Before you start working on your own truck, you’ll need to know the safest way to get underneath it. In this article, we will teach you everything there is to know about using a floor jack to help lift your truck off the ground, whether you need to do some work underneath or chase a flat tire. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Different Types of Car Jacks
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of how to use them, you first need to know the difference between the types of car jacks. Not every jack is made the same. Some jacks work better for certain jobs than others.
The most popular are the floor jack, scissor jack, bottle jack, farm jack, and screw jack. If you are willing to dig a little deeper into your pocket, there is also the option of a portable car lift.
Scissor Car or Compact Jack
This type of jack is usually included with the vehicle. Though it may have a flimsy appearance, it is highly effective and is mainly used to lift lower-weight vehicles. With the scissor jack, you can lift the car to get from 15 inches to 30 inches of space under the vehicle. They’re lightweight and more accessible to carry than a hydraulic jack. Operating these jacks is easy, but their usage must be restricted to emergencies like roadside tire changes when you get a flat. It would be best if you did not use the scissor jack for heavy tasks since they are highly susceptible to tipping. Additionally, cranking this jack to elevate a truck could be a lengthy procedure.
The bottle jack acquired its name from its shape and is shaped like a bottle and a hydraulic jack. The highlights of the jack include its capability, size, and affordability. Since you can also find them at relatively affordable prices, you can leave one in the vehicle as a safer option than the scissor jack. Bottle jacks are surprisingly simple to use. When placed properly, bottle jacks can raise your vehicle in minutes. These jacks can hold more weight than your average floor jack. They can also elevate your vehicle higher to allow more space underneath than a floor jack.
However, like scissors jacks having narrow bases, the risk of tipping over is high if the positioning is not perfectly parallel to your vehicle or when you use it on loose surfaces.
A floor jack is your most common type of car jack. They’re a simple device that uses hydraulics to help you lift your car off the ground. They utilize a hand lever. This jack only lifts a portion of your truck, not the whole thing.
As an automotive DIY enthusiast, a capable, reliable, and robust floor jack should be your closest companion. However, they are more cumbersome to use than the previous two types. Nonetheless, their inbuilt stability and robustness inspire confidence – the most important aspect as you lift your truck.
Among the available floor jacks, you will come across the trolley jacks. A trolley jack is narrower than the popular floor jacks that usually provide wider tracks. The jacks are excellent for occasional tasks since they are inexpensive. However, as you might be aware, you get your money’s worth with other tools.
All floor jacks are not designed equal. While some provide a fast rise function (you are not required to pump many times to get to the underside of the vehicle), others have lowered profiles to facilitate sliding under lowered vehicles. Others, on the other hand, are made with a significant maximum height to enable the raising of mainstream SUVs and trucks. The only shortcoming of such is they are rather expensive jacks.
- Floor Jack: A floor jack is your most common type of car jack. They’re a simple device that uses hydraulics to help you lift your car off the ground. They utilize a hand lever. This jack only lifts a portion of your truck, not the whole thing.
- Bottle Jack: This car jack is shaped like a bottle and a hydraulic jack. These can hold more weight than your average floor jack. They can also elevate your vehicle higher to allow you more space underneath compared to a floor jack.
- Scissor Jack: This particular type of car jack is used to lift lower-weight vehicles. With the scissor jack, you can lift the car to get from 15 inches to 30 inches of space under the vehicle. They’re lightweight and more accessible to carry than a hydraulic jack.
When it comes to lifting up your car for some quick maintenance or a flat tire, you’ll want to go with a floor jack. In this article, we’ll go over how to place a floor jack underneath your truck properly.
How To Put a Floor Jack Under a Truck
Now that you know the differences between the types of jacks, let’s look at how to put a floor jack underneath your vehicle. Make sure you read your manual and take all of the advised safety precautions.
Step 1: Find a Flat Surface
First things first: park your truck on flat ground. Stay away from the soft ground like sand, grass, or dirt. If you’re working on asphalt, you’ll want to place some plywood underneath the jack for an added layer of safety. Make sure your parking brake is on before lifting your vehicle.
Step 2: Prevent Unwanted Movement
To work safely with a lifted truck, you need to make sure that you chock the wheels. Ensure that the chock block is on the opposite side of where you will be lifting your vehicle.
So, for example, if you’re lifting the left side of your car, put the chock on the right-side tire, and vice versa. Place them on the side of the tire to prevent your car from rolling once it’s lifted.
Step 3: Locate a Secure Jack Point
Now, it’s time to talk about jack’s placement. Proper placement of your jack is essential. What does a secure jack point look like?
- An area on the truck frame that is designed and designated by the manufacturer to make contact with a jack
- There are usually jack points near each of the tires on both sides of the car. It is often marked by a place where you can easily fit your jack.
What is NOT a secure jack point?
- Do NOT put the jack against or under the vehicle’s body panel.
- NEVER put the jack too far underneath the car
- Do NOT put the jack against an axle.
Refer to your car’s manual or manufacturer’s guide when in doubt.
Step 5: Place the Jack
Now that you’ve located a secure jack point slide your jack into position. Don’t be afraid to get on the ground and look underneath the vehicle so that you can adequately slide the jack into position.
Go slowly. Raise the jack with the jack arm little by little until it contacts the jack point.
Step 6: Raise your Vehicle
Once everything is in place, use your floor jack to raise the vehicle off the ground. With the use of a hydraulic jack, raising your truck off the ground should be a breeze. Make sure that the jack stays in firm contact with the jack point.
Once the vehicle is raised, move your jack stands into position beneath the vehicle just at the jack point. Then, slowly lower the jack once more until your car firmly rests on the jack stands.
Step 7: When You’re Done, Lower It Down
After you’ve finished working under your car, it’s time to lower it again. You can place the jack at the jack point and lift the car up a few inches to remove the jack stands. Then, use the release valve to lower your car back to all four tires slowly.
When working underneath your vehicle with a floor jack or a jack stand, you’ll want to follow some crucial safety tips.
NEVER Use the Emergency Jack
The emergency jack is just what it sounds like: it’s for emergencies! It is not designed to hold the weight of a vehicle for longer than necessary. Do not use your emergency jack to do sustained work underneath your car.
Always Check Weight Limits
Jacks and jack stand all have a weight capacity, and when purchasing your jack, you’re likely to find the weight rating somewhere on the packaging. Ensure that the jack you’re purchasing can handle the entire car weight before using it.
Give Your Car a Stability Check
Even if you’re confident that you placed your jack in the right place and got the jack stands underneath your car with no problem, accidents still happen. Take the time to do a quick stability check: give your car a few firm pushes to make sure you’ve made secure contact with the jack point.
When in Doubt, Check the Service Manual
If you’re not sure what you’re doing, your user manual should have a list of instructions to follow, weight limits, and tips on how to work on your own car. It’s better to double-check than to have an accident.
Work In Pairs
While many people have had success working on their cars alone, it’s never a bad idea to have someone with you who can help you place your jack stands and be there if anything goes wrong. A heavy car coming off a jack stand can be fatal. It’s best to make sure that someone is around for safety reasons.
Work Space Set Up for a Floor Jack
There are various preparations you need to make before you begin using your floor jack. Adherence to this step as you use the floor jack ensures you are safe and offers you a stable level ground to work on, making your task easier.
Wear gloves, safety goggles, and firm footwear such as work boots for protection. It is also important to ensure you are comfortable with the clothes you have getting dirty.
- Condition of The Floor Jack
You should perform a visual inspection of your floor jack. Check for missing accessories or parts and any signs of deterioration or damage. Be keen as you check the jack’s valve since this could lead to many problems during the lifting process if it is leaking pressure, damaged, or not tightened.
Essential Jack Accessories
1. Jack Stands
Vehicle stands are invaluable when you are about to jack up your full-size truck. Before you think of crawling beneath a just jacked vehicle, ensure that the jack is strategically placed on a jack stand as a safe lifting precaution.
Unlike the jack, a jack stand does not pump down and up since it has holes and comes with a solid metallic key. The key pushes through these holes, locking them in position.
2. Tire Iron/Wheel Brace
All vehicles appear to feature this since it is necessary, and you must also have it. As you purchase a vehicle, you commonly find them paired with the scissor jack and spare tire jack.
Aside from assisting with loosening the vehicle’s lug nuts, they are also an important part of the active part of the jack. The ones that come together with the vehicle may not be as amazing as those you will get in auto parts and repair shops. You should also ensure that it remains on track always.
3. Wheel Chocks
By owning wheel chocks, you can ensure your vehicle being jacked is protected against rolling off your jack as you work underneath the vehicle. You can maintain it in the vehicle for secondary purposes besides jacking up the truck. You can also use them with the truck’s parking brakes to guarantee that the vehicle will not roll under particular conditions. They are normally designed from sturdy wood or solid rubber.
The floor jack is among the top five versatile tools automotive DIY enthusiasts should have. It excellently complements other tools you will need, like a nice 3/8-inch ratchet and a complete socket set, including the commonly absent 10mm socket. A couple of distinct service jack types are also available; therefore, laying down your requirements will assist with choosing the correct one.
Similar to SUVs and heavy trucks, which vary from small urban roundabouts to the large V8-powered, floor jacks are also available in varying sizes, uses, and capabilities.
Regardless of the jack you choose, it would help if you always used a jack stand to secure your truck in its off-the-ground, raised position. In addition, lifting the vehicle off its tires or wheels using jacks should be carried out on level surfaces to prevent tipping and the risk of severe harm. That said, here are a few essential pointers.
On average, an SUV and car tip the scale to between 2000 and 2500 kilograms, with a truck tipping it even further. For simple tasks, 2-ton jacks are efficient: nonetheless, go for a jack with a more excellent capability than your actual task. The ideal capacity of the jack you choose should be approximately three-quarters the overage weight of the vehicle.
Clearance is essential for driving lowered vehicles or vehicles with fragile side skirts. Several low-profile jacks have heights of between two to three inches. These are designed to roll beneath the vehicle without any issue. Many mainstream vehicles have clearances of at least 5 inches, meaning most standard floor jacks easily fit.
Though you might find jacks with extension adapters, each has a maximum reach atop their upward travel. A lifted SUV and lowered car will need distinct maximum lift heights.
Working with a floor jack to lift your car for maintenance is easier than it looks, but only if you follow the directions and know what you’re doing. It’s vital to be aware of all of the safety hazards that can come about when using a jack to lift a heavy vehicle.
However, so long as you stay away from the uneven ground, check your car’s stability, and know where your jack points are, you should be good to go when it comes to lifting your car for routine maintenance or just to change a flat tire.
Remember: don’t use your emergency jack for extended periods, check your weight limits, and make sure you have enough ground clearance to do the job that needs doing!