Choosing the Best Engine Hoist or Other Tool for the Job

Let a hoist — or crane or roust-a-bout — do the work next time you need to remove an engine. 

 

When it comes to working on vehicle engines, access is key to getting the job done. Whether you’re repairing an engine or replacing one, it’s often necessary to remove the engine from the vehicle. That’s where an engine hoist, roust-a-bout or gantry crane comes in handy. 

The engine of a small car might weigh only a few hundred pounds, while the engines of large commercial trucks can tip the scale at more than a ton. No matter what size engine you’re working on, you’ll probably need a tool to help you remove it. The following three tools are likely your best bets. (It’s also possible to use a chain hoist, but you’d need some overhead infrastructure to mount it to.)

Engine hoist

As its name suggests, an engine hoist, aka cherry picker, is designed to help you to lift the engine from a vehicle and set it elsewhere while you work. Most are hydraulic. Foldable options, like this knockdown model, make storage easy. Engine hoists are versatile tools that can be useful any time you’re working with heavy car parts, said Joe Aucoin, manager of regional maintenance at United Rentals Tool Solutions. 

Most engine hoists can lift at least a ton, but check the rated lifting capacity of your tool against the weight of the engine you’re moving. 

Compared to other hoisting options, engine hoists have a low overhead and slim footprint, making them good for home mechanics and anyone working in a confined space. Because they come in one piece and can fit into the back of a truck, they’re easy to transport and set up. Wheels make them easy to move around the workspace. 

Engine hoists do have one potential drawback: They’re not meant to carry a load over time. “They’re used to pull a motor and place it on a table,” said Aucoin. Before moving an engine, it’s important to figure out where you will place it to work on it. 

Roust-a-bout

If you can’t get your hands on an engine hoist, a roust-a-bout will likely do the job just as well. Like an engine hoist, a roust-a-bout is great for working in tight spaces, said Aucoin. It has a base that is 6 feet by 4 feet, and it stands about 8 feet tall. Using a manual crank winch, it can lift loads of up to 1 500 pounds, enough to move most engines. It comes as one unit and is easy to transport. 

Gantry crane

A gantry crane consists of two A-frames joined by a beam that supports a load. Although a gantry crane isn’t specifically designed to function as an engine hoist, it can be a good option, particularly for heavy-duty jobs, said Aucoin. That’s because gantry cranes can support massive amounts of weight, up to 10 tons in some cases. They are usually disassembled for sale or rental, with three sections that can be joined together with four pins. Assembly is easy, even with just one person. 

The gantry crane has some advantages over other engine hoisting options. It can support the load over time, so you don’t need to find somewhere to place the engine while you do your repairs. “You could work off the gantry crane as long as you have it supported properly,” said Aucoin. That means making sure all components of the rigging system are rated for the amount of weight you’re lifting. In addition, gantry cranes are well suited for work on vehicles with long hoods. Since the beam is 8 feet to 10 feet long, it can reach over the hood to the engine when a traditional engine hoist can’t. 

Gantry cranes aren’t the best option for small spaces. They are 8 feet to 10 feet high and equally wide, so you’ll need a large space to use one. 

Having a proper hoisting setup can make working on or replacing a vehicle’s engine much simpler. If your space is limited, choose an engine hoist or roust-a-bout — just remember that you’ll need somewhere to place the engine once it’s out of the vehicle. If you have plenty of space, a gantry crane is an equally good option. 


Kelly Burch is a freelance writer who covers business, manufacturing and consumer guidance. 

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