Bus and Motor Coach Library

Lifts – Which is the Right Lift for your Operation

Author – Ian Balfour (2005)

Vehicle lifting systems are no longer a luxury, but a necessity in today's faster paced world.  Being able to increase your fleet’s on-the-road revenue hours through reducing shop down-time is essential to a competitive and professional operation.  Properly specified lift systems can effectively serve to reduce shop hours. But with the variety of lifts on the market today, how does one go about determining which lift is best suited for a particular application?

The first step in purchasing new lift equipment is to know what it is you are lifting. You need to define the weight and specifications of each vehicle in your fleet, as all lifts are not meant for all vehicles. The second step is to outline the type of work that your facility does on a daily basis.  It is important to consider whether the bulk of your service work is maintenance only and you contract out major repair or component work, or whether your garage is a full-service facility that includes major repairs and overhauls. This will certainly have a bearing on the kind of lift equipment that would be most suitable to your operation. Whether it is suspension, transmission, brakes, wheels, alignment, exhaust or all of the above, they will be a major factor when deciding on which lift system best suits your needs. Many of today's lifts can be used for any and all of these applications, but some may be more efficient at certain tasks than others.
Another thing to keep in mind when buying a lift system, or any new equipment for that matter, is that the cheapest alternative is not necessarily the best. As with any investment, you need to check out the manufacturer before you make a purchase. Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations, certifications or review their ability to meet regulatory compliance laws.  If they are a reputable manufacturer they will be most anxious to provide you with all the information you need. A cheaper lift now may cost a lot more later when the repair bills start coming in.

Today's lift systems are safer and more versatile than ever; new designs and cutting edge engineering have fathered the next generation of vehicle lifting systems. With state of the art safety controls and robust lifting capabilities, today's lifts are able to service a broader range of vehicles than ever before. Below are a few of the lift systems available to our industry:

LoRiser Lift
"The newly designed LoRiser lift is experiencing great success in the heavy duty transit industry," says John Burt, President of LoRiser. "Designed especially for the Tire Service bay, we are now seeing users install and use our lift for limited mechanical repairs". Many repairs need vehicles lifted off the ground, but not to the extent that Mechanics have to work under the vehicle. "This is where we shine" says Burt.  The LoRiser is an “environmentally friendly" in-ground type lift incorporating the latest technology. In addition to its self contained vault (for ease of installation and ground separation) the company has recently added a pendant control for improved safety and ease of setup in operation.  Many transit, school bus, state inspection stations, transportation companies, and theme parks are incorporating this lift into their service facilities.

In-Ground Lifts
In-ground lifts have been the choice of numerous operators and shop supervisors for many years. In-ground lifts raise the vehicle by means of a hydraulic ram that is buried beneath the shop floor. While this lift requires excavation, it is cheaper than the installation of a service pit and gives you more usable work area beneath the vehicle. The vehicle is lifted by its frame, allowing for wheel free maintenance while leaving the shop floor relatively clear when not in use. The pistons do occasionally get in the way of some service work but most parts of the undercarriage are easily accessible. One of the greatest drawbacks to the in-ground lift is that it is permanent in nature, meaning that you will not be able to take it with you if you decide to relocate your service facilities. The EPA is also taking a closer look at these lifts for problems associated with leakage of an underground hydraulic system.
While these lifts are extremely reliable and require minimal maintenance, they do not fit all vehicle applications. If you are running a fleet composed of diverse vehicles with different wheel bases, you may not be able to service all vehicles with this lift.

4 Post Lifts
Four-post lifts offer incredible versatility and lifting power for less than the initial cost of its in-ground counterpart. The four-post lift utilizes a service ramp to load the vehicle, saving time and minimizing the risk of damage to vehicles due to incorrect set-up. The vehicle is then lifted by means of chain, cable or screw driven mechanism, depending on the lift manufacturer. The runways of this lift type are also adjustable, allowing for different vehicle applications. This type of lift is ideal for exhaust, transmission, alignment work, and other repair and maintenance services. Because the vehicle is driven onto the lift, brake and wheel work require the addition of rolling jacks that slide along the inside of the ramps, requiring additional setup time.
While the four post lift is well appointed for most repair and maintenance applications, the corner posts may obstruct the floor space and if the vehicle is too long for the lift, the front crossbeams of these lifts can make some front end work difficult.

Parallelogram Lifts
The parallelogram lift is both fast and powerful, making it a very adaptable general lift. Like the four post lift, the parallelogram lift uses ramps to load the vehicle but does so without the use of corner posts or cross beams. These lifts can be mounted flush with the floor, giving you a clear workspace when the lift is not in use.
Although the parallelogram lift does not have crossbeams, the lifting platform can get in the way of some maintenance and repair procedures, but the workspace beneath the vehicle remains largely unobstructed. This lift also requires additional space in the front and rear of the lift structure to accommodate for the back to front motion associated with parallelogram lifts.

Mobile Column Lifts
Although these lifts are time consuming to set up, they are the most versatile of all the lifts. Except for connecting wires, each post is separate and free of one another. Because of its portable design, this lift can be used anywhere there is a flat concrete surface, giving you the ability to turn almost any space into a productive work area. Having massive lifting capabilities and fitting almost any vehicle, this lifting system is becoming very popular with facilities that maintain diversified fleets with limited workspace.
Because the mobile column lift raises the vehicle by the tires, wheel work is not possible with these types of lifts without the use of jack stands, however undercarriage components are easily accessed.

Service Pits
While service pits are not lifts they serve the same purpose, easier access to hard to reach components. Along with the excavation associated with in-ground service pits, there are many safety and environmental regulations that can add to the initial cost. There must be adequate ventilation as well as special wiring to protect against fire and explosion hazards, and an uncovered pit can quickly become the site of an accident. 
Used mostly in the transit segment where a high volume of vehicles requiring the same maintenance procedures are present, these pits save time and can be equipped for specific maintenance applications. While wheel service and other repairs are much more difficult in these service pits, with a well run and organized shop they can be a very efficient way to maintain large fleets.