lift or not to lift, that is the question
Dr Gavin Bailey (RV8 BRG 0766 and V8 Glacier White 0199) from
Surrey describes how he tracked down a hydraulic lift and has found
it very useful. (Jun 04)
a number of years dragging a trolley jack around my driveway, and
latterly my garage, to lift my MGBGTV8 onto axle stands, and even
then having limited clearance underneath to work on the car, the
thought of an arrangement that would give greater access was of
increasing appeal. From my early days of working on cars in my father's
garage, I had long lusted after some kind of ramp or pit, and following
a recent move to a house with a garage that had sufficient space
to accommodate such an arrangement, I started to look in earnest
at the various options.
are the ramp or pit options?
If one wants good access to the underside of the car, there are
really only two serious alternatives: some form of pit sunk into
the garage floor with boards covering it when it's not in use; a
ramp to lift the car off the ground. The latter come in two basic
forms - the four post variety which you drive on and which lifts
the whole car off the ground, wheels in channels and which is a
necessity for MoT testing stations; and the two post variety or
variations on the theme which have swinging arms with rubber pads
which when placed under the jacking points, allow you to raise the
car off the ground. The latter option crucially, allows the wheels
to hang free giving good access to the brakes and suspension.
Glacier White 0199 up on the hydraulic ramp. (Photo:
explored the options, I was quickly able to rule out a pit, as even
with the launch of the excellent 'Mechmate' (which is essentially
a lined fibreglass
Autec hydraulic ramp in action. (Photo: Gavin Bailey)
for the pit), they all required a significant amount of excavation
which was a non-starter with my existing garage. I then started
to look at the other option of a lift which had to be compact enough
to operate in my garage which although wide, had limited headroom
given the rafter arrangement supporting the roof.
would have it I came across an AL-2006 'portable' hydraulic ramp
made by Autec of Holland on Holden Classic & Vintage's stand
at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The web addresses are:
Their display attracted a great deal of attention as the lift was
supporting their large Transit van. Although I was impressed with
the engineering, I was not ready at that point to shell out the
£1,200 (now £925 + VAT), they were asking for it. Being
a disciple of eBay, I started to look for second-hand ramps, and
quickly found that there were many advertised for sale, commonly
coming from garages that were closing down. After a short search
I was lucky enough to find one second-hand on eBay, and eventually
ended up paying just over half the new price for a ramp that was
only a few years old, having had only light occasional use. I would
mention at this point that one needs to be careful when buying second-hand
equipment of this kind, ensuring that the equipment has been regularly
serviced and is safe to use. One can take no chances with a ramp
that is going to support the weight of a motor vehicle, especially
when you're going to be working underneath it! After getting the
lift home (although described as 'portable', four of us just
to Contents listing
The Autec ramp lifts the car well clear of the ground.
(Photo: Gavin Bailey)
managed to lift it into my 6x4 trailer), I installed it in my
garage. After changing the hydraulic fluid it was ready to use.
So how does it
From the photographs you can see it is essentially comprises a steel
frame with a large hydraulic ram that lifts the platform to which
four swinging arms carrying rubber jacking pads are attached. The
ram is connected to a separate single-phase 240v hydraulic control
unit which has two switches - one to power up the unit, and a separate
toggle to lift or lower the ram. To use the lift, you simply drive
the car over the lift, swing the arms out, and position the rubber
jacking pads (which slide along the lifting arms thus offering a multitude
of adjustment), under the jacking points. It's then a simple matter
of checking that all jacking pads are aligned under the relevant jacking
points before operating the lift and raising the vehicle. The ramp
will lift a vehicle of up to 2 metric tonnes up to a maximum of just
over a metre in just over 50 seconds.
Given the weight of the vehicle, and the fact that you are going to
be working underneath it, safety is a prime consideration. To ensure
the vehicle is safely supported when raised, the lift has a series
of stops or detents, which are essentially steel stops which are welded
to the bottom frame of the lift. As you raise the vehicle, the lift
'clicks' past each detent in turn. Once you have reached the desired
height, it's a simple matter of lowering the ramp slightly so that
the lift locks firmly in place against the steel stop. There's no
need for any further support as the weight of the vehicle is off the
hydraulics, and the ramp is securely and physically locked in place.
To lower the vehicle, simply raise the ramp slightly before 'capsizing'
a catch on one of the supporting arms. This lifts the arm sufficiently
to pass over the metal stops and lower the vehicle to the ground.
does the ramp work with an MGBGTV8 and RV8?
I first tried it with my MGBGTV8 (a chrome bumper car, although rubber
bumper cars should be no different), and the lift worked perfectly.
The car had sufficient ground clearance to drive over the ramp, and
once swung into position, the pads located securely under the spring
pans on the front suspension, and under the rear spring hangers just
in front of the rear wheels. With the RV8 however, it was a different
story. Firstly, the lower ground clearance posed a problem and I had
to source two short planks of timber to place alongside the ramp so
that when I drove the car over the ramp, the catalysts did not foul
the ramps frame. Once in position however, the supporting pads on
the front jacking arms were again placed under the spring supporting
pans at the front, whilst the rear pads fitted under the spring and
torsion bar mounting brackets at the rear. Although more of a fiddle
with the RV8, the whole setup makes the car far easier to work on
compared to scrabbling around on the ground under a car supported
by axle stands.
of the access
Lastly, one of the most important issues when choosing a ramp or lift
is the extent of access to the underside of the vehicle when up in
the air. Of course a two-post lift with swinging arms is the ultimate
wheel-free lift which also gives access to the underside of the vehicle
for changing exhausts, gearbox etc. On my Autec model, access to the
underside of the vehicle whilst on the lift is of course restricted
by the frame of the lift itself. All is not lost however, as Autec
can supply extra long axle stands which, when place under the vehicle,
allow the ramp to be lowered (and even removed) leaving the vehicle
up in the air and with full access to the underside.
So in conclusion,
if you do all the maintenance work on your own cars and have the space,
a ramp is a very worthwhile investment. My next step is to sink the
ramp into a shallow pit in the floor of the garage which will allow
me to ensure the floor is clear when the ramp is not in use. I've
got the steel frame waiting for the pit aperture - it's now just a
question of getting digging!!!
has any further questions, I'm happy to answer them by email (see
the V8 Website for my contacts) or at Silverstone.
by the V8 Register