So you are in the market for a frame rack. Let’s first review a couple terms, and ensure we are on the same page when discussing options. Some may think that a “frame rack” is a general term for all machines used to hold vehicles during repair, that is only partly true. A frame rack is primarily used while performing repairs on framed vehicles, such as trucks and large SUVs. Benches however, are designed more for unibody vehicles such as compact SUVs, sedans and sports cars.
Today, let’s assume your shop is primarily servicing trucks and large SUVs, so a frame rack is exactly what you are looking for. (However, stay tuned for Repair Benches 101, if your shop services primarily cars and smaller SUVs.) When looking to purchase your first frame rack, or to upgrade an existing one, there are several factors you need to take into consideration. Though it is impossible to tell what each shop needs exactly, we have narrowed down the top 3 requirements when choosing the right rack.
Ensuring that you rack will have sufficient power to make the pulls necessary to do the job is critical. Some larger commercial trucks such as ¾ ton Ford, Chevy and Dodges will require a greater amount of pulling power than small smaller ½ ton based trucks and passenger SUVs. When reviewing the power of different racks, make sure to know the pulling power of the machine as well as its towers. Also, check how much power the machine delivers at the hook, or to the chain. Some systems may use powerful 10-ton rams, but the actual power at the hook may be as little as 4 tons. The Goliath™ frame rack from Chief features 10 tons of pulling power at the hook – right where you need it.
When choosing a rack, you want the most bang for your buck. Buying a rack with limited functionality would not be the best move, and one that could continue to cost your shop money. Things to look for are: wider and longer decks to accommodate larger wheel bases, tilting platform for easy loading and unloading, and movable towers that give you a greater number of pulling positions. Also, look for racks that have anchoring adapters that allow you to work on other types of vehicles. Some racks offer accessories for holding unibody vehicles giving you the option to work on passenger cars if the opportunity arises.
Ease of Use and Ownership
You want your rack to have many options and features, but also want your techs to be comfortable with the machine. A frame rack with a high learning curve will be more difficult to implement into your shop, and could deter some of your technicians from utilizing all its capabilities. Working height should also be a priority for the shop owner as it is definitely a factor for your techs. You will also want to look into the manufacturer’s customer service options. Is it U.S. based, available both online and over the phone, do they use local distributors, do they stock replacement parts? All of these are very important, and make a big difference in your day to day operations.
A frame rack is a large investment, and one that will impact your shop immensely. Taking the time to understand the differences of each will serve you well in the long run. Valuing the opinions of your techs and shop personnel will also help in the decision process as well as boost shop morale.
If you are trying to outfit a new shop, or simply upgrade your existing one, take a look at our Body Shop Checklist to ensure you’ve got what you need.