How to Choose the Best Automotive Floor Jack
An automotive floor jack is a device that is used to lift the vehicle to allow for repairs. It’s also referred to as an auto jack, garage jack, or car jack. Floor jacks are normally found in car shops, but they are also popular amongst novice car enthusiasts and DIYers.
There are numerous types of floor jacks available. Each type is used for a variety of tasks. Their main use pertains to lifting vehicles to perform all sorts of repairs. They help with performing simple tasks that would otherwise have car owners spending a lot of time and money at car repair workshops.
Best of the Best
Arcan ALJ3T 3-Ton Quick Rise Aluminum Floor Jack
Arcan XL20 2-Ton Heavy Duty Low Profile
Floor jacks vary in weight, height, and lifting capacity. The one thing they all have in common is the utilization of force to lift automobiles. There’s usually very minimal manual effort required to get a floor jack working, and this is thanks to the two primary mechanisms used to lift heavy objects: hydraulic or mechanical.
As the name suggests, hydraulic floor jacks use hydraulics to lift objects. They vary in size, material, build quality, and capacity. They are also easy to store and use. Mechanical jacks use a leadscrew to lift cars and trucks. They employ direct physical means, hence, have a lifting capacity lower than that of hydraulic jacks.
Every floor jack has a weight limit. Always take great care when using a floor jack to lift your vehicle. Make sure the car doesn’t exceed the weight limit indicated on the floor jack as this may cause the jack to fail.
Different Types of Floor Jacks
Floor jacks are also known as service jacks or trolley jacks. They are relatively heavy and big, and can only be used on flat surfaces. They are commonly used in home garages and car workshops. They also vary depending on material and design but tend to be sturdier and stronger than the average mechanical jack.
Bottle jacks derive their name from their shape and size which resemble that of a bottle. They use a powerful piston to lift vehicles with only a few pumps. They are commonly used in workshops to lift heavy machinery such as tractors, heavy SUVs, and lift forks. They cannot be used to lift lower vehicles due to their height. They are, however, a great alternative as they occupy less space when compared to floor jacks.
Scissor jacks are popular mechanical jacks that are sometimes included in new cars by vehicle manufactures. They are built to be used occasionally and can only lift vehicles just a few inches off the ground. Although they are designed to be sturdy, scissor jacks are not suitable for heavy repairs. They are meant for light jobs such as changing a tire. For other tasks, hydraulic jacks provide a better option.
Hi-Lift jacks are light and highly multifaceted jacks that are used to pull, push, clamp, and winch machinery. On average, they offer a weight capacity of between 4,660 pounds and 7,000 pounds. Hi-Lift jacks are basically big mechanical levers in their basic form. They can be put to a variety of uses including straightening bent steering rods, turning vehicles around, pressing in uni joints, among other uses.
Important Things to Pay Attention to When Choosing a Floor Jack
Floor jacks are built to lift at least half of a car’s weight. They are designed to lift at least 2 wheels off the ground. As a rule of thumb, your floor jack should have a weight rating that’s at least three-quarters of your vehicle’s weight. For example, a 3,000-pound (1.5 ton) floor jack can lift a car that weighs 4,000 pounds.
It’s best not to operate at the jack’s limit. Using a jack that has a rating half your car’s weight might have you putting in too much effort to lift the car. Besides, it leaves no room for mistakes. The floor jack’s linkage bars could start to wear out at maximum weight. Eventually, your jack will give in and cause the car to collapse. Using a jack at its limit only works if the jack and vehicle are perfectly centered – something that occurs rarely.
Height of the Lifting Pad
Floor jacks vary depending on the height of the lifting pad. The average height ranges from 4 inches to 18 inches. Low-profile floor jacks are normally just under 4 inches and can fit under most vehicles. Many mechanics prefer using these jacks as they can handle a wide variety of vehicle repairs.
A vehicle that has very little ground clearance may be too low for a full-size jack. Such cars include sports cars which sit low to maximize airflow. The average floor jack can fit where there’s access height of at least 5 inches. If you’re looking to lift SUVs and trucks, you may not have much trouble getting a floor jack that fits. For maximum height, most jacks can lift to a height of about 20 inches. This is adequate for all sorts of small repairs. When deciding what jack to buy, pick a floor jack that can fit under your vehicle.
Quality of Metal
Floor jacks are either made of aluminum or steel. The two types of metals vary in strength, cost, and weight. Steel is much heavier and denser than aluminum. As such, two-floor jack with the same dimensions may vary in weight if built using different metals.
Steel floor jacks are much stronger, more affordable, and have higher weight capacities compared to aluminum floor jacks. Due to their weight, however, they may cause problems when it comes to storage and moving them around.
Aluminum floor jacks are more expensive and lighter when compared to steel floor jacks. Aluminum can be dyed and does not corrode easily. This makes these types of jacks more durable and popular due to their wide color selection. Manufacturers produce aluminum jacks in different grades, offering various options when it comes to high-quality aluminum. Some aluminum jacks are even stronger than steel jacks and come with a lighter frame that makes them easy to use and store.
Safety Tips When Working with Floor Jacks
- Always use the appropriate floor jack for the job.
- Use stands to support your vehicle at all times.
- Place the jack at the right jacking point under your car.
- Never perform repairs under a car that’s only supported by a floor jack.
- Always wedge your wheels to prevent unwanted movement.
- Chock your wheels with cinder or cement blocks to avoid shuttering due to pressure.
- Always make sure that your floor jack can support your car’s weight.
- Don’t use a leaking jack.
- Always stand on the side while jacking your car.
- Never overload your jack.
- Lubricate your floor jack with the recommended lubricant.
- Discard your jack if it’s damaged.
- Stop lifting if your car shifts under the floor jack.
- Only lift your vehicle as high as necessary.
- Always remove the jack handle when done lifting the vehicle.
Related Questions on Automotive Floor Jacks
What size of a floor jack do I need?
Your floor jack should be able to lift at least three-quarters of your vehicle’s weight. The average floor jack is built to lift at least two wheels off the ground, which is about half of your car’s weight. However, to make lifting easy and provide adequate weight capacity, your floor jack should have a rating similar to three-quarters of your car’s weight.
What is the difference between a floor jack and a trolley jack?
A floor jack is easy to use, light in weight and uses hydraulics to lift low-level cars. A trolley jack differs in that it is heavier, has a higher minimum height, moves on wheels, and uses springs to lift vehicles with adequate ground clearance.
Floor jack vs jack stands: what is the difference?
A floor jack is used to lift parts of a vehicle off the ground to allow for vehicle repairs. Jack stands are used to keep the vehicle supported while off the ground.
Can a 3-ton jack lift an SUV?
A 3-ton jack can lift up to 6,000 pounds of weight, making it capable of lifting an SUV. If your SUV weighs more than that, consider buying a floor jack that has a higher weight capacity.
How much can a 2-ton floor jack lift?
A floor jack that has a rating of 2 tons can carry a maximum of 4,000 pounds. Most mechanics prefer this type of floor jack as it is easy to use and appropriate for small and mid-size cars.
How much can a 1.5-ton jack lift?
A 1.5-ton jack can lift 3,000 pounds. Since the average jack is designed to lift about half the weight of a regular car, using a 1.5-ton jack on a vehicle that weighs about the same or slightly more should be enough.