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Lifts: Raising Vehicles and Expectations

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Lift OpenIf you’ve been in this business long enough, you’ve heard stories or have seen photos on the Internet of lifts that have given way, hurling a vehicle to the concrete shop floor. Too many times technicians are hurt in these scenarios. Every time it happens is going to cost the shop more than it saved by buying a cheap lift.

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Needless to say, it’s a shop owner’s responsibility to keep the shop’s lifts at the highest possible safety level. While safety is a huge factor in the buying process, there are many other features and benefits that need to be considered as well.

With so many options to choose from – two-post, four-post, scissor, in-ground, above ground – selecting the right vehicle lift for your shop can require a bit of research. Luckily, lifts continue to improve and there are many features to look for that will enhance ease-of-use for your technicians, will save time and boost efficiency.

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Although you’re probably familiar with them, if you want a quick look at the different types of lifts that are available, visit the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI)’s site at autolift.org/types.php.

When it comes time to buy a new lift, areas to keep in mind include: ample space around the wheel wells and sides of a vehicle; adequate surface contact area; easy-to-use lock releases; and arm restraints that engage when the vehicle is lifted. Do you need the lift to handle a wide variety of ­vehicles? Look for ones with capacities that suit the individual needs of your shop – from cars, vans and trucks to light- and medium-duty commercial vehicles.

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This actually may be a good place to start your research. Go back through your records and survey which types of vehicles you service most, and the types of jobs for which you’ll be needing the lift. Will you be using the lift mostly for brake work or do you need it for LOFs? Will it raise high enough for you/techs to stand underneath comfortably? Or, do you have to accommodate a low ceiling?

Considerations

With the range of options out there, there’s so much to consider before talking to your local lift distributor. Here are a few things to think about before making that call.

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Are you tired of waiting for a slow lift to rise? Some new models are speedier than ever. Now there are lifts that take less than 30 seconds to go up and 20 seconds to go down. That can add up to significant time savings, especially for high-volume shops.

Are you limited by a leased facility? Some types of lifts, such as some flush-mounted scissor lifts, require few floor modifications. Or, are you limited by floor space? Certain lift designs, like in-ground lifts, can allow the shop to increase the number of service bays within your existing space, thus increasing your opportunity for even greater revenue.

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Is there a service your customers are requiring that you can’t perform with your current lifts?

An iATN contributor recommended considering if the lift manufacturer still produces replacement parts for their lifts, “so you will never run into obsolete part issues such as arm pivot pins, etc.”

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No matter what type of lift you’re considering, a lift distributor can help you make the most appropriate selection. It’s the distributor’s job to educate the customer on which type of lift is suitable for the shop’s needs.

A shop owner should be able to rely heavily on his manufacturer and distributor for support in shop layout and design as it relates to selection and configuration of shop floor space for the greatest efficiency with the right lift equipment.

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If you’re opening a new location or re-designing your shop layout, ask your lift distributors or local representatives if they offer customized layout plans. The rep should be able to help you with product selection as well as provide vehicle turning radius information and traffic flow analysis.

Look for a manufacturer that has a successful track record in product quality, service and support. Since maximizing uptime is such a concern to profitability, being able to have reliable lifts that can be installed and serviced, is paramount.

An Elevated Outlook

Keep in mind your plans for the shop’s future as well. You don’t want your shop to get stuck in a situation where your lifts are holding you back from bringing in service to your facility.

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You’ll want to be proactive investing properly in lift products that can help you increase your shop’s service capacity.

Look for a lift that allows expansion to all types of vehicles (i.e., fleet, RVs, loaded utility trucks, plumbers’ vans), and upgrading your equipment to handle newer models.

Assessing your shop’s needs and formulating a plan, both for today and for the future will help you build a platform for success.

And, last but certainly not least, a quote from owners/techs that is seen on many iATN posts: “Whatever you go with, make sure it’s ALI certified.” ALI administers the only nationally recognized safety standard for vehicle lifts. There is a directory of certified lifts at ali-directory.org.

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Note: The Tool & Equipment Forum on iATN offers a variety of recommendations from shop owners and techs on specific types and brands of lifts.

A Few Questions To Ask About Your Auto Lift Before You Make a Purchase

Some questions Automotive Service Equipment recommends you should ask when purchasing an auto lift include:

  • Was the lift manufactured in a facility that is ISO-9001 compliant?
  • Does the lift offer customer-driven features and designs that were developed by accomplished engineers?
  • Do the lifts undergo extensive testing and quality control procedures before they are put on the market?
  • Are the lifts put together with computerized machines and certified welders within multi-axis machine centers?

The reality is that purchasing a car lift is a hefty investment. Therefore, you want to be certain the lift you purchase has undergone extensive testing to ensure its quality and safety. After all, you will be spending time beneath the auto lift and the car it is holding, which means a poor-quality lift can actually put your life at risk.

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In the end, purchasing the perfect auto lift means taking your time to research your options and to learn as much as you can about the products that are available. In doing so, you will be able to weigh the pros and cons of each — and you will be certain to select a lift that suits your budget as well as your needs.

Courtesy of Automotive Service Equipment, asedeals.com.

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