Why DIY Car Stackers Are A Bad Idea

Jul 31, 2020Car Stacker Tips

The idea of buying direct and organising your own installation team might be attractive, but this can set you up for some expensive problems later on.

Installing car stackers can be a considerable investment, and shopping for a cheap system and organising your own contractors might seem like a good way to stay within budget. Many builders and developers are attracted by low-price stackers offered online by places like Alibaba, or from other overseas agents. The installation process could then go smoothly (if not horribly wrong and become a waking nightmare), but once the stacker is in daily use more problems can emerge.

5 Reasons why NOT to install your own Car Stacker

  • These machines have many cross-moving parts – there is little room for error with any measurements or leveling
  • Systems designed overseas may need to be modified for use in Australia
  • Proper testing is very important during the commissioning phase to confirm that the installation is sound and the system is safe to use
  • You will probably void your warranty with the manufacturer
  • Most likely it will end up costing more than it’s worth, and none of the work you do will have a labour warranty. You will have to pay for repairs if there are any faults or breakdowns

Currently the regulation of this technology is a bit of a grey area. It is quite possible for a builder or developer to be sold a product not fit for use in Australia. It may then be installed in a building by contractors not at all familiar with car stacker systems, and then put into daily use without proper maintenance. Such a system will inevitably give trouble over time, potentially causing much inconvenience and many frustrated users, expensive repairs and safety concerns.

Cheap Parts Means More Breakdowns

Firstly, you can expect to get what you pay for. It may be possible to find what seems like a bargain, but as the price drops, so too will the quality. And it’s not just a matter of cheaper parts, as appropriate quality control procedures are not always performed. 

Over time, daily use of inferior hardware like this is likely to result in more breakdowns and system downtime. This means users not being able to access their cars, and other potentially more dangerous scenarios. Also, if something needs to be replaced, you could find yourself waiting a long time to receive parts ordered from some manufacturers overseas.

Who Was It Made For?

Another important factor is the population the machines were built for. Systems developed for use overseas may not be appropriate as-is for Australian users. Different countries have different safety requirements and standards, and some systems may not have an adequate range of safety precautions implemented for use here in Australia. 

People in different countries will also be used to a certain kind of design and functionality common to their part of the world. What has been designed for an audience in a bustling city in Japan, for example, may not present a user experience appropriate for Melburnians.

Pro Tip: Depending on the country of origin, Australians might expect or require different or additional safeguards, or instructions to encourage correct user interaction.

Modifications For Use In Australia

When a car stacker is imported, steps can be taken to ensure safe operation, and fewer breakdowns. Once a thorough assessment of all parts has been carried out and they are found to be of good quality and working order, potential design alterations and improvements need to be considered. 

Modifications that we often find necessary are software upgrades and extra precautions limiting user access to potentially dangerous areas. For example, many systems come with barriers that are only waist level, and only shut whilst the system is in operation. These barriers will remain open until the next time the machine runs, and we have heard of instances where someone has activated a stacker with somebody still inside. Fortunately this has not resulted in any accidents or injuries that we know of so far, only perhaps the bejesus being thoroughly scared out of someone.

We have found that fitting the stacker with roller doors and sensors to be very effective in preventing this scenario. Power to the system is disabled while the doors are open, and only the individual using it can recommence operation and close the doors once they are out.

Machine Design Safety Compliance

Car stackers operate under considerable strain. They must bear the weight of potentially hundreds of vehicles every day, from small hatchbacks to large SUVs. All system designs need to be properly verified and tested to ensure safe and proper performance in all conditions. If a stacker is purchased online or perhaps from a disreputable or technically unqualified supplier, there is no guarantee that these processes have been carried out.

During Installation

At every stage of the installation there is a quality checklist that must be closely followed to ensure that everything is installed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and requirements. For example this checklist provides important details such as acceptable maximum tolerances allowed, and squareness and leveling specifications. These must be strictly adhered to for smooth operation and the longevity of the machine. 

Pro Tip: The manufacturer’s guidelines must be followed to the letter at every stage or you run the risk of major problems developing post-installation, and by this time it may be too late to rectify.

Post-installation Safety Checks

Once a system is installed, certain procedures need to be followed to make sure it is safe and ready to use. Car stackers consist of complex mechanical, electrical and software components. These areas must be fine-tuned to work in harmony together, with software that is carefully written to avoid any malfunctions or mishaps. We highly recommend using an installation team with the appropriate qualifications and attention to detail necessary for such tasks.

Scenario testing is also required to see that the machine performs as it should in certain circumstances. We subject all systems to certain conditions and controlled, unsafe situations to evaluate performance. Platforms must be carefully adjusted to stop at the right locations and tested for any over-travel. Alarms should be triggered and the system should shut itself down in some cases, and it needs to be confirmed that the stacker will respond in this way. Such testing is most effective when carried out in the field, and not by simulation.

System Maintenance & Customer Care

Imagine you are running late – you’ve overslept, or something came up, or it’s just one of those days. You throw yourself together, fly out the door in a flurry of half-eaten breakfast and last-minute forgotten things, only to find that you can’t get your car. There is a problem with the stacker, and your vehicle is stuck on a platform three metres off the ground.

This is another problem you will face with your DIY stacker – how to take care of it once it is up and running. Customer support and ongoing maintenance is just as important as the initial installation.

Car stackers are generally pretty robust and reliable, but as with any machine there will be general maintenance required to keep things running smoothly. A day in the life of your average stacker involves some pretty heavy lifting, as tonnes of vehicles are moved and shuffled around again and again – there will inevitably be faults and breakdowns at some point.

System performance should ideally be monitored continuously, so that potential issues can be identified and acted upon quickly, or prevented in the first place. Without such an arrangement, and a speedy response time from your service provider, people will get stuck without their cars and become justifiably angry and frustrated.

Pro Tip: Less reputable companies providing services may not have access to parts. They may be able to source them, though at greater expense and delayed delivery times.

User Training

Most people will not be familiar with parking in a car stacker, and there are some things to remember. When someone moves into a new building and requires a parking space, they will need to be shown how to use the system. Every platform is also adjusted individually to the car it stores. When allocating a space, the vehicle’s dimensions must be carefully measured and wheel stoppers are put in place. This should all be covered during a training session, referred to as an induction, with a qualified technician.

Accountability & Labour Warranty

Any experienced manager will be familiar with the finger pointing and multiple levels of blame that can go on when something goes wrong on a large project. Installing a car stacker requires a number of different trades and a variety of tasks to be carried out. Work done by your own team may not be covered by any kind of labour warranty.

Claiming a warranty from an overseas company can be very difficult, and it’s easy for them to blame the inexperienced installation team if you organised it yourself.