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How to Build a Repo Wheel Lift (Equipment and Tools Included)

What equipment do you need to build a repo wheel lift for a tow truck? Here is a detailed 7-step guide on how to build a repo wheel lift. Tow trucks have been around for nearly as long as there have been cars on the road. Over the years, the process of hauling away damaged or repossessed vehicles have evolved.

Early towing systems used chains or hook that wrapped around an axle or a frame rail. Even though some tow truck operators still use this technique in certain conditions, especially since it is very secure, but this method takes a fair amount of time and effort to get the vehicle into position and it can also scratch or damage the vehicle being towed.

But with tire or wheel-lift devices, you can effectively avoid damaging the vehicle because only the tires touch the road. Brackets are adjusted well in front and behind the drive wheels of the vehicle and then secured in place by steel pins.

Note that when the tow truck mechanism lifts the vehicle, the wheels are cradled between the brackets. This method of towing always requires the driver to get out of the truck to position the brackets in place and insert the pins, but a skilled operator can actually do this in about 30 seconds.

The latest innovation in tow truck technology is the integrated lift, also known as a self – loading wrecker. Note that this is a wheel – lift system that can be easily controlled from inside the truck and deployed with hydraulic power.

Once the truck backs up to the target vehicle, a long arm, called a stinger, extends out along the pavement behind the truck. The leading edge of the wheel cradles meet the tires as the other side of the cradle slides under the vehicle, just past the tire. At this point the brackets can then be closed via hydraulics, cradling the tires on both sides. The tow boom is then lifted, the drive wheels come off the ground and the tow truck can then move.

Getting the best equipment possible—and having it properly installed—will pay off not only in a more successful career, but could possibly prevent injuries to yourself and help prevent damage to your client’s collateral.

That is why it is advisable to always know what equipment other repossessors are using and what has performed well for them. You should also find out who in your area is capable of properly installing a wheel lift or a sling lift, such as a shop that specializes in tow equipment.

However, if you can’t locate someone in your area who knows how to install repossession equipment, you can seek out shops with experienced fabricators and hydraulic experts who know the components that are part of a wheel lift or sling lift.

Do not forget to analyze and decide on the type of wheel lift or sling lift you would like to have installed on your truck and order the parts recommended for your tow vehicle.

Tools and Equipment You Need to Build a Rep Wheel Lift

Also make sure you have all of the necessary equipment to modify your vehicle’s suspension for the demands of towing. Airbags and counterweights are among the items you may need. But be very sure the tires on your truck can handle the job.

Building a wheel lift that you can use on the back of your truck or at home requires a lot of welding skills. Nonetheless, have it in mind that the simplest wheel lift is one built out of box channel and is adjustable. To achieve or build this type of wheel lift, you must use a different size box channel so you can adjust the length of the wheel lift. Items you will need include:

  1. Hydraulic motor and ram
  2. 1 Steel box channel (6 feet long, 5 – by – 5 inches, 3/8 inches thick)
  3. 2 Steel box channel (2 feet long, 5 – by – 5 inches, 3/8 inches thick)
  4. 1 Steel box channel (4 feet long, 5 – by – 5 inches, 3/8 inches thick)
  5. 3 Steel box channel (4 feet long, 4 – by – 4 inches, 3/8 inches thick)
  6. Steel tubing (3 inches in diameter and 4 feet in length)
  7. 2 Steel plates (5 inches wide by 10 inches long, 3/8 inches thick)
  8. Welder
  9. Drill press
  10. Hand drill
  11. Steel drill bits
  12. Tapping bits (bits used to make bolt threads)
  13. 2 Lock pins
  14. 2 Swivel bolts
  15. Tape measure
  16. Ratchet and socket set
  17. Hacksaw
  18. Chalk
  19. Slag hammer

Detailed Steps to Build a Repo Wheel Lift

  1. First you will have to remove the bumper from your truck and measure the distance between the two suspension members where the bumper attaches. Carefully mark the steel plates 2 inches below the lip on the end of the length. Drill one hole in each steel plate at this mark. Drill the same size hole in the frame of the truck, behind bumper. Then rest each plate on either side of the frame and insert the swivel bolts. Remember to adjust if necessary and remove the plates.
  2. Centre the 6 – foot, 5 – by – 5 – inch steel box channel to the frame of the truck and mark where the frame hits the box channel. Now weld the two steel plates on the inside of those two marks. But make sure that 5 – inches of plate are sticking above the top part of the box channel. Measure to the centre of the 6 – foot steel box channel with the chalk. Weld the 4 – foot, 5 – by – 5 – inch steel box channel at that mark in a vertical position.
  3. At this point drill four holes in each 2 – foot, 5 – by – 5 – inch box channel. Slide the 4 – foot, 4 – by – 4 – inch box channel inside the 5 – by – 5 – inch box channel and mark the hole positions. Also drill corresponding holes in the 4 – by – 4 – inch box channel. Insert the lock pins to make sure the holes match. Then remove the lock pins and slide the 4 – by – 4 – inch box channel out.
  4. Also place the 2 – foot, 5 – by – 5 – inch box channel at one end of the 6 – foot, 5 – by – 5 – inch box channel and weld it perpendicular, making a 90 – degree angle. Weld the other 2 – foot, 5 – by – 5 – inch box channel to the other end.
  5. This is the point where you cut the 4 – foot, 3 – inch steel pipe in 1 – foot sections. Weld one piece of the steel pipe on the inside of the 4 – by – 4 inch box channel, at the opposite end of the lock pin holes. Carefully measure 10 inches from the edge of the end pipe and weld another 1 – foot section of steel pipe to the 4 – by – 4 – inch box channel. Do the same procedure on the other 4 – by – 4 – inch box channel.
  6. Then mount the hydraulic motor and ram in the bed of the truck. Mount the 6 – foot, 5 – by – 5 – inch box channel assembly to the frame of the truck and raise it to a level position. Carefully take the ram end and mark the bolt holes on the back side of the vertical 5 – by – 5 – inch box channel. Drill holes in the box channel and tap those holes so bolts can be mount the ram to the box channel.
  7. Then carefully lower the ram, tilting the wheel lift assembly, and remount the bumper. Insert the 4 – foot, 4 – by – 4 – inch box channel assembly when you are ready to raise the wheels of a vehicle.


It’s possible to make a living by earning a few hundred bucks for a quick stealth tow, but repossession agents face many challenges. Always remember to inspect all connections, swivel points and welds before making your first lift. Check the hydraulic fluid level on the hydraulic motor and ram before each use.

Also ensure the hydraulic motor and ram is firmly bolted to the bed of the truck. If the bed of the truck is not strong enough to hold the weight of a vehicle, bolt a mounting plate to the bed of the truck before mounting the hydraulic motor and ram.