Compact design fits in most wheel wells. 4,000lb capacity. Forked lift arm allows precise jack stand placement. Slow, controlled release under load. Lock-in-place mechanism for additional safety. Only requires 6" of clearance.
Some hydraulic fluid leakage reported; may not be serviceable.
Very compact when folded; fits easily in trunk. 3,000lb capacity. Wide base plates for additional stability. Speed adapter for power drills available. Heavy-duty steel frame construction. Great price point and easy to operate.
Does not work well on inclined surfaces. Can be difficult to crank under load.
Sold as a set of 2, offering more stability options. Power drill cranking available. Can be mounted to RVs. Lifting and lowering action is very smooth and controlled. 6,500 lbs of lifting capacity per jack. Lightweight for easy storage but still heavy-duty for larger vehicles.
Screw mechanism not as sturdy as the frame. Some concerns about pin and plate alignment.
Requires minimal pumping for the majority of lifts. Lifting capacity is a solid 3.5 tons. Has a 22" maximum lift height. Built-in safety valve and pump bypass. Swivel saddle design provides easy and safe jack positioning.
Very heavy. Works better on cement floors than roadside. Challenging to maintain.
This hydraulic jack is able to lift a whopping 8 tons. Small footprint. Affordable. A convenient pick for truck owners as it has a higher profile to start with. Lifting range is 9 1/18" to 18". Serrated, heat-treated saddle provides a secure grip.
Bottle jacks aren't suitable for roadside maintenance or vehicles with low ground clearances.
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If you live the DIY life, it’s pretty likely that you’ll be getting under your car at some point. While several maintenance tasks can be accomplished without accessing the vehicle undercarriage or chassis, things like oil changes, wheel and tire replacements, transmission repairs, and exhaust work often require being underneath your car. Mechanics and tuners have the luxury of purpose-built work pits and powered lifts, but if you’re doing work at home, you’re going to need car jacks.
Car jacks are lifting devices that raise your vehicle, either by purely mechanical means, electric power, or hydraulic power. Jacks come in three main forms: scissor, bottle, and floor, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks, with specific weight limits for each piece. They’re available at a variety of price points. Just like spare tires, some vehicles come with a jack and some don’t.
Fortunately, there are countless examples on the market. We’re here to break down everything you need to know about these clever and extremely practical tools. Before you hit the road, Jack, let us answer your car jack-related questions, and recommend a few of our favorites.
Jacks fall into three main categories: scissor, floor, and bottle.
Scissor jacks: Basic scissor jacks are purely mechanical, using large jackscrews and an expanding design to lift heavy vehicles by manual force alone. Some versions are electric, however, or utilize a power drill for quick operation. As the user twists the jackscrew, the force is amplified by the tool through leverage. Scissor jacks work more slowly than hydraulic options, but they’re extremely lightweight and compact for in-car storage. For the most part, scissor jacks are used to change flat tires and do other quick jobs.
Floor jacks: Floor jacks, or trolley jacks, are almost always hydraulic. This means that with each pump of the handle, an oil-filled reservoir places pressure on a cylinder that pushes the vehicle upward. These jacks are larger and heavier than scissor jacks, and they work more rapidly. Also, their flat, rolling design facilitates speedy placement and storage.
Bottle jacks: Bottle jacks are generally also hydraulic and extremely versatile. While one isn’t as easily slid into place as a floor jack on casters, these jacks are compact, can lift heavy weights, and feature a wide base for extra stability. They can even be used sideways for other non-vehicular construction projects, but they aren’t your best bet for cars with low ground clearance.
The weight limit of car jacks can vary widely depending on the manufacturer, jack type, and designated use. Always avoid guessing and check the manufacturer’s rating to know exactly how much weight your jack can handle.
Scissor jacks are small in profile and intuitive to use, but the stamped-metal units included with your spare tire often max out at 1 to 2 tons. Floor jacks can usually handle significantly more weight, with bottle jacks being the strongest. Keep in mind that your car jack doesn’t need to lift your entire car, but its weight limit should always comfortably exceed the weight of the axle you’re working on.
While safety and stability are your primary concerns when using a car jack, it certainly helps if the tool can fit comfortably beneath your vehicle. For most drivers, this isn’t a major worry because consumer vehicles boast plenty of ground clearance to fit scissor, floor, and bottle jacks. Low-slung sports cars or modified vehicles are a different story. For these, confirm that your chosen jack’s minimum height rating is lower than your vehicle’s ground clearance, remembering that scissor jacks have the lowest profile. Also, make sure the jack’s maximum lift height is sufficient for the work you plan to do.
Jack stand: Torin Big Red Jack Stands
Add an extra layer of safety and security with a sturdy jack or axle stand. Torin’s Big Red set comes with two 6,000-pound stands, each of which is double locking with a height range from 11.25 to 16.75 inches.
Wheel chocks: Hopkins FloTool Wheel Chocks
Prevent your vehicle from rolling off your jack and jack stand with wheel chocks. We like this two-pack from Hopkins because the heavy-duty resin construction grips well, the units are stackable, and they’re affordably priced.
Wrench set: Craftsman Wrench Set
Conquer every nut and bolt your car has to offer with a quality wrench set. Craftman’s 20-piece set affords you outstanding flexibility, and the wrenches ratchet reliably.
Inexpensive: Entry-level car jacks cost around $25 to $50. These are typically stamped metal scissor jacks with a relatively low weight limit, but they are more than sufficient for changing tires or wheels or inspecting the frame. You may also find electric scissor jacks and inexpensive hydraulic jacks at this price point.
Mid-range: You’ll spend $100 or so for a high-quality scissor jack with a surprisingly high weight rating. You can also find solid bottle jacks in this category, as well as some floor jacks. On the whole, these products are a bit more refined, with soft rubber handles and easy-to-use adjustment valves.
Expensive: At the top of the range, expect to shell out $200 or more for commercial-quality floor and bottle jacks with the best weight ratings and ergonomics. Outliers like pneumatic jacks, electronically powered jacks, and tools with extreme weight limits can be found here as well.
Drive your vehicle to level ground, put it in park, and put on the emergency brake. Do this before using a jack of any kind. If it has a manual transmission, put the car in first gear to prevent it from rolling backward. Place wheel chocks both in front and behind the wheels that stay on the ground.
Jack the car up gradually. Alternate between sides if you need to raise the entire front or rear of the vehicle. Monitor the jack heights to keep them even. When the vehicle is at your desired height, lock the jack in place with the designated pin or pawl, if applicable.
Use a jack stand or axle stand as a safeguard in case the jack fails. If there is no room on the designated jack point, place the jack stand under a reinforced part of the frame or axle. A diagram of secure jack points can be found in your owner’s manual.
Never solely use wood or cinder blocks in place of jack stands. Wood and cinder blocks can break, splinter, or crumble under heavy weight, and that presents massive safety issues. You may use wood or cinder blocks as additional reinforcements along with jack stands.
Work with a friend. Always have help any time you’re underneath a vehicle. Not only can they help if something goes wrong, but they can also hand you tools and parts for uninterrupted work.
Q. How can I find the safe jack points on my vehicle?
A. You can’t just place car jacks anywhere you like under a vehicle. They must be placed at properly reinforced jack points for safe use. These jack points are generally located under the vehicle’s rocker panels, behind the front wheels, and ahead of the rear ones. However, your owner’s manual will list the specific points with helpful diagrams, along with the proper raising procedures. If you don’t have your manual, one can be purchased from your dealer or usually found for free online. Some vehicles permit the placing of car jacks on the axles, but always confirm with an official source before doing this.
Q. How do I determine how much vehicle weight will be placed on each jack?
A. It may be confusing to determine how much weight will be on each jack and jack stand because you may not know your vehicle weight or how it’s distributed. What you really need to know is your vehicle’s weight per axle, because a jack can only lift one side of a car at a time. You can find this information in your owner’s manual, online, or on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb. So long as the axle weight doesn’t exceed your jack’s maximum weight limit, you’re ready to begin work (assuming you haven’t made drastic modifications to your vehicle, of course). With that said, the higher a jack’s weight limit the better.
Q. How do I safely lower my vehicle when the work is done?
A. To bring your ride back down to earth, remove the jack stands, blocks, spare wheels, or whatever else you have braced the vehicle with from underneath. Don’t forget to retrieve all your tools and supplies as well. Reinstall any wheels, tightening the lug nuts by hand. Slowly lower your car by reversing the process you used to raise it. Then, once the vehicle is safely on the ground, fully tighten the wheel’s lug nuts with a wrench. Release the emergency brake to remove excess tension before either securing it again or going for a drive to test your handiwork.
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