Lawn equipment servicing dealers, along with landscape contractors looking to handle their own routine mower maintenance, could benefit from having some type of service lift. A safe, properly designed lift sure beats the jerry-rigged cinder blocks and forklifts some guys put into production.
There are two main options for accessing the underside of a riding mower: an overhead lift such as the Heftee 2000 or a jack-style lift such as the Pro-Lift T-5500. An overhead lift costs much more, but could be worth it, according to Scott Fore, president of Heftee Industries, manufacturer of both overhead and jack-style lifts.
"We have a number of contractor customers who run their own service shops and service their own fleets," says Fore. "We typically supply them either a Heftee 2000 or 4000 (overhead lift). If you're lifting the entire riding mower, you should be using (this type of) lift in a workshop environment." That's why most reputable dealerships with fast-paced service departments also have overhead lifts, often from Heftee.
But there's a time and a place for the less-costly jack-style lift. "Common uses are blade changing and sharpening, under-deck cleaning, tire and wheel changing, and belt work," says Seth Derstine of Pro-Lift.
"Our Heftee 900 (jack-style lift) is really designed for a dealer who is running a mobile service operation," Fore explains. "It fits into a truck or trailer. In that environment the only thing you could really do is lift up the front wheels of a riding mower." That's primarily what a jack-style lift is designed to do.
You have to know what you're looking for before you buy a jack-style lift. First of all, understand lifting capacity. "Both wheel bracket weight capacity and platform weight capacity are important," Derstine points out.
The Pro-Lift T-5500, for example, has a 500-pound wheel bracket capacity. This is how most maintenance is done as the front tires of the mower settle onto the wheel brackets, and the front end of the mower is lifted up. Since zero-turn riding mowers have 60-75% of the weight differential in the rear, Derstine says, the T-5500 could easily lift a 1,100-pound mower from the wheel bracket.
Platform weight capacity is also important to look at, Derstine reminds. "Having the ability to lift the back end of the mower, or even the front end via the deck, makes the lift so much more versatile," Derstine explains. The T-5500 has a 750-pound platform weight capacity.
You also need to look at the width of the lift, as the lift obviously needs to accommodate the wheelbase of the mower.
Finally, safety is paramount. The T-5500, for example, features an auto-locking mechanism that incrementally locks into place as the mower is pumped to full height.