What Are The Best Engine Hoists? (2020 Review Guide)
Lifting the engine out of your car or truck seems like a near-impossible task best left to a professional mechanic – but it’s easier than many people think!
An engine hoist allows home mechanics to safely and easily remove their engine for maintenance or replacement. Of course, lifting an engine is a serious job. You want to select the best engine hoist for your needs.
Whether you’re an experienced mechanic looking for tips, or someone who doesn’t even know where to start, we’re here to answer all of your engine lift questions. Check out our six favorite engine hoists for 2020 plus a complete buyer’s guide below:
- Considerations When Choosing the Best Engine Hoist
- Type of Hoist
- Weight Capacity
- Load Leveler
- Storage Ease
- Best Overall – Torin Big Red Chain Block
- Best Cheap Option – Torin Steel Engine Leveler
- Best Value for the Money – GoPlus Two-Ton Shop Crane
- Honorable Mention – OrionMotorTech Engine Hoist
- Honorable Mention 2 – Dragway Tools Folding Hydraulic Engine Hoist
- Also Consider – GoPlus Lift Electric Hoist
- What is an Engine Hoist?
- What are the Benefits of an Engine Hoist?
- Lift Engines
- Lift Other Gear
- What are the Different Types of Engine Hoists?
- Hydraulic Hoist Pros
- Hydraulic Hoist Cons
- Electric Hoists
- Electric Hoist Pros
- Electric Hoist Cons
- Chain Hoists
- Chain Hoist Pros
- Chain Hoist Cons
- How Do I Use an Engine Hoist Safely?
- Final Thoughts
Considerations When Choosing the Best Engine Hoist
Type of Hoist
You have three options:
- Hydraulic – Simple and easy to use, they’re popular but can be expensive
- Electric – Although not as powerful as hydraulic, they’re the easiest to use
- Chain – A strong winch with a classic design preferred by many pros
We’ll dive into the details below. For now, keep in mind that different hoist types have different features.
Weight capacity is the most important factor to consider bar none. After all, if the hoist can’t hold your engine, then what good is it?
Check your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s engine weight. Note that the engine weight is different than the vehicle weight or payload capacity. Also, don’t forget to include the extra weight of any aftermarket components.
The capacity of the hoist must exceed the weight of the engine. Give yourself plenty of extra room. Ideally, you should use a hoist capable of lifting twice the weight of your engine. Increased capacity equals increased safety.
The weight capacity for a hoist typically varies based on the position of the boom. Extending the boom reduces capacity.
Look for hoists with an adjustable boom. For example, many 4,000 pound hoists have four holes, each representing a different 1,000 increment. If you wanted to hoist a 2,000-pound engine, you’d set the boom in the 3,000-pound slot on the hoist.
Adjustable booms typically aren’t extendable. An extendable boom allows for greater reach. They’re convenient if you frequently work on multiple different vehicles. However, extended booms have reduced weight capacities compared to non-extended.
The hoist should be easy to move but also stable. Note that most electric and chain hoists mount in place, so portability mainly applies to hydraulic hoists.
Hoists typically have two, four, or six castor wheels.
Generally, you should stay away from two-wheeled hoists. They typically struggle to stay stable. Considering a hoist can cause serious damage and injury if it tips over, two-wheels aren’t worth the potential risk.
Four-wheels are the most popular type. They rotate 360 degrees so you can move them around your garage with ease. Plus, four wheels create a solid foundation when removing most modern engines.
Finally, six-wheeled hoists provide the most support. They’re ideal for the largest, heaviest engines such as those found in large trucks and commercial vehicles. On the downside, six-wheeled hoists are the most expensive. Plus, they take up a fair amount of space, which can make them awkward to move around the garage.
A load leveler is an important accessory which helps stabilizes the engine. Without a load leveler, the engine is prone to swaying, which increases the risk of accidental damage.
Load levelers include a hook and multiple chains. They attach to the engine at several points to help distribute weight evenly when lifting.
Single-chain hoists still get the job done. However, using one requires extra care, especially when lifting large truck engines.
Although it costs a little more than a single-chain hoist, a multi-chain load leveler is usually the best option.
Hoists are large enough that you’ll need to consider how they’ll fit in your garage.
Chain hoists are usually the easiest to store. After all, they’re mainly just chains. When unhooked from the ceiling or mounting bracket, you can fold them up and put them in a locker, closet, or cabinet.
Storing hydraulic hoists gets more complicated because they’re larger and often awkwardly-sized. Most people prefer foldable hydraulic hoists. They have frames with removable pins. Pulling out the pins lets you fold the frame down for easier storage.
Electric hoists are often the most difficult type to store. They don’t have a foldable option because the internal electric components get in the way. You’ll likely have to store this type of hoist in the corner of your garage as best as possible.
Avoid poorly-made hoists. You want one made with tough, reliable components. Look for the following features:
- Steel caster wheels capable of 360-degree rotation
- Steel construction
- Chains made from forged steel
Two factors have the biggest influence on the price:
Price often increases with the weight capacity. If you’re on a budget but need a heavy-duty hoist, a chain type will be your best option.
Generally, hydraulic hoists are the most expensive, chain hoists are the cheapest, and electric hoists run somewhere in the middle.
Quick Picks: Compare The Top 3 Best Engine Hoists
Best Overall – Torin Big Red Chain Block
A powerful, simple-to-use chain engine hoist portable enough for home use but strong enough for commercial applications.
- Powerful chain hoist
- 2,000-pound capacity
- Multiple safety features
- Smooth, reliable operation
- Eight-foot lifting range relatively short
- Doesn’t include a money-back guarantee
Compact but powerful, the Big Red Chain Block from Torin is the best overall choice for most at-home mechanics. It has a 2,000-pound lifting capacity which is enough for most modern engine blocks.
The hoist’s premium alloy steel is cold-rolled for increased durability. Black oxide coats the 1/4 inch chain to help protect against corrosion. It has an eight-foot lift range. Roller ball-bearings and four chain pockets keep operation reliably smooth and free from sway.
Safety is another plus here. The two steel hooks have a safety latch and mechanical load brake to prevent sudden movement.
Aside from automotive maintenance, it’s the best overall engine hoist for most commercial construction projects. Torin is a trusted leader in automotive repair dating back to 1968.
On the downside, they don’t mention any warranty.
Best Cheap Option – Torin Steel Engine Leveler
Increase stability and safety with this affordable engine load leveler compatible with most standard engine hoists.
- Affordable engine leveler
- Increases stability when lifting
- Supports up to 1,500 pounds
- Handle knob falls off fairly frequently
A leveler helps the engine stay stable during the lifting process. Titan’s leveler is an affordable option which works well with most hoists, including those on our list.
It uses a four-hook system to distribute weight evenly, which reduces swaying. The engine lifts out of the vehicle cleanly and without damage. It supports up to 1,500 pounds.
Additionally, it only weighs 2.5 pounds. It’s easy to store in a drawer or cabinet when not needed.
Although generally well-constructed, the knob on the handle is fairly loose and can fall off, especially when turned counter-clockwise. Fortunately, it re-attaches easily.
Best Value for the Money – GoPlus Two-Ton Shop Crane
A heavy-gauge engine crane with four adjustable positions and a foldable design for easy storage.
- Engine crane with a 4,000-pound capacity
- Features four adjustable positions
- Folds down for easy storage
- Includes extendable boom
- The hydraulic cylinder can bleed
- Doesn’t include assembly instructions
GoPlus’ engine hoist offers strength and stability at a price lower than many similar models. It has heavy-duty structural steel with an eight-ton ram hydraulic cylinder.
The engine crane is versatile with four adjustable positions between one half and two tons. Its closed-boom capacity is 4,000 pounds while the extended capacity is 1,000.
Plus, it’s a foldable hoist. Remove the pins to fold it down for easier storage, although it’s still a fairly large unit.
It’s a six-wheeled hoist. Wheels swivel 360 degrees. Overall, its excellent maneuverability is one of its best features.
Finally, it’s long-lasting and easy to clean. Exterior paint adds corrosion resistance and anti-rust properties. You can use it outdoors or in wet conditions for extended periods without worrying about damage.
Honorable Mention – OrionMotorTech Engine Hoist
Small and mighty, this engine hoist lifts 4,000 pounds safely thanks to the included load leveler and two chains.
- Heavy-duty hoist
- Includes load leveler
- Heavy-duty steel construction
- Doesn’t fold down
OrbitMotorTech’s chain hoist includes everything you need to lift engines up to two tons. It includes the hoist, a load leveler, and two load leveler chains. Everything is made from high-grade steel.
It’s a great option if you want a strong hoist, but your garage doesn’t have much room to spare. The unit’s total dimensions are 21 inches long by eight inches high by two inches wide. It should fit in a corner or other out-of-the-way location (although it’s not foldable).
Plus, the included load leveler means you don’t have to buy one separately. You can easily keep the load balanced when lifting. The two chains allow for even weight distribution.
Honorable Mention 2 – Dragway Tools Folding Hydraulic Engine Hoist
Dragway Tools’ folding hoist is an excellent option for lifting safely and effectively. It features six fully rotating steel castors that help you reposition the hoist easily and move in whatever direction you need to move.
- Able to lift much higher weights than typical engines
- Rotating castors increase mobility
- Folds for storage
- Assembly can be challenging
- Significant reduction in weight capacity when extended
Dragway Tools’ folding hoist has a 12 inch forged steel chain suitable for lifting with reinforced welding and an easy-to-use system. The boom range is 102 inches, and it comes in a cherry red color. It’s capable of lifting up to two tons with premium steel. The open boom capacity is up to 1000 pounds while the closed boom increases to 4000.
It comes unassembled, but it could be challenging to get it together. The assembly does have directions, but it can take some time to get everything together. Double-check that you’ve gotten all the pieces in the right places. The legs may begin to buckle after some use, so check it periodically for safety.
However, for most nonprofessional jobs, this can provide excellent support and give you plenty of leeway to lift a variety of things. Most engines are rated far below that weight, so you shouldn’t have any trouble. It uses premium steel and a solid frame in most cases. Be careful when you maneuver it, however, under the weight of more massive objects because the leg joints can sometimes wear sooner than other joints.
Also Consider – GoPlus Lift Electric Hoist
Strong and safe, this hoist features a steel shell with two heavy-duty lift hooks and a powerful electric motor.
- Easy-to-use electric hoist
- Includes two hooks
- Features multiple safety systems
- High-quality steel construction
- Low maximum weight capacity
- Requires wall outlet
Electric hoists do the heavy lifting for you. This hoist from GoPlus features two lift hooks, a 39-foot cable and steel clamp brackets. The high-quality Cooper motor is ETL approved with excellent heat dissipation and low energy consumption.
Its maximum load capacity is 440 pounds (220 pounds for each hook). Unfortunately, that’s far too low of a limit for most larger engines. However, it does lift quickly. A single hook lifts objects at 13 feet per minute while double hooks lift at twice that speed. The maximum height lift is 39 feet.
Cable quality is high. It’s made with carbon steel to ensure reliable tensile strength even when lifting at max capacity. Plus, the cable is braided to help prevent twisting.
Operation is simple thanks to the remote control. Save your hands and arms from tedious hand cranking. Instead, raise and lower the cargo with a press of a button.
It’s safe, too. A thermal protection device helps prevent damage from overheating while automatic braking helps stop cargo fall.
What is an Engine Hoist?
An engine hoist is a specialized tool used to lift engines out of the vehicle. If you need to remove an engine, a hoist usually isn’t optional.
After all, you can’t lift an engine out of a vehicle by hand. The only way to manually remove an engine is to dismantle it – and even that’s not always possible when the engine’s in the frame.
Engines need removal for two reasons:
- Complete engine replacement
- Existing engine repairs
Major engine overhauls or rebuilds are easier and quicker with an engine lift. Removing the engine allows for greater flexibility to work. You don’t have to deal with space constraints caused by the hood and frame.
Engine hoists are also called shop cranes, engine cranes, and shop hoists.
What are the Benefits of an Engine Hoist?
Engines hoists have two main benefits:
The first benefit is obvious. Engine hoists are the only way to lift an engine out of a vehicle. Without a lift, you’ll have to dismantle the engine to remove it. Plus, removing an engine without using a hoist greatly increases the risk of accidental damage.
Lift Other Gear
An engine hoist is a miniature engine crane. While it’s designed specifically to lift engines, it can also handle a wide range of heavy equipment. Engine hoists are frequently used in:
- Boatyard Maintenance and Repair
- Commercial Manufacturing
An engine hoist is the safest way to lift and move large, heavy equipment.
What are the Different Types of Engine Hoists?
Here’s a closer look at the three major types:
Hydraulic hoists use the power of hydraulic pressure to lift the engine. They have a hydraulic cylinder filled with fluid. You pump the jack to raise and lower the boom.
They’re one of the most popular types of hoists because they’re easy to use, affordable and capable of lifting several tons (depending on the specific model).
Plus, they’re the most portable option. They’re mounted onto wheeled gurneys or similar frames. You’ll find them in two, four, and six-wheeled options. The ability to roll the hoist around is a major benefit for at-home mechanics, who often must work in cramped quarters.
Hydraulic hoists have three sections:
Generally, you want each component made from high-grade steel. The exterior might have a light dusting of anti-corrosion material.
On the downside, hydraulic hoists don’t lift particularly fast. If speed is what you need, a chain hoist lifts much faster. However, hydraulic hosts are faster than electric.
Also, hydraulic hoists have a fairly large footprint. Make sure your garage has enough room. As discussed above, look for a foldable hoist to help save space.
Finally, hydraulic hoists need a flat surface for safe operation. Otherwise, the casters can roll the hoist out of position. Of course, you shouldn’t perform any auto maintenance on a car parked on an uneven surface, anyway.
Hydraulic Hoist Pros
- Easy to use
- Large lifting capacity
Hydraulic Hoist Cons
- Slow lifting speed
- Require large storage space
Electric hoists require the least amount of effort by far. Press a button on the remote control to raise and lower the engine. Not only are they the easiest to use, but they’re also the fastest.
However, electric hoists have lots of disadvantages, too. They’re the most expensive type of hoist. Most people don’t find that the increased speed is worth the extra cost.
Also, they’re the weakest type of hoist. You won’t find many which lift more than 500 pounds. They’re decidedly not a good choice for working on trucks and SUVs.
Industrial and commercial settings commonly use electric hoists for specific processes. DIY mechanics typically choose either a hydraulic or chain hoist.
Electric Hoist Pros
- Simple to operate
- Ideal for someone working alone
Electric Hoist Cons
- Limited weight capacity
- Requires access to an electric outlet
Chain hoists are the classic type used, in one form or another, by mechanics since the invention of the car. They use a chain and gear system to lift cargo. Although they require a bit more work to use, they also have quite a few benefits.
First, they’re the strongest type of hoist. They can lift several tons. Many mechanics refer to chain hoists as indestructible – and they’re only half-kidding!
They’re usually the best value, too. A typical mid-range chain hoist costs much less than a high-end hydraulic hoist, but the former will lift as much weight as the latter.
On the downside, they do require some manual effort. To be clear, you’re not lifting the engine with your physical strength. However, you do need to pull the chain to activate the gear system, which then lifts the engine. Pulling the chain isn’t usually an issue for most healthy adults, but it’s still more work than pressing a button.
Also, chain hoists require special mounting. You’ll need to affix the hoist to a secure point above the vehicle. While this isn’t an issue for a professional shop, it’s not always possible in a home garage.
Finally, they’re the slowest type of hoist. Using a chain hoist is a far more active process than using an electric or hydraulic one.
Chain Hoist Pros
- Largest lift capacity
Chain Hoist Cons
- Slow lifting speed
- Requires ceiling mount
- Operations require some physical effort
How Do I Use an Engine Hoist Safely?
Shop cranes are safe to use as long as you follow all the instructions. However, any mistakes can result in serious damage or injury, so take your time and never lose focus.
First, double-check the weight capacity for the hoist and the weight of your engine. You’ll find the engine weight listed in the owner’s manual. Remember, don’t cut these numbers close. The maximum capacity for the hoist should far exceed the engine’s weight.
Next, disconnect all mounting bolts, wires, and hoses. Your vehicle’s instruction manual has the specifics. Label parts and take pictures. Labels and photos help significantly during reassembly.
Attach the chains or slings to the rear and front of your engine. The specific spots vary based on the make and model of your vehicle. Exhaust manifold bolts are a common attachment point.
Center the hoist above the middle of the engine. Connect each chain to the hoist hook. You’re now ready to lift.
Lift at a slow pace until you’re sure the engine will safely clear the bay. Never place any part of your body underneath the engine while it’s in the sling.
Once the engine clears the vehicle, lower it into the engine stand or blocks. Don’t work on an engine suspended in a hoist. A hoist is only used to move the engine, not hold it for extended periods.
Lifting an engine is next to impossible without a trusted hoist. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend big to get a hoist you can count on. When searching for a shop engine crane, consider the following:
- Your engine’s weight
- The size of your garage
- How often you’ll lift the engine
As long as you follow proper safety procedures, using an engine lift is safe, fast, and effective. Don’t take your engine apart for maintenance and repair. Instead, take your engine out of your vehicle, where you can work on it comfortably and safely.