle lift is the two-post, above ground style. Weight capacity on these lifts can range from 7000 lbs. and higher, so consider the total lift capacity as well as the individual arm capacity (total capacity of the lift divided by the four swing arms) so you will not overload an arm.Let us say a contractor's pickup truck is in the bay for an oil change. Our 10,000 lbs. lift (each arm lifting up to 2500 lbs.) can easily lift the 1-ton truck into the air. However, the truck's toolboxes and ladder racks make the rear of the truck heavier than the front. If the truck and tools have a total weight of approximately 9000 lbs. and the front/rear weight distribution on the truck is approximately 30/70 (3000 lbs. front and 6000 lbs. rear), we could overload the lift's rear arms and cause the lift to fail.To ensure safety, manufacturers offer scales on lifts. The scales alert operators to overloaded lift conditions and avoid situations like the rear-heavy work truck scenario.
Once we know our lift can handle the vehicle we are lifting, we need to determine proper lifting points. A two-post lift engages the vehicle's frame or lifting points, so it is critical to know the specific lifting points for every vehicle.
Lifting a vehicle at the wrong points can damage components under the vehicle, such as brake lines, suspension components, or body parts. Failure to use the vehicle manufacturer recommended lifting points might cause the vehicle to slip off the lift, resulting in severe vehicle damage and personal injury.
As the vehicle's weight comes to rest on the lift arms, a mechanical safety lock system bears the weight of the vehicle at rest, rather than the hydraulic pressure of the lift pistons.
Why is maintenance so important? What shop can afford to have jobs stacked up in the parking lot and
employees standing idle? More importantly, you want to ensure the
safety of anyone underneath or near your lifts.
How often should you inspect your lift? According to the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI), an association of automotive lift manufacturers promoting the safe design, construction, installation, service, and use of automotive lifts, an automotive lift should receive comprehensive annual inspections, or more frequently when specified by the manufacturer. In addition, ALI lists critical items to inspect every day:
Follow the lift manufacturer's specified inspection and maintenance schedule and in addition, the ALI recommends these periodic inspections:
By properly and consistently maintaining your equipment, and properly mounting vehicles on the lift, you will be taking care of one of your most important tools and paying yourself back many times over.
For more information on lifting points, just turn to www.ChiltonPRO.com. A subscription to Chilton's comprehensive service procedures, specifications, and wiring diagrams, gives you the information to do the job right the first time.
A muscle car enthusiast and drag racer, Jim Marotta is a freelance automotive writer with more than 20 years experience in the automotive industry.