If you are a car owner, you most probably have a jack in the back of your vehicle in case you need it. Unfortunately, most cars come equipped with a standard floor jack with just enough capacity to lift your vehicle to change a wheel.
But is that standard car jack enough when you need to do other types of repairs which require you to lift it higher? What is better for heavy vehicles: a three-ton jack or one that is bigger? Do they need hydraulic fluid? In this article, we will take a look at the different types of jacks and which one will be best to use for your vehicle.
Stay with us and find out what type of jack you will need in order to do standard at-home repairs and maintenance on your vehicle, whether it’s a capacity jack, bumper jack, or compact car jack.
How To Choose a Floor Jack
When it comes to choosing the right-sized floor jack there are a number of factors you need to consider. We will take a look at these elements to make it easier to choose the jack you will need for your vehicle.
Materials Used With Floor Jacks
Because of the structural strength of steel and aluminum, these are the most favored materials used in the manufacturing of floor jacks.
The most popular jacks used by car owners are those made from very durable steel that will make the jack last longer. Steel jacks are also the most affordable and are available in different configurations with a wide range of load capacities.
They are mostly used by workshop mechanics and technicians because they are heavy and cumbersome to move around to the working area.
Aluminum jacks are much lighter than their all-steel counterparts so you can easily move them around to a remote site. They are more expensive than steel jacks which makes them not the best choice for repairs and maintenance at home.
Aluminum jacks are not as durable as steel ones and they come with a much shorter life span. These types of lightweight jacks are mostly used by roadside assistance technicians and mobile mechanics for convenience and ease of use.
Mixture Of Aluminum and Steel
Hybrid floor jacks are made from both materials while the lifting arm and power units are still made from more durable steel. To shed some weight, the side plates of these jacks are made from much lighter aluminum for a good balance between weight and price.
This mixture of materials will help make the jack a bit lighter so it can be used by those who work at remote sites.
This is one of the most important features of any floor jack, so you need to know what the standard capacity of a specific jack is. They are available in a variety of load categories so we will look at the most popular sizes available for car owners.
1.5-Ton Jack (1800 Pounds)
This size of jack is not the most popular one but it is the lightest and can be used much quicker than heavier jacks. The reason why the one-and-a-half-ton (3,000-pound) jack is used most is that most people prefer to have some extra capacity just in case.
2-Ton Jack (2,400 Pounds)
Depending on the type of jack you use, these jacks are not light but also not too heavy to use at home or at the roadside. A 2-ton jack is ideal for most people because of this. Most new vehicles come equipped with a 2-ton scissor jack that is a good option for roadside emergencies to quickly swap a wheel.
3-Ton Jack (3,600 Pounds)
These are the most popular sizes used by car owners because they feel safer using them for lifting their vehicles. The 3-ton jack is quite heavy, especially if it is made from steel only, and can be cumbersome to use other than in the garage.
4-Ton Jack (4,800 Pounds)
Here we have heavier jacks for trucks and SUV owners to make sure they have enough capacity. You should keep in mind that the larger the jack, the heavier it will be, and is not easy to lug around with you but still useful when driving a pickup truck.
There are smaller and larger jacks than those mentioned, but the rule of thumb is that larger ones are mostly used by professional mechanics, repair shops, or roadside assistance technicians.
When choosing a jack, you need to make sure that it will lift the vehicle high enough to easily fit the stands. If the jack has a maximum lifting height of up to about 14 or 15 inches it might be enough for a standard vehicle. As a driver, you need versatile tools.
The problem comes when you need to lift a truck with 20-inch wheels, you are going to need more height.
Types Of Jacks
There are many different jack types and models available on the market and they all come with their advantages and disadvantages. There are three main systems used with floor jacks and all of them are great for lifting your vehicle when you need to.
This jack is also known as the bottle jack and comes in a wide range of load capacities and maximum lifting heights. It is constructed with a cylinder that looks like a bottle and a piston fixed in the center that is lifted through hydraulic action.
The drawback of this jack is that it cannot compress very low so they are not ideal for lower cars. They carry a lot of weight and can easily be placed on an uneven surface because of their small footprint.
The scissor jack is the one that is almost always found in a new car and carries a wide range of maximum load capacities. It is not very heavy and can be used on the roadside for emergencies because of the ease of use and lightweight.
It does not have a large footprint so it is relatively safe to use wherever you are to change a wheel on your car. This jack is completely mechanical and produces an upward movement by compressing the scissor with a manual screw to lift your vehicle.
This jack can be found in most workshops and garages at home; it is large and heavy, and difficult to use at the roadside. It uses a hydraulic system to lift your vehicle by pumping the control arm up and down for an upward movement of the power part.
When you are done with the jack, you easily compress it by opening the release valve and it will simply move down. The hydraulic type is the perfect jack to use with vehicles that are quite low.
- The larger the jack, the heavier it will be even if it is made from lightweight materials such as aluminum.
- Aluminum jacks might be much lighter than jacks made from steel but they will not last as long as steel jacks.
- If you need a jack that will last for many years the best option is a steel jack or the hybrid type.
- Before buying a jack make sure that the maximum lifting height is sufficient for what you want to use it for.
- You should get a jack that will lift more than the gross vehicle weight of your car, just to be on the safe side.
- It is much easier to use a scissor or bottle jack for roadside emergencies than a trolley jack.
- If you have a low vehicle it is better to get a trolley jack with a low-profile factor.
- You need to choose the right jack size for your vehicle and look for the right jack styles for your needs.
- People with bigger vehicles will need a heavy-duty floor jack but those with smaller cars need a standard quality floor jack.
Hopefully, this will help you to determine what size floor jack you will need for different situations with your vehicle and your needs. Keep in mind the mechanical advantage, lifting mechanism, lifting pad, and other aspects before choosing yours. Whether you need a brand new jack or want to replace your current jack, you now know how to choose.