Hydraulic Lift Failed With My Car On It!

I have a 2009 Ford Escape with 10K miles on it that has been in the process of getting a new transmission and axle replacement at the dealership. They had left it up on the lift with the front wheels off and the engine half taken apart and on a jack under the car for support. The service staff arrived this morning to find my car on the ground. The exterior looks ok aside from a large scratch in the driver’s side door and the fact that my driver’s side mirror is hanging off. The rotors/brakes seem to be detached and hanging, and the engine is sittng on the ground approximately in the right place wrapped in a chain. No one can say how fast it fell. It looks like a crime scene right now while they wait for the insurance adjusters to inspect it. What are the main things I should be most concerned with at this point? I want to protect myself from any potential structural damage/internal bleeding. I am also a bit worried about what this will ultimately do to my resale value. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!

Thank you sooo much!!

Take lots of pictures.


The shop’s insurance company is going to have to pony up and give you a new Ford Escape. The amount of damage that can occur from a lift fall is pretty immense. We are talking frame damage in the front end of the truck, since the axle was removed, brakes hanging loose, and possible damage to the engine from an engine stand being attached to the car as it fell.

The question I have is what happened to your truck after only 10k miles that it needed major work? So much for Ford being more reliable than other makes.


What went wrong with the trans and axel this early? I ask because I am very much against major work like this based on satisfing the customer and I have seen these things done when not really necessary. Accidents happen and you don’t want to allow work on your car simply because you have a warranty.

There is nothing to fear about the lift accident and I think having the trans out this early hurts the resale value more than the accident, so don’t tell any potential buyer about either.

I saw a Corvette experience the same fate as your Escape except the jack supporting the car got pushed throught the floor of the Corvette.

I visualize the lift slowly comming down which is in contrast to how Bladecutter sees it which I conclude is the car falling off the lift

2009? 10K miles? I would say they owe you a new car. You are insane to be thinking about resale value. They need to make you whole. And if it did indeed fall, anyone could say how fast it fell if they knew how far off the ground it was when it began to fall. Isaac Newton, perhaps you’ve heard of him? Anyway, it’s irrelevant. They have rented you a car to use while they find a new one to replace the one they damaged, right?

Sorry to sound harsh, and I’m probably overstating it (but not much) to say they owe you a new car, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, and you sound resigned to getting a damaged car out of this deal. Also something about the service arriving in the a.m. and mysteriously finding your car on the ground sounds fishy. Maybe spend a couple hundred bucks to talk to a lawyer.

OSHA should be contacted as well. If the safety locks on this lift are not operating then dealership could be facing some huge fines as well.

The transmission needed replacing because once the car was warmed up, whenever I tried to accelerate from the speed I had been cruising at (ex to pass on the highway) the car would drop out of gear and rev up to 6K rpm. When I brought it in, they found that the axle was leaking transmission fluid (apparently a very common problem with the new Fords) on further inspection, the mechanic said that the transmission case was “oblonged” due to an improperly placed bushing, and when he opened up the case he said it was a mess in their not to mention the fact that the fluid was full of metal shavings. Sorry if my terminology is lacking, but that was the gist that I got from him.

I did wonder about this. Even though it doesn’t look too bad on the outside, I am extremely worried about the frame/engine/etc. At this point, the adjusters are looking at it to decide if it would make more sense to fix or junk. After I hear from them, I am going to figure out what to do next. I may very well have gone down slowly, but it tipped backward and the lift supports got jammed in the wheel wells and gouged them out and separated the fender from the door a little bit

first meet with a lawyer, take pictures from various angles at dealership, tell dealership you want a new vehicle,finally acknowledege that you can contact OSHA. I certainly would not accept this vehicle back. Frame damage inevitible

Maybe some of your own insurance coverage will get your insurance company to lawyer this for you. E.g., if you have collision coverage, they might ask you to pay the deductible up front (or take it out of your settlement with them), then they would go after the owner of the lift, and then after they settled you would get your deductible back. That’s how it worked for me when my car got totalled. Check with your insurance company.

A properly operating lift CAN NOT “fall” spontaneously. There are mechanical locks that must be released before the lift can be lowered…There is more to this story.

The lifts looked very old. Doubtful they were properly maintained. The mechanic said something about a hydraulic leak or something. I told my husband the same thing - aren’t there pins or something that would act as a back-up?

We spoke with our insurance company and they said something to the effect of: Get back to us when they give you their numbers.

It’s entirely possible, and not at all rare, for a lift to do what is called “creep off” when it is left in the UP position.
As Willey correctly mentions, lifts have a safety catch on them and even if the lift creeps off it should only drop an inch or two at most.

If it went to the floor this means the safety catch was either broken (not likely) or gunked up and sticking (much more plausible) and the person who was servicing the vehicle apparently forgot to check it.

I’m of the opinion the lift creeped off rather than fell so odds of anything major being damaged are probably slim.
However, document this entire episode and make sure you get copies of any reports on it to back up any future complaints that may possibly be related.
In a perfect world, I’d want a new '09 Escape, let them keep the old one, and I’d pay mileage use for those 10k miles since this little screwup was caused by them.

I’ve known of three cases where a vehicle fell off a lift. I had a boss who bought a new Oldsmobile diesel back in the late 1970’s. While the dealer was preparing the car for delivery, it fell off the lift. My boss had ordered the vehicle and had another waiting period while the dealer obtained a replacement. After he had the replacement for a while, he wished that the replacement Oldsmobile dealer could have been dropped off a lift. When I was in graduate school in the early 1960’s, a pick-up fell off a lift in a newly opened Phillips 66 station. I also was purchasing a new tire at a K-Mart while on a trip and a Studebaker Lark had fallen off the lift. Maybe the old fashioned lube pit wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

It sounds like it didn’t fall off the lift…the lift failed and dropped the car while still on the lift. That would explain why no one knows how hard it fell. They don’t know if the thing just DROPPED or if it slowly declined.

“Maybe the old fashioned lube pit wasn’t such a bad idea after all.”

Wanna rethink that?

I don’t see how ANYONE can say that a car falling off the lift isn’t a problem. There can be some MAJOR damage caused from this. The frame/unibody will have to be checked for alignment. You just don’t know what damage could have occurred until it thoroughly checked…and there’s a good chance you may actually NOT see the damage.

I’d DEMAND a new vehicle. Let the dealer take the loss on this one.

I clearly recall one of the lifts used by my old mechanic, back in the '70s. There was a hydraulic leak somewhere in the system, and it used to freak me out when the lift would suddenly drop a couple of inches–with both me and the mechanic underneath!

Rudy, the mechanic, said that he was used to it and that it would not suddenly fall all the way to the floor, but after two experiences with his lift, I decided to stay on the sidelines whenever Rudy got under the lift. Rudy did say that the lift could slowly drop all the way to the floor over the long-term, but he did not believe that it could suddenly drop.

So, despite the apparent safety measures on newer lifts, I can tell you for sure that older lifts can definitely drop–at least to some extent. The OP tells us that the equipment “looks old”. If it is as old as the equipment in Rudy’s shop, it most definitely could have dropped without anyone sabotaging it.

This happened to a corporate car that we had about 10 years ago. We had a brand new Toyota Camry that was at the dealer for it’s first oil change (IRC, about 3,500 miles) and the lift collapsed.

The dealer notified my company that there was a “slight accident” and kept it for about two weeks for repairs. Only upon picking it up did we realize how much damage was done to it. As it was being driven back to the office, it was clear that the car was not right. It looked fine at the dealer but once you tried closing the doors, we realized that it was not possible w/out leaving a 2" gap. The frame was so badly damaged, it was irreparable.

I think you need to get a new car. Even if it seems OK, who knows what problems will arise down the line. The shop screwed up and needs to make you whole again; ie, brand new car.