Adequate Spacing for an Auto Lift


Adding an auto lift to your professional or personal garage is a big plus. It allows you to lift vehicles whenever you want to have easier access for engine, transmission, wheel, chassis or bodywork. If you have a large garage with ample space, you can install your lift wherever you like. In most cases, however, you want to maximize your space and install your lift in the most convenient location.

There are several things you need to consider to choose the best auto lift positioning:

  • Clearance height: It doesn’t matter how much floor space you have if your ceiling is low or there are other overhead obstacles, like a garage door or heating and ventilation installations.
  • Floor space: You need to determine how much space you can dedicate to a fixed auto lift. When you’re not using your lift, you need to remember that the posts will still be there.
  • Placement and access: In most garage spaces, the lift is aligned with the entry door or bay. If you have a larger space, you can place the lift in a corner or at an angle, depending on what suits best.

If you're tight for space, you may not have much choice on where to place your lift. For a single or double bay garage, for example, your lift will have to be aligned with one of your doors so you can drive the vehicle into position and lift it.

Before deciding where to put your lift, you also need to think about the type of auto lift you will purchase. They each have their own features that can affect where you install them:

  • Two-post lifts: These lifts are available in a variety of configurations, with either baseplate, overhead or free-standing posts. The baseplate models include a low baseplate between the columns, while the overhead models feature a crossbeam at the top. Freestanding models have neither. If you need a smooth floor for a jack or dolly or are restricted above the lift in terms of height, the baseplate and overhead models may not suit. You also need to consider symmetrical and asymmetrical loading arms, which can affect the space you have in front of the lift.
  • Four-post lifts: Four-post lifts are designed for the largest and heaviest vehicles. The presence of four individual posts means movement around your vehicle is more restrictive than with the two-post models. Your four-post lift also needs to be installed on a larger concrete pad, so you may need to plan for modification or re-pouring if your current concrete floor isn’t thick enough.
  • In-ground scissor lifts: If you want to hide your lift entirely when it’s not in use, an in-ground scissor lift is an option. This type of list requires significant work for installation and includes digging a recess in your floor to house the lift. Depending on the location of your garage, digging may not be possible, so pay careful attention to underground lines, piping and plumbing before choosing this type of lift.
  • Portable lifts: We carry a range of portable single-post and scissor lifts that can be moved into place and removed when you’re done with them. While they do require care and attention before each use, you have the advantage of being able to move them to accommodate different-sized vehicles. Since you may use your portable lift in a different spot each time, take care to check for overhead clearance before lifting.

Once you know which type of lift you plan to install, the next step is finding the perfect placement.

Leaving Enough Space to Work

There are no golden rules for auto life positioning. In general, we suggest at least two feet of space between your posts/vehicle and the side walls. Any less and you will struggle to move around your vehicle when it's on the lift. You also won't have space if you're trying to do things like remove wheels and axles or apply a long pry bar for tight bolts.

If your garage includes work benches or storage cabinets, you need to account for this space as well. Always leave at least two feet for walking and working. Also, think about all the people who will be circulating in the area. You may have a skinny employee who can fit through where a stockier employee will get stuck! You and your crew will work more efficiently and safely if you have the space you need to move around. In front of and behind your lift, the space you need depends on two factors:

  • The length of the vehicles you will be lifting
  • The type of lift arms your lift has (symmetrical versus asymmetrical)

For this second point, remember that with symmetrical lifts, the vehicle is more or less centered (50% of the length in front of the posts, 50% behind). That means you need to plan for more space in front than with asymmetrical lift arms (which place approximately 30% of the vehicle in front of the posts and 70% behind).

As a rule of thumb, with a symmetrical lift, try to leave at least 12 feet from your posts to the back wall. If you have an asymmetrical lift to install, nine to 10 feet should be adequate. If you have more space available, think about how you can efficiently use that space. If possible, leave enough so you have the right amount of clearance plus a work bench or storage cabinet against the end wall.

Regarding ceiling height, it comes to the overall working height of your lift plus a vehicle. For an overhead-style lift, with a cross beam for passing the cables and hydraulics, you need to allow a foot or two of additional space. If you have a baseplate or free-standing lift, the top of your vehicle on the lift will dictate how high you can go.

If possible, we suggest allowing for walking under the vehicle when on the lift for best access. As a guideline, count six feet for space underneath, five to six feet for vehicle height and one foot of clearance. That means you need a minimum of 12 feet of ceiling height to comfortably install and work with your auto lift.

Solutions for all Spaces

Unless you’re building a garage from scratch, the space you have available for an auto lift is fixed. At North American Auto Equipment, we have a large range of lift types and sizes available for professional and home garage installation.

Contact our team today and tell us about your lift needs and available floor and ceiling space. We’ll help you choose the right lift and determine the auto lift placement that gives you adequate room to work safely and efficiently.