Engine cranes, workshop cranes, or engine hoists, as you can imagine, are used to carefully lift and remove your car’s engine. Whether you’re an avid vehicle hobbyist or plan on opening your own auto shop, you absolutely have to have one of these hoists in your workshop. There’s absolutely no way you’re going to rebuilt or restore an old engine while it’s still situated under the hood.
Workshop cranes may look a lot alike and come with the same features, but the hidden details matter quite a bit. In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at workshop cranes and find out what sort of things you need to consider when shopping for one. But before we jump into our buying guide, let’s see what our editors claim are the three best workshop cranes you can own today.
3 Best Workshop Cranes
AC Hydraulics WJN5
The first item on our list is a relatively unknown workshop crane from AC Hydraulics. The WJN5 really deserves a lot more love than it receives for its sturdy build and maneuverability. First of all, the WJN5 stands at roughly 5 feet high so its hydraulic pump is always within reach. It comes with an adjustable boom that starts at 37-1/2 inches and extends up to 54 inches from the main frame.
The maximum lifting height is 92 inches off the floor. The wheels on this badboy make it easy to move around your workshop thanks to the two fitted wheels up front and the two swivel casters in the back. When it’s time to put the WJN5 away, it takes literally seconds to bring the legs in and up, the hydraulic jack to its folded position, and the boom down and out of the way.
Pro Hoists Commander 1000 Series
The Commander 100 Series from Pro Hoists is a lot different than what you’d normally expect to find in an auto shop, but this doesn’t mean won’t serve a purpose. Built mainly for large construction projects, the FM5122 is built to stand the test of time and take punishment throughout its lifetime. Unlike the AC Hydraulics, the Commander 1000 is a stagnant unit that does not have casters but rather rests on a base that needs to be bolted onto the ground.
For the average workshop, this may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but if you run an auto shop and have cars parked at a specific spot, then it won’t be a problem at all. This hoist has a maximum load capacity of 1,000 pounds when the boom is fully retracted. When extended to the max, the boom reaches a length of 66 inches with a load capacity of 400 pounds. This hoist comes with a hand-crank wench, but if you’d really like to speed things up, consider picking up the compatible motor (sold separately).
mymerlove 2T Folding Engine Crane
The third and product on our list is the 2T Folding Engine Crane by mymerlove. The first thing we noticed is the 6 casters that hold the frame up. All 6 of them swivel 390° to help turn and strafe the hoist to wherever you need it. The four rear casters come in handy when the unit is completely folded up for storage as they keep it standing upright without needing wall support.
The boom can be set up at four different positions. From fully retracted to completed extended, the boom measures in at 41-4/5 to 63 inches and can lift anything between 1,000 and 4,000 pounds. Although the hook found on the end of the boom does not rotate, the actual hoist does, so removing gas engines and most diesel engines can be done with a certain level of grace and without scratching (assuming you know what you’re doing).
Workshop Crane Buying Guide
If none of the three products mentioned on the list above are available to you or you’d like to do your own shopping, you can use this quick buying guide to determine which model is the best choice. Here are the criteria we used to select our top picks.
One of the saddest things about workshop cranes is that they’re not all built the same. What we mean by this is that some modes are made of questionable materials that aren’t durable enough to lift what they’re meant, and this can lead not only to buyer’s remorse but also expensive repairs (imagine dropping your car’s engine onto the floor from more than 5 feet up!). Luckily, it’s a lot easier to find steel workshop cranes than aluminum or other less-dense material.
Boom Length and Adjustability
The length of the boom needs to extend over the hood of your car without making contact with the bumper. The ideal length depends on how long the hood. All workshop cranes made for auto shops are built with long booms, or their booms can extend to just less than twice the length when fully retracted.
The less contact the workshop crane makes with your vehicle, the better off you’ll be. This means taking a look at the legs of the crane and determining whether they’ll slide underneath your vehicle without touching your car’s bump and/or wheels.
This is perhaps the most important spec to pay attention to. You need to know how much weight the hoist can lift before investing in one. Not all car engines are the same weight and size, so first determine how much your crane needs to lift then find a model based on that figure. Luckily, at least for standard auto shop work, most cranes are made to lift up to at least 2,000 pounds – more than enough for a standard gas engine – but there are several models that can surpass the 2-ton mark.
As you can see from our list, workshop cranes can either be maneuverable or stagnant. In our opinion, workshop cranes on wheels are the much better choice since they don’t take up much room at all, even when fully extended. In the case of the Pro Hoists Commander, a stagnant crane, you can mount this baby onto anything without worrying about it slipping and sliding around. If you’d like to attach it onto the bed of your truck, there’s nothing stopping you (additional mounting parts sold separately).
Whether you’re happy with working a hydraulic pump or manually reeling in the chain/line is up to you. However, if you’d like to speed things up, then a motor could be the perfect add-on for your workshop crane. Not all cranes are compatible with motors, so before settling on a particular model, make sure that the manufacturer either has motors for sale or other brands can supply a compatible motor.
Last but not least is the foldability of the workshop crane. When it’s time to close shop for the day, folding up a crane and placing it in the corner will leave your auto shop/garage looking more spacious and will not become a tripping or bumping hazard. Even the Pro Hoists Commander can be folded up after being removed from the mount.
1. I need to pick up [name of object with an awkward shape] that weighs [less than the crane’s weight capacity]. Will this work?
Throughout this article, we’ve focused mainly on using a workshop crane to lift car engines since that’s what they’re mainly used for, but there might be the odd chance of you lifting something else such as a stack of 8 x 6s. Even though the object you’re lifting is far below the maximum weight capacity of the crane, you also need to consider the shape and size. If, for instance, the objects are evenly balanced when hooked to the hoist, then there shouldn’t be a problem lifting them. However, you have to use your own judgment to avoid lifting things up since they may cause the boom to either drop to the side or collapse downward.
2. How long does it take to assemble a workshop crane?
Honestly, even without experience, you should be able to finish assembling the unit in 30 minutes – 60 minutes tops. Putting a workshop crane together is as simple as snapping the pieces in place, tightening a few bolts, and attaching the wheels to the legs. The manufacturer provides online instructions for those who don’t receive a manual in the box.
3. Does the boom extend past the legs?
In most cases, no, it does not. This is done intentionally to maintain the crane’s center of gravity and reduce the risk of tipping forward when hoisting heavy objects. We’re not recommending you do this, but some customers have talked of having specially made extensions for their booms that reach beyond the length of the legs. This, however, completely throws the minimum weight capacity off whack, and the manufacturer will assume responsibility. We won’t either, for that matter. If you’d like to modify your workshop crane, do so at your own risk.
When it comes to lifting and moving heavy objects around your garage or auto shop, there’s no better tool than a workshop crane. In this article, we’ve taken a look at the top three workshop cranes according to our educated editors, and we’ve thrown in a quick guide on the things you need to keep in mind when shopping for an engine hoist. Hopefully, after following this guide, you’ll have a good idea on what sort of things make for a high-quality workshop crane and purchase an excellent model that works best for your situation.