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MG MGA - Car hoist

Seeing Steve Simmons car hoists on his excellent web site prompts me to ask opinion between servicing pits and a car hoist.

All being well, I will be in my new house within the next 2 months. The house has the mandatory double garage, so I am not short of space, but my aching bones are calling it a day for lying at awkward angles under the car. I am debating whether to sink a pit and install one of those prefabricated shells or buy a hoist similar to one on Steve's website. I have not investigated the relative costs yet, so that may well be a major factor.

All thoughts most welcome.

Steve Gyles

I believe that a proper post hoist is the best, especially for us old folk.
With the pit method you are always climbing in and out.
For example when working on the front suspension you need underneath access, then side access, then back under.... infinitum.
I have had an example of the dangers of problems with the time taken to get out of a pit.
The previous owner of my brother's auto mechanic business was badly burnt in the time it took to get out of a pit when a fuel fire started.
I would not like working on a SU electric fuel pump on a MGA when in a pit.

M F Anderson

Would you mind please posting the link to Steve Simmons site - thanks
Graham V

Sorry - should have look at other postings. Now found MG Nuts
Graham V


Here in Connecticut(U.S.)pits are no longer legal. The thinking being that gasoline (petrol) being heaver than air will sink to the bottom of the pit leading to a potentially very explosive mixture. Another short coming of the pit is the inability to spin a tire without still jacking the car up.
David Werblow


Missed you on Sunday. Good collection of cars I will go again. There appears to be similar events on 3rd August and 18 September, the latter combined with a steam fair.

Steve Gyles

I have a pit which nowadays I seldom use (there is often a car over it!). I do not have the height for a "proper" hoist but recently bought a secondhand (hydraulic) one that will lift a car about 3 or 4 feet (surplus, from a tyre place). When not in use a car (even an MG) can park over it so it doesn't need any separate space. They usually have a 3phase pump but I bought a secondhand manual pump. Works well, good for working on brakes/suspensions etc.
Barry Bahnisch

When I built my house six years ago, I had a clean slate and decided that the lift was the best way to go. It gained me an adjustable heith working station and also provided an extra "parking bay" as like Steve I parke a car or alot of junk underneath the lift.
I bought a four post lift as it was the least expensive, had the greatest under clearance, and the posts were not too obtrusive on the work space. I also, like Steve "lofted the garage ceiling and angled the overhead door to follow. That allows me to raise the MGA so that I have a 6 foot clearance under the lift and can park another car there.
Go for the lift.
And if regulations permit add a floor drain in the garage. I have a gas heater and with that and the floor draing can wash the vehicles inside year round.
All these things must be considered when constructing a proper "man space".
James Johanski

I wouldnt go for the pit either Steve.

Many years ago I was electric welding some sills (rockers?) on a friends mini working from below from a pit.

Apart from my usual difficulty in electric welding thin bodywork from underneath( most of the weld dropping down onto my head rather than onto the body! ), it was going quite well.

But after about 20 mins of kneeling on the unfinished rubble at the bottom of the pit, my knees were beginning to cry enough.

Very kindly, my friend threw me down an old foam cushion to kneel on which was much more comfortable.

I recall welding the last section of the sill but then the next thing I remember was lying on the garage floor with two of my friends slapping at my jacket.

Apparently the foam had caught fire from the welding sparks and the smoke created was so toxic it rendered me incoherent and unconscious after about 3 minutes.

My friends thought that my conversation had become a little strange for a time ( obviously ,not an unusual occurence for me!) but it was the subsequent silence that made them realise that something was wrong.
When they got me out my jacket was smoldering nicely.

So go for the hoist Steve, it is definitely on my list.

Now I have reached 60 I have to admit that I even jack the car up to do the points or set the valve clearances as it is just so much more comfortable.

Colyn Firth

Steve, I too would say go for a hoist. A friend of mine has a pit, and whilst is is a bit better than laying under a car, it does not allow access to everything and I find I have to stand on something to reach some parts. I tends to smell a bit musty and one day I nearly walked into it in a moment of absentmindedness. Pits are dangerous, go for a hoist.
Lindsay Sampford

Glad I asked the question. I am listening and am leaning towards the hoist option.

Next question then, what should I be looking at? 4-post? electric/hydraulic/manual?

I want to keep the cost in limits. I don't envisage using it for anything other than the MGA or similar. Occasional use. Preferably bought in the UK (courier costs).

Any recommendations on a supplier?

Steve Gyles


4 post every time but a lot are 3 phase. An electronic phase converter will set you back about 200.

There are quite a few 4 post lifts on eBay. It will give you an idea of how much they go for.

Malcolm Asquith

Hi Steve

There are benefits to either a 4 post or a 2 post depending upon the job being tackled.

Fitting an exhaust or welding sills are easy on a 4 post. However the wheels free of the 2 post comes in handy for suspension type work.

If you can only fit one type then a 4 post is probably the best option. It is a must however that you also buy the jack that rolls back and forth under the car. This jack can often cost the same as the 4 post lift!

Most lifts are hydraulic and have a small hydraulic pump to provide energy to do the lifting. This is very often powered by 3 phase but single phase motors are available for home use.

I have fitted 2 of these 4 posts lately for a friend that were bought via ebay at less than a grand and we have swapped one motor to a single phase and the other I used an inverter to convert his single phase to 3 phase to operate the lift. This requires a competent electrical person to make this work (pleased I managed LOL)

To save on this agro of buying on ebay simply buy a 4 post with jacking beam at 230V from a reputable supplier and they will install it for you. I see there are some great offers about at the moment for these and though they are from China perhaps they will be fine. Don't confuse chinese cheap parts demanded by MG owners with competent equipment manufactured by the Chinese to a standard that will work.
Robert (Bob) Midget Turbo

Hi Steve,

I filled in two pits, can write a long list of reasons why not to have them!

I have a two post and a four post and would say the two post is vastly superior for working on the car. The four post wins in terms of speed when you want to have a quick look under a car (or several).

I was given an old but virtually unused four post Bradbury (with jacking beam) and it was a very simple installation. No issues with switching from a three phase to a single phase, I just switched the motor (about 70 new).

I bought the two post new and collected and fitted myself (I would highly recommend anyone who isn't so tight to pay for delivery and fitting!) from these guys:
Excellent quality at a pretty competitive price.

Definitely go for the hydraulic (and cable) type. I chatted to a couple of local garages and got the same advice not to buy an electric screw type, lots of problems apparently.

In contrast to Bob, I would say get a two post rather than a four post, using both regularly I can't think of any job I would rather do on the four post (that said I haven't welded sills yet). The four post is very useful for doing tracking by eye though!
N McGurk

Like Lindsay said, I tend to smell a bit musty myself on a warm day now that I have reached 60!

( Lindsay,I presume that you really meant to say that the pit tended to smell a little musty and not you?)

Colyn Firth

Not that it seems to be needed, but throw in my opinion to go for a lift as well. One problem not mentioned yet is water. If you have a high water table, or the tendency to get water in the garage when it rains, then you may have a problem with water collecting in the pit which will have to be evacuated.

As for lift types, try this page for a few ideas:
Steve S

Has anyone tried the Ezcarlift made in the US?
I realise it is a compromise but it is portable and can be used in a single car garage. 26" would help me!
Problem for us here in the Australia is freight is about $US500.
Mike Ellsmore


There are many types of scissor lifts available in Australia. The main problem with the one you show is that you still have lay under the car.
I think Steve is after the "Homo Sapiens" type where you can stand up.


Have you looked at the post type where you do not drive the car on to the two "planks"?
I prefer the type where four pads swivel inwards from the posts and contact the car at four separate places.
Much better access. With some of that type the pads can fit under the chassis or under the wheels giving the option of the wheels being loaded or unloaded.

M F Anderson


I think that type you are describing is the 2-post.

I am very appreciative of all the information flooding in. before I started the thread I was presuming the pit was the simplest way to go. Those stories above have now stopped me in my tracks. I will be going for lift, but have yet to do my research on 2 Vs 4 post.

May be Beaulieu this weekend will have a couple of display items.

Steve Gyles

I own 2 12 bay auto repair shops. In the one I use are 6 Rotary SPOA10 hoists, 3 old SPOA9 and an older 4 post hoist. The 9 2 post lifts are asymmetric. Asymmetric hoists have shorter front arms allowing the doors to be opened while the car is on the lift. I installed them all myself. In the shop I rent out are 3 more Rotary hoists I own and 3 more that are tenant owned. I built a 6 bay shop in 1984 and installed 2 inground 2 post hoists and the 4 poster that I still have. I have used single post inground hoists years ago. I also had a 2 post inground hoist where one post was under the rear axle and the other slid in the ground to center under the front axle. I even had a single post above ground portable hoist in one shop for a while. An employee bought it from a body shop and it was in my shop for a year or so.
The 4 post hoist is rarely used. Right now it has a MGA both on and under it. The lighter hoists are a bit narrower and on smaller cars are preferred. Quality hoists are worth the cost. The 4 poster is over 30 years old and has had one replacement motor and a new set of cables 5 years ago. It is in its 4 home. The 5 9000 lbs lifts were bought in 1992 and have been moved once and have never needed any repairs. Using Rotary brand hoists means parts will always be available.
In ground hoists pose an environmental risk that a homeowner should avoid completely. The building I built in 1984 just sold. Before the buyer can get financing the 2 inground hoists must be removed and a "clean" engineering report must be filed with the state, much like an underground oil storage tank closure report. There are more environmentally friendly underground hoists today but the cost, complexity, lack of portability and possibility of future liability make them an unwise choice for a homeowner.
Drive on hoists are a hassle for service work but are better for storage. If you plan on storing cars on hoists long term the car should sit on its wheels. The 2 post asymmetric above ground lift are my choice for a service lift. A 4 post drive on for storage. There are some "portable" 4 post lifts that don't need bolted to the floor. All 2 post lifts get bolted to the floor. A light,7000#, portable 4 post hoist can be had new for $2000 from Northern tool.
If you are building a garage a 12' ceiling height is a plus. All the 2 post hoists I have require it as a minimum.
A rolling jack makes it easier to use a drive on hoist for service. A less expensive solution is 4 small jack stands and one or two tall supports. After raising a car you can lower it onto a support or 2 until the tires clear and then put jack stands under the car and then raise it up off the support. Repeating the process for the other end so it sits on 4 stands.
The SPOA10 hoists were $3200 delivered. The last hoist I bought for a tenant was a used Rotary and I paid $1000 for it.

I have rambled on long enough for now.
R J Brown

"All 2 post lifts get bolted to the floor"

I wonder if this will be a problem for the average homeowner. Most home garage cement floors are poured at 4" if I'm not mistaken.

"If you are building a garage a 12' ceiling height is a plus. All the 2 post hoists I have require it as a minimum"

So are the posts on a 2 post lift 12 feet high?
JM Morris

These hoists are 11'8" over the top. There is a configuration to lower them 4". The hydraulic line and the balance cables run over the top in this type of hoist. There is another type of 2 post lifts that run the cables and hydraulic line under a hump on the floor between the posts. On the pictured style there is a limit switch that turns off the hoist if it goes too high. The other style is shorter, usually under 8',but has no protection from hitting ceiling. Here is an ad that sows both styles.

R J Brown


I think that one will be a bit large for my double garage! In fact it would have to go outside and lift the garage with car inside.

I have seen a number which have about 7 to 8 foot posts that should suffice. I looked at a UK made Hamer lift that I think I will avoid. It is raised one corner at a time by 3 inches:

Interestingly, when I had my MOT the other day I sat in my car whilst the mechanic raised the lift. The car stopped about 6 feet short of the dropped ceiling. I looked up and saw a number of puncture holes in the plaster board. He said they were from vans that had their roof racks in place!

Steve Gyles

- "In ground hoists pose an environmental risk that a homeowner should avoid completely."

Many of the latest models have done away with toxic hydraulic fluid, and now run on either "bio fluids" or water and air!

RJ, I would be interested in your impressions of the 2-post in-ground lifts. I'm considering one in a shop I'm planning.
Steve S

Rotary has what they call a smart lift. See:
I believe this is what you are talking about.
Price difference installed $4000 vs $11000.
This is the current production of what I bought in 1984. They are the greatest lift to work on of all.
If I was not worried about what "might" be an enviornmental issue I might have stepped up to the price. $66,000 (their estimate) vs $19,200 (what 6 cost me in 2004).
R J Brown

One point I did not see mentioned above is that you have to have a good concrete base to bolt the 2-post hoist into. I think 4 inches or more is the spec, but check that prior to pouring your garage floor.
I bought a used HOFFMAN screw 2-post hoist, for $500 and installed it myself with the help of a friend. The posts are heavy and it needs an A frame or similar the pull them up with a tirfor or similar.
The 240V single to three phase converter box cost me $200.
My new garage has a 14' high ceiling.
Without this hoist, I would not have been able to finish my coupe restoration, which by the way, rolled out of the garage last Thursday, had mech inspection and Aircare on Friday, and I drove it 150 miles on Saturday!
P. Tilbury

The Automotive Lift Institute in the US has an interesting web site on car hoists.
Mike Ellsmore

Hi RJ, Smart Lift is indeed one of them. There are actually several "eco-friendly" in-ground lifts on the market now.

I'm not quite clear on what the two lifts are that you're comparing cost against. Eco-friendly versus non? Good to hear they are so good to work on. I was hoping they would be as nice as they look.
Steve S

Steve I am comparing the Rotary 2 post inground Smart lift against the Rotary 2 post above ground lifts that I bought. On the Rotary site THEY estimate the cost of each hoist with installation at $4000 and $11000. The hoists I bought were $3200 each and installation including electric hookup would have cost the other $800 per hoist. My experiance supports the $4000 figure. I assume that their $11000 figure is also accurate.
I installed my own. I needed help standing up each post. Two to three people and no lifting equiptment is all it took. Once both posts are up you can complete the assembly of the hoist. The posts then need to be positioned in relation to each other and located in the garage. I cut a 2 by 4 steel tube, wood could be used but I had the steel and 11 hoists to install, to the dimention between the post mounting plates and using a 2" nylon tie down strap cinched them together so they they square and the proper distance apart. It was then easy to position the hoist and drill the holes in the floor and bolt it down. NO floor is level so each hoist comes with shims to level them. Use a 5' level to check that each post is plumb before and during the bolt tightening phase. When I moved the 5 9000# hoists from my old building to the new ones It took 4-6 people to move a fully assembled lift on and off of the trailer and to stand them up. I also have a wheeled engine hoist that came in handy while working alone.
I just built a 15' by 32' garage at home for my MGs. I had the floor poured 5" thick overall and 6" in the area a hoist might go. I will no be installing one at this time. The garage is big enough for 4 MGAs 2 motorcycles a snowblower and my workbench as is and I have hoists at work if needed.

R J Brown

I moved recently and had to leave my four post lift behind (the house buyer wanted it and given the housing market, I wasn't going to argue!).

I replaced it in my new home with the Maxjax (see picture).

It is basically a short two-post lift that is designed for people that don't have much ceiling height and might want to move the posts out of the way when not being used.

The posts can be unbolted from the floor and rolled aside on their own casters.

The downside versus a 4 post is that you can't use it for storing a car, although that really isn't an option in a low-ceiling garage.

It also will not allow you to stand under the car-- a rolling stool such as one in the picture is a good idea.

These are now sold in the UK. See or for the US site.

I recently replaced the front brakes and shocks on the MGA and it was a dream to work on the suspension while standing up! I like it better than my old four post for that kind of work, although positioning it on the lift is a bit fiddly with getting the arms in the right place.

BTW, if you get a four post you don't HAVE to have a bridge jack. I fabricated a "bridge" on mine out of heavy duty steel (actually, the heavy pieces used to package the lift) and a bottle jack. It worked fine, though the ramps still tended to get in the way.

I've looked at the but could never justify the price for what it does. The Maxjax costs about the same or less and it lifts higher with a clear floor. There are also four post lifts that cost about the same or less.

David Littlefield

This thread was discussed between 10/05/2011 and 12/05/2011

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