As a regular guy in the car hobby and a guy that is kind of a light duty “do it yourself” person I have come to acquire a fair amount of tools in my mid-fifties years. Let me clarify “regular car guy,” I am referring to a guy who likes to do some work on my cars, but I know my limitations. I know when to get the professionals involved and when I do need to get the pro’s involved; I’ve got a small network of pros to get in contact with.
For example, I can install new brake rotors and pads, or a power steering pump; I might even pull a transmission if I’m feeling spunky. I would not re-build my motor or a rear end for that matter. My list of regular guy car chores is not the same as other regular guys car chores are, we all have various levels of competence. The point is regular car guys will dig in enough to skin our knuckles and do a little swearing.
Even those of us who are light duty tool slingers know that having the proper tools will usually make a project go better. In fact the proper tools can very easily make a light weight like me attempt projects we normally wouldn’t consider, my favorite tool for upgrading my abilities is my four post lift. I bought a very basic lift and I couldn’t be happier with it, in addition to keeping the car safer from garage hazards and adding storage space the lift has more than paid for itself in the projects I have done that, had I been forced to crawl around on the garage floor I would have never attempted.
Those of us that have reached middle age plus some, know all too well that getting up and down off the floor, while still can be done is slightly more challenging than it used to be. With this in mind think about the last time you really cleaned your rims, the stuff behind your rims like brakes calipers and your tires. Think about getting up and down and how you felt by the time you got to the fourth rim. Now imagine how much more enjoyable that project would be the next time you go out to detail your ride, and having the rims at eye level while your car sits up on your lift. During the winter when my car is stored up high I can often be found out in the garage with an adult beverage and a ball game on TV while detailing the bottom of my car. Of course everything gets lubed too!
Last winter I had a window regulator go bad on my toy car. Normally I don’t like to take door panels off, we all remember back to the days of putting our first stereo in our cars, pulling the door panels off to cut speaker holes and how the door panels somehow never went back on as nice as they came off. This time, I was able to pull the door panel off taking note how everything came apart, do the repair, and re install the panel carefully aligning and re aligning, looking from the bottom and the top while standing next to the door while the car was up on my lift.
We’ve discussed the benefits of a four post lift as a detailing tool, a tool to provide additional storage in your garage, a tool to keep cool cars out of harm’s way (I still have kids with bikes at home, I shudder to think what my car would look like if it was not on a lift), and a tool to use during mechanical projects.
Two post lifts do make better lifts to work from when doing mechanical projects. I have had occasions where the runways of my four post lift were in the way during my project, or having the clear access of a two post would have made the project easier. Four post lifts are often referred to as “storage lifts” and work very well for storage, especially long term storage because it is not good to leave your suspension un-sprung for a long periods of time as a two post lift does.
Four post lifts come with many options including (but certainly not limited to):
Jack Trays, a heavy gauge steel plate that goes between the run ways and allows you to place a jack on it and jack up your car off the runways.
Drip Trays, a tray that goes between the runways and catches oil and other types of fluid drips.
220 volt power makes the lift go up faster but you can plug 110 into standard wall plugs with no special wiring
Casters, which allow you to move your lift around the garage.
Lightweight Ramps, much lighter than the steel ramps.
I bought the Complete Hydraulic 8,000 XLT four post lift with casters, and jack trays. This is a lift with a capacity of 8,000# although I’m quite sure I will never put that much weight on it, nor would I want to be around it with that much weight on it. The XLT is a little bit longer an goes a little bit higher than the base unit. I selected this one so that I could pull my daily driver truck on it to do some work. If I had the chance to do this again I would probably get the smaller lift. It would give me a little more room in the garage plus I rarely put the truck on the lift. The 8,000 XLT came with the drip pans and 110volt power. I purchased it on a group buy with the local Mopar club, we bundled around 5 people together and saved $100.00 each, this was about ten years ago and I think I spent somewhere around $1,900 delivered. I assembled it myself, not a bad project but you’ll need a second set of hands to put the runways in place. The only problem I’ve had is that when I put it all the way to the top lock position it pushes some hydraulic fluid out of the air vent in the hydraulic cylinder. I’ve ordered a seal kit and replaced them but the problem continued, it must have a small damaged spot in the interior. I’m able to live with it because I only put it that high once a year when storing the car for the winter. If I were to get another lift I would spring for the aluminum ramps, they were not available at the time but some lift manufactures provide them and to me they would be worth the expense.
I use the casters to re position my lift during the winter months to give me more room in the winter. Contrary to some of the marketing pieces, it’s difficult to move the lift with a car on it especially over expansion joints in the floor. If you don’t plan on moving the lift I would bolt it to the floor, this is much safer scenario than unbolted. Unless you happen to drive another vehicle into the lift it wouldn’t fall or anything but when the car is high you can push a post and move the whole rig a little. In addition, if you have an unbolted lift you shouldn’t do a project requiring a lot of pushing, pulling, or torquing with cheater bars. If you need to do this type of work then you’ll need to lower the lift to about ½ way up.
Finally, if you’re considering a buying a lift, just do it, you won’t be sorry. I have often said it’s the best tool I’ve ever bought. Do your homework up front, there are expensive ones, less expensive ones and cheap ones, avoid the cheap ones. By cheap I mean lifts that are not well constructed. After all we don’t want anything to happen to a cool car or more importantly to you or a loved one.