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What is an Engine Crane?

By Bobby R. Goldsmith
Updated May 23, 2024
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An engine crane is a piece of automotive repair equipment that lifts an engine block out of a vehicle, or installs an engine block into a vehicle. An engine crane is capable of lifting various types of engine blocks with multiple configurations of lift points. Unlike an engine stand, an engine crane is not usually manufacturer-specific. An engine crane built for engines of smaller passenger vehicles is not capable of lifting heavy engines out of industrial engine equipment. Engine hoists are not a suitable substitute for engine stands, and are only meant to support the weight of an engine for a short period of time.

Most engine cranes follow a basic design that features a main lift arm, which moves vertically, powered by a hydraulic pump that is actuated by a lever at the base of the crane. At the apex of the lift arm is an extender that telescopes outward over the engine compartment of a vehicle. A chain attaches to a loop on the forward end of the extender and also attaches to the engine at lift points. The lift points are usually situated on the intake manifold and cylinder heads. The chain should be fitted with engine mount bolts, as these provide the thickness and length to prevent fracture.

The crane is constructed with twin legs that have omnidirectional caster wheels so that the crane can be easily moved. A mechanic needs to exercise caution when moving a crane laden with an engine around the shop because the engine will swing under the lift arm like a pendulum and may cause serious injury. An engine should never be lifted out of a vehicle by only one person.

Prior to removing an engine from a vehicle, a mechanic should prepare the area for the free movement of the engine crane around the vehicle and the shop. An engine stand should be placed as close as possible to the area where the engine removal will take place. Engine cranes should not be used to transport engines any farther than is necessary, so a mechanic should ensure that a suitable engine stand is ready.

Engine cranes should not be used to store engine blocks. The weight of an engine will stress both the crane and the common lift points on the top of the engine. The bolts securing the chain on the engine can shear off. This would require a machinist to retap and die the bolt holes, delaying the engine repair.

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