Understanding Floor Jacks A Helpful Educational Guide

Understanding Floor Jacks: A Helpful Educational Guide

Floor jacks are essential pieces of equipment when you need to repair your car. Not only do they make your job easier, but they are also critical when it comes to repairing your car safely. When you need to change your brake pads or replace your tires, a garage floor jack is necessary.

Read this guide to enhance your understanding. Buying your first-floor jack isn't a complicated process, but you'll need to know certain specs so that your first one will operate correctly.

What Is A Floor Jack?

If you need quick and easy access to the underside of your car; whether it's for a simple task like changing tires or something in-depth such as overhauling, a floor jack will help you complete your goal the easiest way.

Floor jacks are compact tools that can elevate cars ranging from compact cars to sturdy and heavy duty trucks. They are useful because they lift these cars with just a few simple steps on the lever.

Pittsburgh floor jack in use

source: floorjackscenter.com

Also, they use hydraulics to raise a corner of a truck or a car off the ground. Floor jacks are a necessary tool to have because they allow you to access hard to reach components of your car safely.

Lifting capacity is the main feature you need to think about when getting your floor jack. Hand operated floor jacks can safely lift 2.5 to 20 tons of motor vehicle without experiencing any problems.

If you need a floor jack that's flexible, get one that's made out of aluminum. This material is lighter than other heavy duty floor jacks that require steel. If you have a sports car or a low riding vehicle, then get a floor jack that has a low profile.

Floor Jack Types

There are several floor jack types.

Hydraulic Floor Jack

The hydraulic floor jack is the most common variant. Mechanics tend to use this jack because of its convenience. A hydraulic floor jack is made of a trolley that has four wheels that contain a hydraulic cylinder.

That cylinder can raise or lower a lever arm with a tiny platform that works with your truck or car.

Most hydraulic floor jacks have a detachable layer that has to be pumped to start the lifting mechanism.

The main advantage of a hydraulic floor jack is that they are easy to use and don't require too much effort to lift the vehicle.

Also, they have a high maximum height that allows you to pick your car off the ground faster than with other jacks.

Hydraulic floor jack on a white background

source: homedepot.com

The wheels that are placed on the trolley help keep the jack placed under the car while you lift to prevent the jack from tipping over. This makes an all around safer jack than other floor jack types.

One downside is that hydraulic floor jacks tend to cost more. And they hare bulkier than other models meaning that you'll sacrifice portability for effectiveness.

Scissor Jack

Scissor jacks are used by many automobiles straight from the factory. These jacks are efficient and are designed for mobility. This is why manufacturers tend to place them in the trunks of cars for swapping a spare tire on the freeway in the event a flat tire happens.

Scissor floor jack on a white background

source: prettymotors.com

They consist of a lead screw that works with a scissor linkage to help elevate the vehicle.

Scissor jacks are limited in their elevation qualities because they are designed to be compact.

These jacks work in certain situations, but provide only enough elevation to change your car's tires.

It's highly unlikely that your scissor jack will be able to perform more complex operations such as transmission work. This is because they won't have enough space to allow people to slide under the car. Scissor jacks have existed for a long time, but most people prefer hydraulic jacks for long term usage.

Bottle/Pistol Jack

Just like a floor jack, bottle jacks are operated through hydraulics. It has concentric cylinders that give enough stiffness that's actuated via the hydraulic pressure that comes from pumping a lever. Just like you would for a normal jack.

The main advantage of bottle jacks is their small footprint. This is perfect if you work on uneven surfaces or limited spaces. The small footprint helps the bottle jack become more stable in certain situations.

But, bottle jacks have one small disadvantage. They have a free height; this means that they won't get as low as regular floor jacks or scissor jacks when compressed.

This makes them hard to use on sedans and sports cars that are at normal riding height. And, they aren't so good to use on lowered cars either.

You'll usually see bottle jacks used for trucks.

Red bottle floor jack on a white background

source: floorjackshop.com

You'll usually see bottle jacks used for trucks. This is because the ground clearance issues aren't that much of an issue. Also, bottle jacks have the highest level of lifting capacity in comparison to other jacks.

Bottle Jack Vs. Floor Jack

Floor jacks are bulkier than bottle jacks and allow you to pick up your vehicle at a higher vertical height than a bottle jack. To use a floor jack, you must use the hand operated pump. It looks similar to a long handle and is pulled and turned for it to work.

Floor jack vs bottle jack

source: floorjackshop.com

When it comes to lifting up heavier vehicles, bottle jacks are the better option.

If you plan on using a bottle jack, you'll need more floor clearance than you would with a floor jack.

This is because floor jacks are lower to the ground than bottle jacks. If you don’t know which one is better, it’s all up to personal preference.

If you don’t know which one is better, it’s all up to personal preference. If you're looking for more stability, you can't go wrong with a floor jack. This is because they distribute the vehicle's weight in a larger area. It's less likely your vehicle will fall off of a floor jack.

Some floor jack devices come with wheels. Which helps the jack move along with the vehicle instead of letting it fall. This feature is great especially if you need to be under the vehicle to conduct repairs.

If you plan on working vehicles in your driveway then floor jacks are the best choice. They are heavier and larger than bottle jacks, so they might not be good for mobile or portable transportation unlike bottle jacks.

How To Use A Floor Jack

Precaution and safety is mandatory when beginning to use a safety jack.

Preparation

For starters, you'll need to dress in clothing that's designed for a garage environment. Clothes such as steel-toed footwear, coveralls, safety protection, and hand protection will keep your protected and covered throughout the operation.

Before you start using the floor jack, make sure that the jack and the jack stands are ready for the task.

Don't attempt to lift anything that's higher than your floor aficionados capacity.

If you have a loaded vehicle, make sure to account for the added weight.

Never use bricks or blocks to prop or support the vehicle. Unlike the floor jack, they don't have much stability and can cause for the jack to fall off the car. This can result in severe damage and should be avoided. We suggest that you only use your jack and jack stands and make sure that they both match.

Floor Jack Usage

For maximum safety and ease of use, work on a completely flat surface. Place your vehicle on in park and then use the emergency brake. Read the owner's manual to find the safest and most optimal place to set the jack.

Man using a floor jack on his car

source: floorjackscenter.com

Select two fully operational jack stands. If needed, lubricate them with a small amount of engine oil. This ensures that the tool will work properly and makes it easier to operate.

Roll the floor jack from under the vehicle into one area. Make sure you double check your position before lowering your vehicle under the stands. Turn the valve on the jack and start pumping the handle until the pads gently lift and touch the vehicle.

Once the vehicle is lifted, place the safety stands far apart as needed. Lower the vehicle on the stands and perform your maintenance. Once finished, turn the valve counterclockwise slowly to lower the vehicle.

If you need something that can pick up your vehicle to quickly change a tire, you should opt for a bottle jack. They are faster than traditionally manufactured jacks and usually are of higher quality. Since bottle jacks have a smaller size, they are easier to use around your workstation.

Like most jack owners, you'll have a jack for daily usage and one bottle jack for emergencies.

Here are a few steps you should take when deciding your first car jack:

  • Step 1: Understand the different types of car jacks that are available. If possible, you should see a few instructional videos to see what goes into using each of the jacks.
  • Step 2: Decide the purpose of why you're using the jack.
  • Step 3: Find what vehicle you want to drive and if one jack type is suited for that vehicle.
  • Step 4: Create a budget and evaluate the options.

This will help you become better at buying the right floor jack. Take consideration over the certain specs and features each one has. Following these steps will ensure that your first-floor jack is one that can be used for almost any situation.

Specs

Capacity is the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to buying a good floor jack.

Floor Jack Capacity

Knowing this spec helps you avoid paying a floor jack with limited options. The only thing you have to remember about investing in a jack is to make sure that it can lift weight that's close to your vehicle's total weight.

With lifting capacity, safety should be your main concern. Mechanical jacks have a capacity of 20 tons after some effort. To find the weight of your car, look for the sticker that shows the weight which is usually in pounds.

Remember: 1 ton = 2000 lbs. Keep in mind that you'll only be lifting up part of the car's weight.

1.5 Ton Capacity

For small vehicles, a 1.5-ton capacity is perfect for you. This will give you enough support to utilize the vehicle without the need of paying for expensive jacks. However, they have one clear disadvantage. Having a 1.5-ton capacity doesn't give you enough strength for larger vehicles.

Because of this, we suggest only using 1.5-ton floor jacks for simple projects. Anything that's more complex and you're better off getting a jack that's of a 3 ton or higher.

2 Ton Capacity

On average, sedans will weight at least 1.7-2 tons. These compact cars are small but are too strong for the 1.5-ton capacity. With this capacity, you'll have more options, but still unable to work on a truck.

Floor jack lifting a red sport car

source: the370z.com

Get a 2-ton capacity if you're looking for a useful floor jack that's good for small vehicles

3 Ton Capacity

This is one of the most popular car jack sizes that are available. It has the same features as the previous capacities but is bulky enough to work on more than just small vehicles.

When working on your truck or car, you want a floor jack that's reliable and trustworthy. For trucks and larger vehicles that are close to 6,000 pounds, the 3 ton capacity is a great choice.

4 Ton Capacity

For heavy duty projects, the 4-ton capacity is perfect. It provides over 8,000 pounds of strength and support for not only small cars but for commercialized trucks as well. But, they are considered to be very bulky in size and hard to carry throughout your workstation.

Because of this fact, there's no need for you to work above a 3 ton capacity. Unless you know that you'll be conducting repairs on RVs, buses, and heavy vehicles.

Height Range

When it comes to height range, you'll usually need one that has a range of "14" to "22". This ensures that you'll have a respectable amount of height, so your car doesn't accidentally harm you once it drops. You can opt for higher height ranges that are "26" or above, but If better for more professional projects.

Safety Valve To Prevent Overloading

The last thing you want while repairing your car is to have it fall over. This can lead to some serious injuries. Safety valves are fail safe circuits that are made to prevent this injury and stop the equipment from receiving damage.

Using a floor jack on a car

source: xlraceparts.com

Before getting your floor jack, you'll want to make sure that it has this feature. The Safety Valve works when you add weight that surpasses your floor jack's capacity. It protects the jack's seal and stops it from overloading.

In the event that the jack's safety range is exceeded, the overload valve opens up like a pressure regulator and lets the oil return back to the tank before entering the ram's chamber. Have a safety valve feature to ensure that you can repair your car safely.

Locking Safety Bar

The locking safety bar is another safety mechanism that stops the jack from getting cranked up in down while in use. Lock it when you think that the car is at a comfortable height off the ground where you can start working on it.

Your conveniently main purpose is to raise and lower your car safely, while the lock's main usage is to keep it in place. Once you are finished repairing your car, unlock the safety bar once you're at a safe distance. This ensures that you use the locking bar correctly and reduces the risk of anyone being harmed.

Floor Jack Material

Man using a floor jack

source: YouTube.com

There isn't much variation into the floor jack's construction. Your floor jack can be made of either aluminum or steel.

Both types are strong enough to support your car but their durability and strength can vary amongst the two.

Aluminum

Aluminum is used to reduce the weight of the jack and is used for minor repairs. Also, they are more portable and lighter than steel floor jacks. If you need a car jack for basic and everyday garage usage, aluminum is your best bet.

Steel

Steel floor jacks were made for the hardcore automobile enthusiast. They are heavy, meaning that they have a lower amount of portability in comparison to aluminum jacks. While they are bulkier than aluminum floor jacks, they have enough durability for long term car repairs.

Manufacturers

Here are some recognised manufacturers.

Arcan

Arcan is a known for their high-quality shop equipment. Manufacturers deliver a vast range and array of professional quality hardware and automotive products. Arcan is a respected brand in the aftermarket that supplies a variety of tool storage/service carts, shop seats, floor jacks, and jack stands.

Craftsman

Craftsman is a product line of garden tools and hardware tools.

Their first tools were sold in 1927 and had gained their reputation as a trustworthy manufacturer for over 90 years.

With over 6,000+ products and 80 product categories, Craftsman is known as one of America's leading tool brand.

Craftsman floor jack on a white background

source: audizine.com

Pittsburgh

In 1984, Harbor Freight Tools created the Pittsburgh product line to provide better automotive tools, power tools, and accessories to customers in areas of home, construction, and shop use. Buy from this company if you want a car jack that's guaranteed to help you safely fix your car and complete your DIY projects.

Powerzone By Milestone Tools

Powerzone is a line of tools made specifically to lift your car safely. Their car jacks and jack stands are made of high-quality steel and will last for up to 6 years before you need to get a repair. If you want robust and powerful carjacks, Powerzone is the best manufacturer in that aspect.

Safety Features And Tips

Follow these few tips to use your car jack more effectively:

  • Take Your Time – The biggest mistake users tend to make is rush the repair process. This tip applies to when you're releasing the pressure from the jack to lower the car. Rushing only leads to negative results and injuries. Be aware of your surroundings and take your time when using your car jack.
  • Use a Jack of Good Quality – We can't emphasize this enough. Using an inferior jack might cause you to lose a limb or cause permanent damage. Don't waste your money on cheap jacks! Make sure that your car jack is made to the highest standard for it to work how you want it.
  • Safety Valves – If your car jack doesn't have a safety valve, chances are you're placing yourself at risk. The safety valve protects your vehicle from falling off the jack once it reaches its maximum capacity. Once this capacity is surpassed, it begins to reduce the pressure for users to work on it safely. As a rule of thumb, don't overload your car jack and keep it within its range.

Maintenance

You may be wondering how to maintain your new floor jack as well... Here are the answers.

Dust

When your hydraulic jack is stored in a garage, dust can become a serious issue. You can reduce the amount of dust by placing the jack in an area where moisture won't creep in and is away from dust. The best advice we can give you is to cover the back of the of your jack when it's not used. This gives your jack even more protection.

Oil

Don't forget to inspect the oil level of your car jack. Add oil if you the rod of the jack becomes harder to move. Make sure that the oil is in the correct spot. It's a simple mistake but can lead to your jack not working properly.

Man oiling a car floor jack

source: YouTube.com

Fill the oil from the side (located next to the plug). When adding oil, make sure it reaches up to the fill line. Don't go beyond the line and your floor jack will work as good as new.

Cleaning

After you're finished using your floor jack, you need to clean it before placing it into storage thoroughly. To attract less dust, wipe the metal sections of the jack. Inspect the seals and check to see if they are any oil leaks. If there are any oil leaks, please remove and replace the seals. Don't reuse the jack until this step is completed.

Conclusion

Without a floor jack, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars for mechanic repairs. Most of the problems your car face can be fixed inside your garage. And while we've taught you everything there is to know, there are some more things you must understand if you want to buy a good floor jack.

We invite you to look into our buying guide. In it, we'll discuss the top 5 floor jack products that are good for novice garage workers to professionals needing help in fixing commercial vehicles. Give it a look if you want to have the best car jack that money can buy.

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