Title:
Car dolly apparatus and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus and method for supporting a vehicle by accommodating large loads and a variety of floor gradients while preventing shifting and slippage during use. The apparatus comprises a main frame assembly, a height adjustment mechanism disposed in the main frame assembly, and a plurality of casters mounted on the main frame assembly to provide mobility. The apparatus may also comprise a clamping feature to secure a pinch weld section of a vehicle.



Inventors:
Opsahl, Scott (Lakeville, MN, US)
Joos, Rodd (Lauderdale, MN, US)
Adamson, Eric (Owantonna, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/086244
Publication Date:
08/31/2006
Filing Date:
03/23/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K1/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LE, TAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BakerHostetler (Washington, DC, US)
Claims:
1. 1-37. (canceled)

38. An apparatus for supporting a vehicle comprising: a main frame assembly having a tubular mounting structure, a plurality of tubular extensions rigidly attached to and extending from the tubular mounting structure, and a plurality of caster mounting plates rigidly coupled to the plurality of tubular extensions; a height adjustment mechanism having a portion disposed within the tubular mounting structure and a first vehicle mounting support coupled thereto; and a plurality of casters mounted on the plurality of caster mounting plates.

39. The apparatus of claim 38, further comprising: a vehicle support mounting plate support rigidly coupled between the height adjustment mechanism and the first vehicle mounting support, wherein a second vehicle mounting support is coupled to the vehicle support mounting plate.

40. The apparatus of claim 39, wherein the first vehicle mounting support further comprises a plurality of orifices for accommodating a device to facilitate translational movement.

41. The apparatus of claim 40, wherein the second vehicle mounting support is adjustably coupled to the vehicle support mounting plate and the first vehicle mounting support.

42. The apparatus of claim 41, wherein the second vehicle mounting support further comprises a plurality of orifices corresponding to a respective plurality of orifices of the first vehicle mounting support for accommodating the device to facilitate translational movement.

43. The apparatus of claim 42, wherein a portion of the device to facilitate translational movement is inserted through the plurality of orifices of the first vehicle mounting support and through a corresponding plurality of orifices of the second vehicle mounting support, such that the distance between the first vehicle mounting support and the second vehicle mounting support is adjustable.

44. The apparatus of claim 43, wherein the device to facilitate translational movement comprises a nut and bolt assembly.

45. The apparatus of claim 38, wherein the first vehicle mounting support further comprises a top surface, wherein a cushion material is attached to the top surface to protect the supported surface of the vehicle.

46. The apparatus of claim 45, wherein the first vehicle mounting support further comprises an inner surface, wherein the cushion material is attached to the inner surface to protect the supported surface of the vehicle.

47. The apparatus of claim 39, wherein the second vehicle mounting support further comprises a top surface and an inner surface, wherein a cushion material is attached to the top surface and the inner surface to protect the supported surface of the vehicle.

48. The apparatus of claim 47, wherein the cushion material is a neoprene pad.

49. The apparatus of claim 38, further comprising: a plurality of height adjustment insertion holes disposed in the tubular mounting structure; a corresponding plurality of height adjustment insertion holes disposed in the height adjustment mechanism; and an insertion pin capable of inserting through one of the plurality of height adjustment insertion holes of the tubular mounting structure and one of the corresponding plurality of height adjustment insertion holes of the height adjustment mechanism.

50. The apparatus of claim 38, wherein a pivoting vehicle support mounting plate is pivotably coupled between the height adjustment mechanism and the first vehicle mounting support, wherein a second vehicle mounting support is coupled to the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate.

51. The apparatus of claim 50, further comprising: an insertion hole disposed on the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate; and an insertion pin capable of inserting through the insertion hole of the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate and a hole in the height adjustment mechanism, such that the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate is capable of pivoting about an axis of the height adjustment mechanism.

52. The apparatus of claim 50, wherein the first vehicle mounting support further comprises a plurality of orifices for accommodating a device to facilitate translational movement.

53. The apparatus of claim 52, wherein the second vehicle mounting support is adjustably coupled to the vehicle support mounting plate and the first vehicle mounting support.

54. The apparatus of claim 53, wherein the second vehicle mounting support further comprises a plurality of orifices corresponding to a respective plurality of orifices of the first vehicle mounting support for accommodating the device to facilitate translational movement.

55. The apparatus of claim 54, wherein a portion of the device to facilitate translational movement is inserted through the plurality of orifices of the first vehicle mounting support and through a corresponding plurality of orifices of the second vehicle mounting support, such that the distance between the first vehicle mounting support and the second vehicle mounting support is adjustable.

56. The apparatus of claim 55, wherein the device to facilitate translational movement comprises a nut and bolt assembly.

57. The apparatus of claim 50, wherein the first vehicle mounting support further comprises a top surface, wherein a cushion material is attached to the top surface to protect the supported surface of the vehicle.

58. The apparatus of claim 57, wherein the second vehicle mounting support further comprises a top surface and an inner surface, wherein the cushion material is attached to the top surface and the inner surface to protect the supported surface of the vehicle.

59. The apparatus of claim 38, wherein the casters are made from a hard plastic or steel.

60. The apparatus of claim 38, wherein the main frame assembly having three tubular extensions.

61. The apparatus of claim 60, wherein the three tubular extensions are mounted equidistance from each other on the tubular mounting structure.

62. A system for supporting a vehicle comprising: means for adjusting a height of the support system having a first means for mounting a vehicle, wherein the mounting means is coupled to the adjusting means; a frame means for supporting the adjusting means having a plurality of tubular extensions rigidly attached to and extending from the frame means and a plurality of rolling mounting means rigidly attached to the tubular extensions, wherein a portion of the adjusting means is disposed in the frame means; and means for rolling mounted on the rolling mounting means.

63. The system of claim 62, further comprising: means for supporting the mounting means, wherein the support means is rigidly coupled between the height adjusting means and the mounting means

64. The system of claim 62, further comprising a clamping means coupled to the support means.

65. The system of claim 64, wherein the clamping means comprises: the first mounting means rigidly attached to the supporting means, the first mounting means having a plurality of orifices for accommodating a device to facilitate translational movement; and a second mounting means coupled to the supporting means and the first mounting means, the second mounting means having a plurality of orifices corresponding to a respective plurality of orifices of the first mounting means for accommodating the device to facilitate translational movement.

66. The system of claim 65, wherein a portion of the device to facilitate translational movement is inserted through the plurality of orifices of the first mounting means and through a corresponding plurality of orifices of the second mounting means, such that the distance between the first mounting means and the second mounting means is adjustable.

67. The system of claim 66, wherein the device to facilitate translational movement means comprises a nut and bolt assembly.

68. The system of claim 65, wherein the first mounting means further comprises a top surface and an inner surface, wherein a cushion material is attached to the top surface and the inner surface to protect the supported surface of the vehicle.

69. The system of claim 68, wherein the second mounting means further comprises a top surface and an inner surface, wherein a cushion material is attached to the top surface and the inner surface to protect the supported surface of the vehicle.

70. The system of claim 62, wherein a pivotable supporting means is pivotably coupled to the height adjusting means and the support means.

71. A method of supporting a vehicle comprising: providing a main frame assembly having a tubular mounting structure, a plurality of tubular extensions rigidly attached to and extending from the tubular mounting structure, a plurality of caster mounting plates rigidly attached to the plurality of tubular extensions, a plurality of casters mounted thereto, wherein a height adjustment mechanism having at least a portion of the height adjustment mechanism disposed in the main frame assembly and a first vehicle mounting support coupled thereto; adjusting a vehicle to a preferred height; adjusting the height adjustment mechanism to the preferred height to support the body of the vehicle; rolling the main frame assembly under a body of the vehicle; and lowering the vehicle onto the main frame assembly.

72. The method of claim 71, further comprising: adjusting a clamping mechanism of the height adjustment mechanism; inserting a portion of the body of the vehicle within the clamping mechanism; and adjusting the clamping mechanism to secure the inserted body portion.

73. An apparatus for supporting a vehicle comprising: a main frame assembly having a tubular mounting structure, three tubular extensions rigidly attached to and extending from the tubular mounting structure, and three caster mounting plates rigidly attached to each of the tubular extensions; a height adjustment mechanism having a portion disposed within the tubular mounting structure, a vehicle support mounting plate pivotably coupled to the height adjustment mechanism, a first vehicle support rigidly coupled to the vehicle support mounting plate, and a second vehicle support adjustably coupled to the vehicle support mounting plate and next to the first vehicle support, such that the distance between the first vehicle support and the second vehicle support is adjustable; and three casters mounted on each of the three caster mounting plates of the main frame assembly.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to provisional U.S. Patent Application entitled, CAR DOLLY APPARATUS AND METHOD filed Feb. 22, 2005, having a Ser. No. 60/655,910, now pending, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to an apparatus and method for servicing vehicles. More particularly, the present invention relates to a car dolly for servicing vehicles.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Within the automobile industry, it is sometimes necessary to service vehicles for repair and/or maintenance. Such repair and/or maintenance may require a vehicle to be positioned or stationed at a particular location. Additionally, it may be necessary to maneuver the vehicle to various locations and/or positions such as within a repair bay of a vehicle repair facility.

One method of maneuvering the vehicle may employ the use of a kind of car dolly system which could, for example, be utilized for manipulating a vehicle into various locations and/or positions (for example, in order for a worker to access the vehicle from a preferred position).

Existing car dollies tend to incorporate rigid members which are generally tied together and connected across and to the undercarriage of a vehicle. Such connection may typically include bolting the rigid members to the undercarriage at various connection points. In some embodiments, a caster may also be provided at each comer of the vehicle and connected to the aforementioned rigid members at predetermined connection points. Thus, the aforementioned car dolly would tend to support the weight of the vehicle. The casters would provide a degree of mobility to the aforementioned car dolly such that when the vehicle was supported on the rigid members of the aforementioned car dolly, the vehicle would be maneuverable by urging the vehicle on top of the aforementioned car dolly as it is rolled along the casters.

A degree of maneuverability may be necessary in order to manipulate a vehicle for several reasons. In one instance, a vehicle may not be able to be started and consequently driven to a preferred location. In another example, a vehicle may lack one or more wheels and, hence, could not otherwise be maneuvered without assistance from a car dolly such as the one described above. Furthermore, it may be impractical to start a vehicle in a repair/maintenance bay because of safety reasons. For instance, potential fumes from car exhaust, ignition sparks, additional noise, for examples, may be undesirable within a repair/maintenance bay facility. Thus, use of a car dolly system can be important when it would otherwise be impractical to drive or tow a vehicle into a preferred position and/or location, for example, within a car maintenance or repair bay facility.

However, due to implementation of heavier vehicles, the design of the aforementioned car dolly setup may tend to shift or slip on top of the aforementioned car dolly while urging the vehicle into a preferred position and/or location. Because the rigid members may be tied directly to the undercarriage of the vehicle, it may be possible for damage to occur to the vehicle should a shift or slip occur. A similar result may occur if the aforementioned car dolly setup suddenly becomes immobile due to an uneven floor surface. In this instance, the momentum of the vehicle could also cause a shift or slip which may result in damage to the vehicle. The extent of damage may be varied, for instance, should a rigid member be coupled to a crumple zone of the car body and shift or slip occur. Accordingly, it is desirable to provide an apparatus and method that can accommodate the weight of a variety of vehicles. It is also desirable to provide an apparatus and method for servicing vehicles in an environment of potential varied flooring conditions. It is also desirable to provide an apparatus and method that prevents shifting and/or slipping, at least to some extent, while maneuvering a vehicle into a desired location and/or position.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The foregoing needs are met, to a great extent, by the present invention, wherein in one aspect an apparatus is provided that in some embodiments comprises a main frame assembly, a height adjustment mechanism wherein a portion of the height adjustment mechanism is disposed in the main frame assembly, and a plurality of casters mounted on the main frame assembly for providing mobility to the apparatus.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a method is provided that in some embodiments provides a main frame assembly having a plurality of casters mounted thereto and a height adjustment mechanism having at least a portion of the height adjustment mechanism disposed in the main frame assembly. The method may also include determining a preferred height of a vehicle, adjusting the vehicle to a preferred height, rolling the main frame assembly under a body of the vehicle and adjusting the height adjustment mechanism to the preferred height to support the body of the vehicle.

In accordance with yet another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided that in some embodiments a means for adjusting a height of a vehicle, a means for housing the adjusting means wherein a portion of the adjusting means is disposed in the housing means, and a means for rolling mounted on the housing means.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, certain embodiments of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof herein may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional embodiments of the invention that will be described below and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto.

In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of embodiments in addition to those described and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein, as well as the abstract, are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception upon which this disclosure is based may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating a car dolly apparatus according to a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a component of the car dolly apparatus illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the component illustrated in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view illustrating a height adjustment mechanism according to a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a side view of the height adjustment mechanism illustrated in FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view illustrating an alternative height adjustment mechanism design.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

An embodiment in accordance with the present invention provides an apparatus and method for servicing vehicles. A car dolly apparatus is provided to service vehicles by supporting the vehicle at various points underneath the body of the vehicle. The car dolly apparatus in accordance with the present invention is preferably designed to accommodate the weight of a variety of vehicles. The car dolly apparatus in accordance with the present invention is also preferably capable of maneuvering vehicles over a variety of even or uneven floor surfaces. The car dolly apparatus and method in accordance with the present invention preferably prevents shifting and slipping, at least to some extent, during use. Preferred embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to the drawing figures, in which like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout.

Referring initially to FIG. 1, there is shown a car dolly apparatus 10 for servicing vehicles. The car dolly apparatus 10 is preferably designed to be utilized in applications for servicing vehicles such as automobiles and/or trucks. The car dolly apparatus 10 can be configured to join the underbody of the vehicle. Alternatively, the car dolly apparatus 10 can also accommodate the weight of the vehicle such as by allowing the body of the vehicle to rest upon a mounting surface 12 of the car dolly apparatus 10. Each car dolly apparatus 10 is design to operate independently or may be utilized with an additional car dolly apparatus 10 or sets of car dolly apparatus 10.

In one embodiment, the car dolly apparatus 10 comprises a main frame assembly 14 which accommodates a height adjustment mechanism 16 through a tubular mounting structure 18 of the main frame assembly 14. The tubular mounting structure 18 comprises a plurality of height adjustment holes 19. A plurality of tubular extensions 20, 22, 24 extend from the tubular mounting structure 18 and may be suitably secured thereto, for example, by welding means. A plurality of mounting plates 26, 28, 30 maybe suitably secured to a respective tubular extension 20, 22, 24, for example, also by welding means. Thus, the assembly of the tubular mounting structure 18, the plurality of tubular extensions 20, 22, 24, and the plurality of mounting plates 26, 28, 30 form a rigid assembly of the main frame assembly 14. In a preferred embodiment, the materials of the main frame assembly 14 comprise steel components.

In order to provide mobility to the car dolly apparatus 10, a plurality of casters 32, 34, 36 are provided and can be respectively attached to the mounting plates 26, 28, 30 of the main frame assembly 14. In a preferred embodiment, an odd number of casters 32, 34, 36 attached to respective mounting plates 26, 28, 30 are utilized in order to accommodate a variety of floor gradients. This feature is designed to provide continuous support at a point where the car dolly apparatus 10 is implemented to the body of the vehicle. Thus, if one or more wheels becomes unsupported by an uneven floor surface, for example, at least one wheel will tend to continuously support the car dolly apparatus 10. An attachment means 38, such as nut and bolt assembly, may be utilized to secure the plurality of casters 32, 34, 36 to respective mounting plates 26, 28, 30. Thus, the bolts may be inserted through a plurality of holes 40 provided on the mounting plates 26, 28, 30 through corresponding holes on the casters 32, 34, 36 and secured via the nuts in order to form a rigid assembly.

In a preferred embodiment, each caster is designed to support at least a 400 lb load. Thus, for three casters, the car dolly apparatus 10 is preferably designed to support a 1200 lb load capacity. The caster material may employ a hard plastic such as polyolefin or alternatively, for example, utilize a steel wheel design.

Referring to FIG. 4, a height adjustment mechanism 16 is shown having a plurality of height adjustment insertion holes 42 disposed therein. A vehicle support mounting plate 44 is attached to the height adjustment mechanism 16 at one end thereof. In one embodiment, the vehicle support mounting plate 44 may be attached via welding means. The vehicle support mounting plate 44 is utilized to provide support and/or stability to a vehicle undercarriage.

A first vehicle mounting means 46 may be rigidly attached to the vehicle support mounting plate 44 such as by welding means, for example. The first vehicle mounting means 46 can be utilized to support the undercarriage of a vehicle. In a preferred embodiment, a cushion material 50, 52 is attached to a top surface and an inner surface of the first vehicle mounting means 46 to protect a surface of the supported vehicle body from damage, such as indentations or scratches. The cushion material may consist of any suitable material for providing protection including, for instance, a rubber material (such as a neopreme pad) or, alternatively, a plastic material.

The car dolly apparatus 10 may further incorporate a pinch weld clamp to facilitate preventing shifting or slipping during usage, such as manipulating a position of a vehicle. The first vehicle mounting means 46 may comprise a plurality of orifices 54, 56 for accommodating a means to facilitate translational movement (such as a nut and bolt assembly 58).

In a preferred embodiment, the car dolly apparatus 10 also incorporates a height adjustment design to accommodate an adjustment between ten and fourteen inches. In order to provide for height adjustment, the height adjustment mechanism 16 is disposed within the tubular mounting structure 18 of the main frame assembly 14. The preferred height adjustment insertion hole 42 of the height adjustment mechanism 16 may be aligned with a height adjustment hole 19 of the tubular mounting structure 18. A securing device, such as a hitch pin 70, may be inserted through the aligned insertion hold 42 and the adjustment hole 19 in order to retain a preferred height adjustment.

In an alternative embodiment, another vehicle support mounting plate design may be utilized such as a pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72. The pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72 is not rigidly attached to the height adjustment mechanism 16 (as with the vehicle support mounting plate 44). Instead, the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72 incorporates a flanged area 74 which comprises an insertion hole 76 to accommodate a securing device, such as a hitch pin 70. When the insertion hole 76 of the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72 is aligned with a height adjustment insertion hole 42 of the height adjustment mechanism 16, the hitch pin 70 may be inserted therethrough to secure the assembly. Thus, the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72 may be allowed to pivot about an axis of the height adjustment mechanism 16 to accommodate various angles of a undercarriage design of a vehicle to order to provide additionally stability and/or support.

A pinch weld clamp feature may also be utilized in combination with the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72. As with the vehicle support mounting plate 44, the first vehicle mounting means 46 may be rigidly connected to the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72. Again, the first vehicle mounting means 46 may comprise a plurality of orifices 54, 56 for accommodating a means to facilitate translational movement (such as a nut and bolt assembly 58). Additionally, the second vehicle mounting means 60 may rest upon the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72. Thus, in cooperation with the second vehicle mounting means 60 having a plurality of orifices 62, 64 generally aligned with respective orifices 54, 56 of the first vehicle mounting means 46, the means to facilitate translational movement (such as a nut and bolt assembly 58) may be inserted therethrough and retained therein.

Again, the first vehicle mounting means 46 is rigidly connected to the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72. The second vehicle mounting means 60 merely rests upon the pivoting vehicle support mounting plate 72. Thus, as the nut of the nut and bolt assembly 58 is turned, translational movement may occur to adjust the second vehicle mounting means 60 with respect to the first vehicle mounting means 46 accordingly. In operation, the vehicle undercarriage, such as a pinch weld section of a vehicle, may be clamped and retained between the first vehicle mounting means 46 and the second vehicle mounting means 60. The second vehicle mounting means 60 may also contain a cushion material 66, 68 attached to a top surface and an inner surface thereof in order to protect a surface of the supported vehicle body from damage, such as indentations or scratches.

The many features and advantages of the invention are apparent from the detailed specification, and thus, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such features and advantages of the invention which fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and variations will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation illustrated and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents maybe resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention.