Heavy Lifting Made Easier With Hot Rod Hand Truck

This ergonomically designed specialty hand truck makes water heater installs a one-man job

Heavy Lifting Made Easier With Hot Rod Hand Truck

Interested in Tools?

Get Tools articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Tools + Get Alerts

Plumber Max Reed’s newest helper is never late for work, doesn’t need a lunch break and always does the heavy lifting when he needs a hand. And the only raise this helper ever wants is to lift a water heater.

That’s just how the labor-saving Hot Rod Hand Truck rolls, making water heater installs a one-man job and significantly reducing the risk of injury. Designed for plumbers by a plumber, Dave Smith, the modified hand truck (from Wolf Valley Tools) features a curved handle and a strap that, when used correctly, makes it a snap to move heavy water heaters either up or down stairs and onto or off service vehicles, stands, platforms, raised closets and so forth.

“I’ve used a lot of different things to lift water heaters, even a motorcycle lift,” says Reed, the owner of Max Reed Plumbing in Ojai, a Southern California town about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. “But nothing works as good as the Hot Rod Hand Truck.”

Reed, who established his business in 1979 and focuses on remodeling projects, drain cleaning, trenchless pipe rehab and service-and-repair work, knows better than most about the hazards of lifting and moving water heaters. About 10 years ago, he threw out his back while installing one.

“A buddy of mine is a chiropractor, and I literally crawled into his office, where he worked on my back for eight hours a day for three weeks,” he explains. “He used electro-acupuncture, which saved me from a back operation.

“Plus, a friend of mine had a water heater fall on him and it broke his pelvis,” Reed adds. “Now he can’t lift more than 15 or 20 pounds, is on pain meds and is retired at age 58. So I’m familiar with how a water heater can mess you up.”

In addition, the device dramatically reduces the chances of dropping and/or damaging a water heater, he adds.


Reed says handling water heaters in his service area is even more difficult because they’re partially filled with heavy sediment deposits created by the hard water. Some water heaters are one-quarter to one-third filled with sediment, which is heavier than water. (Keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds.)

Moreover, most water heaters in his area are located in garages, not basements. As such, national plumbing codes require plumbers to set heaters on a stand or platform, not directly on a floor.

But regardless of where a heater is located, the Hot Rod Hand Truck removes heavy lifting from the equation. The tool’s secret sauce is an ergonomically designed, V-shaped handle that curves backward farther than a standard hand truck’s handle. The other key component is a steel hook that’s welded beneath the handle.

In addition, the unit comes with two nylon straps. One is used to lower an elevated old tank. The other one attaches to the hook and is used to put a new tank into place. In both cases, the straps essentially enable the user to employ basic fulcrum-and-lever physics principles to maneuver a heater by balancing it atop the curved part of the handle while simultaneously stabilizing the load.

“A dolly is a dolly is a dolly,” says Reed. “But what makes this different is the strap system, frame’s angles and hook.

“When you learn how to use the dolly with the strap, you don’t have all that strain on your back,” he adds. “It’s all about using the angles. You have to let it do the work, not you. … You just get a feel for it.”


Reed says the tool is easy to use; someone who’s never used it before can get the hang of it in about thirty minutes. “It’s a little bit like learning how to dance,” he notes. “Once you learn all the steps, you’re good to go.”

In a typical garage installation, Reed says it takes him roughly 90 seconds to wheel a water heater from his truck and put it up on a platform. Better yet, he can do water heater installs by himself, which allows him to more efficiently allocate work among his three technicians, which leads to increased productivity and profitability.

In addition, Reed says you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to use the tool. “You can be 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weigh 140 pounds and use it effectively, once you understand how it works,” he notes.

The device, which features a welded-steel frame, weighs about 31 pounds. It measures 45 1/2 inches tall, 21 1/4 inches wide and 14 1/2 inches deep (as measured from the outer end of the foot plate to the back end of the handle). Instead of air-filled tires, the tool features 10-inch-diameter, 3-inch-wide, rubber, no-flat tires on steel wheels.

“The air gremlins always take air out of pneumatic tires right when you need it, but these tires are always ready to roll,” Reed observes.

The Hot Rod Hand Truck costs $389. Reed says that’s a bargain compared to the immense cost of a life-debilitating back injury.

“Would you spend $300 to save your back?” he asks. “If I can save one of my guys or myself the pain of a bum back, it’s worth every cent. This is a good investment.”  


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.