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Javier M

Types of Jacks - Which one do you prefer?

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Today I would like to talk about that tool that you might not think about too often until you have a flat tire or a pop out and you are on the side of the road or some place in the desert. 

There are over 8 different types of Jacks! But for our purposes we will focus on the 4 main types of Jacks

  • Scissor Jacks
  • Hydraulic Jacks – these include Floor Jacks and Bottle Jacks
  • Hi-lift Jacks – also known as a High Lift or Farm Jack
  • Exhaust Jacks

Scissor Jacks


A scissor jack is perhaps the most common type of jack you may have encountered as these jacks come with your car!

Pros: Scissor Jacks are lightweight and reasonably small, making them easy to store and use for the average consumer / car owner. These days there are even electrically operated scissor jacks available that run off your vehicles battery. This makes jacking your car up to change a tire a very simple process.

Cons: They are incredibly unstable, they are also very slow to use as you have to turn the screw quite a few times to get any meaningful height out of them. If you have a tall vehicle or you will be going off-road then you need to look somewhere else, this is not the jack for you. 


Floor Jacks


With floor jacks the arm of the unit is pumped repeatedly. This pumping action sucks oil out of the jacks oil reservoir and forces it into the lift chamber, creating an increase in oil pressure and resulting in the saddle arm of the jack rising and lifting your car.

Pros: These jacks are far superior to scissor jacks as they take much more punishment, wear and tear and rarely if ever fail, even after decades of use!. They even sell them without the wheels to be used off-road (see below). 

Cons: Look at the size of that thing! not all of us have space for our off-road equipment, camping equipment and this massive thing.


Bottle Jacks


Another type of hydraulic jack that you may be familiar with is the bottle or whiskey jack. So named as its physical appearance resembles an old fashioned whiskey jug or bottle. The bottle jack has a single lift rod, which acts as a piston. 

Cons: One major drawback is its collapsed height is usually only half that of its extended height, this means its unsuitable for many regular vehicles. When using on a vehicle many people like to use a block of timber to help cushion the impact on the cars body of the relatively small (in comparison to a floor jack saddle) point of impact.

Pros: Is ideal for vehicles with higher clearances, such as trucks and 4wds. The range of height is much less than a garage jack as well, but once again for vehicles that already have high ground clearance this isn’t a problem. They are usual more robust, take up a lot less space in your vehicle when compared to a floor jack and can safely take more weight.

Hi-Lift Jacks (Widow makers)


Hi-Lift Jacks, also known as High Lift and Farm Jacks were originally developed for farm work, they are made of a pair of climbing pins, that climb the height of the jack (sometimes as high as 2 meters) by a ratcheting action, achieved by a manual pumping mechanism.

Cons: The jacks are not suitable for conventional vehicles, you need to have steel bumpers and/or rock sliders to use this jack, they will sink in the sand, they are super dangerous if you don't know what you are doing (see below). 

Pros: There are no hydraulics to fail nor cranking of an undersized bottle jack to raise your vehicle. Simply plant the jack under your vehicle, place the foot of the jack under a secure anchor point on your bumper or rock sliders, and then, using the long round lever, start cranking.


Exhaust Jacks


The exhaust air jack lifts a vehicle using emissions coming from the tailpipe. A hose attaches from the exhaust to a big sack placed under the car. The air coming out of the pipe fills the bag, and voilà! The car lifts off the ground.

Cons: This is meant to be used with 6 or 8 cylinder vehicles, it may not work with 4 cylinders because there is not enough engine compression to lift the vehicle. If you have a dual exhaust you can't use this. 

Pros: The sack is placed anywhere under the chassis, so no jack points are necessary. Since the gadget is basically a big balloon, there's no need to center it under a particular spot on the car. This works perfectly on sand. 


Edited by Javier M
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Brilliant article and sharing the real knowledge @Javier M, wish I can give 100 likes for this contribution.

The only thing I like to add with my little experience for people to decide which is the best jack for offroad use is the one that covers the maximum surface area on the ground as in offroad - be it sand or rock you will never find a perfect ground like Tarmac.

So for that reason, even fanciest scissor or bottle jack is out of the league. I have seen the bottle and scissor jack losing balance after few seconds and dropping the car down much before the repair work starts.

Best is the floor jack, stable, reliable and safe to operate under any load or position. While getting floor jack you also need a stable wooden board to place the jack to even increase the surface area (only for sand).

To avoid the cons mention for a floor jack, instead of buying 3-4 ton humongous jack you can get 2 tons jack but with a swivel neck and it lost around 150-200 dhs only from DM. 2 ton size is not huge and plus good enough to lift any ONE side of the vehicle as in 4 ton Hummer H2 any one side will not weight more than 1-1.5 ton. So using 2 ton is practically enough as we only need to work on one wheel at a time.

I have used Pentax 1.5 ton floor jack for good 6-8 years and then upgraded to JZX floor jack 2 years back. They almost last forever if you are placing them properly and not in rush in some weird angle that will bend them slightly and loose its lifting strength.

Exhaust jack, I have seen leaking after some time as underbody of the car is extremely hot in summer or stone or rock can easily puncture them too plus they are expensive compared to the floor jack.


Image result for jzx floor jack

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@Gaurav I could not agree with you more!😁

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Great article @Javier M

I have seen those hi-lift jacks mounted on almost every Wrangler i see driving in my community. Hence i sometimes have the feeling it is more a form over function thingy like a spoiler, but i could be wrong. 

The bottle jack will do the job, but surely only when it's properly secured on a scaffolding plank / wooden board. The 2 ton floor-jack as @Gaurav points out is also my preferred one. I haven't got to buying one yet as i have one laying idle in my house in Belgium which i always talk about bringing it with me when i travel, but in the end my suitcase is full of other stuff :).


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Type of jack depends on the surface you’re jacking on. 

Scissor jacks aren’t called suicide jacks for nothing. They’re a last resort for changing a wheel at the side of the road. 

Trolley jacks are king, but only if they’re used on a flat surface. The wheels can roll and adjust. 

I love bottle jacks. I don’t know why people are scared of them. If you put it on a plank, it’s the same as spreading the load on a trolley jack. 

@treks can tell you that air jacks are cool but they can damage your engine. 

All forms of jacking have their pros and cons but the most important thing which hasn’t been mentioned yet, if you jack a vehicle up, make sure it’s supported. Axle stands are cheap. If you jack your car up, stick an axle stand under it with a plank under the stand. 

Jacking can and will go wrong. My friends father was crushed to death. He jacked the car up with a trolley jack, rolled under to change the oil filter. The jack failed and he was dead.  My ex employer also died. A proper car lift failed and he was crushed to death. 

Things can go wrong and they do. Remember that. If you jack a car up, whatever type of jack you use, make sure there’s some sort of mechanical backup, even if it’s only 2 stacked up wheels. 

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@Barry the bottle jacks are very easily tumbled in offroad due to the uneven surface and while fixing the pop out we shake and clean the wheel and tire.

I totally agree on jack support to be used always as all jack can fail sometime or other, that's why while doing the popout repair we only reach the tire from outside and not underneath. And in some extensive work, if we have to carry, we use two jack or spare wheel under the car to save the day.

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Indeed. I’ve been on a few off road drives and I see what happens. I’ve seen weekend warriors sticking their head underneath a car that’s only supported by a trolley jack on a plank in the sand. 

I cannot stress how not cool this is. An extra plank and an extra axle stand should be part of the standard off road kit but I’ve never seen this advertised in any off-road clubs kit. 

You might get away with it, you might not. A cracked skull with a bit of brain matter squishing through through your broken head isn’t cool. I’ve seen it in real life  

This kind of stuff does and will happen. 

My first job in UAE was in a garage in Sharjah. Standard crappy garage. The jack was leaking oil. The owner told me to jack the car up and see why it wasn’t shifting gears. I said no way, your jack is leaking. I stuck a stand under the car and jacked it up. The jack collapsed and the stand saved my life. 

I survived because I put a jack stand under the car. Other than than I would have been replaceable, just order a new mechanic on dubizzle. 

Bad shit can and will happen. Never get underneath an unsupported car. 

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