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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Choosing the Best Engine Hoist for Your Classic Car Restoration or Repair

Classic car restorations and repairs can be a challenging task and doing so requires a specific set of tools. If you are working with an engine or need to access specific areas in the engine compartment, you will almost certainly need to lift the engine out of the vehicle. For this task you will need to use an engine hoist which is a tool specially designed to lift heavy objects such as engine blocks effortlessly. In this article, we will try to explain various types of hoists you can use to lift engine blocks and other heavy car parts and compare them, so you can choose the best engine hoist for your next restoration and repair projects.

Hydraulic engine hoist

Most home-mechanics use a hydraulic hoist over chain or electric hoists because of one clear advantage. Hydraulic hoists are the only type of hoists that can be used on a floor and don’t have to be installed above the ground. The structure of a hydraulic hoist consists of a main post to which other parts of the hoist are attached, on bottom there are two legs with 2, 4 or 6 casters which allow to roll the tool across the floor. On the top of the hoist is a telescopic boom, usually with 4 extension positions for reaching engine block located further into the engine compartment, at the end of the boom is a steel grab hook where lifting slings or chains can be attached with load at the other end. The lifting is done using a hydraulic jack that is located in the middle of the hoist and is screwed to the boom and the main post. Most hydraulic engine hoists have foldable design, they can be folded twice the length for convenient storage.

As mentioned, the biggest advantage for using a hydraulic hoist for engine lifting is that it can be used practically anywhere, only conditions are that the surface of the ground must be firm and level so casters of the hoist do not stuck into the ground, which means that the hoist can be used indoors as well as outdoors. Another advantage of a hydraulic engine hoist is the high maximum lifting capacity of the tool, the average lifting capacities of hydraulic hoists are 2 tons which is more than enough for most engine blocks. Hydraulic tools are known for their reliability and effectiveness, so if you want the most secure tool for your car works, a hydraulic hoist is going to be the best choice.

Because of the large size of a hydraulic hoist they usually come disassembled, so you will have to assemble the tool before usage. This may take from half an hour to two hours depending on the size of the hoist and quality of assembly instructions. Once you have assembled the tool it is ready to use, there are no need for other installations. Operation of the tool is also pretty easy, there are simple, quick release pins to change the hoist from folding to working position and back or to extend the boom. To lift a load, you must insert a pumping bar into a socket located at the bottom of the jack and pump it to increase the pressure inside the cylinder and life the ram. Lifting pace of the hoist is not the fastest but also not the slowest, a hydraulic jack will lift an engine quicker than a manual chain hoist but slower than an electric hoist.

When looking at the price, a hydraulic engine hoist will cost from 200 dollars for models with 1 ton lifting capacity to couple thousand dollars for high capacity lifters. The most common 2-ton models cost around 300-400 dollars. This is about 3 times more expensive than manual chain hoists, but few times cheaper than a reliable electric hoist.

Manual chain engine hoist

Manual chain hoist is the simplest type of hoist that can be used for engine lifting. This tool features a gear mechanism that multiplies the force applied to the system when operator pulls the hand chain and uses this force to move the lifting chain and lift a load attached to the chain. Basically, a manual chain hoists consists of two chains – hand and load chain, a gear mechanism in the head of the hoist and two grab hooks, one for attaching the hoist to a mount and other for attaching a load to the load chain.

The biggest advantage of a manual chain hoist is its price, you can get a manual chain hoist with 1 ton lifting capacity for less than 100 dollars, in comparison, a decent electric hoist with 1-2 ton capacity will cost up to 1000 dollars, at least 10 times the price. Another plus for using a chain hoist for engine lifting is if you have limited space in your service station or garage, because this tool takes the least space from all engine hoist types, so it can easily be stored somewhere in your work place.

The lifting capacities of manual chain hoists start from few hundred kg and goes up to 2-3 tons, so you can find a suitable chain hoist for most engine blocks. Operation of the tool is also pretty simple, the operator must pull down the hand chain to lift up the load, however, the lifting pace of the tool is slow, in fact slower than with hydraulic or electric hoists.

The biggest drawback of a manual chain hoist is the limitation of areas the tool can be used. While you can use a hydraulic engine hoist practically everywhere, you need a place above the ground to install a manual chain hoist. This immediately excludes outdoor usage unless you build a special scaffolding for the hoist. If you manage to find or build a suitable area above the ground to install the hoist, there is another problem, when you have lifted the engine out of the car, you will need to move it away from the car and store it on an engine stand for repairs. This can be done either by moving the engine away from the car or car away from the engine. To move the hoist with an engine you will need to build a trolley system which will increase the cost of the tool and at the end the amount of money you will save by purchasing a chain hoist instead of a hydraulic hoist will turn around and you will have spent more for a chain hoist to have the same functionality as a hydraulic hoist. However, if you have a proper place to install the chain hoist, you can save a great amount of money by getting this type of hoist instead of a hydraulic or an electric hoist.

Electric chain and wire engine hoist

The operation of an electric chain and wire hoist is very similar to a manual chain hoist, but instead of need to manually pull the hand chain to lift a load, this hoist type features an electric motor and can be operated using a remote control.

Where the electric hoist has advantage over other types of hoists is ease of usage and operation pace. Because this is an automatic tool, the person operating the hoist doesn’t need to either pump anything or pull the chain multiple times to lift the load but can simply press a button for effortless lifting and lowering of weights. Also, electric motor allows to lift loads at faster pace than with a hydraulic or manual chain hoists. The lifting capacities of electric hoist are similar to other hoist types, starting from few hundred kg to 2-3 tons.

However, you will have to pay a lot more for these features than you would for hydraulic or manual chain hoists. A decent quality electric hoist with 1-2 ton capacity will cost around 1000 dollars which is well above the price range of any hydraulic hoist and almost 10 times more than the cost of a manual chain hoist with similar lifting capacity. You also must consider that an electric chain hoist has the same drawbacks as a manual chain hoist when it comes to installation limitation and needs a special mount to install the hoist above the ground and a trolley system if you want to move the hoist around.

Which type of hoist is the best for engine lifting?

To choose the right type of hoist for engine lifting you must consider few factors:

  1. How frequently you are going to use the hoist and are you going to use it also for other lifting tasks?
  2. How much you can spend for the lifter?
  3. Does the place you are working in allows to install a manual or electric chain hoist, and does it have enough space to store a hydraulic hoist?

If you have a proper place to install a manual chain hoist above the ground or can build one suitable for your needs, the manual chain hoist probably is going to be the best type of engine hoist for your needs, as it has got the cheapest price, can lift few ton heavy loads and is very easy to maintain and repair. However, for most building such a mounting to install a chain hoist is either too expensive or isn’t possible at all. For those I would suggest getting a hydraulic hoist that will cost you more, but you will get a reliable tool you can use practically anywhere, including outdoors and won’t have to worry about any addition installation needed for the job. And lastly, if you own a professional car servicing station and need to lift heavy loads pretty often and want the best and most effective way to do it, I suggest getting a high quality electric hoist that will cost you more, but will provide the fastest and most convenient lifting experience.

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