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Types of Car Lifts: A Guide

When it comes to your garage, having the right equipment is essential for getting the job done efficiently, not to mention safely. Auto lifts are no exception when it comes to requiring safety — whether you’re working beneath the vehicle or just need to change a tire, knowing you and your employees are using the best possible equipment for the job with little to no chance for injury can provide peace of mind.

The right car lift can also help you conserve space in your garage, and more efficiently repair vehicles with a higher turn-around without compromising the quality of your work.

We’ve compiled a list of different types of car lifts available and their uses to ensure you’re getting the best tool for the job, whatever it might be.

Car Lifts & Automotive Lifts

Car lifts are probably the most important tool in a mechanic’s workspace, and they are used more often throughout a given work day than any other piece of equipment.

A car lift is a heavy-duty steel framework that allows the mechanic to lift a car, motorcycle, or heavy vehicle up off the ground in order to offer more workspace and allow easy access to parts of the vehicle that would otherwise be difficult to access had the vehicle remained on the ground. Some are manufactured to support the weight of the entire vehicle, while others, like the tire jack, are intended for only lifting a portion of the vehicle while the majority remains on the ground. Using the correct type of lift for a job not only ensures efficient repair, but maintains safety as well.

Types of Car Lifts

2 Post Lift

2 Post Lifts

2 Post car lifts are quite standard in the mechanic industry, and are cost-effective for small garage businesses or even the home mechanic. They’re constructed, as the name suggests, of two primary steel beams between which the vehicle is suspended, and offer the most space-savvy footprint.

Used when the mechanics need to service the undercarriage, most 2-Post lifts are manufactured to support larger trucks as well as passenger vehicles. There are several different types of 2-Post lifts, the foremost of which are Asymmetrical and Symmetrical.

 

Symmetrical vs. Asymmetrical

What’s the difference between symmetrical vs asymmetrical lifts, anyway? Automobile design has shifted in the past several years, and the Symmetrical lift was created as a simpler alternative to the more expensive in-ground lifts. A Symmetrical Lift is bolted to the floor instead of an in-ground installation. Instead of the arms being different lengths, this type of lift generally has 4 arms that are the same length, and has a very narrow space between the vehicle and the columns, making it difficult to get in and out of the car without inflicting “door dings.”

On the plus side, Symmetrical lifts offer drive-thru capability. Due to the narrow columns and potential for door dents, Symmetrical lifts are not as commonly used.

There are several different types of Asymmetrical lifts. Longer rear arms and shorter front arms are standard features for most Asymmetrical auto lifts. On some models, however, the center support columns will be rotated 30 degrees facing the load center of the vehicle during lifting. Asymmetrical lifts on which the hydraulic arms aren’t rotated aren’t considered ‘worse” than those with rotation; they tend to squeal with increased friction and leave metal shavings at the bottom of the columns while the vehicle is being lifted.

Asymmetrical lifts are a popular choice due to the fact that the arms are of unequal length, the car rests back more easily and thus allows access to the doors quite easily without any dings.

A very symmetrical lift refers to a 3rd type of car lift that allows the mechanic to use it as either a symmetrical or an asymmetrical lift, thus making it easier to accommodate all types of vehicles and repair needs.

 

4 Post Lift

4 Post Lifts

In most garages, space and the lack thereof can be an issue, so 4-Post lifts are a great option to help increase space-saving capabilities, both inside and out of an auto shop. As the name suggests, this lift is characterized by 4 hydraulic posts and a vehicle “table;” the vehicle remains on the surface of the lift while the lift is raised to allow drive-in storage for a second vehicle underneath.

4-Post lifts are commonly used for easy access to the undercarriage of heavy vehicles, as most are rated for up to 40,000 lbs., and are available with a front cross-bar option. 4-Post lifts without a front cross bar allow easier access for front-end alignments.

While storage of multiple vehicles is achievable, 4-Post lifts are generally a bit pricier and require more installation area than other lifts.

 

Alignment Lift

Alignment Lift

Alignment lifts are designed to make it easier to calibrate and align a vehicle. They resemble a 4-Post lift, but come with even more features — such as multiple locking positions and rotatable ramps — to allow more control and easier access to the undercarriage of the auto. Also a good option for small garages or auto shops, as they help conserve space, in a similar fashion to the 4-Post jack.

 

Bridge Jacks

bridge jack

Bridge Jacks are an add on accessory that can turn your four post car lift into an wheel service station. It allows you to easily raise two or four wheels off the runways for brake jobs and suspension work.

Due to their convenient size, Bridge jacks can be wheeled into storage when not in use and thus free up much-needed space for a garage. They can hold from 4,500 lbs up to 15,000.

 

Motorcycle Lift

Motorcycle Lifts

Motorcycle Lifts are a specialty lift and a small yet extremely durable work-horse. Compact and conveniently-sized, these lifts are designed to be used for a number of different recreational vehicles, such as ATVs, jet skis, or dirt bikes.

Constructed with a fast-action foot pump to give the mechanic complete control, their adjustable-height feature allows the motorcycle or ATV to be suspended anywhere from 11 to 16 inches in the air, depending on what the mechanic needs. The lift can be locked in 3 different positions, and features a quick-release for safety.

 

Scissor Lift

Scissor Specialty Lifts

Scissor Lifts are a perfect option for smaller garages. Their convenient size and portable power pack allow them to be used anywhere and make service quick and easy in narrow or smaller bays where another larger or permanent lift would be impossible. This type of car lift has small footprint and will hold up to 6,000 lbs. Scissor lifts generally include adjustable arm assemblies to allow the mechanic to customize the lift for various projects.

 

So Which Type of Lift is Best for You?

Knowing the different types of auto lifts available can make it easier to determine which product will meet your criteria. Whether you’re needing to boost cycle time or just make certain everyone is as safe as possible, we can help you determine which types of auto lifts work best for you. Browse our auto lifts for more information.

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