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Atlantic Racing Scene

All About Lifts

The Lift Rift! When it comes to light-duty lifts, cheaper is not always better

It’s generally agreed that China has become the world’s major manufacturer of light duty lifts.

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The two-and-four post lifts intended for car and light truck work, in the 7000lb (3182kg) to 14000lb (6364 kg.) range.

However, some Asian factories have been known to clone North American and European designs and supply the resulting product to various North American distributors, some well-known, and others quite unfamiliar.

Often, these distributors sell the Asian lifts under the same brand names, and model numbers used when they actually built product in Canada and the United States, so purchasers should not assume they are receiving the same lift.

At least one distributor is reputed to purchase lift components from various Asian factories and then assemble them in an effort to come up with the lowest price possible. Imagine the fun locating repair parts if this importer/assembler ceases to exist! The motivation for these actions is, of course, price. Suppliers are vying with one another to become the lowest-priced source, which inevitably has a negative effect on build quality, material, hydraulics and accessories.

Asian producers can build in as high or as low quality as you want to pay for. The purchaser or importer calls the shots, so the buying price is determined by design quality, features, volume of purchase, and degree of factory quality control specified.

As time goes on, prices will most likely increase, as they did in Japan and Taiwan. Improved quality, better materials, higher wages, enhanced employee benefits, improvements in working conditions, product liability coverage, etc. all cost money but result in a better product. A higher price can then be asked so that each lift may produce much more profit, with reduced service and warranty problems.

At this point in time there are only two or three major lift companies actually building all their products in North America. The largest and oldest lift company in the world is Rotary (Dover Corporation) who still build their quality products in Madison, Indiana, at their ISO9001 factory. Recognizing the market for lower priced imported lifts, Rotary quickly realized they could not maintain their high build
standard if they purchased “no-name” lifts from various Asian manufacturers.

They felt the only logical alternative was to purchase the leading Chinese light duty manufacturer, Hammecson International, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. They did this in August, 2007. In no time, this ultra-modern plant was functioning at ISO9001 standards just like Dover’s U.S. and European facilities. Like Rotary, these lifts are all ETL-tested and ALI-certified or, are in the process of same. Plus they carry full product liability insurance just like the U.S. products. Brand names used by Rotary for these lifts include Revolution, Direct, and Forward.

If you are buying new lifts, and the label says “Made in China” what should you look for? First consider the price. If it is way below first class lifts such as Rotary or Mohawk, this is to be expected, because, the old truth, “You get what you pay for” applies. If, however, the price is much lower than other Asian lifts, beware! If something is much cheaper there is usually a reason, and it is a good idea to do some homework.

Find out if local parts are available from stock, and, if dedicated service personnel are locally available. Find out who is importing the lift, ask for a copy of their liability insurance, a copy of their ALI certification, and find out who they are and how long they have been around. Have you actually heard of them before? Remember, the importer is the key player in this scenario. If the importer is a fairly well established lift supplier who has been a market player for many years, you may be fine, however if he runs a “here today – gone tomorrow” operation you may get a “Sorry this number is no longer in service” response to your parts, service, or injury call.

Remember, you are probably buying from ajobber or distributor who is, buying from an importer (even though his lift might display a local brand name). He, in turn, is buying from an Asian factory with whom he has ‘cut a deal’ for a container load. Next time he may find an even better deal from an aggressive competitor of this manufacturer. There are many, and they come and go. You have no way of knowing this, so you may receive a totally different, and, possibly, inferior product, and, if and when, you need parts, or suffer breakdowns, you may be out of luck.

Consider this: You may save $500.00 or more on your purchase but what if a major component breaks and you have to wait two months for the next container? Any functioning lift can produce $100.00 per day so, 44 days X $100.00 = $4400.00! Simple math – the price of your bargain lift is now higher than the most expensive on the market. This does not even include communication costs and the frustration of dealing with someone who, perhaps, doesn’t speak your language.

Does the price you have been quoted include anchors, hydraulic oil, freight, delivery, and professional installation, by factory-trained personnel covered by Workman’s Compensation? If the answer is no, you can easily add another thousand dollars to your buying price.

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To summarize, your best bet is to buy an ETL-ALI certified lift manufactured in North America by a well-known company. Take the time to ensure it is actually manufactured in North America, not made in China, and sold with North American labels, decals, and paint.

If circumstances dictate the purchase of an Asian lift, buy from a known distributor who meets most, or, all of the
aforementioned criteria.

Price, of course, is not everything. For obvious reasons we cannot name names, but some of these imported lifts have experienced catastrophic failures resulting in death, injury and property damage.

As mentioned earlier in this article, the blame for this can rest with importers who really dilute their quality requirements in order to offer that low-low price. Others cut the price drastically to grab market
share, so there is little money left to enhance quality, or to pay for good warranty coverage.

By and large you get what you pay for! There are bargains, but you need to cast a sharp eye on the product before you part with your hard-earned cash, or risk your future.

Finally--and this is good news--manufacturers such as Rotary, Mohawk, and others who enjoy a major presence in the truck/bus (Heavy Duty) market continue to manufacture, virtually exclusively, in North America to North American standards. When you have 80,000 lb of iron hovering above you, the odds should all be in your favour!

A major focus of this month’s issue is the “Right To Repair”. If an independent shop wants to compete toe-to-toe with dealerships, the shop needs to be equipped with up-to-date, time-saving equipment which meets the standards laid down by the vehicle manufacturers.

The core of the equipment inventory must be vehicle lifts. Ideally, each bay should be equipped with a lift suitable for the operations performed in that bay. For example, a four post 12-14,000 lb fully-equipped alignment lift for each alignment bay, a four post flat deck for undercoating, 10,000 lb two posters (symmetric and asymmetric) for general service, and, at least, one 12,000 lb two post symmetric for medium duty truck/SUV work, and special lift adapters as specified by the manufacturers, such as ,Honda, Toyota, Range Rover, Mercedes, Nissan, GM, Ford etc.

Many smaller shops get into trouble using home-made or improper lift adapters, so, if you find this to be an expensive proposition, perhaps you could share the lesser-used accessories with other nearby shops. These special adapters are only available from major OEM-recommended lift manufacturers and generally not from suppliers of import lifts.

A bay equipped with a good quality lift will, as a rule, produce 35% more revenue than a bay with no lift at all. Another recommendation is that regulated shop air, electricity, air wrench storage brackets, etc. be supplied to each lift. Saves time – makes money.

This article relates to vehicle lifts only, however OEM standards apply to tire changing, wheel alignment, brake work, air conditioning, diagnostics, etc. No doubt, well known manufacturers such as Hennesey (Coats), John Bean, Hoffman, Robinair, OTC, etc. would be pleased to advise independent shops on recommended tools and equipment enabling manufacturer compliance which upholds your “right to repair”!

Much, much more in the print addition of Auto Atlantic.
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