How Many People Does it Take to Lift a Car?

October 26, 2023

Every so often, a story surfaces about someone with some sort of hysterical strength lifting a car or something that no one would ever normally be able to lift and saving someone who was pinned underneath. But if you really examine the facts about a typical car and what it takes to lift one, this type of feat is pretty impossible.

First, let’s be clear: the average car weighs more than 2500 pounds. Even a smaller smart car is over 1500 pounds. Even the strongest human being on earth wouldn’t be able to lift that much raw mass off the ground. There’s also the issue of how you’re lifting the car. Cars are designed with a chassis/support structure and, with the engine in the front, you’re only lifting half of the vehicle. This makes the front of the car significantly easier to lift than the rear.

Another consideration is the fact that you’re not actually lifting the entire car, just a portion of it. The weight of the vehicle is distributed across several points on the body, or in this case, the chassis, so each lifting point requires a different amount of force to be supported. So, it’s not as simple as going by the lift’s overall capacity; each of the two or four telescoping arms has its own lifting capacity.

For these reasons, it is imperative that technicians receive proper training on the use of a lift before they attempt to spot or lift a vehicle. This training should be based on the lift manufacturer-provided instructions and warning labels, as well as the ALI publications Quick Reference Guide, Vehicle Lifting Points for Frame-Engaging Lifts, Lifting It Right and Safety Tips and the ANSI/ALI ALOIM (current edition) Standard for Automotive Lifts "Safety Requirements for Operation, Inspection and Maintenance."


Traffic Dave is on a mission to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.
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