A Closer Look at the Dash Lift (Part 2 – Relief Cuts)

In part 1 of “A Closer Look at the Dash Lift”, we discussed the importance of maintaining A-pillar integrity to support the weight of the dash when performing a dash lift.

In this training, we will cover the relief cuts that need to be made before we can lift, or jack, the dash.

One of the considerations we must make before choosing our means for dash displacement is the vehicles’ strut tower location.  The strut tower can easily be found; it is always directly above the center of the wheel.

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Our first relief cut is made through the upper rail (also called the quarter panel frame assembly).  This cut should be placed between the strut tower and the windshield / A-pillar.  If there is not enough room in the area to accomplish this cut, the vehicle may not be a good candidate for a dash lift.  A dash roll should be considered as an alternative.  Additionally, if the relief cut is made in front of the strut tower when the dash lift is attempted, the entire wheel, axle, and strut will be lifted.  This is often less effective as it can result in limited displacement of the dash when more range is required.  Another important aspect of our upper rail relief cut is that it must be made completely through the framing; to accomplish this task, it is often necessary to remove the fender.

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The next two cuts involved in this evolution need to be made with great attention to detail and careful consideration.  These cuts will be made at the base of the A-pillar, and their location, depth, and direction will greatly effect the outcome of your final lift.

The first of these two cuts is made near the bottom of the A-pillar.  It is critical that this cut is made completely through the pillar.  This may require a cut parallel to the vehicle, horizontal to the vehicle, and/or into the pillar through the wheel well, depending on the situation presented.  Making a complete cut through the pillar ensures that the pillar will not peel away from the firewall or rip into the rocker panel.

We must also consider the angle of this cut.  It is important that it is made parallel to the rocker panel, not at a downward angle.  If the cut is made with a downward angle, the rip (when lifting) will be directed into the rocker panel.  This will result in the entire front of the vehicle coming off the ground, rather that the dash rising independently.

Placing this cut can often be difficult when the door hinge is located close to the rocker panel.  Do not be afraid to place this cut above the hinge, the reinforced hinge backing can be a great supporting point for the spreaders when lifting the dash.

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The second cut on the base of the A-pillar is made approximately five inches above the first cut.  It is important to leave at least this amount of space, so when the spreaders are inserted to lift the dash, proper spreader angle can be maintained.

This cut should be made almost all the way through the pillar.  A portion of the pillar must be maintained as a support to insure that the dash does not collapse further onto the occupant.

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At this point in the evolution, the spreaders are used (parallel to the vehicle) to pinch the cut out metal on the pillar. The spreaders are then rotated out towards the bumper to open the cut.  After the cut has been opened, the spreaders are inserted (at the proper angle) into the opening and slight tension is put in the gap. This task will be covered in part 3 of “A Closer Look at the Dash Lift”

The final cuts of the dash lift are placed in the upper portion of the A-pillar. These cuts are to relieve the pressure from the roof and all connecting members. These cuts may be placed anywhere between the windshield header and the dash on the A-pillar.

It is important to use two cuts, creating a gap in the A-pillar that will safeguard against the pillar binding on itself as the dash is lifted.

Also, be sure to pull interior in this area, as airbag cylinders are often placed in the pillar.

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Another (often overlooked) area where relief cuts must be made is the dash tie downs.

Dash tie downs are usually located under the dashboard in the area of the center console.  They can be found by breaking away the area under the dash to reveal the structures that are “tying” the dash down. Often, this is comprised of two thin flat straps, but can be more significant. The important thing: if dash tie downs are present in the vehicle, they are cut.

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Proper relief cuts are an important part of a successful dash lift. The time it takes to consider the cuts, and to make them properly, can easily save you time in the long run at the extrication scene.

Keep checking back for the next segment of “A Closer Look at the Dash Lift”