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Question DetailsAsked on 12/26/2016

We live on a steep street in SF. Cannot pull car into garage because of angle of short driveway to garage. Any fix

Because of the steep down hill slope of the street the angle of the driveway to the garage entry is such that the passenger side of vehicle scrapes/gets stuck when trying to enter garage. Shorter wheel base vehicle and enter and exit, but rear passenger side wheel hangs in air and twists vehicle frame. Anytype oof concrete work that can make slope of angle of driveway to garage more level?

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2 Answers


I always wondered who owned this house - guess now we know ;>)

What it sounds to me like you need, since you likely have a straight slope or "planar" sloped drive (just a flat surface at constant slope) with a sharp vertical angle or change of slope at the garage slab like shown above, is to put in a "vertical transition" - basically putting a moderate vertical S curve shape in the driveway profile so that the change of slope of the car as it pulls in is more gentle and progressive and the car is more levelled out before it hits the garage slab, thereby raising the frame higher off the ground at the drag point. Basically, think of changing your drive from the current flat surfaces (flat, not necessarily level) with a pair of sharp angles at bottom and top now like in the photo, to more of a roller coaster hill shape, with rounded off transition at top and maybe, if needed, also at the bottom of the drive - like some of the transition ramps in drives in this article -

Sure it can be done - depending on how severe the problem is, might take a physical survey to define the geometry and account for the car wheelbase and clearance, with a deliberate profile layout by a civil engineering firm (probably about $600-1000 in your area), but if your car can get in and out of the garage but just scrapes, then you only need to adjust by a few inches as described below

Five ways to do this that I can think of right offhand, depending on your driveway profile and length and on whether the car is scraping right at the garage slab at the doorway, or a bit in front of it on the driveway itself.

1) Easiest way, if this clearance change will work for your case, is a curb ramp (homebuilt or commercially available), designed to ease curb approaches to avoid sportscar frame clearance issues - several images on how these work and also quite a few on the other cases below if you google this search phrase -

garage ramp to prevent frame scraping driving into garage

Might go outside the garage to lift the rear wheels a bit as you drive in, to provide a bit more clearance - or with a steep approach drive might go inside the garage to keep the front wheels a bit higher longer until the midpoint of the car frame is over the drag spot. (The ramp would be spaced a bit less than half carlength from the drag point so the axle is lifted as the dragging point on the frame (presumably midway between the wheels) is approaching dragging.

2) Second easiest way, basically same as above but by building a wood ramp, IF your car has adequate headroom at the garage door header beam and at all applicable points inside the garage, and depending on whether your car leading wheels are inside the garage when the frame makes contact or are still outside, would to be to build a low flat-top or double-sided peaked ramp of 2x material and 3/4" plywood just inside the garage - like a low skateboarder or BMX biker jump ramp, so the leading axle is held higher as the car enters the garage till the frame clears the scraping point. Leading wheels would go up ramp (probably just plywood piece a foot or so "deep" supported on a piece of 2x4 or maybe 4x4, then depending on clearance conditions either a flat section leading back to a down ramp, or straight back into a down ramp once the car frame has cleared. You would have to be sure to maintain clearance under the car from the exhaust to avoid overheating the wood, and of course the ramp itself has to ensure adequate headroom for the car in the garage, and not be so high that the ramp causes frame clearance issues as the front wheels go over it and off it. The ramp would be short enough that when fully in the garage the car would be back down on the concrete, so no change in ease of getting in and out of the car.

Depending on how smooth your garage floor is and wheel diameter and ramp slope, it might stay in place fine with just some foam rubber weatherstripping on the bottom (note - with time this CAN stick to and peel garage floor paint or other finishes), or might have to be bolted down into the concrete slab so it does not get shoved across the floor as the car starts onto it.

If you did not want a ramp across the garage width when the car was not in there it could be two ramps, one in each wheel track, like car maintenance ramps but much lower, of 2x material and plywood or even wide 2x material only - but would have to be bolted down to the slab to prevent it moving around when the car drove on. Hanging strings from the ceiling make nice lineup guides to stay on the ramp - should be 12" wide at least if using 2 separate wheeltrack ramps, and have hanging guides to make sure you do not drive off the side of the ramp.

3) Third way, and easiest if clearance needed is quite small, if this would not leave a gap under the door (though door can be adjusted down or shimmed as necessary), is to have the "high point" of the concrete either ground down (if only uip to say a half an inch to max inch off the leading edge of the garage concrete slab and maybe off the trailing edge of the approach driveway would solve the problem), or have a half to dozen or so foot crosswise strip of drive where you are scraping (distance indicated measured up and down hill, all the way across the garage door width at least) removed (cut out in a strip using a diamond saw), the underlying soil dug down as necessary a few inches to make room for new concrete of same thickness, if not say over 5-6 feet up and downhill in dimension drill and insert pieces of rebar across the gap into the existing drive on both sides so this narrow strip does not try to tilt up under the wheel loads (if doing with concrete - no problem with asphalt), then pour new concrete oir asphalt in a rounded-over vertical transition between the drive and the garage like in the first photo - to "transition" the slope into the garage rather than have what I see as the SF typical straight slope drive angled up to the flat concrete garage slab at an angle, with no transition or "vertical curve" blending the two together smoothly. In some cases this "arc" can actually just be an intermediate straight slope like a bevel - steep drive, then gentler sloping section connects to the garage slab and that takes away the scraping point on the drive, then the garage slab. This intermediate transition slope method only works if the scraping is at the top of the drive after the car front wheels run onto the garage slab, not if actually scraping on the garage slab lip itself.

4) In worst cases, I have seen a couple with VERY short drives where the garage slab itself was actually cut and redone with a sloping entrance portion INSIDE the garage, meaning sometimes (depending on roller height from the floor now and how much the sill height is changed) the door guide channels might have to be reset lower so the door can be properly guided and supported as the door reaches all the way to the new lower slab location. That adjustment probably not necessary if only dropping the sill an inch or two. Stops on garage door opener would also likely have to be reset to the new lower setting unless your door stops strictly based on floor contact, and maybe a bevel or rubber bumper strip added on the bottom of the door so it is properly contacting the slab, not just at the back edge of the door. Not hard to do - just a bit of adjustment detail and maybe a trim strip added.

5) In really steep drives where the frame is bottoming out badly the above cannot always work, and certainly in your case you cannot flatten out the drive slope in general because you have no way to lengthen it between the street and the garage to give it a more gentle slope, so the other solution is (and you almost cdertainly WOULD need an engineer to design this to avoid not only belly dragging but also perhaps (depending if modification gets near street) bumper hitting issues at the street pulling in/out), is to partly (or for really short drive totally) remove the paving and redo the profile or at least roughen up and prime the drive surface and pour/place an overlay (easier done as an overlay rather than replacement with asphalt than concrete), forming basically a somewhat steeper middle half of the drive to get the car elevation higher as it is coming up the drive, then a vertical transition or "rounding off" of the vertical curve into the garage at the upper portion of the drive so the transition at the garage slab is not so sharp, with the now-raised driveway slope acting to elevate the downhill axle more so the frame is higher off the ground and the car is levelling off more as it approaches and goes into the garage. Typically would raise the middle portion of the drive about 6-12 inches, then "rounding" that off in a hump or ramp into the garage that would provide adequate clearance. Depending on the length of the drive and the drive and street angles at the street, might also need some adjustment at the bottom to ease the transition to avoid bumper dragging at the curb - really an issue with modern cars that commonly sit so low to the ground. Easier to do with asphalt drive than concrete but either is readily possible at probably $5-10/SF of affected area (higher per square foot rate if very small area being modified).


In doing a transition vertical curve or bevel replacement at the garage slab entrance point, unless it is just a matter of having a concrete grinding company come and grind off the leading edge of the garage slab a fraction of an inch (or DIY with a hand angle grinder with silicon carbide abrasive wheels if just a minimal amount to change a "scraping" situation into "clearing"), I would strongly recommend (though will add a hundred or few to contractor cost because of two crew callouts) is having the piece of drive cut out and the base material dug out deep enough to be sure there is proper depth and bearing for the new concrete/asphalt, put then have the new transition curve built in with the driveway base material only (compacted crushed stone) to final design surface and drive on that for a few days to be sure the car is going to clear OK - and be sure to load the car up with enough weight or people that is represents all normal use weight that it will see. Then after several days of testing satisfactorily (maybe tweaking the fill material profile by hand with shovel and rake if needed for better clearance) then have the contractor come back and after putting in rebar or staking as a guide to the desired profile, or probably more likely cutting a plywood profile form of the working slope shape to use in forming the final surface, remove the excess base material to proper depth and then put in the new concrete or asphalt strip.

Also consider if you need additional clearance for possible future replacement of car to one with lower clearance or longer wheelbase - so you may want to give a good couple inches clearance at least probably, not just bare minimum for this car - especially if you might upgrade in the future to a longer wheelbase car or low-slung sporty car, which aggravates the vertical angle clearance issue. Might even get a friend with an SUV or such (watch overhead clearance when testing, many SFO hill country garages have low doorways) to give it a try to see just how big a vehicle will clear without scraping.

BTW - when I said civil engineer before - a registered land surveyor might be able to do the survey and figure the clearance also, but a civil engineer who does site development planning and design or SF street design would not only be able to do that, but also help with any permit requirements (almost ceartainly needed in permit and regulation-happy SF) - especially if you are going to have to reprofile the drive slope so might need to transition curve the bottom for bumper clearance as well, which might well get into a sidewalk modification permit to continue the transition curve or a ramping through the sidewalk area to the street.


One afterthought in rereading your question - since it sounds like your drive angles into the garage, itmight be that just changing the slope on the approach or one ramp would solve the problem in your case (since only scraping on one side, not across both sides of the frame) - but you would have to be careful to not warp the car too much and permanently damage the frame, though a half dozen inches or so should present no risk of that.

Last option - scrap the car and get a Makaha longboard and skateboard down your wicked steep drive and off to work.

Good luck

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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Answered 3 years ago by Member Services

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