Started by MiniDave, June 15, 2018, 11:42:09 AM

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One of the single most expensive shop tools you can buy for your garage is a lift. I have one in my shop as does WillieB, mine has been a godsend to my back but they do have their limitations. Unless you have a lot of different cars and trucks you'll be lifting, one rated for 6K lbs is plenty.

There are several types for the home shop - if you have the ceiling height a two post is the obvious choice, and of those the Asymetrical is the one to have.....the difference is the posts are rotated about 30*, this allows a lot more room for the one negative about using these - you have to climb over the arms and the doors can't open very far. An asymetrical lift gives quite a bit more room to open the doors, but the posts still do get in the way.

There is a cool half size two post lift for those with short ceiling height, it's called a Max Jack. The other cool part is that it's portable, it has rollers built in so you can move it out of the way when you don't need it. It bolts to the floor, but once done you unbolt it and roll it away...most guys leave one post in (next to the wall for example) and just move the other one. The benefit of this one is complete access to the underside of the car, just like a regular 2 post. You can buy them thru Costco and Home Depot for about $2100

I have a scissors lift as my ceiling height is limited, my shop is in my garage directly under the bedrooms of my split level house so it really limits what I can do, however I find it works great for the cars I work on - mostly Minis and other front drive cars. The motor end of the car is wide open, with plenty or room all around, and it's under the car so you don't have to work around it. Getting a small car lifted up even 18" makes a real difference to my back - over all I can lift a car about 3 ft - and it's perfect for doing brake or suspension work. On a Mini I can easily lift an engine out the top or drop it out the bottom and lift the body high enough to roll the engine out from under. It's a very versatile tool to have, I bought mine off Craigslist for $600. It's a no-name brand - literally - there is no branding on it anywhere, not even in the owners manual! You can buy them from established vendors like Greg Smith for about $1300 brandy new, but shipping can be spendy. They weigh about 800lbs so unloading it can be a problem too....I used a come along to drag mine onto my trailer, then tied it to the floor and drove the trailer right out from under it. One more cool thing about these is once on a smooth floor you can move them around using the power unit as a lift on one end and they have steel rollers on the other end. Harbor Freight also sells them....

WillieB's lift is similar except that the lift arms are placed differently on his - oh and both require some runners to get the car up over them  - mine sits about 4" tall. I have two 2X12's with short sections of 2X12 under them, giving me 3" of height off the floor, that's plenty for any of my cars, but really low cars might require more.

The next version of a scissor lift is one that you can recess into the ground - it has two long plates on either side that lift the car off the sills, these do not work with vehicles with a frame but are made for unibody cars...once in place you don't have to use any runners as it's flush with the ground. I had one in the shop at school and I loved it - like a 2 post the underside of the car is mostly wide open. Of course this means cutting a hole in the garage floors, digging down and pouring footings and so on.....or you can leave them on top of the floor and just drive over them.

Another version is the 4 post lift, like all of them these have their positives and negatives. Positives include you can put them on casters and move them around, you also can easily park a second car under them (assuming you have the ceiling height of course) They also don't require footings, a normal 4-6" concrete floor will work fine. Negatives are you have to lift the car up off the drive on ramps in order to do any brake or suspension work, and sometimes the ramps get in the way of other work.

Lastly there are the old standbys, drive up ramps, these are fine for chaning oil or other routine maintenance tho again, you have to come up with something else if you want to take the wheels off to do brakes or sshocks or something. For decades guys did everything in the world to their cars on good old jackstands. My only warning there is to buy good quality ones, and don't trust your lives to concrete blocks or other stuff you might have lying about the garden!

A few pics.....the first shows how the arms and posts work on an asymetrical 2 post lift. The next is my lift, and then willieB's lift. Next is a scissor and then a 4 post. Last is the Max Jack.

On either the 2 post or Max Jack you must have a good solid concrete floor thick enough to set the anchors. The scissors lifts and 4 post only require a good fairly smooth floor, my floor is cracked in a few places but my lift still works OK. Another advantage of the scissor lift and Max Jack is that they run on standard 120V household current, although you should have a 20A breaker.

Complete failure at retirement

1989 Cooper Racing Green
2009 Clubman S
2014 Audi Allroad


A good way to find used commercial quality lifts for good price is put the word out with the local tool trucks.
MAC, Snap-on, Matco, Cronwell. 
Tell them you are a cash buyer one will come up within a couple months around here.

We got a very nice nearly new bendpak 10k asymmetrical for 1,500 for the business that way and the tool guy delivered it I think it was a repo. 

That said nothing wrong with a storage type light-duty lift for the home shop and as Dave mentioned you can get them around 2k new.

That and you'll find all sorts of uses for picking things up with a lift to make jobs easier even the lawnmower LOL. anything to save the back.


I put a 3/4" thick melamine coated panel over my lift and it makes a great adjustable height work table. it's also a great work surface for cutting long metal parts too, you can easily clamp things down to the metal surface or even use magnets to hold things.

Like Jeff says a 2 post makes a great "fork lift" or gantry crane too!
Complete failure at retirement

1989 Cooper Racing Green
2009 Clubman S
2014 Audi Allroad

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