These Car Lift Safety Tips Could Save Your Life

November 18th, 2016

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a good mechanic. Despite our skills—sometimes—experience is our downfall. We think we can get away with little mistakes here and there, and we hope they don’t catch up to us. It’s called being lucky, and we’re usually lucky more than we’re unlucky. So yes, almost every mechanic has a story about a narrow escape(s). But there are also the costly mistakes, and it’s our job to help you prevent them.

The last time we wrote about cable inspections and two-post safety, we received a lot of positive feedback from well-meaning folks who admitted they hadn’t been keeping up with things. That’s inspiring to us, so we’re back with a few shop safety MUSTS to keep you healthy and profitable for many years to come.

The overhead safety switch / shutoff bar
The overhead bar serves a critical purpose. Because the lift arms can only rise when the power unit button is manually—and continuously—depressed, the shutoff bar kills electrical flow to the power unit if touched by the roof of any vehicle. Obviously a useful tool for keeping your vehicle from smashing into the overhead bar or going through the roof (only a slight exaggeration).

BendPak Gunmetal Gray asymmetrical two-post lift showing overhead shutoff safety bar

BendPak XPR-10AS two-post lift with overhead shutoff bar

That shutoff bar you rarely pay attention to is there to protect you in the event of emergencies. It prevents your vehicle from smashing into the upper cross beam and literally going through the roof. With a properly working shutoff bar, heavy trucks and SUVs might not make it to the lift’s max extension. In other words, taller vehicles need to be stopped before the arms have completely risen. Operators who disable this bar in order to get a couple extra inches of lift, even if they’re very careful, are taking life-threatening risks. A large vehicle could get its roof crushed or else compromise the integrity of the lift. However, even when properly installed, the bar only works if you follow this next step…

BendPak Gunmetal Gray asymmetrical two-post lift showing overhead shutoff safety bar

Using the proper lifting points keeps vehicles balanced, even with loaded flatbeds.

Car should be properly positioned at all times on two-post lift
Basic auto mechanic safety protocol is too often ignored. We all know that vehicles positioned over a two-post lift should have all four lift pads positioned under the vehicle at the manufacturer’s recommended lifting points. We all know this to be true, but too often we leave cars parked in compromising positions (e.g., letting the vehicle rest on the floor with uneven or improper pad placement). BendPak makes the finest car lifts out there. That doesn’t mean we think you should cut corners on safety. Things can still go wrong:

– Someone thinks the lift pads are properly set and depresses the lift button, causing an unbalanced lift.
– You might forget that the pads weren’t set before operating the lift.
– An electrical/wiring issue might inadvertently raise the lift. In this case, an unevenly lifted vehicle might not trip the overhead shutoff bar, which would be a total nightmare.

Frame cradle pads / truck adapter kits
two-post-auto-lift-frame-cradleOf all the items on our list, this one is one of the hardest pills for us to swallow, and the precaution we repeat the most often. For whatever reason, a number of lift operators simply refuse to use the necessary frame cradle pads when hoisting certain trucks and SUVs. At least on some level, we see why this is happening. People want faster turnover, and they can sometimes “get away” without the truck adapters. Two problems. One, car lift manufacturers are not liable for damages that occur due to improper usage of the lift. You’re in no way legally covered for doing something—excuse our language—stupid. Some people seem to have a problem with this and try to shift the blame on the machine when they do something wrong. BendPak and the other car lift companies out there don’t make truck adapter sets just for the heck of it; these are vital tools you need to have in your shop if you’re lifting trucks and SUVs with raised suspensions or further recessed underbellies.

Daily cable inspections
We’ve written about cable inspections and safety before, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that those daily cable inspections may seem like a minor nuisance, but so does using a turn signal 100% of the time, coming to a complete stop before making a right on red, adhering to the speed limit, etc. We sometimes “get away” with skipping these little things, and nobody’s perfect. Still, a cable inspection may reveal a poorly lubricated line, which is easy to fix. Stray threads or dry sheaves cause friction, and that causes severe damage to your lift components. Bad! Take a look at your cable system at the start or end of every day, whichever works for you.

wire-rope-41-638

Also, if you ever notice that your safety locks do not engage simultaneously, you may have cables that are out of sync. Resynchronize your cables before attempted further lift. Do not lift or lower a vehicle in an attempt to sync or adjust cables if it is unsafe to do so.

Electrical Tip
It’s recommended that you install your power unit on the passenger side of an asymmetrical two-post lift. This is purely for convenience, but virtually all operators benefit from this common installation practice. By doing so, operators are able to position (drive) the vehicle between the two-post lift columns, position the arms from that side, and then move to the passenger side to position the arms and operate the lift. Eliminating the need to walk back to the driver side to perform operations saves time and just makes sense. (Plus, experienced mechanics will think you’re ridiculous if you don’t install your power unit this way).

If possible, cut the power to your car lifts and other major shop appliances at the end of each work day. If this is not an option for you at home or in the shop, be sure you never leave vehicles in a compromised position when loading or setting up a lift.


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