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How to Use an Engine Hoist: The Basics

A Buick wagon getting a turbo engine transplant

So you’ve got a garage, a complete set of tools and a dream for your latest project car. You’re finding that you prefer to do as much as you can yourself instead of turning your vehicle over to someone else. If you’re confident that you can take on the big jobs, then adding an engine hoist (also called an engine crane) to your garage and learning how to use an engine hoist makes a lot of sense.

Why Would I Need an Engine Hoist?

Taking the engine out of the car is necessary for some projects, including, but not limited to:

  • Engine rebuilding — it’s a lot easier to access all the parts without a car surrounding the engine
  • Engine swaps — this could be the year you finally take the plunge and swap out that high-output crate motor under the hood of your baby
  • Vehicle restoration — to be thorough, it’s best to remove the engine and restore the motor and body separately.

Okay, Sold. What Should I look for in an Engine Hoist?


First — above literally everything else — look for stability. You want a solid, balanced hoist or crane that won’t tip and damage to your engine, your car or you. Next, you want adjustability. You want to be able to gently guide the engine clear of the fenders and grille as you remove it, and to be able to manipulate it as you work on it. Finally, consider storage. When you’re not using your engine hoist for a project, you’ll want to be able to fold it easily to store.

How to Use an Engine Hoist: The Basics

First, follow the instructions that came with the hoist — every single one. Especially the ones about proper setup and safe use. You need a flat surface, a clear workspace, good lighting and no overhead obstructions. Those are just the bare minimum.

Every vehicle is different, so it’s hard to say exactly which systems will need to be removed, where they’ll be and where your hoist will fasten to the engine, but the NAPA Know-How Blog does offer some key insight to keep in mind as you follow the specific instructions of your vehicle and hoist manufacturers. Even without knowing your exact vehicle, we can offer these tips for getting the most out of your hoist.

Removing the engine is a step-by-step process that requires careful attention, organization and some planning. You’re going to want:

  • A safe place to store the nuts, bolts, fasteners and other parts that come out from under the hood before you lift out the engine
  • The right wrenches, sockets and ratchets close by for the various fasteners you’ll encounter
  • A camera to take lots of pictures of how things looked before you took them apart
  • Drain pans for the fluids contained in the engine (these can be mostly drained before pulling the engine)
  • Shop rags, gloves and dropcloths within easy reach — any job that requires a hoist is bound to get messy

As an aside, check local and federal regulations about the disposal or evacuation of certain liquids and materials from your vehicle, perhaps starting with your air conditioning unit (that might be best handled by a professional before you start).

For the actual pulling: As stated before, this is a highly complex automotive undertaking, and the exact steps vary greatly from car to car. Because of this, you’re likely going to want some guidance. May we suggest an expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts Store?

Check out all the cranes and hoists available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on removing your vehicle’s engine and how to use an engine hoist, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Mike Hagerty View All

Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and Previous outlets have included KFBK and in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and

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