The Lowdown on Garage Lifts: Part 4
Photos courtesy of Direct Lift.
Adding a lift to your garage is a great way to add storage space and service convenience for your collector cars. In previous stories, we’ve discussed the merits of lifts, the types to choose and the dimensional and electrical requirements for them. They’re surprisingly affordable, too, at roughly $2,500 for a typical four-post lift designed to park one car beneath another that’s been raised. That extra storage space – assuming you’ve got at least a 10-foot ceiling – can pay for itself within a year or less, when you compare against the price of offsite storage.
In this final installment at our look at garage lifts, we’re delving into installation tips and tricks. Although lifts are comparatively simple in design and operation, their set up can be complicated because of the weight of the components involved – around 2,000 pounds for a complete kit, with each post weighing a few hundred pounds apiece. You also have to deal with hydraulic lines and ensure the lift is square and level. In short, doing it correctly on the first try takes skill and experience, and it’s one of those jobs we suggest leaving to the pros.
Lift manufacturers typically sell through regional and local distributors who also offer installation services. It’s easy to find the distributors and installers, because the manufacturers have links to them on their Web sites or they’ll provide them when you call. Installation costs vary, depending on the company and lift type, but generally speaking a four-post lift should be installed for less than $1,000. That definitely adds to the overall cost of the investment, but simply having the 2,000-pound lift drop-shipped to your door will cost a few hundred dollars, so a few hundred more to have it installed professionally is a comparative bargain.
Of course, before the installation begins, you’ve got to make sure your garage space is ready for it and you’ve taken all the necessary measurements to ensure it will fit. The instructions for Direct Lift’s Pro Park 8S lift, for example, calls for a minimum of 9 feet clearance at the rear of the lift’s mounting location and six feet in front of it for mounting the lift’s lock rods. You’ll also need access to an electrical outlet to operate the lift and 110-volt power is sufficient for home-type four-post lifts. Most lift companies offer their products in 220-volt versions, as well, which provides faster operation, but it’s not a must and if your home garage isn’t wired for it, don’t worry about. Just make sure you purchase a 110-volt unit. The “but” to that previous statements is for the more professional-style two-post lifts. They’re 220-volt units almost exclusively.
Some lifts are available with casters that enable them to be pushed and maneuvered around the garage floor, which can also make installation a little easier, because the lift can be assembled in the driveway and pushed into position – as long as there’s enough room to clear the garage door.
That brings us to the final note about installing a four post lift in your home garage: it doesn’t have to be permanently anchored. Most four-post lifts are designed to be installed on the floor without anchors. The only real issue is the slope of the garage floor. If it’s more than 1/8th inch per foot, you’ll need to anchor the lift to the floor.
Check out the accompanying photos for an overview of what it takes to install typical garage lifts. We can’t show every nut and bolt in the process, but what you see demonstrates typical steps and procedures – and why, unless you’ve got your own fork lift, it’s a job best left to the professionals.
Garage lifts are heavy, which makes handling a kit’s various components difficult to maneuver without assistance. Even without power assistance, you’ll want at least one other person to help move and position the parts – and better yet, let a professional installer handle the task.
There is clearly plenty of room in this spacious shop, but there are minimum dimensions for installation that may be more problematic for typical home garages. Ask the manufacturer or distributor about them before purchasing a lift. Also, there’s a minimum spec for the concrete floor. It must be at least 4 inches thick for a four post lift, which typically isn’t a problem for most home garages. A two post lift will have different requirements depending on capacity. Again, check with the manufacturer or distributor to make sure your floor is up to snuff.
The posts must be positioned carefully, after measurements were taken to determine the optimal mounting spot. A couple of inches to one side or the other may not make a huge difference in a large shop, as seen here, but it could make all the difference in the tight confines of a home garage.
Naturally, the posts must be plumb for the lift to operate properly. Shims are used to straighten them up, if the floor isn’t exactly as level as it should be.
Permanently anchoring the lift to the floor isn’t a necessity for a four post lift, unless the garage floor slopes more than 1/8th inch per foot. A two post lift requires anchoring to the floor with very specific hardware. Any holes drilled into the concrete for anchors should be at least 6 inches away from an edge or seam in the slab, and be at least 4 inches deep.
The power includes a hydraulic fluid reservoir that must be filled with about 3 gallons of ISO 32 light hydraulic fluid. The hydraulics raise the lift via cables that must also be installed inside the posts.
When everything is assembled, the lift should be run up and down without a vehicle and then with one to ensure it is operating correctly. The cables will stretch during initial use, requiring adjustment after about a week or so. They’ll also require adjustment every couple of months or so after that.
With the lift installed and tested, it’s ready to increase the storage capacity of the shop and provide a handy platform for repair work. It’s one of the best investments a hobbyist can make.
Return To Our Garage Lift Buyer's Guide
Published Dec 7th, 2015