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The joy of owning a mid-rise lift, part 2: The time it nearly killed me


#1

Last week I waxed enthusiastically about owning a mid-rise lift. I crowed about how much I love it, how I use it at least three nights a week, and how it is a great alternative for those of us with short-height garages. Not only that, it is a savoir for my aging back, and having the body of the lift between the ground and the car makes me feel safe.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/11/20/owning-a-mid-rise-lift-part-2

The joy of owning a mid-rise lift, part 2: The time it nearly killed meedure
#2

This article is full of awful advice counter to the manufacturer’s advice and any modicum of common sense.

The lift needs to be in a fail safe position at all times before working on the vehicle. This is auto lifts 101. Secondly the “double jacking” approach is extremely dangerous if the first rule is not followed. Support the vehicle with a secondary method is only advisable if you’re shifting the center of gravity significantly say with an engine or subframe removal once the lift is in a locked position.

If you can’t trust the safety locks on your lift you need better training on how to operate your lift or a new lift all together if you don’t like how the locks engage.


#3

This is Rob Siegel, the author.

The “double-jacking” I referred to was when using a floor jack–that I always jack a car up with the floor jack, set it down on the jack stands, then leave the floor jack in place. I was saying that the mid-rise essentially does that itself because, when the lift is set down on the stops, the hydraulic cylinders act like an in-place floor jack. I also said that, after the scare, I will, at times, when I am under the mid-rise lift for an extended period, put a wheel beneath it as an extra measure of safety. I am not setting the lift down on the wheel as a secondary method of support, nor am I advocating that anyone else set it down on a secondary method of support.

I completely agree that the lift needs to be in a fail-safe position at all times before working on the vehicle. It was, as I said, three things that conspired to have the lift depressurize while I was under it. One of those is the design of the latching mechanism of the lift itself. The latching mechanism on every mid-rise lift I’ve seen is not the same as the “dead man’s” design of the latching mechanism on a post lift, where the latches automatically engage when you raise the car.

I sincerely hope that no one has the same brain fart (not throwing the safety latch) and freakishly bad luck (kicking something that rolled into the down lever) I did. But alerting people that this CAN happen is one of the reasons I wrote the article.

–Rob Siegel


#4

I own a midrise lift, purchased from Greg Smith Equipment. It has a fail-safe latch, too. Not all do, but it’s worth looking for.
I was fortunate that I was tutored in using lifts by some great guys at an Air Force Base Auto Hobby Shop. They made sure I knew how to use the lifts safely by dropping the latch onto the stops before going under the car. (Yeah, I know. Automotive 101)
When I got my own lift a few years back, one of the first things I did after assembly was to study how the safety latches worked.
It is a fully ingrained habit while raising the car to the desired height is to listen for the click and lower the safety latch onto the stop.


#5

I own amidrise lift it has fail safe latch dead man own it for many years


#6

Hi Rob.

Thank you for the clarification. I think what is most important to remember is this: force on the lock keeps it in position. The lift should always be set on the lock to ensure not only that it cannot be accidentally dislodged but also to ensure that a tire against the hydraulic release lever will not cause any movement. Even a couple inches at the wrong time could be dangerous.


#7

Thank YOU for your concern. And as you’ll see from the other comments, I appear to be wrong that all mid-rise lifts don’t have a dead-man’s locking mechanism like a post lift. Several readers report that theirs do.


#8

I had a mid rise lift in my business, it was a godsend. Also note, car mentioned, is a very strange 2002. How about a Euro. 635, or a M6. I know because I own a M6.


#9

I completely agree with Rob and understand the logic used with jack stands and the lift. As a corporate pilot I also agree with his philosophy that recognizes that as long as people and machines are involved mistakes will be made. The trick is to catch them with your double check-and not make the mistake that kills you.


#10

I had a college buddy who bought his first car (a Corvair convertible) from his neighbor, who was a Corvair nut. My friend was later sorry to hear that the neighbor was killed in his garage while working on one of the Corvairs…it came off the jack stands and crushed the guy. So, I guess they were “Unsafe at any speed”, including zero!__


#11

You need to invest in a broom and shovel. You’re shop is filthy.


#12

About 20 years ago I was replacing the exhaust system on my wife’s Ramcharger. I always used two floor jacks on this vehicle due to it’s weight and high center of gravity. I also do not get under ANY vehicle on a floor jack, without jack stands taking the weight. While placing the final jack stand on the left side of the vehicle, I had crawled under the rear end to slide it in place. Just as I had raised the jack stand to the proper height, the mechanical support mechanism for the floor jack arm disassembled itself, and the Ramcharger dropped about one inch onto the jack stand. I still believe that I owe my life to the matter of a few seconds timing, and the use of a jack stand. I now also will always place some other solid object under the vehicle (tire/wheel, or wooden cribbing), to take the impact if the lifting system should fail. Forty years of military flying has taught me that safety first is ALWAYS a good practice, regardless of what you may be doing. Redundant safety systems can and will save your life. YES, it takes extra time, and may interfere with your work efforts but, the alternative (death or disabling injury) will take more time, and disrupt your life far more permanently. We work on our cars because we enjoy it. However, the joy and satisfaction we receive is NOT worth your life or limb. Also, make sure you buy the very best equipment you can afford. Spend the extra money. The expense will hurt far less than the personal injury or death that can result from risking your life to cheap krap. Apologies for the rant but, there is a lot going on with this issue. Thanks to the author for sharing his incident.


#13

Somewhat of a tough crowd here. Thanks for the article Rob, and I am glad you are ok. I was not trained in Automotive 101 (meaning I am self-taught), and have been considering purchasing a lift. This article was an eye-opener for me and will hopefully help me work even more cautiously and safely on my cars.


#14

Hello Rob, I too know of a fellow who died under his car. Never forgot that lesson. I have a question slightly off topic. Have you used your lift under the Europa? I own a 73 Twin Cam Special. I have been discouraged by other owners against it’s use for fears off damage to the fiberglass. I’d be interested in your opinion.
I am still a follower of yours despite your recent disparaging article about our Europa’s. Hope you get motivated to put it back on the road. I believe your feelings will change for the better!


#15

Sandy, I never intended the Europa articles to be disparaging in the least! If anything, it was disparaging to my project management skills. I still own the car, and hope to get the motor rebuilt this winter.

I have not put the Europa up on the mid-rise lift. It’s been on jackstands (with hockey pucks interposed) since I pulled the drivetrain out four years ago.

–Rob


#16

Great article! I recently purchased a used Rotary mid-level lift. It does have the “dead-man” safety latches. One suggestion with the tire that hit the release handle; don’t lean take-off tires on a post or wall where kicking them will cause them to roll. Always lay them down; as you are doing now with the added benefit of placing them under the car’s frame rails.


#17

My mid-rise lift does have a spring loaded latching mechanism with a lever resembling a bike’s brake lever than must be held before the lift will come down. I would have thought they all would have this.


#18

Hockey pucks! Great idea. Need to get me some of that.


#19

Hockey pucks? Now you’re sounding like Don Rickles!


#20

By the way; glad you didn’t die, really.