Motorcycle Lifts – Air or Hydraulic?

Motorcycle owners, riders and dealers are equally benefited by the convenience and productivity of using a motorcycle lift. Whether you are performing routine maintenance, a major overhaul or simply cleaning the bike, a lift helps bring the motorcycle up to a comfortable working position.

Lifts for motorcycles are simple to operate, low cost to own and take up very little to no extra space when you consider you could be parking on top of it.

Lift Types

There are three types of motorcycle lift tables commonly used in the motorcycle shop. All three types are scissor style lifts and are classified by the type of power they use.

They are either powered by air, air hydraulic or electric hydraulic. All three types may vary by the size of the tabletop, wheel vise, lifting height and accessories available.

Weaver TX-1000 Motorcycle Air Lift

Weaver TX-1000 Motorcycle Air Lift

Air Lifts

Foot Operated Air Valve

Foot Operated Air Valve

The least expensive and most popular lift type is operated by compressed air and typically requires only 100 PSI. These lifts are equipped with a foot operated valve that activates an air cylinder to raise or lower. The shop air source is connected to this valve. Most air operated lifts will have a capacity rating near 1000-lbs. and have several locking positions at different working heights.

Most air lifts come with a wheel vise for securing the motorcycle and a drop tail or drop panel to allow better access to the rear end components. It is standard practice to use motorcycle straps to secure the bike along with the wheel vise.

Air Hydraulic Lifts

The second type of motorcycle lifts are powered by air but utilizes an air pump to push hydraulic fluid into the lifting cylinder. The air pump is activated by a foot operated pedal on top off the air pump. Hydraulic oil is stored in the reservoir tank within the pump housing.

Weaver W-1500 Air Hydraulic Lift with Air Pump

Weaver W-1500 Air Hydraulic Lift with Air Pump

Air hydraulic lifts are known for their smooth operation as compared to an air lift. The difference is the fluid allows the lift to operate up and down without the surging sometimes noticed with an air only lift.

Electric Hydraulic Lifts

The third type of motorcycle lift is powered by an electric hydraulic pump to activate the lifting cylinder. This type of lift is generally more expensive due to the cost associated with the electric hydraulic power unit.

K&L MC-655 Electric Hydraulic Lift with Hand Held Remote

K&L MC-655 Electric Hydraulic Lift with Hand Held Remote

Some lift buyers are attracted to the electric/hydraulic lifts for three main reasons.

  1. One is the convenience of electric power.
  2. The second reason is the consistent operating speed and pressure provided by the electric power unit.
  3. The third reason is the added convenience that some lift models have by providing a hand held remote control.

Accessories

Common accessories used on motorcycle lifts add convenience and safety.

Wheel Vises and Chocks

Although most lifts come standard with a wheel vise, there are several variations that may provide added safety or convenience to a particular bike or operator.

One of the most widely used vises consist of a stationary side that is bolted in place and is accompanied by an adjustable side that has a hand crank to tighten the wheel. Some wheel vises are padded with rubber to help protect the wheel finish.

Weaver W-Vise with Rubber Wheel Protection

Weaver W-Vise with Rubber Wheel Protection

Another popular style that allows the strongest grip for heavier bikes is the Crank Style Wheel Vise that squeezes the wheel with 3 pressure points.

K&L Crank Style Wheel Vise

K&L Crank Style Wheel Vise

Wheel clamps or chocks are also available to allow the operator to roll into the clamp over a rocker that closes around the tire. This style of clamp has a variety of adjustments for different tire diameters. Straps are recommended.

K&L MC-10R Deluxe Wheel Clamp

K&L MC-10R Deluxe Wheel Clamp

Side Extensions

Side extensions are a very popular accessory for motorcycle lifts. By adding an extra 12” to each side of the lift table you can accomplish several added benefits. One benefit is the ability to step off of your bike at the same level as the lift when you ride onto the lift. This can add to the lift’s safety and prevent falling due to the difference in floor height from the lift height. The added width also provides more work space for laying out tools or parts.

Another benefit of the side extension is to allow loading wider vehicles such as 4-wheelers, trikes and lawn mowers. Always note the lifting capacity when working with wider vehicles.

Procycle XLT Side Extension Kit with Dolly

Procycle XLT Side Extension Kit with Dolly

Motorcycle Jacks

Motorcycle Jacks are the most popular add on feature for a motorcycle lift. These jacks allow the operator to raise the wheels free for many different uses. Jacks are great for cleaning, brake work, tire repair or replacement as well as many other services. The jack can be placed in a variety of different lifting points depending on the adapters included and the service desired.

Weaver W-BlackJack with Included Adapters

Weaver W-BlackJack with Included Adapters

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