We know that a spare tire is an absolute necessity for car owners, but while having a spare wheel is necessary, changing tires cannot be done without another essential tool – the jack. Without a car jack, it is impossible to lift your vehicle off the ground and change tires.
How a jack lifts the vehicle is by the use of the power of hydraulics – that is, the science branch that deals with the transmission of liquids through pipes, especially as a source of mechanical force.
Jacks come in various types and weight ratings. Getting the right type of jack for the job to be done is critical, not only to ensure the safety of the mechanic but also of the vehicle.
Many types of car jacks can lift vehicles of different sizes from small cars to tractor trailers. Here are the options to choose from.
Also called trolley jack, garage jack, or floor jack, this type is kept in the workshop rather than in the back of a car. The reason is that this type usually has a heavyweight and fairly large size.
Floor jacks are operated by sliding them under the car. They are easy to maneuver as they have wheels and casters, but they are also designed to be placed on flat ground and not on a surface that is inclined.
The placement should be on a location that is also compact enough to support the combined weights of the jack and the vehicle that it lifts.
Once in place under the chosen lift point of the vehicle, the jack’s arm is pumped repetitively, until the round disk part of the jack touches the vehicle and lifted to the desired height.
Since it can be easily maneuvered, many mechanics and car owners prefer using it and for that, this type of car jack is touted as a workhorse in the field of the car repair business.
Also, this type is considered to be sturdier and stronger compared to mechanical jacks and have different lift capacities depending on the material they are made of and their design.
This jack has a maximum weight capacity of 50 tons and therefore, it can be used for lifting a variety of objects. Besides its use in automobiles, it can also be used in raising house foundations.
Those models that are larger and heavy-duty are called barrel jacks, which are used for short vertical lifts of weighty objects. But for the most part, many units of bottle jacks are smaller in size compared to most floor jack models.
If your car’s ground clearance* is low, a bottle jack may not fit under it, so a small floor jack. Another point of comparison is the longer base of bottle jacks. Having more extended plates means a better ability to distribute the weight of the car across the jack’s base.
Since bottle jacks are usually smaller, they can fit in tighter spaces than most floor jacks. Probably, it’s right for you to own both types to be used in different applications or even on the same job.
For instance, if you will be changing suspension components, the car may be jacked up using the floor jack. The bottle jack is used for suspension compression to be done on the other side of the vehicle.
*Ground clearance = the distance between a car body’s lower side and the road
An air bag jack lifts an object through a system that inflates with the use of compressed air. One thing you will like about this type is that these jacks can be deflated after use.
With air compression as its system of lifting, these jacks can lift smaller objects like cars, and can also be used for more significant objects like an aircraft. During emergencies, air bag jacks are used to raise heavy objects in helping victims who have been trapped beneath those objects.
For rescue operations, there are three types used: low-pressure, medium-pressure and high-pressure systems. Bags with the lowest pressure system are operated at 7.25 psi and are appropriate for a high vertical lift in wide surface areas.
Medium-pressure air bag jacks use 15 psi, while bags with high-pressure capacities are operated between 90 and 145 psi.
Perhaps, the most significant advantage of air bag jacks is their ability for insertion in very tight spaces. Some models are so thin that they can be positioned in spaces with as little as one-inch clearance.
With such different abilities, air bag jacks are preferred by workers working in various industries such as military, agriculture, mining, railroad work, and material and, as has already been cited, in rescue.
These jacks carry this name – scissor – because they have diagonal pieces of metal that expand and contract similar to the way scissors are designed. When in the contracted form, they are compact, so one advantage they have is the ease of transport. Another is easy storage.
There are two types you can choose from: Hydraulic scissor jack – for lifting vehicles up for diagnostic, repair and maintenance purposes. Manual scissor jack – best used for the purpose of lifting a corner of the car. Place it behind the wheel to lift that corner up and you can have an excellent view to check for a damaged or flat tire. Two things stand out for this type of car jacks that we would like to mention in this post. The first one is “swivel handle operation.” The simple design has been widely praised for many, many years in comparison with other types.
The system lends for precision lifts that also maximizes protection for the user. Though such design requires a bit of muscle power for operation, it is not dependent on electronics to raise the car.
Impact drill operation is the second one. These jacks lift objects with the aid of an impact drill, and the power tool’s motor releases all power.
If you hit the trails a lot, this type might be the best option. It serves a lot of functions and can be the most versatile piece of tool in your mechanical repair arsenal when on the road.
Primarily a mechanical lever, you can turn your car around using this jack. With it, you can also straighten steel rods, and if needed, you can use it as a clamper or winch.
With this multi-functional advantage, it is no wonder that many 4 X 4 owners bring an off-road jack along for all their adventures. Besides, many models under this category feature a safety mechanism that tells a user not to use the jack whenever the weight is more than what it can handle.
One advantage to consider is the large-diameter design in many models. With this design, the jack uses low pressure to raise loads, which is why this jack has a longer lifetime in comparison to other types.
Check out models that come with a sturdy safety bar. With a sturdy safety bar, the jack can handle lifting regular and unibody vehicles firmly – even at the maximum height allowed for it for lifting.
Many buyers also look for models with wide bases, as this can make them ensure that there will be the needed stability during repairs on off-road surfaces.
A transmission jack is used for the job of installing a new transmission or removing an old or damaged one.
The right transmission jack to choose depends on the load to lift. Load weight capacities range from 600 lbs. to 4,000 lbs. As these jacks are quite expensive, consider the durability and volume of work you expect to do using a transmission jack.
Different types are available. There is the telescopic type of transmission jacks and there are also the hydraulic pressure lifts. Still, there are high-lifts and the low-profile types of transmission jacks.
Two key factors to consider when buying a transmission jack. One is weight capacity, and two, the safety mechanisms that include maneuvering options and stability. Most importantly, the jack must be able to support the entire transmission system of your car.
For transmission installation or removal, much of the weight of the transmission must be placed on the extended arm of the jack. The extended arm carries a plate that can secure the transmission. Thus, the jack is used for easy carrying of the transmission for repairs and refitting of transmission onto the car.
Transmission jacks can be easily procured from manufacturers such as Ranger and Sunex.
These vehicle jacks allow users to lift a car, truck or van in seconds. It is used with a simple operation of reversing onto the jack and the jack will hold the axle firmly in place for maintenance.
This type comes in different weight categories – usually 5 tons, 30 tons, and 60 tons. The higher tonnage capacity is used for the mining and the civil industry, while the 60-ton models are usually employed in hauling heavy trailers and for commercial lorries. The lowest tonnage capacity is designed to be used for smaller vehicles like trailers and caravans.
When buying an axle jack, check for the jack’s ability to lift loads to desired heights safely, effortlessly, and efficiently. You can ask about a feature called dual-lifting stage operation and see if that feature will be beneficial to your applications.
Damage from over-pumping is common in this jack type. Some of the models come with a built-in bypass device that protects the unit from damage, so you clarify that with the seller.
Also, some models come with a one-piece handle assembly. Look for easy-control features, like the one that will allow you to choose from different lift angles. Generally, they come with options of 0-degrees, 45-degrees and 90-degrees.
A jack stand is a tool whose height can be adjusted and is used to support a vehicle that has been lifted by a jack. Jack stands are not for lifting vehicles, as this is not their purpose in car repairs. They are used to provide a safe, fixed point of support for a lifted vehicle.
Use at least a pair of jack stands every time you do a repair job, and you will decrease the possibility of you becoming a victim of a falling vehicle. What you do there is jack up the car to a certain height and then lower it until it touches the top of the stand or stands for support.
Upon finishing the repair, you raise the car a bit using the jacks and then remove the stands.
Jack stands when holding objects to use the principle of hydraulics as well. As such, it is also susceptible to failure if used under constant pressure. Proper maintenance must be implemented.
Accidents involving jack stands happen, and all it takes is one blown seal for it to lose pressure and cause its load to drop and crush the person under the vehicle.
How many jack stands do you need every time? It depends on what needed to be lifted. If the entire car needs to be raised, use four stands, placed on every corner. If only one end is to be lifted, two stands will suffice for the job.
Trailers are unpowered vehicles towed by another. They come in different weights and lengths, and these dimensions must be considered when choosing a trailer jack. Both the retracted and extended positions are considered when the length factor is taken into account.
When extended, the jack’s job is to lift the coupler high enough for easy access to the vehicle’s hitch ball. And when traveling, the jack is made to retract far enough to clear the ground.
Choose a jack that matches or even surpassed the Tongue Weight of the trailer track. The Tongue Weight is estimated to be 10-15 percent of the weight of the trailer. Getting a jack that is rated higher, your trailer’s tongue wouldn’t present any problem at all.
A 4,600-lb trailer, for example, would carry a tongue weight between 460 and 490 lbs. For this requirement, you will have to choose a jack that has a lift capacity of 1000 to 2000 lbs.
Aside from lowering and raising trailers, trailer jacks are used for leveling the trailer when it is not being towed and for stabilizing the trailer during loading and unloading while it is parked.
When buying a trailer jack, you might want to consider features such as LED light for night operation and also emergency detachable hand crank and hardware. Some models have waterproof headcover included.