How To Buy and Install a Four Post List In Your Garage
August 2020 Update – When we wrote this post way back in November of 2018 when we launched GuysWithRides.com, we hoped at least a few people found the article informative. Fast forward to August of 2020, and we were pleased to learn one of the article’s readers did! As it turns out, they didn’t live too far away so this past weekend we were treated to a tour of Jeff and Alice’s similar lift install. Even better was to see their two Porsches (a Concours-award-winning, family-owned, 1980 Porsche 924 and a more recent 917 Cayman) utilizing the space effectively! Jeff highly recommends this article as a guide for anyone considering installing a four-post lift in their garage.
When buyers consider purchasing either an Antique, Vintage, Classic or Muscle Collector Car, the first objection that usually talks themselves out of moving forward is the “where am I going to store it?” question. One answer: do you have a garage with a nine-and-a-half feet ceiling height? If so, have you considered purchasing a 4 post car lift? Four post lifts offer flexibility for the average car enthusiast to store one car above his daily drivers.
There are two basic styles of four-post lifts to choose from. The first is what I call the collar style, where the lifting beams use square collars that fit over the four slotted supports. The second is a C-Channel design, where the lifting beams rely on notched strips attached to the inside of each support. Each design arguably has its pros and cons, but after countless research, I decided to purchase a Bend-Pak HD-9 for four reasons. First, this lift is built and certified to American Lift Institute (“ALI”) standards. Among other things, this requires a spring-loaded, air-locked, slack cable system that prevents the lift from collapsing if a cable fails. Second, I liked the adjustable ladder lock system as it better accommodates slightly uneven floors like the one in my garage that slopes slightly away from my house and towards the doors. Third, having great past experiences with Bend-Pak Customer Service (I also own a QuickJack that is made by Ranger, which is a division of Bend-Pak) sealed the deal. Fourth, this model does not need to be bolted to the floor and even offers casters you can use to move the lift (which I also purchased). Being able to order my lift painted in red to match the rest of my garage didn’t hurt either.
While watching a number of YouTube videos of people using a trailer to pick up their lift from a delivery terminal and then unpacking, assembling, and fixing their mistakes, it quickly became apparent to both me and my wife that having a professional deliver and install my lift would be time and money well-spent. Additionally, a reputable installer guarantees their work and provides post-install adjustments should the need arise. Observation from watching these videos as well as a preliminary visit from my chosen installer confirmed that selecting a lift is actually just a small aspect of the project. Four other considerations include:
- Does my garage have enough ceiling height? Depending on how you plan to use a four-post lift, you need to measure whether you have enough ceiling height in your garage. If your garage ceiling is at least 9’-7” high, it may be a good lift candidate. In our case, our current garage is blessed with a ceiling twelve feet high.
- Will my garage doors get in the way? If you plan to install a four-post lift in a two-car attached garage, the standard door rails and opener mechanism will likely need to be modified.
- Does my garage have a compressed air supply? Choosing an ALI-certified lift means you will need compressed air to disengage the safety locks. This style does not require much air, so if you already have even a small compressor, it will be sufficient to operate the interlocks.
- Do I have the proper electrical supply? My installer pointed out that unless I liked the idea of turning off everything else on the existing 15amp GFCI circuit each time I used my lift, I needed to install a 20amp electrical circuit. While I was able to make this a DIY project that meets code, if you don’t know how to do electrical work, then hire a licensed professional!
With my lift ordered, I had three weeks to complete the electrical work and door modifications. While I installed the new circuit myself over the better part of a weekend, the biggest surprise of my project was how much the garage door modifications and new door openers cost, as it ended up being half as much as my new lift. Why? My existing garage doors had three strikes against them.
Strike One was my existing doors relied on horizontal track sections placed at the height of the garage opening that extended into the same area my new lift would sit. At a minimum, the door tracks needed to be replaced with new ones that would raise the door to just six inches below my garage ceiling. Hoping to make this a DIY project I found several online companies that offer conversion kits based on measurements you provide. However, I soon learned there was another thing I had not considered.
Strike Two was the fact that converting to a high-lift configuration also required me to switch the doors’ counterbalance system from extension springs that are easy to replace when a door is raised (i.e. not under tension) to a single torsion spring mounted above the door opening that is always in tension. Why? Converting to a high lift track meant the door’s vertical travel nearly doubled so consequently a much stronger spring is required to control the movement of the door through its range of motion. Showing Nancy several installation videos of what can go wrong when adjusting torsion springs now had me seeking garage door specialists to complete this phase of the project.
Installation quotes for a two-door, high-lift conversion varied from $3,000 down to $1,850. While you’re probably thinking, “Okay, that’s not a bad cost to have two new doors installed,” the reality is those quotes only covered converting the rails and springs while reusing the existing doors! The lowest cost bid served my needs perfectly and I could not believe how much it made my two-car garage now feel like a small warehouse with the door tracks now mounted only six inches from the top of the ceiling!
Strike Three required me to purchase new garage door openers. To take advantage of my garage’s newfound high ceiling height, I converted to brand new LiftMaster 8500 openers that mount directly onto each door’s tension spring jackshaft. While this style of opener is much more expensive than traditional horizontal pull styles, I was able to offset the cost by making this a DIY project and completed it in a couple of nights after work.
I was able to get everything completed in time for the lift installation. It took two men with years of experience one day to unload my lift from their trailer, install, and then adjust it for use. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken me to do the installation alone. With my new lift installed, I decided to try it out with my first maintenance task: a spring oil change for our Porsche Boxster.
What was once an on-my-back affair that usually resulted in spilled oil while I improperly added to the neighborhood kids’ vocabulary now became a 30-minute, not-one-drop-of-oil-spilled pleasant experience! I now look forward to tackling a number of under-car maintenance tasks for both our Boxster and Cayenne that I have been dreading all winter. Additionally, having the room to park my daily driver in the garage is a blessing on cold winter mornings. As long as you don’t get the bug to buy another Antique, Vintage, Classic, or Muscle Collector Car once you have a Four-Post lift installed, you can enjoy that luxury too.
So, what did this all cost me? The lift with the optional red paint, casters, and Aluminum ramps set me back about $4,000 delivered. Installation was a wisely-spent $700, while the aforementioned garage door modifications and new openers were about $2,500. Finally, electrical work for the new 20 amp circuit was about $300. All told, the project cost about $7,500 to add one additional parking space/service bay to my existing two-car garage.