It’s Time for a Lift

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If you work on cars at all – let alone a lot – you are probably tired of spelunking underneath one precariously perched on jack stands, trying to find a way to reach what you need to work on and get a tool on what you’re trying to loosen, tighten, remove or install.

Especially if you’re no longer 20.

The older you get the wiser (hopefully) you become. Even if you don’t, getting older imposes its own discipline. Crawling around underneath a car at 40 or 50 isn’t as easy as it was when you were 20 and by now you’ve probably had enough of it, regardless. When that time arrives, the time has come to consider getting a lift. Instead of a jack and jackstands, hydraulic action that raises the whole car at the push of a button.

Just the thought of that makes a guy want to work on his car.

It makes taking off (and rotating) all four wheels at once a whole lot easier than taking off one or two – and then raising (and lowering) the front (or rear) end of the car to swap them around. It makes doing brake work almost pleasant.

And it makes doing exhaust work possible.

I have decided the time has come. It probably came 20 years ago but I am stubborn and cheap as well as not rich – which induces a man to use jacks and jackstands instead of a lift. But my left shoulder – though much better – will probably never again have the range of motion it had 20 years ago and regardless, I’m just tired of spelunking underneath cars.

But, which lift to get?

The answer hinges on many variables, not the least of which is how much you can afford to spend. If you’re like me, you probably cannot afford to spend as much ion a lift as it costs to buy another car – which is what you’ll be looking at spending on some of the fancier models.

You’ll also have to consider how much space you’ve got in your garage – as well as the capacity of your garage’s floor, if you’re considering a lift that bolts to the floor. It may be necessary to dig out the concrete that’s there and pour stronger (re-barred) and thicker concrete to support the posts, if the lift is one that has fixed posts that bolt to the floor.

And – of course – there is the matter of height. How high is the ceiling of your garage? If it is only seven or eight feet, you won’t be able to lift a car high enough to stand (or even crouch) under it – defeating the point of having a lift. You may also need to modify your garage door tracks, to make room for the lift (and your vehicle, when it is raised by the lift).

I’ve been weighing all these considerations as I try to decide which lift works for me.

One I’ve found that might is the QuickJack 5000TL. It’s made by BendPak, which makes a variety of different home-garage lifts, including the kind that have posts and arms. Here’s what I’m liking about this lift:

It is portable and compact – 

The lift consists of two scissor-jack ramps that are positioned underneath the left and right side frame rails; a power unit raises both sides at the same time, raising the car about two feet off the ground – provided ample working space underneath the car. When you’re done working on the car, the ramps can be stored out-of-the-way and so not in your way when you’re not needing the car to be lifted. If I ever decide to move, moving the lift would be no big deal.

It does not require reconfiguring my garage door tracks – 

The car is lifted up – but not so high that there are potential interference issues with the garage door tracks (or the ceiling). This is a lift I could use right-out-of-the-box, without having to first figure out how to make it usable in my garage.

You can pick it up at places like Wal-Mart without needing a forklift – 

The whole lift only weighs about 300 pounds. A two-post lift (even for a home garage) might be so heavy that the only way you’ll get it to your garage is by using heavy-lifting equipment. And (per earlier above) you may need to reinforce the concrete floor of your garage to safely bear the weight of the lift and your car. 

It is affordable – 

This is a big one, for me. Also probably for you. My buddy Graves (who is a professional mechanic and so I value his judgment) encourages me to go with a traditional two-post lift like this one – made by Race Tools Direct. It would raise my car much higher – but the price tag is also about 50 percent higher than the $1,300 or so the QuickJack goes for at Wal-Mart and not counting what it costs to have the almost 1,300 pounds of the thing truck-freighted to my house.

I haven’t come to a decision just yet, but I’m leaning heavily in the direction of the one I can afford. Of course, Graves will probably say I can’t afford to risk crawling around underneath the one I can afford.

What do you guys say?

. . .

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39 COMMENTS

  1. I’d like a lift but I can’t quite afford one yet

    Also, I would need a bigger (i.e. taller) garage

    Which would be great, actually, because the ceiling is only about. 6’6” high and I’m just over 6 feet myself barefoot. And I can’t actually get some trucks / SUVs in the garage door.

    But that adds probably around $25k to the expense

    Also my garage is insulated and has its own (currently non functioning) furnace, which is kind of nice. But the gas lines do complicate raising the roof some.

  2. I went through this same thought process a while back.

    Right now I only have trucks. I have a workshop with a 10′ ceiling at the edges but peaks out around 13′, so lets say 11′ if I place the lift in the middle of the workshop. Each truck sits at 6’+, so lets make it 7′ if a lift is involved, either due to lift height for something that raises with ramps or suspension drop if it lifts by the frame. This means I’d be able to lift the car 4′. I’m nearly 6′, so 4′ is not a pleasant height to work in – I’d feel like I was in “Being John Malkovich”: either I’d be hunched over or I’d need a chair to sit on, and you can imaging how fun it would be torquing stuff down while sitting on a chair. On top of that I’d lose a lot of my workshop – right now I can park two cars side-by-side, but a fixed lift in the middle of the floor would kybosh that.

    The QuickJack you’re looking at will still have you lying on the floor (or possibly sitting), so to me offers only the convenience of not needing to jack up the car and use jack stands. I sold my Lotus Exige, but if I still had it this QuickJack would be a good option. The Lotus had six lift points (three each side), and only two easily accessible by a floor jack – it was never pleasant.

    For your Trans Am, have you tried ramp extensions? My ’90 300ZX Twin Turbo also had a spoiler and I couldn’t use normal ramps but I found some with extensions that worked well. I still have the ramp extensions after nearly 30 years and, although plastic, they still are usable and solid – they outlasted the metal ramps they came with. In order to stop the ramps from sliding on concrete when I pulled up them (versus backing up with the drive wheels), I put a couple of anchors in the floor.

  3. The engineer operates the train engine, the conductor controls the train, tells the engineer when to go, put the engine in gear, drops sand on the 132 pound rails to grip and go.

    Steel rails and steel wheels need grease to get ‘er going, sand does it. You will spin your wheels and cut divets into the rail, have to use some sand for a smooth start. There are tubes for dropping sand in front of the drive wheels on the train engine.

    Doesn’t matter the load, the number of cars to haul, the train engine has so much power, the whole train goes right now. Maybe two engines or three and maybe a slave engine in the middle or at the end, the amount of work done is phenomenal.

    The engineer waits for the go ahead from the conductor, gots to be on time at all times.

    However, way back when, I rode a work train moseying along at 25 mph to make a stop at a town with a beer tavern that had tap beer for 25 cents a glass, going to be the best place on earth. Bar none.

    Every train crew dreads going over trestles.

    Kind of like a lift or jack stands.

    What mankind has at its disposal is amazing and outstanding.

    At the moment, it seems to be the agony and the ecstasy, whatever they are.

    Everything at once is what we are experiencing.

    • Interesting about the sand. I did Not know that.

      So, too, “Every train crew dreads going over trestles”.

      Man,O man, while watching the video of the QuickJack I kept thinking, “There’s No Way I’d feel comfortable crawling under that!” …And, I’ve done alotta crazy stuff. But that,… nope. Not without jackstands, at least.

      But then, I’m not comfortable walking freehand at 20′ and above on a narrow walk-way,… some guys are A-okay with that, I guess. […I hope I don’t have bad dreams about this.]

    • I must’ve glossed over it when I read it the first time, It just hit me after I posted, …

      “Everything at once is what we are experiencing.”

      Profound.

  4. Looks like a hassle to me. 4 jack stands and a good jack will do the job. Unless you are doing major work constantly, these look like a time waster. My little family has a fleet of 5 vehicles, and jack/stands do just fine for me changing oil, rotating tires, etc.

    If you get them, please write again about your experience. Maybe I’m wrong and they are a major plus.

  5. Another option might be installing it outside and weatherproofing it when not in use. I’ve seen hoists installed outside so it can be done.

  6. I don’t know how the old gas bag does it, but Scotty Kilmer doesn’t have a lift.

    If I had a garage (at the moment), I probably would not get one for me. I am not bad at wrenching, but I don’t know if I have the skills to take full advantage of the investment required to acquire one. Certainly having access underneath helps, but what good dows it do if you can’t reach that frozen bolt or don’t have the knowhow or the “heat” to dislodge it.

    I don’t know. For me, those are the questions that I ask myself.

    I would buy the safest one possible of course, for the least amount of money.

    • Uncle Tony (Of Uncle Tony’s Garage on Youtube) doesn’t have a lift either, and he appears to be about my age (late 50’s). Was just watching one of his videos last night where he mentioned that he prefers working on the ground (Craning one’s neck up, and having to work with your hands and arms over your head is not very natural or comfortable for many people), and I concur completely. I’d rather work on the ground, and except in very cold weather, outdoors.
      Also the author should consider that a lift is not too useful for anything but exhaust and a few very minor other things unless you also have the requisite accessories, like those commercial transmission jacks of the appropriate height, and those oil drain containers which have the funnel on a metal tube that reaches up to the proper height. Without such things (and those things are not cheap) a lift is largely useless. You’ll just find yourself using it as a jackstand a foot off the ground while you crawl around under your car. And even for exhaust work, do you have a welder and a pipe bender?

  7. 2 feet off the ground is good enough for most tasks. But I’d wonder how it’d perform on major repairs (eg dropping the transmission)?

    I helped my young neighbor, do that very thing a couple months ago. His truck was lifted so we could get underneath it easy enough. But it took all we had to get the transmission out, put a new main seal, and put the transmission back in.

    I’m staring at 60 and he’s only in his early 30s. We both daydreamed about how much easier it’d be with a 2 post lift in a shop instead of outside in his driveway.

    • Hardest part of splicing in those 53 cent “cat convertors” to O2 sensor wiring was indeed jacking up the front end. Jackin up turns a 20 minute oil change into over half an hour work.

    • > 2 feet off the ground is good enough for most tasks. But I’d wonder how it’d perform on major repairs (eg dropping the transmission)?

      About 40 years ago, my father overhauled the TH350 in his ’73 Cutlass (that he still has today). If I remember right, the job was done with ramps, maybe some jackstands, blocks…and my red wagon, with a bottle jack and some more blocks inside. The ramps raised the front end less than a foot, but it was enough to get the transmission out from underneath and then back in place once it was ready. I don’t recall if there might’ve been an engine hoist involved…probably not, as it was never removed.

      2 feet should be more than plenty for transmission work.

  8. I spent a good portion of my working life around backhoes. Having seen what happens when their hydraulics fail, I will not get under anything that is supported by hydraulics. It happens far faster than you can escape from it.

    • Hi John. Modern lifts have all kind of safety locks so even if a hose or cable fails it won’t drop more than a few inches. My guess is that the Quickjack would have some thing similar if only due to lawyers.

      • Heck the ones I used in the early 80s which had been installed in the early 70’s had safety catches, both automatic and manual. I’m quite sure nothing sold today won’t have effective multi-mode safety. Yes, relying on hydraulics to keep yourself breathing and ambulatory is a poor life choice.

  9. I have had the QuickJack 5000 for 4 years now and it has worked out great. The biggest task I used it for was restoring an old corvette. The car was up on the thing for months at time. Like with any lift, I needed extra stands in place when heavy components came off.

    Setup is a lot of work since the thing is so heavy and you have hoses to connect. So for a simple oil change it seems like getting the car in the air is the bulk of the work but I’ll take it over the floor jack/stand combo any day.

  10. I have used a quickjack and while it is an inexpensive and workable lift, I was unimpressed with the locking mechanism that keeps the lift from lowering in the event the hydraulics fail. Fine for doing brakes or tire rotations but I wouldn’t lay under there long enough to pull a transmission. Ours was older so maybe they’ve improved this but take a look at that piece and decide if you’d bet your life on it.

    • Hi Twayne,

      I’ve thought about this myself – and am wondering whether it might be an easy fix to drill a hole for a cotter pin-style safety system to make sure the thing stays in place?

      I suppose at the end of the dat everything has its pros and its cons. The pros of this Quickjack – for me – are that I can afford it and it will make working on my cars much easier.

      Sure, I’d like a two-post lift and to be able to walk underneath my car. But I’m not in a position to afford such, so what I’d like is immaterial.

      • I’ve never seen this lift but to ease your mind could you raise it then lower it onto a solid “stop”? We do that with our “real” hoists here at work. Eliminates the dynamic forces that would probably shear just about any safety stop when you combine mass x acceleration, if that makes sense. GL!

        • Hi Rob,

          Yes, great advice! I figure (if I do get this rig) I’ll used my jack stands underneath hard points once the vehicle is raised – so as to assure it does not fall.

  11. When I change oil, the truck stays on the ground. There is enough room to do the task.

    Getting to the point where I’m too old to even want to change oil, so it is probably time.

    There is a business that has competent people who know how to get ‘er done.

    Graves has a shop, go there, pay an hourly rate and save yourself some headache and expense you don’t need to have.

    Better safe than sorry.

    You can build a new building equipped to be a mechanic’s shop, lift and all. Make sure the ceiling is 20 feet up there.

    • Hi Drump,

      Graves lets me use his lifts but he’s half an hour away and there’s pressure (on me) to finish so as to not be a dick and take up his work space. At home, I can take my time.

      I’d love to build a shop. But that takes money I just don’t have, alas.

      • An old friend has a shop with two lifts, now and then I ask for some space for an hour or four, he obliges. You have to spend 400 dollars on parts for new brakes, you can use some help from someone who cares.

        Not very often, of course, and a case of beer or more is provided for the shop time.

        Over the years, it becomes a quid pro quo.

  12. I know of two people who both got used 2 post lifts. Price of course varies but it might be an option as shops replace older lifts that aren’t capable lifting those Eco friendly 6,000 pound EVs.

    Assuming you have the ceiling height a four post lift will work also and some of the newer ones come with wheels allowing for easy movement and as a bonus you can buy another car and park it underneath. Sadly I don’t have the ceiling height to do that. 🙁

  13. I say save up and buy the proper unit. No use just marginally improving your spelunking adventures.

    Thanks for the reminder as well, Eric! I’ll be pouring my garage foundation soon, and should think about properly reinforcing an area for a lift.

    • Good Morning, BaDnOn!

      I hear you. The problem is the same one most of us are having. I’ve got a big bill coming up for another year of Hosting (and related) services for EPautos, plus the bill from the government to keep them from seizing the house I paid the seller for many years ago. If I didn’t have to deal with the latter expense (ongoing) the two-post would prolly be my choice. But I just can’t afford to spend more than twice as much money on a two-post right now, so it looks like the QuickJack for me because I can just about swing that and it’s a Helluva lot better than a floor jack and jack stands…!

      • I’ve always found that ramps are very useful if I want to get under a car. Not good for taking wheels off, but they’re cheap ($50 a pair at Walmart). You can even make them yourself out of 2x8s. I’ve also seen some with hydraulic jacks built into them for about $200 on ebay (free shipping). Of course, this doesn’t help for a tire rotation, but I’ve found that if you have multiple floor jacks, doing any work on your car is so much easier. Harbor Freight has low profile 1.5 ton jacks for $89.

        I’d spend the $100 for 4 plastic Walmart ramps (they nest inside each other when stored) and 2 or maybe even 4 of those floor jacks. With that combination, you do just about anything very easily, with no hoses or electrical cords. The set up of that quicklift every time you want to use it looks dreadful, all so you can get the car up 18 inches. That looks like a waste of money.

  14. I understand your concerns. I had a 2 car garage built 20+ years ago and only has the 8′ ceiling. The jackstands got more and more of a challenge. I’ve got a few years on you as well. Last year I bit the bullet and built a shop and did a 2 post 10k# lift. Yes, it cost a ton, the shop and all but, I think it was worth it in the long run. Even if you can only do a smallish 15×24 with a lift it will increase your property value if and when you sell.

    You can never have too big a truck or too large of a shop. Get as much or more as you can swing. It will never be more affordable.

    You’ll thank me later…

    • Yah, that Quickjack looks kinda scary,.. and, prone to wobble? Idk.

      Seems like it’s not all that much higher than jackstands, to boot.
      And,… You’ll still be on your back.

      I always liked the narrow pits they have in the quick change oil shops. Save a Buck or two & Dig one on the side of a garage and put up a tarp?

      ..A person has to be doing an awful lot of tire changing/tranny & exhaust work to justify a lift of any kind.

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