The vehicle lift (or vehicle ramp) is the lifeblood of the vehicle maintenance industry. However, for something so essential to the trade, it can often be easy to take vehicle lifts for granted. As a result, incorrect operation of vehicle lifts, misunderstanding of loading techniques, and lack of maintenance result in accidents every year.
As vehicle lifts will be used in most garages on a daily basis, and as such, it is important for users to put their trust in the equipment. In order to do this, it is essential that anyone operating a vehicle lift knows how to do so correctly and safely.
To help prevent accidents, and promote understanding, the team at Straightset have put together a guide to vehicle lift safety. Covering a range of different vehicle lifts, the guide discusses the purchasing, installation, Service and operation of vehicle lifts, to help you prevent accidents in the workplace. Take a look at the guide below.
Buying a vehicle lift
It is a legal requirement that all machinery sold in the EU, including vehicle lifts, meets certain standards. In order to ensure this, the Directive 2006/42/EC enforced by the European Commission was created, which vehicle lift manufacturers must ensure their equipment complies to.
When purchasing a vehicle lift, make sure that the equipment is CE certified; this means the lift is officially approved by the European Commission, and safe to use. All lifts purchased from reputable suppliers like Straightset will conform to these standards, meaning they are manufactured to safe standards. You can always ask for proof that the lift you are purchasing has been approved; you will be shown a certificate containing the name of the approving body - which should be based in Europe - and the certification number of the equipment.
Installing a vehicle lift
Once a vehicle lift has been purchased, it will need to be installed. In order to make sure that the vehicle lift will operate properly and safely, it will need to be installed to approved standards. Unless you are a competent lift installer, it is never a good idea to install a lift yourself. Not only will this be unsafe and a pathway to accidents the lift most likely will not operate correctly.
Instead, you should always have your equipment installed by an accredited lift engineer, who will have experience and training in installation. That way, you can make sure your lift is installed according to the regulations and the manufacturer instructions.
Operating vehicle lifts
Whatever type of lift you are using, you will need to take some general day to day steps and precautions to avoid accidents and injury:
- Never stand on or under the lift when it is being operated.
- Never exceed the safe working load - this should be displayed on the side of the lift.
- Never stand on the vehicle lift or the vehicle itself when the lift is in operation.
- When work is finished on the vehicle lift, always fully lower the lift and turn the lift off.
- If you are unsure of the safety of the lift, do not use it - get it checked by a competent person.
2 Post Lifts
Two post lifts are one of the most commonly used lifts in the UK, so it is important to be fully conversant in how they work, and how to operate them properly. We have put together some of the key points to remember:
- Before loading a vehicle onto the lift, try to identify the vehicle´s centre of gravity - this will differ depending on whether it is front or rear-wheel drive. For rear-wheel drive vehicles, this point is usually just behind the front seats. For front-wheel vehicles, this lies further forward.
- When placing the vehicle on the lift, you will need to ensure the vehicle is properly balanced - do this by shortening or extending its telescopic arms.
- If the height of the vehicle lift pads do not engage with the pick-up points, do not improvise with wooden blocks or other equipment. Only adjust the height of the lift pad with approved pad extensions manufactured by the same company as the lift.
- Make sure the vehicle´s chassis is properly aligned against the lift pad - refer to the manufacturer´s guidelines on this.
- Rear-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles will have different jacking and lifting points - for a rough guide to this, refer to the images below.
Depending on the size and type of the vehicle being lifted, you will need to use either a symmetric or an asymmetric two post lift. Symmetric two post lifts are used to lift larger vehicles like vans, whereas asymmetric lifts are more suited to lifting lighter cars. Symmetric and Asymmetric lifts require different loading procedures.
Asymmetric two post lifts: Short arms to the front, long arms to the rear
- When loading onto the lift, the vehicle must be positioned so that both posts are in line with the centre point of the vehicle.
- Make sure that each lifting pad is positioned under the recommended lifting point, then raise the lifts so the pads make contact with the vehicle pick-up points equally and evenly.
- Raise the vehicle just off the workshop floor, but not fully.
- Check the positioning of the lifting pads and arms one more time - make sure all 4 locking devices are in use.
- Rock the vehicle as a final check to ensure it is stable, then fully raise it.
Symmetric two post lifts: All four arms of equal length:
- When loading onto the lift, position the vehicle so that both posts are in line with its steering wheel.
- Continue as with Asymmetrical lift
Chassis pick up lifts - scissor or in-ground
Chassis lifts raise a vehicle by supporting its chassis rather like a two post lift but without the swinging arms:
- Load the vehicle onto the scissor lift, making sure that the weight is evenly distributed.
- Place rubber lifting blocks on the lift platforms below the vehicle´s lifting points.
- Raise the lift platforms to allow the lifting blocks to become properly positioned.
- Raise the lift platforms, so the vehicle is just off the floor.
- Check the positions of the lifting blocks, and rock the vehicle gently to make sure it is stable.
- Once the blocks are in the right place, and the vehicle is stable, raise the lift to full working height.
Wheel Support platform lifts
For 4-post lifts, most of the previously stated general advice applies. However, they have a different loading technique to two post lifts, and thus a different loading and raising procedure is required:
- Make sure that the platform of the lift is lowered and resting on the floor.
- Drive between posts and position the vehicle centrally on the lift.
- Place auto chocks behind vehicle wheels - these will help to prevent the vehicle rolling off when the lift is raised.
- Raise the platform of the lift, engage the auto chocks, and engage the wheel free system if using this.
- Before lowering the lift, raise the platforms to support the vehicle, then disengage the wheel free system if using. Ensure the workshop floor around the lift is clear, then lower as required.
Vehicle Lift Maintenance
In the auto industry, the vehicle lift is used and relied upon on a daily basis. As such, it only makes sense that regular inspections and maintenance should be carried out, to make sure that lifts are working properly, and that those using them are not at risk due to faults.
At the start of the day, it is good practice to get into a habit of performing a daily inspection on all lifts. You should check for leaks, unadjusted chains and wires, and for any wear and tear on vital parts such as lift pads. If you notice any problems during a check, take precautionary measures and do not use the lift until they are addressed.
A thorough check of all vehicle lifts should be made once a month. You should check that wires and chains are functioning properly without restriction, nuts and bolts are well tightened, and lubrication systems are topped up.
Six Month & Twelve Month Inspections
Biannual inspections are advised by the HSE, whilst the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations state that thorough annual inspections are compulsory under law. This is different to servicing. Always have your lifts serviced by a competent engineer such as a GEA Accredited Lift Engineer.
We hope this guide has given you an insight - or a reminder - of the safety procedures necessary when operating vehicle lifts. If you would like more advice on operating or installing vehicle lifts, or would like a vehicle lift installed or serviced by an accredited engineer, get in touch with the team at Straightset to see what we can do for you.