Symmetric vs. Asymmetric Two-Post Lifts: What’s the Difference?

When you browse our online catalog of auto lifts, you’ll run across the terms “symmetric” and “asymmetric.” These two types of lifts each have their own advantages and ideal uses. To help you understand the difference and determine which type of auto lift suits your garage and the types of vehicles you service and repair, we wanted to put together this guide.

Here at North American Auto Equipment, we carry a range of symmetric and asymmetric auto lifts to cover all of your needs. Our lifts are suitable for professional and home garages and all sizes and weights of vehicles. We can help you determine if a symmetric or asymmetric lift works best for the vehicles you typically lift.

While the differences may appear small at first glance, both types exist to cover different lifting needs, and one type of lift is likely more convenient and practical for your application than another.

Understanding the Difference

The terms symmetric and asymmetric refer to the arm configuration of the lift. In simple terms, symmetric lifts have front and rear arms that are identical in design and length, while asymmetrical lifts feature different arms at the front and the back.

Some lift manufacturers refer to symmetrical and asymmetrical lifts in reference to the angle at which the posts are installed, though this type of installation is not common. At North American Auto Equipment, our two-post baseplate, overhead and free-standing lifts are all installed with the posts parallel, so we will only consider this configuration.

Years ago, most garage lifts were single-column lifts built into the ground. These allowed lifting a wide range of vehicles thanks to adjustable arms. While practical, they required a huge investment for installation and maintenance and created potential environmental risks if hydraulic oil leaked into the ground.

The solution was the creation of above-ground post lifts. Originally available only in a symmetrical configuration, with certain vehicles, the central position of the posts made it difficult to exit and enter the vehicle when positioned for lifting. This is why the asymmetrical lift was created. It can accommodate different types of vehicles without blocking the doors.

You might ask why all two-post auto lifts aren't asymmetrical if they allow easier access to the doors. That's because not all vehicles are identical. You need to take into account:

  • Overall length
  • Wheelbase
  • Front door position
  • Weight distribution (% of the weight over the front and rear axles)
  • Extra weight loaded in the vehicle

While both types of lifts have adjustable arms that allow for some variation, it’s a good idea to choose your lift according to the most common type of vehicle you will lift. If you work mostly on large pickup trucks, for example, choose a lift that suits that size and weight of that vehicle. You can always adjust your lift for smaller vehicles when they come in.

In general, these are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of lift and the types of vehicles they’re suited to:

Symmetrical Lifts

Symmetrical lifts, in general, are best suited to long and heavy vehicles like trucks, vans and SUVs, especially if they’re loaded. You need to start with a two-post lift that’s wide enough to accommodate large vehicles. The symmetrical lift arms can be folded back to allow for easy passage of your vehicle.

In general, you position the vehicle so the posts are roughly in the middle. That means you can open the front doors and get out after positioning the vehicle for lifting.

With your vehicle in place, you swing the lift arms into place. Trucks and SUVs with high ground clearance may require special adaptors to reach the frame lift points. While the lift arms are of a symmetrical design, meaning the front and rear arms are of the same shape and length, they also include portions that can be extended to accommodate a wide range of vehicles.

If the vehicle you’re lifting is unloaded in the rear or is a long pickup with no weight in the rear, you may need to adjust the position of the truck slightly. Always follow standard lift practices and ensure that the vehicle is properly balanced as you start lifting. Most symmetrical lifts are of the overhead type, so pay attention to height clearance — especially with tall vehicles.

Asymmetrical Lifts

With uneven-length lift arms, asymmetrical lifts require you to position the car, truck, van or SUV with approximately 30% of the length past the post and 70% past the rear. With most FWD vehicles, most of the weight is carried in the front, so this 30/70 split relative to length will result in an even weight distribution on the lift.

The shorter lift arms are to the front, where most of the weight is, while the longer rear arms are to the back. This allows your vehicle to sit well-balanced on the lift and usually means the front doors clear the posts for opening and closing. This is especially practical if you raise and lower a large number of vehicles every day and want to quickly get in and out, instead of trying to squeeze into the car because the doors won’t open fully.

You can create a nearly symmetrical lift configuration by shortening the rear lift arms and bringing them in closer to the midline of the vehicle. This means that you can accommodate longer and heavier vehicles when you need to, but still have the convenience and ease of an asymmetrical lift for the bulk of your smaller vehicle lifting needs.

As with symmetrical lifts, it’s always important to follow standard lift loading and lifting procedure. Take care to position the lifting arms and pads under the vehicle’s lift points to avoid damage and to reduce your risk of an accident. When your lift is on the ground, swing your asymmetrical lift arms around instead of leaving them in the middle so you have more space to walk around your lift.

Let Us Help You Choose

In most cases, you can make a symmetrical or asymmetrical lift work for you. What we wanted to share today was the notion that choosing the lift that’s best-suited to the type of vehicle you’ll be lifting can make life in your shop or garage easier. Equip yourself for the bulk of your work and adjust your lift as need be for different-sized vehicles that require a slightly different position on your lift.

Contact our North American Auto Equipment team today if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of symmetric auto lift versus the benefits of an asymmetric auto lift. We're a family-run business that takes the time to listen to you and find solutions that fit your needs and budget.

Come and discover how we've become an industry leader in auto equipment and can make your choice between symmetrical and asymmetrical two-post lifts an easy one.

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