They say it takes a crew of three or four men to assemble a four-post lift, and they’re right. The only reason I did mine by myself* is that my crew flaked out on me. I do not recommend this procedure.
(*with crucial help from my wife)
So here is how it happened.
Three months or so ago I spotted a used, unassembled four-post on Craigslist and decided to take a look. I’ve wanted a lift for the back bay for years but never really though it was in the cards. Too expensive. Kind of beyond my dreams.
But this one was for sale for $1500, so the lightbulb went off. Knowing this was a definite marriage decision, I humbly and tentatively asked my wife what she thought of the idea.
“I think you should definitely get it,” she said immediately.
Taken aback, I asked why she thought such an extravagance made sense.
“You work so hard out there,” she said. “I don’t like it that you’re on your back all day.” It went on like that. I couldn’t argue.
So I took a look at the never-assembled lift. It was a bit rusty, and the place it was stored in had been in a flood. Not knowing enough about these things to judge its condition, I passed. But since I now had permission for the concept, I set about pricing out other options and soon enough settled on a Direct Lift Pro Park 8 from Derek Weaver. The $2200 price tag seemed reasonable enough, but there was a catch:
On the web site and elsewhere, a two-step delivery process was outlined. For those without a forklift on hand, Derek Weaver would ship the lift to a freight handler which would fork the package over to whoever was taking the lift to its final destination.
This presented a logistics challenge. The shipped package weights about 1800 pounds and is 14 feet long: way too big for a pickup truck bed.
I looked into renting a trailer and found one that could handle the load for $150 a day, but I wasn’t sure my truck could tow it. Started discretely inquiring with the neighbors (all of whom have bigger trucks than I do), and started looking for other ways. My friend Alan, a long-time professional shipper and truck driver, suggested a lumber yard might take the job on. I asked my local 84—no go. I asked another place. Nope. I called Derek Weaver to see if they had any tips. Not really.
This went on for weeks. After an email inquiry, a Weaver sales rep sent me a list of three companies that he said specialized in taking lifts the final mile and assembling them. The first company wanted to do the whole thing for about $500. This would not have been a bad deal, in retrospect, but I wanted a delivery only price and they were reluctant, and expensive at about $300. The second and third companies on the list did not respond to my inquiries. Another assembler I found on Craigslist was the same: two phone messages, no returned call.
Finally I went out to All Landscape Supply in Sykesville and ordered the slate patio I’d been planning. I’ve been buying concrete walls from them for a few years, part of an elaborate three-tiered terraced garden in the back yard. The little patio will crown it. The All Landscape guys are car guys. There’s a photo of a fat-fendered gasser doing a wheel stand up on the wall. So after committing $1100 or so for cut rock I asked Terry, the guy at the desk, for a favor.
Delivery of the lift was $150 extra. They dropped it in the driveway as instructed.
Now all I had to do was move it the last 40 feet into the garage.
I got four Harbor Freight furniture dollies (which are supposed to be rated 1000 pounds), jacked up each end of the package and slipped them under. Now the rig was ready to roll. It wouldn’t budge. Karen and I tried to push it with all our collective weight and muscle for about 15 minutes and succeeded only in busting one of the wheels off one of the dollies.
I left it in the driveway over night. After work the next day I re-arranged the dollies under it and pushed it in the garage with the truck.
By now I’d called in my cavalry, the neighbor’s grandson, who is strong and a hard worker. He’s done great work before on the backyard, usually bringing another thick-necked dude for a day with the shovels and buckets as I’ve finished off each of the garden tiers. He was busy this weekend but could do it next. I started examining my new lift.
Three weekends came and went. Family obligations intervened. I did not hear from my main man, despite several calls. Finally I just got on with it.
Having cleaned-out and re-arranged the garage two years ago, I’d not realized how much junk I’d simply piled into the back of this bay with Bridget. I also had to take down the cabinets on the east wall to make room. Found a poster behind them. Took it down too.
With everything out of the bay, I’d now blocked the path through the garage, stalling work on the terraces until the lift job is done. Pushed the lift into the bay and set up the engine crane.
The ramps form the top and bottom of the package, bolted to steel frames for shipping. A pretty elegant solution. The top ramp, with the hydraulics, is the heaviest single part. I’m guessing around 350 pounds. I took stuff out—all the stuff fit between the ramps can be carried easily enough.
I set up the posts and the cross bars with the lock-ladders in them. Not too hard to do, and I would have been able to stand them up myself if I had a nice, strong metal pole or something to tie them together at the top. As it was, I had Karen come out and pick up a post.
Getting that top ramp flipped over was a chore. Again, I needed Karen’s help to steady it and make sure I did not end up dying alone, trapped under something heavy.
We set it on the hastily fabbed-up wooden engine stand I used for the Suby head gasket job.
The other ramp was comparatively light. I found that I could actually flip it by hand.
It was at this point that I discovered I was missing one of the eight big ramp mounting bolts. The bolts used to package it for shipping are the same, just a little shorter. One of these will do for now.
Now I felt like I was in business. It was 5 p.m. on Saturday and all the heavy work was complete. I thought. Those with sharp eyeballs will notice something I didn’t: that right-hand ramp is backward. See the little lip on the left side? The one on the right has one too—they have to face each other.
I had to screw that wooden engine stand back together after damaging it with the heavier ramp. I unbolted the right ramp and pushed it left, the idea being to flip it onto the other ramp, slide it off to the wood box engine stand, rotate it 180 degrees, slide it back on the other ramp and flip it back over onto the cross bar. I ended up getting Karen to help with this. We got it done by about 7:30. And then I called it a night and took some Advil.
The next day began the fettling. I installed all the lock-out linkage with some difficulty, as I didn’t have quite the 9 feet of leeway at the back of the lift that the instructions mandated. The rods come with nice Heim joints but are otherwise fiddly, and I tried them on three or four ways before reading through the directions more carefully to get them as instructed. I still couldn’t get the nuts onto the levers on the close side of the unit: no threads. I thought it was paint but I couldn’t get it to go away with brake fluid, and I also couldn’t get a die on it to cut new ones.
Installed the caster wheels to move the thing where it will need to go.
It moves easy with them on.
I put the motor on it, hooked up the hose, filled it with three gallons of expensive mineral oil and turned it on.
Leaked like a sieve at the L joint on the ramp. Because I’d never tightened the joint as instructed in Step 1 of the instructions.
So I crawled under the dripping ramp with a couple wrenches and a channel lock. I got it tight enough, but now the hose that leads to the cylinder is spring-shaped from the twisting. So that means I’ll have to re-do it, and make another mess.
It was good enough to test though, and the lift worked. So now it’s down to adjusting the cables and the lock ladders to keep everything level.
I hope to get Bridget on it after work one day this week.