Why ALI Certification Matters When Buying Car Lifts
There are few things as important to an auto shop as car lifts. While you can serve your customers without using a lift, it makes things a great deal harder. Even something as basic as installing a new set of tires becomes a time-consuming, frustrating task for your mechanics. Car lifts simplify that process, allow your mechanics to get up close and personal with vehicle inspections, make brake replacement easier, and much more.
While you’ll find a number of different lift styles, sizes, designs and capacities out there, it’s important that you purchase products certified by the Auto Lift Institute (ALI). Of course, there are uncertified lifts on the market, too, so why does that ALI stamp of approval mean so much?
Who Is ALI?
The Auto Lift Institute is an ANSI-accredited testing facility that has been around since the 1940s. In fact, they are the single most trusted authority in the industry when it comes to testing and investigating lift quality, performance, durability, safety and other important criteria. Today, the company holds true to their mission of “promoting the safe design, construction, installation, inspection and use of lifts.” While ALI does not design or manufacture car lifts, they have been responsible for many of the important changes that have occurred in the industry over the past few decades.
What Does Certification Mean?
What does ALI certification mean, and why is it important? It’s vital that third-parties be involved in the testing of all manufactured products. In this, ALI plays a similar role to other testing companies, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL®). You’ll find that “tested by UL®” notation on virtually every piece of home electronics, and most appliances.
ALI conducts all of their tests in certified testing laboratories, including Intertek, MET Laboratories, and TUV Rheinland. During these tests, lifts are forced to their limits and beyond in order to ensure that they perform as the manufacturer claims, and that they do not pose threats to auto shops or the mechanics using them. In addition to testing the lifts themselves, ALI also verifies that the lift manufacturing process is conducted according to a rigid set of high quality standards.
What Does Testing Involve?
ALI rigorously tests all the lifts sponsored by manufacturers. Testing involves pushing the lift to 1.5 times its weight capacity to ensure complete structural strength. It also involves cycling the lift load several times at 150% beyond capacity. It is all about ensuring that lifts live up to their capacity claims – a 10,000-lb. lift should be able to lift and hold a vehicle weighing 10,000 lbs. without bending or breaking. It’s about protecting against damage to the lift, damage to the vehicle on the lift, or injury or death to the mechanic using the lift.
Types of ALI Certification
Gold label certification is the only certification offered by ALI. However, there are several certification subsets depending on the type of lift in question. At the time of this writing, ALI offered the following types of gold product certification labels:
· Mechanical Only – Not Electrically Operated
· Electrical and Mechanical – US & Canada ETL/Intertek
· Electrical and Mechanical – US & Canada MET
· Electrical and Mechanical – US & Canada TUV/Rheinland
· Electrical and Mechanical – US Only ETL/Intertek
· Electrical and Mechanical – US Only MET
Each of these gold certification labels features very specific information, indulging:
· The words Certified Automotive Lift at the top
· The ALI logo
· The words “ALI certified ANSI/ALI ALCTV-2011”
· The words “safety requirements for construction, testing and validation
· In the case of ETL/Intertek, MET and TUV/Rheinland”, the label will include the laboratory’s logo and information as well.
· A certification label serial number appears at the bottom
Note that until mid-2016, a different type of gold certification label was used, which included the blue ANSI logo at the top left.
Competing Certification Claims
There’s a lot of competition in the car lift industry, and many international lift manufacturers choose to not have their lifts certified by ALI. They either sell their lifts without any sort of testing and certification, or they label their products with a certification sticker from a competing authority.
It is important to understand that ALI is the only recognized car lift testing body in the United States. They are the only organization to work with both OSHA and with ANSI to develop and implement safety and quality standards. Other testing and approval claims are superfluous and indicate that the manufacturer’s product may be inferior in terms of quality, performance or safety. These labels include:
· CE Tested and Approved (this actually indicates that the manufacturer is the one claiming the lift meets international standards, not an impartial third party)
· CE (this mark means that the lift complies with European Union standards only)
· ISO 9000 (ISO compliance is not the same thing as ANSI compliance)
· ALA Certified (ALA is a nonexistent organization but some manufacturer use this logo to get around the need for testing)
· MAMTC Certified (MAMTC was part of Wichita State University, was not a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, and has since been required to stop making testing quality claims).
Lift Certification Requirements
In order for a lift to be certified, the manufacturer must sponsor it for testing with ALI. Lifts cannot be certified by the purchaser (you, the shop owner). In addition, lifts cannot be certified after they have been installed in an auto shop, and there is no guarantee that an installed lift is certified simply because it is required by an insurance company. All ALI certification testing takes place prior to lift purchase and installation, and only lifts featuring the gold label certification should be considered for purchase.
In the End
Ultimately, ALI certification is a must for any lift that you’re considering. Make sure you work with distributors who understand the importance of gold label certification and that they work only with manufacturers who use ALI to test and validate their lift quality and capability claims. Anything less is simply too risky.