How Does An In-Ground Car Lift Work?

Whether you run an auto repair shop or a proud owner of a rental service, you need a strong car lift system for vehicle maintenance. Among many options in the market, the in-of ground car lift system does it so well the vehicle size hardly matters.

So, how does this powerful in-ground car lift work? In short, in-ground car lift works through a hydraulic system which allows the two plungers/posts to rise to a particular height. The hydraulic fluid moves with the help of an electric pump that systematically increases/decreases pressure to the channel. Accessories like swivel arms, lifting pads also help to lift a range of vehicles despite the structural differences. 

Generally, these are the most common components of an in-ground car lift. As the technology has developed so far ahead now we see all sorts of remote access to the lift. Besides, the hydraulic system has also increased its efficiency to lift more heavy cars, trucks, and so on.

how does an in-ground car lift work

One particular feature people like the most about an in-ground car lift is keeping the whole unit underground. Initially, the total length of the lift is under the floor. When you press the button to raise the post only then you will see them. 

Before you attempt to lift any car, make sure you know the procedure of the system or read the specific Car lift guide on that particular model. 

What Is An In-Ground Car Lift? 

The in-ground car lift is a hydraulic car lift system used to lift four-wheel vehicles. It uses either elevator-style or scissor-style posts that lift the car or truck off the ground. The main feature of an in-ground lift is, the posts can be lowered and hidden from your view like under the floor when not in use. 

It’s no surprise, in ground car lift has been the most popular vehicle lift system for a long time. Its ability to lift heavy vehicles, reliable hydraulic mechanism, and convenient underground setup is that a professional garage needs. Besides, it looks so cool to see posts rising and going back into the floor.

If you have seen other car lifting tools, you know how they can be a mess in a tiny space. An in-ground car lift is more of a clutter-free garage tool that won’t take your precious floor space. That’s where the name in-ground car lift comes from. 

Despite all that benefits, not everyone can settle for an in-ground car lift as they involve complex installation process and high price tag. There are also some environmental issues associated with an in-ground car lift that sometimes outweighs the features. 

Are In-Ground Car Lifts Safe? 

When it comes to safety, an in-ground car lift has sufficient features to carry out auto car repair work without worries. But the way it mounts underground, there are a few concerns that can harm the environment. Let me explain. 

Like any hydraulic car lift system, it runs on special fluid that exerts pressure to move or lift objects. As the system needs a lot of hydraulic fluid it has a reservoir close to the system. In the case of an in-ground lift system, the system is placed underground as well as the rest of the components. 

The thing with hydraulics is they can leak due to high-pressure operation. Now what do you think when an in-ground car lift leaks fluid, where does the oil go? Underground of course! It can even seep deep into the natural water repository, contaminating the ecosystem. 

That’s why you see a mandatory oil barrier and other safeguards in the installation of an in-ground car lift. The EPA regulation ensures that the leaking oil from your in-ground car lift doesn’t affect the environment. 

How Much Does An In-Ground Car Lift Cost? 

There has been a growing demand for in-ground car lift among the auto shops whether it’s a small or big. Besides, various rental shops also prefer using an in-ground car lift only because it doesn’t pose any ground clutter around the area. 

That said most shop owners can’t afford to buy an in-ground car lift due to its high price tag. Plus the system also needs expert installation that also adds cost to the unit price. This might be viable for shops that have a huge turnover, for others, this is just too expensive.

The general price range of an in-ground car lift can be around $10,000 to $90,000 depending on the weight capacity. And the cost of installation is about $10,000 or so which includes cutting a hole, implementing oil leakage safeguards, and making concrete walls. 

If we add all the costs together you can expect from $20,000 to $100,000 for a complete setup. Not to mention the amount of time you need to complete the project. Obviously, the service you get from an in-ground car lift in terms of price is unparalleled to any other car lift system. 

How To Install An In-Ground Car Lift? 

Installing an in-ground car lift is always a challenging task due to the involvement of precise measuring, cutting, and filling operations. You should always hire professionals for this kind of task as they have the proper tools for it. If you damage the unit in time of installing, you might lose the warranty coverage.

With that in mind, we can give you a rough idea of how the installation process takes place and the related steps that are required. 


This is the most important step of all, taking a precise measurement of where you would place the system. Park a vehicle on the desired place to see the optimum post and the cassette (whole system) placement. Mark each point and make sure you have enough space for post accessories for the future. 

Cutting The floor 

After you take all the measurements of the floor, it’s time to cut it with a circular saw. You will be cutting the floor deep enough so you can remove the concrete slab easily. After the cutting operation attach bolts on the severed floor, lift the piece with a forklift or suitable crane. Also, remove soil according to the height of the in-ground lift unit. 

Placing The unit 

Now that you have finished all the preparation, it’s time to put down the cassette underground. Place the unit in line with the floor level and make sure it stays undisrupted throughout the process. Professionals always bolt down the cassette with steel bars until the installation process is complete. 


Your in-ground car lift may come with several operating selections like wall-mounted buttons, remote control unit, and so on. Whatever the cases, you need to take necessary action to fulfill those connectivity requirements.

Safety Guards 

As an in-ground car lift uses an enormous amount of hydraulic fluid, there’s a higher chance of leaking into the ground. EPA has been enforcing oil leakage safeguards to prevent any environmental damages through various means such as installing sensors, a special type of concrete-cement fill-up so the oil doesn’t leak underground. 


After you have filled the rest of the open space with cement, wait till it dries up. After a couple of days when the floor is solid, it’s time to test your in-ground car lift. Before you do that make sure you have lubricated the post and have ample hydraulic fluid level. Now raise the post several times fully without any weight. If all goes well now try with a weight. In a nutshell that’s how you install an in-ground car lift in a garage. 

How To Remove An In-Ground Car Lift? 

Just like the installation process the removal process of the in-ground car lift also has vital parts that need a professional touch. These include getting rid of old hydraulic fluid, removing contaminated soil, sending damaged parts for recycling, and so on. For your understanding here is an overview of the whole process. 

  • Cut the concrete floor to access the post from the inside. 
  • If necessary, also remove soil around the unit for easy removal.
  • Pull out the hydraulic fluid and dispose of it properly. 
  • Pull the posts with a heavy-duty crane. 
  • Pry remove the cassette with cutting equipment. 
  • Remove as much as you can from the contaminated soil. 
  • Refill the hole with gravel/soil. 
  • Recycle all the damaged parts properly.

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Frederick James is an expert mechanic with years of experience under his belt. He excels in diagnosing, troubleshooting, repairing, and modifying everything related to automobiles including but not limited to cars and pickup trucks. Read more...

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