JLG Scissor Lifts: 8 Things To Know Before Buying A Scissor Lift

JLG scissor lifts are used in a variety of applications. As with all scissor lifts, they provide an array of benefits in that you can move the platform around and elevate to the height you need.

Some of the applications you may see scissor lifts being used in are: plumbing, electrical, welding, HVAC, drywall, industrial, aerospace, data centers and stadiums. Much like the machines being used, the applications are similar, but not the same.

Most scissor lifts can be equipped with accessories that make them more versatile in specific applications. Very few manufacturers have machines designed specifically for one type of work. Accessories and application specific packages should be evaluated as part of your purchase or rental. Some options or packages such as panel carriers, pipe racks, machinist vices, on-machine welders and various other application-specific tools are quite popular and make the job to be done a bit easier while delivering greater on-the-job productivity.

1. Selecting the right JLG scissor lift for the job

Scissor Lift Dimensions

The bulk of the slab scissor market demand is for units with platform heights of 19’, 20’, 26’, 32’ and 40’. Machines are generally badged as “narrow” (less than 33” wide) or “wide” which represents machines from 33” to 50” wide.

Reach Greater Heights

JLG also offers larger electric scissor lifts which are generally 50” or wider for niche applications. These machines offer platform heights ranging from 33’ to 45’. These machines have some advantages over their smaller counterparts. They offer larger platform decks with additional platform capacity and are not only quieter for operating on sites with sound restrictions, but they can also be used indoors since they do not rely on a combustion engine as a power source. These larger electric scissor lifts can have an engine-driven generator to charge its batteries, giving customers the flexibility of working longer shifts. This also comes in handy when working in areas where charging facilities are not readily available.

Platform Height

The bulk of the rough terrain scissor market is concentrated around models with platform heights between 26’ and 53’, with widths between 68” and 94”. These machines can traverse terrain that requires additional traction. Some models in this category are available with leveling jacks, which allow operators to level the chassis and elevate the platform to perform work at height. Their larger platform allows the user to carry more personnel and tools to the work area, which improves productivity in certain applications. These units are often used to carry pipe, HVAC and other large items which can be challenging when using smaller units.

2. JLG Slab Scissor Lift Drive Systems

There are two prevalent drive systems used for propulsion of slab scissor lifts.

Hydraulic drive systems

This drive type take electrical energy from the batteries and converts it to hydraulic flow. During this process, there is some loss of efficiency, which significantly impacts battery life. These types of systems can be less costly to purchase/acquire but not always less expensive to operate over time than their electric-drive counterparts. The JLG 1932R and JLG 4045R available from Swift Equipment uses this type of drive system.

Electric drive systems

This scissor lift drive system has the batteries directly linked to motors on the drive wheels which provides more efficient operation and delivers significant improvements to battery life. Requiring less hydraulic oil, electric drive units are well suited for cold-weather applications where having a system with less hydraulic oil reduces issues with oil viscosity impacting performance. All JLG electric scissor models in the ES range have electric drive systems including 1930ES, 2632ES & 3246ES.

Efficiency

Electric drive models are considerably more efficient than hydraulic-drive machines. They also reduce the number of hydraulic hoses, fittings, manifolds and other critical hydraulic components which significantly reduces the number of leak points and replacement parts. These benefits come with a higher price tag. Customers however, ultimately see productivity, serviceability and efficiency gains that offset the difference over time.

Price Points

Over the last several years it has become evident that there are two distinct price points in mature markets for scissor lifts – value and premium. Most manufacturers will prefer one drive system over the other. This then becomes a heavy driver for the acquisition cost of the machine. Very few manufacturers aside from JLG offer both types of drive systems. Those that do are providing customers the opportunity to select their preferred drive type without having to look at alternative brands.

Hydraulic-drive machines are ideal for the value-minded customer who most likely would state acquisition price as the main factor influencing their purchase. Electric-drive scissors are suited for customers who focus on longer-term benefits in efficiency such as the increased battery life this type drive system delivers.

3. Power Management - Slab Scissor Lifts

One of the most critical components on a slab scissor is its batteries and how the power that is being extracted and resupplied is managed. As you may have guessed, the battery management software used by various manufacturers is similar, but not the same. JLG go to extensive lengths to test, validate and select batteries that will not only deliver the minimum requirements, but also provide optimal durability and charging time.

Scissor Lift Battery Costs

Batteries are one of the most, if not the highest, replacement cost components on a scissor lift. For slab scissor lifts, most manufacturers run either 24V or 48V systems. One of the main considerations for customers when it comes to batteries should be how much operation time they need from the scissor during every discharge cycle.

Run Time Over Battery Life

JLG see the benefit in maximising the run time on a scissor lift, even though this typically means sacrificing the long-term durability and reliability of the machine’s batteries. In this case, the short-term benefit of delivering more usage time for the customer has been identified as the main priority.

For example, a 24V battery system will begin its “shift” when fully charged right around 24V. During the course of the “shift”, the batteries start to drain, and the output voltage begins to drop. How low that voltage is capable of dropping is dependent on the battery. The lower this value is allowed to drop, the longer the battery will be able to run during that charge cycle, but there’s another factor to consider. The lower the voltage drops the more you degrade the battery’s long-term durability. Some manufacturers allow their 24V system to drop to as low as 14V before they cut off the functionality enabled for the lift function. Allowing a 24V battery to go down to 14V is not suggested as common practice, although it does provide the short-term benefit of longer hours and more cycles during the work day.

Power Management Solutions

The lower you let the voltage drop on your battery, the quicker you can expect to replace it. Power management becomes a big part of protecting a customer’s investment in their scissor lift and the components that make up the lift. Prudent manufacturers such as JLG offer solutions that optimize work time and cycles while protecting the long-term battery life and ROI of your scissor lift.

4. Slab Scissor Lift Pothole Protection Systems

An active pothole protection system delivers increased ground clearance for machines while travelling in the stowed position. Although there are many ways to design a pothole protection system, developing a simple system is not an easy feat. The system essentially lowers the ground clearance of the unit when elevated to mitigate the risk when a lift encounters a pothole while elevated.

System Positioning

Placement of the system on the unit is another key factor to consider. Some manufacturers have these systems pinned to their service doors while JLG pin the system to the chassis. Having the system pinned to the chassis means it’s attached/mounted to a stationary component on the machine, which is ideal so the system isn’t moving in and out of alignment each time the machine is serviced or delivered.

System Complexity

Furthermore, the number of components and the tolerances of each of these components can make the difference between a good pothole protection system and a great one. Most manufacturers tend to duplicate components in their pothole protection system. This means they often have two limit switches, two plungers and so on which effectively doubles the number of components in the system. More components means more opportunity for something to go wrong. JLG have been able to successfully refine their systems to include a single limit switch and a single plunger, reducing the number of mechanical components needed to activate this critical safety system.

Tolerance & Slack

The amount of tolerance designed into a system’s limit switch(es) is also important to consider. The lower the tolerance, for example, if the plunger moves 3 to 5 mm out of position, the more likely it is that something could go wrong causing a service call. Systems with higher tolerances, for example, 20 to 25 mm of movement before the system senses a fault reduce unnecessary service calls and keep operators up and running. With these systems, the unit must be re-adjusted after each fault. These small differences in pothole protection design make a big impact on uptime.

5. Rough Terrain? There's a Scissor Lift for that

Customers generally move to rough terrain scissors because of the need to traverse uneven terrain, an increased level of traction is necessary or larger platform sizes are desired.

4 Wheel Drive

Most manufacturers, but not all, will provide 4-wheel drive systems on their rough terrain scissors which seems like a must-have for customers purchasing 4-wheel drive units. As you may have guessed, like many of the other scissor lift systems and features, not all 4-wheel drive traction systems are created equal. In some manufactured units, 4-wheel drive does not activate unless you are in low gear leading to slippage and loss of traction when the unit is in higher gears. This means manual interaction is required for the unit to maneuver as expected when in 4-wheel drive mode, with all four wheels driving traction.

Traction Control

Other manufacturers feature more comprehensive traction control systems and although many are very similar, there are big differences that make a significant impact to traction. One of the main challenges 4-wheel drive systems encounter are differing amounts of traction between wheels in the system. Many systems are designed to dispense the complete torque through the path of least resistance to the wheel with the least amount of traction. This reduces the effectiveness of the 4-wheel drive system. A limited-slip differential reduces some of the impact from differing levels of traction. On rough terrain scissors, which are primarily hydraulically driven units, there is a way to create a similar effect to what a limited-slip differential provides on a conventional axle.

Very few manufacturers aside from JLG have been able to implement technologies that provide similar characteristics to limited slip differentials on rough-terrain scissor lifts. Choosing a path for the oil through the drive wheels and appropriately sizing orifices in the drive system can mirror limited-slip differential functionality that is useful in rough terrain applications. Furthermore, small changes in the sizes of slip orifices that allow oil to be supplied to a flow divider at each wheel dictate how much slip is allowed through to the wheel and therefore significantly improve tractive effort.

6. Scissor Lift Serviceability

With the general perception that a scissor lift is a simple piece of construction or maintenance equipment, many customers, fleet managers and end users assume they are all easy to service and maintain.

Critical Component Placement

The reality is that you will find machines from other manufacturers with critical components buried behind and under one another. A great example is having a hydraulic pump over electrical components. In theory, hydraulic components should not leak, but through wear and tear, seals wear and leaks happen. Having hydraulic components above critical electrical components makes your machine susceptible to being further damaged by an unexpected leak. Look for machines from manufacturers like JLG that have thought through this and have, to the best of their ability, reduced the impact of unforeseen leaks.

In a Service Department, Time is Money

The other part of this which is important to customers, especially service managers, is being able to access critical components when they need to. Many other manufacturers have fixed hydraulic manifolds and locations for electrical controllers and components. These fixed locations are easier to design and manufacture but when the need arises to troubleshoot, service or replace a component, service time is negatively impacted.

Manufacturers have figured this out and are starting to incorporate designs that significantly improve access. Two examples that highlight manufacturers going above and beyond to provide technicians with a machine that is easy to troubleshoot and service are:

  1. Manufacturers that have moved to solid-state electronics have centralized the brains of their electronics in a single place. Having access to probe and troubleshoot the circuits that are tied to the controller is critical. Very few manufacturers understand and respond to these customer pain points. Those that do have invested in solutions to improve these tasks for technicians. As you can see below, the swing out controller allows technicians easy access to the controller. They can even pull the controller out of the machine for improved access which simplifies and speeds up service to get the unit back to the work site.
  2. Similar to the concept explained above, machines with hydraulic drive systems typically have a main manifold. This is the brains of the hydraulic drive system and a crucial component to have access to when troubleshooting and servicing a hydraulically-driven machine. A few manufacturers have designed their machines so the manifolds can be unbolted, twisted 90 degrees and worked on improving the ergonomics for technicians and helping to reduce service time to get machines back to the jobsite producing returns for the customer.

Grease Points

Most scissor lifts in the industry require periodic greasing to provide the critical joints within the armstack lubrication during use. This is a common requirement which necessitates attention to detail and timely service. JLG have been able to overcome this by investing in technology that negates the need for grease and lubrication by spending more money on pins and bushings that are typically coated with a material that self-lubricates during the life of the machine. The additional initial cost to the customer simplifies service and increases the effective life of the scissor, resulting in a greater overall total ROI.

This is just the beginning of how many details have been thought through by JLG to deliver machines that are easy to work on and simple to service and maintain. These may seem like small details but they certainly help to differentiate one scissor from another from a serviceability standpoint. Seek out manufacturers who offer machines with the features that will make the biggest impact to your business.

7. Load Sensing Systems

Below are two main types of systems that are used in scissor lifts to measure the load inside of a platform:

  1. Force based load-sensing systems

    These systems are similar to your bath scale. They consist of “smart” pins usually located at each corner supporting the platform to capture the amount of compression on the pin. They can deliver an accurate reading showing how much force, or more importantly, weight is on the scissor lift. The benefits of these systems are that they’re very accurate and do not require calibration. As the shift to LSS continues, some manufacturers will use this type of system to meet the load-sensing requirement. This system carries more cost than pressure-based systems, so you will see a mix of force-based and pressure-based systems in the marketplace.

  2. Pressure based load-sensing systems

    These types of systems require more design-time but are typically lower cost to implement. Most manufacturers will be monitoring the pressure on the barrel side of the lift cylinder(s). This provides a pressure reading that can then be translated to a weight on the platform.

    It is anticipated that many manufacturers will have a single pressure sensor at the barrel end of the cylinder to meet the upcoming ANSI standards. The issues encountered with this type of system are highlighted in cold-weather applications.

    When machines are running in the cold, hydraulic oil tends to become viscous. As the oil in the rod side of the cylinder gets more viscous, it makes it more difficult for the piston to push the oil out of the barrel end to elevate the scissor. As this happens, the pressure in the barrel end of the cylinder increases because it thinks the machine is trying to push through a large amount of weight, but in reality, the sensor is reading the effects of viscous oil which often translates to a false reading for the LSS that only measure barrelside pressure. When this happens, the unit thinks the machine is overloaded and locks out operation.

    Cold weather brings a challenge to pressure based systems. Machines can get out of calibration for a variety of reasons, then subsequently get locked out and not allow operators to elevate. A few manufacturers have refined their system to be able to perform in cold-weather applications.

    These manufacturers have adopted a “dualpressure sensor” LSS. The additional pressure sensor is placed on the rod side. By calculating the differential between the barrel-side and rodside pressure, the low temperature error readings are significantly reduced. Although costly and difficult to design, this type of system improves reliability and keeps customers working.

Calibration

Pressure-based LSS must be calibrated periodically. Some manufacturers will specify a time period and a select few will have a condition-based calibration, that is, only when the machine requires it. A calibration may also be required when a critical component in the LSS or elevation sensing system is replaced or serviced. During a calibration, the machine “zeros” it’s scale. For most manufacturers this will mean loading the platform with calibrated weights to 110% of platform load. As you can imagine, this is difficult to manage especially on machines with 1,000+ lbs of platform capacity.

Select manufacturers like JLG have developed a “simple calibration”. A simple calibration typically requires no weight and uses the initial calibration that was taken at the factory and kept in the machine’s memory. When the machine needs to be calibrated in the future, the machine can compare the new, simple-calibration to the original calibration performed at the factory. If the parameters are within an acceptable range, the machine will provide some level of functionality.

Many manufacturers provide 60% of the total platform capacity, but a few provide 80-90% platform capacity when a simple calibration is performed. Customers limited to 60% platform capacity will certainly notice the difference, while a customer who can attain up to 90% platform capacity with JLG machines may never notice a difference in the machine’s capabilities.

Once the machine returns to the workshop, a full calibration can be performed to get the unit to “full health”, returning it to 100% platform capacity. It is these subtle differences that add up to make similar machines perform very differently to JLG scissor lifts.

8. Scissor Lift Warranty

When looking to purchase a scissor lift, it’s important to find a manufacturer that is proud to back their products.  JLG provide warranty coverage on all products for one year and cover all specified major structural components for five years.

In closing

As you continue your journey to select the right scissor lift for your business, consider the thorough process behind the design of the brand that you are choosing. While many believe scissor lifts are a somewhat commoditized product, they are far from that. Key technologies and features that drive tangible job site benefits can make a big difference to your total cost of ownership and the operator, fleet manager and technician experience. While scissor lifts appear similar, they are far from the same.

For these reasons and more, Swift Equipment choose to only sell JLG Scissor Lifts to our customers. Please contact us today for more information or browse our range available for order online.