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Garage Lifts

September 26, 2010 | Troubleshooting & Repair

By John Audette, Ken Daugherty, Rick Dill, Ned Hamlin, Lloyd D. Keigwin, David Jones, Dick Weiss, David Winstead


John Audette: There's lot to research to do when thinking of installing a garage lift for your 356.

TYPES

Scissors Lift: For working on a car, not for storage.

Single Post Side Lift: Primarily for stacking one car above another. Bend Pak makes a good looking one that the various auto enthusiasts boards online seem to like.

Two Post List, Symmetric & Asymmetric: Two post lifts use arms for lifting, as opposed to drive-on ramps. There is more load on each post then with a four post lift and it's recommended that the concrete floor it's mounted on is at least 6" thick to support the load, or that steel plates are used to distribute the load. Ones with connector across the top typically need 12' of clearance: you can put connectors across the bottom but then need to drive over them.

Pro's:

— The arms free the wheels which facilitates working on the car.
— With an asymmetric lift you can open the doors while working on the car.

Con's:

— Car is stored with wheels hanging and suspension unloaded.
— It takes more time to position the car on the lift as opposing to drive-on ramps.
— When using for stacking the suspension is unloaded which some feel to be a negative for long-term storage.

David Jones has come up with an inventive idea to neutralize the last two negatives. He is fabricating two strips of channel with spigots in each end that plug into the lifting pad points which will allow him to drive on to the channel and lift the car by the wheels.

Four Post Lift

Pro's:

— Easy to drive on and off without having to adjust arms.
— Car is stored with suspension loaded.
— Less weight on each arm - most say 4" concrete is adequate.
— Can use drip pans to protect the car underneath.
— Can install casters and move around.

Con's:

— Can't work on wheels, brakes etc. as they are not lifted off the ground. There is a rolling jack platform that can be used with a floor jack however.

POWER

Most lifts have an option of using 110-volt or 220-volt. The difference is that 220 will power a larger motor which decreased lifting time. Most seem to be of the opinion that motors driven by 110 or more than adequate for the home enthusiast.

CEILING HEIGHT REQUIRED

A lot of opinions there, but the consensus seems to be that 10'6" is minimum in order to stack Porsches and that 12' is ideal. The two post lifts with cross-overs on the top require closer to 13', but the cross-overs can be installed at the bottom if you don't mind driving over them. Don't forget that the garage door opener will reduce overhead clearance. There are a couple of ways to handle this however. Wayne-Dalton was recommended a few times. They make a central drive garage door opening unit called the IDrive that mounts on the header in the front instead of overhead. There is also at least one company that makes side-mount openers.

BRANDS

Bend Pak
Harbor Freight
Eagle
Rotary Lift
Nussbaum
Backyard Buddy

I'm told that the majority of lifts are made in China and imported into the U.S. by the boatload. They are powder coated in the U.S. which qualifies (more than 10% done in U.S.) them to be branded as U.S. made. These are sold under many brands. Delivery times can be long: many have mentioned that Harbor Freight is on more or less permanent back-order.

MY CHOICE

Griot and the Griot Garage gang highly recommend Nussbaum lifts that are made in Germany. Rotary Lifts also received a number of recommendations. One highly regarded lister here has compared many of them side by side and he chose Backyard Buddy. These are made in Ohio and they cost more than many of the other lifts. After looking at all of the above (and more) I ordered the Backyard Buddy Four Post Extended Height lift. When the two man independent crew arrived from Portland to install it, they were impressed with how heavy duty it was. In fact, they usually are able to lift the tracks into place with just the two of them, but with the BYD I had to call a friend so the four of us could lift them into place. Evidently much heavier gauge steel than the lifts made in China. I have now been using the lift for over a year and I have been very pleased with it.


Ken Daugherty: We had the opportunity to see and touch several brands of 4 post lifts at last summers Street Rod Nationals (we took the 1930 Ford) All had a car on the lifts for demo and many seemed to be shaky. The Back Yard Buddy 4 post lift has nylon slides and is very stable when loaded. It is several hundred dollars more but the quality is obvious. We also bought the wheel kit. It allows us to move the lift outdoors easily and the wheels are easy to store. We had our drip pans fabricated locally. BYB offers a rolling jack plate, and we also bought it. We didn't buy their jack kit. Probably should have and may get one next summer.

Andy and friend drove to Ohio to pick it up. When they returned it was very simple to assemble in about 4 hours and a pot of coffee. The instructions were very good and all the parts were there.

Andy's garage only had 8 ft ceilings, so we raised the rafters on one side to give headroom. Don't recall the specific dimensions but we looked at the max lift and the height of a 356 and then added some extra, just because.

As to clearance, ours is close to the end wall but we have about 4' clear on the side between the lift and the wall.

The two post lifts do take less floor space but we preferred the 4 post for portability. As mentioned we have the wheel kit and it can be easily moved.

Two years ago, nephew bought a Revolution brand. It is a 4 post lift also with similar features. He didn't get the wheels but his garage shop is 40 x 60 and space is not much of a problem. He uses his as a work lift. I have a Challenger brand short lift in my garage and it is perfect for my use.

So to sum up: we have 3, 4 post lifts and two short lifts. The short lifts raise a 356 about 30". One is a Challenger and the design of it allows removal of 356 motors and transmissions easily as there is no framework on the floor to interfere with a jack. The second short lift is a Rotary. We modified it so it also is easy to use. One of the 4 post lifts is a Back Yard Buddy and it is truly the pick of the litter. Pricey but absolutely the best on the market. Very stable. Another 4 post is from Greg Smith Co. out of Indianapolis. It is good for storage. And the third is from Complete Hydraulic Service in Franklin In. It is a 8000 # unit that has a 7' clearance (the Model A ford will fit under it) It is the least of the three but we will be bolting it to the wall and adding an extra brace to improve stability. Cant be too bad as the fellow we got it from had a Lambhorgini on top and Ferrari under it. My favorite is the Back Yard Buddy.


Rick Dill: In my recently built garage workshop. I had the space free overhead with a roughly 14 foot peak and 9 foot side walls. I chose a lift because I'm tired of lying on my back under cars.

My choice was a BendPak scissors lift which raises the car roughly four feet. While that isn't enough to stand under, when down the lift is low enough to park a car over. Since I don't spend my life professionally under my cars, this seems like a good compromise for me. I didn't want the obstruction of any fixed columns because I wanted maximum flexibility in the use of the total space.

The lift wouldn't be unhappy with a 9 foot ceiling. On one end of my space I've just put in a narrow balcony overhead on one end for storage. The BendPak was useful because it could lift the heavy shelf and drawer units high enough to get them to the balcony. It is moveable so I can put it wherever I want. This seems to fit my needs. I don't anticipate needing to store cars over each other.


Lloyd D. Keigwin: Last summer I installed a "Bend-Pak" four poster in an addition to our barn. The barn is over 100 yrs old with wooden floors as much as 2 ft. off grade. It would have been difficult to put a lift in the barn, and besides I wanted a concrete floor so I could weld. I researched about a dozen brands, and as someone already noted, most lift to around 6 ft. Many are imports, especially if they cost around $2000. Commercial grade lifts in this country are usually certified by the American Lift Institute. Whereas I thought this was merely a cartel to hold the imports at bay (so-to-speak), the ALI certified lifts all have a redundant safety system. On the Bend-Pak the mechanical/hydraulic safety comes into play when there is slack in a cable and mechanical "dogs" engage in the posts to catch the load. This would occur if there was a hydraulic failure. However, there is a second set of spring-loaded catches that engage as the lift rises (you can hear them clicking) and can only be released pneumatically. Thus, to lower the lift you need one hand to release hydraulic pressure and a second hand to apply pneumatic pressure. I like this feature because when you run the lift up and stop at some convenient height the hydraulic cylinder is bearing the load. However, if you lower the lift an inch or so without releasing the pneumatic catches, you can hear them engage. When that happens, the load is carried mechanically. Perhaps it might also prolong the life of the hydraulic cylinder.

The lift (photo at left by Lloyd D. Keigwin) has a 9000 lb capacity and cost about $2500 delivered from the west coast to Cape Cod. Last summer's "Northern Tool and Equipment" catalog lists the same lift delivered for $3200. I called the factory to find the name of their largest distributer in the region, and got what I think is a bargain. However, despite all the made in USA propaganda, the hydraulic pump assembly is Chinese.

I chose a 4-poster because I wanted two degrees of freedom. Raising the ramps off the floor a couple of feet brings them into line with the barn floor and I can drive right through the old onto the new. But I also installed a garage door in an adjacent wall so I can park another vehicle underneath (at right angle). As everyone knows, the disadvantage of a 4-poster is the car is on its wheels. My intention was to come through the garage door and drive across the ramps. Then it would be a simple matter of positioning blocks of wood on the ramps to support the body and lift. That method should work but I haven't tried it because I found you can drive part way onto the ramps, leaving the rear wheels on the floor (the wood floor of the barn in my case). I block up the 356 rear near the longitudinal closing panels and lift. It's simple to change the oil, adjust the valves, or do brake work this way.


FLOOR SUPPORT ISSUES

David Jones: My 2 post lift is installed on a 4" thick concrete floor and I carefully measured to be sure I was at least the recommended 12" away from the edge of the pad. My lift is capable of lifting 9000 lb and it weighs 1400 lbs. It has been in 3 years and I installed it myself. The most I have lifted with it has been my 7.3 liter 4 door dually AWD Ford truck. So far the concrete has not cracked and the lift has not bent. The steel base pads under the lift in contact with the floor have 5 bolts each going 4" in to the concrete. The pads are 12" square which means that if the concrete is 3000 psi then I can safely place 3000 x 12 x 12 lbs of weight on each one if I believe the 3000 pounds per square inch rating. That is such a big figure that I have difficulty believing it myself. Nevertheless my lift gets used frequently and if I calculate the load my 356 tires place on the floor I do believe that it is higher in psi than the load placed by the lift base because my skinny tires are like a stiletto heel compared to the lift pads. If you are worried get a cement expert in to give his opinion. It will be cheaper usually than modifying the garage floor.


David Winstead: While the thickness of the concrete is important, what is equally of importance is the underlying ground below the concrete and the location of the "feet" of the lift. The location of the feet is where the greatest lbs. per square inch will be incurred. Your builder should be able to tell you of the site work preparation that was conducted prior to pouring the floor. Is the floor on a solid bed of rocks and processed stone with steel reinforcement matting or is it on loose noncompacted sand? The former is preferable.

Assuming your builder has this information, a local civil engineer or architect would be able to determine the load the floor will support without having to pour additional footings (floor areas that can support additional loads). If no one can determine the load factors for your floor/lift, then purchase 18" square, 3/8" thick steel plate. Place each plate under each foot of the lift to spread the load.

Recognize that the weight of the lift and the 356 combined is no greater than having an S Benz sitting on the same floor. The Benz` tire patch will have about the same weight load as your lift/356. Your concern should be if you place a large Benz or a truck on the lift without having spread the load.


Dick Weiss: A 4-post lift will be okay on any concrete slab-on-grade floor thicknesses of 4" and 3000PSI minimum strength; the 2-post lift definately needs 4000PSI strength to be safe due to the uneven loads (front or rear engined cars) imposed on the columns bolted to the floor—you don`t want it to lean over!


Ned Hamlin: The shear strength of the concrete is the governing factor for the load it can support. For a 4 - 5" slab on good compacted substrate, each steel column on a 12 x 12 steel plate should be able to handle about 2,500 to 3,000 pounds. With four columns, you should be able to support 10,000 to 12,000 pounds. That still will support a few 356's.

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