Floor Jack Buyer's Guide
- Jacks are devices used to lift heavy equipment and vehicles. In automotive repair and maintenance, they are commonly referred to as car or floor jacks.
- Floor jacks are considered portable automotive service equipment simply because they are handy devices used in performing vehicle repairs.
- Floor jack specifications will determine whether a floor jack can support your vehicle safely and securely.
- The common types of floor jacks are scissor, trolley, and bottle jacks.
- Scissor floor jacks are the cheapest in the market and are the simplest when it comes to the mechanism.
- Trolley floor jacks are hydraulic jacks that are equipped with wheels for easier sliding under the vehicle.
- Bottle floor jacks are hydraulic jacks that feature an upright bottle that houses the hydraulic piston and hydraulic fluid.
- Scissor jacks use a screw that pulls the ends of the arms closer to raise the top bracket. Hydraulic jacks use hydraulic force to raise the pistons.
- Floor jacks are rated according to their total lift capacity. There are 1.5-ton, 2-ton, 3-ton, and 4-ton floor jacks.
- CarParts.com offers floor jacks that range from $97 to $221 depending on the capacity rating (2.5-ton or 3-¼-ton).
Vehicle repair is a task most car owners should be familiar with. Fixing a car not only requires mechanical skill but various tools, as well. For repairs that involve the components found in the under chassis, you will require either a four-pillar hydraulic lift or a jack. The four-pillar hydraulic lift is commonly utilized in auto repair shops and is relatively expensive than the much simpler, portable floor jack.
If you’re planning to get a car lift, then consider investing on a floor jack first as they are significantly cheaper and very handy. Before you check out what’s in your cart, there are a few things you need to know if you’re looking forward to buying a floor jack.
What Is a Floor Jack?
Jacks are mechanical devices used to lift heavy equipment and trailers. These are also used in automotive repair and maintenance, where they are commonly referred to as car or floor jacks. Considered as portable automotive service equipment simply because they are handy devices, floor jacks are used in performing vehicle repairs. There are various forms of floor jacks and each one of them has its own pros and cons compared to the rest.
It is important to research about the floor jack you’re planning to buy before making any purchase. Floor jack specifications will determine whether a floor jack can support your vehicle safely and securely.
What Kind of Floor Jack Do I Need?
There are different types of floor jacks and they vary in terms of their mechanism. If you’re looking for the kind of floor jack to suit your needs, here’s everything you need to know:
Considered the cheapest option in the market, the scissor jack is the oldest form of floor jack you can find. The common form of scissor jack features a long screw in the middle that can be cranked to move the jack’s arms upward. It requires effort to operate as there is nothing to aid the rotation of the screw. A longer handle rod should help but it will still take a lot of work to lift the car with this type of jack.
The most common type of jack you’ll see today is a trolley, which is a type of hydraulic floor jack. Trolley jacks are a lot more stable and safer to use than scissor jacks. You can find them used in place of four-pillar hydraulic lifts at some auto repair shops simply because they are reliable and easy to use. Trolley jacks are called as such since they come with wheels that help the user easily slide the jack under the car.
When sliding the trolley jack underneath the vehicle, make sure that the lever socket is facing the outer side. The lever socket is a hole where the lever used for cranking the jack is slid into.
The bottle jack is another kind of hydraulic floor jack. It features an upright bottle that houses the hydraulic piston and hydraulic fluid. Since it’s hydraulic, it’s easier to use compared to a scissor jack, as the operator won’t need extra force when using it. It is also more compact than a trolley jack, which makes it easier to store and carry around.
The only downside of the bottle jack is that it features an upright metal container. It’s base’s surface area makes it unstable, unlike a trolley jack, which can support weight easily with its larger base.
How Do Floor Jacks Work?
How floor jacks work depends on their mechanisms. Scissor jacks are more mechanical in nature as they use screws that pull the ends of the arms closer, raising the top bracket. This type of jack needs to be cranked to wind the screw and move the arms. Meanwhile, hydraulic floor jacks like the trolley and bottle jacks are operated with a lever, which pumps hydraulic fluid to raise their top brackets.
More About Floor Jacks
Floor jacks are rated according to their total lift capacity. There are 1.5-ton, 2-ton, 3-ton, and 4-ton floor jacks. Often, a 2-ton floor jack is enough to meet your needs. However, a good rule of thumb to consider is that the lift capacity rating of the floor jack you’re using is at least three-quarters of your vehicle’s gross weight. For example, a 2-ton floor jack (4,000 lbs) is enough to lift up to around 2.6 tons (5,334 lbs.).
In addition to the capacity rating, there are also different materials used in manufacturing floor jacks. The two most common materials are steel and aluminum. Both have their advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to consider when picking one for your needs. Steel floor jacks are heavier but are relatively cheaper compared to aluminum. Aluminum floor jacks are the way to go if you are the type who wants to keep things light
Also, take note of the maximum lift height as it can contribute to the convenience you’re after. Most floor jacks you can find on CarParts.com have a maximum lift height of around 14 to 19.5 inches.
How Much Is an Aftermarket Floor Jack?
Looking for an aftermarket floor jack with guaranteed quality at a reasonable price? CarParts.com offers floor jacks that range in price from $97 to $221 depending on the capacity rating (2.5-ton or 3-¼-ton).
The Proper Way to Maintain a Floor Jack
Although hydraulic floor jacks are generally hardwearing, there are some that are prone to leaks and minor malfunction. This maintenance guide will give you step-by-step instructions on troubleshooting your floor jack.
Difficulty level: Moderate
Tools that you'll need:
- Floor jack fluid
- Hydraulic floor jack
- Clean rags
Step 1: Inspect the hydraulic floor jack for outward signs of damage. Look for any missing, loose, or damaged parts, leaks, or cracked welding. When examining the jack, check its ram pistons for corrosion or pitting. If the ram pistons are damaged, the ram may fail to work properly, making the jack unstable and unfit for use.
Step 2: Check the floor jack parts. Start by turning its handle to close its release valve. Then, bring up the hydraulic piston by pumping the handle. Every pump should raise the saddle by a few inches. Observe the jack's movement as it goes up and down. If the movements are jerky, check the ram pistons for pockmarks.
Step 3: Check your hydraulic floor jack fluid levels. Remove its oil plug and check inside the fluid chamber. The fluid level should rest about 0.25 inches above the cylinder. If fluid levels fall below this point, add more fluid.
Step 4: Test the floor jack by raising a part of your vehicle. Make sure to place the floor jack's saddle on a secure lifting point on your ride to prevent subframe or floorboard damage. If the jack can't lift the load properly, then it's time to check the tightness of your release valve. If the release valve is fine, then you may be looking at hydraulic malfunction. In this event, it's best not to use the jack until it has been repaired.
- Never overload your floor jack. Before use, check its weight rating and the axle weight on the vehicle. Your car's axle weight can be found on the door jamb (driver's side).
- Always use the right hydraulic fluid for your floor jack.