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How to safely operate a vehicle lift

Having a hoist in your shop can be a real advantage, but be sure you understand how to use it properly. Here are some safety tips to consider

As with every tool in the farm workshop, there are risks to those who don’t know how to use them properly. Probably nowhere is that more true than with a vehicle lift. That means if you decide to buy one — or already own one — your first consideration should be learning how to make sure a vehicle stays put on the lift for as long as you need it to.

Top ten tips

To help you do that, we’ve looked at information from a variety of automotive industry sources and picked our top-ten list of tips on how to safety use a lift. Here they are:

1. Always wear safety glasses when doing overhead work of any kind. Dirt and debris will almost certainly fall in your face as you work on a raised vehicle. So protect your eyes, and that doesn’t mean just wearing your ordinary eyeglasses. They won’t provide enough protection. Use proper safety glasses.

2. Keep children and others who don’t understand the dangers away from work areas near a vehicle lift.

3. Always check to make sure a vehicle won’t exceed the hoist’s maximum weight rating before lifting it.

4. When using a frame-engaging hoist, take care to ensure a vehicle is balanced on the supports before lifting it. Remember that heavy items in the bed of a pickup could affect its centre of gravity, creating an unbalanced condition when the truck is raised. Remove any load that could cause a problem. To test for balance, raise a vehicle a few inches off the ground and gently try to rock it. If it’s stable, continue the lift. It not, lower it and reposition the supports.

Remember, too, that removing a major component or installing one could alter a vehicle’s balance when it’s on the lift. Placing high-reach supports with an adequate strength rating under the front and back will help stabilize a raised vehicle and keep it from tumbling down. They will also help keep a vehicle stable if you are doing something that might cause it to rock or shake.

5. To be sure the lift arms are correctly placed under a vehicle before raising it, use a reference guide to determine where to correctly place them on the particular vehicle you’re working on. The Automotive Lift Institute publishes one for all light-duty vehicles produced in the last 20 years entitled “Vehicle Lift Points For Frame Engaging Lifts”. It’s available online at

6. Do not use a hoist to lower a vehicle onto jack stands. The stands could push the vehicle off the lift supports before it is properly settled.

7. Do not use the lift as a jack. That could create an unbalanced load that a vehicle lift isn’t designed for.

8. If you’re using a platform hoist, ensure the wheels of a lifted vehicle are blocked to keep it from from rolling. And use approved wheel chocks, not blocks of wood you might have lying around. They may not generate enough friction on the platform to keep the vehicle in place. And never place blocks between lift arms and the vehicle on frame-engaging hoists.

9. Take the time to properly learn how to use your hoist safely, and use common sense. Think about what you’re doing and analyse the potential risks ahead of time.

10. Don’t try to repair or modify a hoist. Home repairs could invalidate a warranty or create an unexpected failure. †

About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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