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Summary
  • If your hydraulic jack is damaged, extends slowly, kicks back, or has frothy oil, there’s something wrong with it and problems will need to be addressed.
  • The best way to minimize hydraulic jack repairs is to take good care of it. Keep your hydraulic jack upright, clean it regularly, and never forget to replace the hydraulic oil.
  • It’s often best to leave hydraulic jack repairs to professionals.

CAUTION: Do not trust just any jack (new or old) to hold a vehicle up if you plan to get under the vehicle. Always use the proper jack stands.

A lot of things can go wrong when a hydraulic jack malfunctions, especially since it’s such a vital tool in vehicular repair and maintenance. Hydraulic jacks lift vehicles up, giving mechanics easier access to parts that would otherwise be impossible to reach.

To prevent your hydraulic jack from breaking down completely, you need to keep an eye out for the following signs of damage.

Signs Your Hydraulic Jack Needs Repairs

Here are some of the most common signs that your hydraulic jack has problems that you need to address:

Engaged Safety Valves

If the safety valves of the hydraulic jack are engaged, then the jack has become overloaded. This happens when a jack tries to lift more than it is capable of. When the safety valves are triggered, the jack will stop attempting to lift and you’ll have to reset the jack completely.

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Frame Shows Visible Damage

The frame of the hydraulic jack acts as a skeleton or backbone of sorts. Without one, the jack will collapse from the sheer weight of the vehicles it lifts. If the jack ever breaks because of being overloaded, then the damage sustained is often irreparable.

Frothy Oil

Another indicator that your hydraulic jack needs repairs is if the hydraulic oil is milky or frothy. This typically suggests that the oil has been contaminated with water. If this contamination isn’t addressed or necessary repairs aren’t conducted, the jack might corrode from within. This damage is irreparable.

Jack Can’t Fully Extend

When there’s a problem with your jack handle’s hydraulic system, the jack won’t be able to extend all the way. Similarly, the jack might also extend very slowly. This often points to an issue with the flow of hydraulic oil. In most cases, the pressure needed to generate movement isn’t high enough.

Jack Handle Kicks Back

One of the biggest signs you shouldn’t ignore is when there’s a lot of feedback from the jack handle. This could feel like jerking and kicking back after a down stroke.

If your jack handle ever kicks back, you should either replace the jack handle entirely or bring the hydraulic jack to a professional for repairs.

Oil Leaks

Another sign that your hydraulic jack needs repairs is if it leaks oil. This usually happens when the seals crack or break. Oil leaks are particularly bad for your hydraulic jack because the hydraulic system needs oil to function.

Unresponsive Rams

If the rams are unresponsive, it’s likely that your hydraulic jack doesn’t have enough hydraulic fluid. Continuing to force your rams to work when there isn’t enough fluid has the potential to damage them. Because of this, always top off your jack’s hydraulic fluid to make sure it functions properly.

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Wheels Grind and Make Squeaky Noises

Though this is arguably the problem with the least stakes, it’s still one worth addressing. If the wheels of your jack grind and make squeaky noises, they’re likely damaged. This problem can be remedied with some lubricant, but you can also replace the wheels entirely if lubricant doesn’t help.

Hydraulic Jack Maintenance: Tips and Tricks

hydraulic floor jack operation
One of the best ways to keep your hydraulic jack functional and free from any damage is to familiarize yourself with its basic maintenance.

 Knowing how to protect and maintain your equipment is one of the most important parts of being a driver or a mechanic. One of the best ways to keep your hydraulic jack functional and free from any damage is to familiarize yourself with its basic maintenance.

Change the Oil

One of the best ways to ensure that your hydraulic jack works is to change the oil periodically. Bleed the system once a year and replace the hydraulic oil inside it. If you don’t bleed the system and change the oil, its performance will decrease and it might suffer from irreversible damage.

Similarly, make sure that you’re using the right type of oil for your hydraulic jack. You’re going to want to load it with the manufacturer’s recommended hydraulic oil. If you use any other oil to try and lubricate the hydraulic jack, you might end up damaging it.

Clean It Regularly

Another way to keep your hydraulic jack in good condition is to clean it before storing it. Dust and other contaminants tend to gather in oily spots. Clean all parts of the jack, but avoid getting soap on the moving hydraulic parts.

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Keep an eye out for potential leaks by looking for places where oil shouldn’t be. If you find oil leaks in your hydraulic jack, don’t use it and don’t clean it until you’ve found the source of the leak. You might need to replace the seals.

Learn How to Store It

Last but not least, learning how to properly store your hydraulic jack is one of the most crucial steps to maximizing its service life.

When storing a hydraulic jack, always make sure that the piston and the pump have been retracted all the way. Leaving them pressed and compressed puts a lot of strain on the hydraulic system.

Also make sure that the hydraulic jack is always stored upright and never on its side. If it ever falls on an angle or lies flat on its back, you run the risk of springing a leak.

How to Repair a Hydraulic Jack: DIY or Hire A Mechanic?

Conducting hydraulic floor jack repair isn’t easy. You can use hydraulic jack repair kits to deal with issues related to pressure and hydraulic oil, but repairing jacks damaged by corrosion or overloading requires a certain level of expertise.

In most cases, you’re better off replacing a broken hydraulic jack entirely or bringing it to a professional who can repair it for you. Better yet, buy a new jack.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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