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Car Jacks Explained

We’re talking about jacks of every kind, from the ones that come in your car to the heavy duty ones you can use only at home.

The Most Common Car Jacks for your Lifting Needs

Working on a lifted car
Working on a lifted car

Working on any vehicle can be considerably easier once it’s off of the ground. Obviously, removing wheels and tires can only be done safely once they’re elevated but jacks can do far more than simply help you change a tire. They offer the ability to better inspect a vehicle for damage, to check different components for failure that your eyes can’t see, complete routine maintenance with less hassle, and to get out of sticky situations by transferring more weight or pressure onto a tire with better grip.

Scissor Jack

Scissor Jack
Scissor Jack

This is the type of jack that most people will be familiar with finding in their vehicle. Often characterized by what looks like a long almost flat assembly, the scissor jack utilizes a hand crank to lift the vehicle off of the ground. In most cases, the top part of the jack that contacts the vehicle is designed for the one that it came inside of. This means that it will have a contact point that will mate up with the jacking points on the underside of the vehicle precisely. It’s important that the ground is flat when using a scissor jack as uneven footing can cause them to fall and fail during use.

Bottle Jack

Bottle Jack - northerntool.com
Bottle Jack - northerntool.com

While less popular these days, the bottle jack used to be the most popular jack one would find in a new car or truck. They fell out of favor as newer cars got lower and lower to the ground. A bottle jack needs many inches of clearance just to get under the jacking point before it can do its work. Nevertheless, once it’s there, it’s a very powerful tool that leverages hydraulic pressure in combination with a hand pump to lift the vehicle. Just like the scissor jack, the bottle jack should be used on flat ground to ensure maximum safety with regard to tipping.

Floor Jack

Floor Jack
Floor Jack

The floor jack is the same mobile rolling type that you’ll see at many automotive repair shops. Even NASCAR uses a special floor jack for pit stops. These jacks are tough, fairly easy to use, and typically less likely to tip or fall when compared to a scissor or bottle jack. They use the same combination of hydraulic fluid with a hand pump that the bottle jack does but instead of a single small base, the floor jack usually covers one or two feet of space at its base. They also have wheels which allows them to center themselves to a degree as they lift the car, truck, or SUV. Most of the time, the contact point on a floor jack is just a large round pad so using it in conjunction with the correct jacking point on a vehicle is vital for safe usage.

Farm Jack / Off-Road Jack

Farm / Off-Road Jack
Farm / Off-Road Jack

You might have also heard of this jack being called the high-lift and while each different brand may have slightly different features, the overarching style and behavior of these jacks is the same. Built with off-road situations in mind, the farm jack is one of the most versatile tools on this list because it can also serve as a sort of winch or come-along should you need that while on the trail. On the other side of the coin, this is also one of the most dangerous types of jacks because of the inherent conditions that come with using the jack in an off-road environment.

Unlike the hydraulic jacks already mentioned, the farm jack is completely mechanical. Users will need to use a combination of locking pins and levers to secure the jack before lifting the vehicle. When lowering the vehicle it’s vital to stay away from pinch points as the farm jack can surprise users with how fast it will lower a vehicle.

Exhaust Air Jack

Air Jack
Air Jack

Another off-road lifting method is the exhaust air jack and it’s wild to watch or to use. Unlike every other jack on this list, the air jack doesn’t require owners to carefully specify a jacking point. Instead, owners connect the air jack to the exhaust of the vehicle, position the air jack bag under the area that they want to lift, and then they start the vehicle. Exhaust gas fills the bag and subsequently lifts the vehicle. Once at the desired height, the vehicle can be shut off and the vehicle will remain elevated until the user releases the gas. Thanks to an integrated one-way valve, air can only travel in one direction at a time with the exhaust air jack.

Quick Jack

Quick Jack - quickjack.com
Quick Jack - quickjack.com

This jacking system can only be used at a place with flat ground and a 110-volt power source like a home garage or carport. Built for bigger jobs, the Quick Jack uses a pair of hydraulic lifts to raise the vehicle much like an automotive shop would on a post lift. Each side of the vehicle has its own side of the Quick Jack and when power is applied, each side raises, contacts the jacking points, and lifts the car completely off of the ground. Due to multiple safety features including locking points and diverter valves, the Quick Jack is a great way to safely complete more extensive work on a vehicle in a shorter period of time. Of all the jacks mentioned here, it’s the only one designed to pick up more than a single wheel at a time all by itself.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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