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3 Different Types of Car Jacks

Changing wheels

We all know the feeling: the sudden, uneven bumping and rolling of your car’s wheels and the distressing sound of squelching rubber.

On a small sedan with small tires, a wheel change is a quick and easy process. However, on an SUV or something with big chunky wheels, a simple tire change can turn into a much longer ordeal.

More so than the size of your wheels, the type of jack you use will make the biggest difference to wheel-changing time. Most of us are resigned to the standard scissor jacks in the trunk that come with our cars. But there’s other options that can make the job both quicker and safer. If you’re someone who works on vehicles frequently, a scissor jack will not be up the job. So, let’s take a look at more useful and safer options.

Tire service
Image credit: Tire service by stux, Pixabay

It’s important to mention that you should never rely solely on the jack to support the car’s weight. It’s always good practice to place a stand under your car in case the jack should fail. If you don’t have a stand handy, place the spare wheel underneath the chassis instead.

Not all car jacks are made equal: An SUV owner will have far different needs to a sedan owner, and this is something to take into consideration. While there are hardcore jacks out there, like pneumatic and hi-lift jacks, these are the three most commonly used for vehicles.

1. Scissor Jack

scissor jack
Image Credit: ID 131938401 © Kinek00 | Dreamstime.com

 These are the garden variety jacks found in your trunk alongside the spare wheel. They are super convenient because they fold up neatly and don’t take up much space. They use a simple screw mechanism to lift your vehicle, which can be quite difficult to lift, depending on the quality. They are typically made from a stamped metal, usually aluminum, and made specifically for a single use: changing a flat tire. If you are planning on doing anything more than changing a tire, it’s far better to go for a stronger and more reliable jack.

Scissor jacks have a lift height that’s usually just enough to lift the car they come with and change the wheel. This makes them almost useless for anything else, such as services or an oil change. While these jacks are safe when lifting what they were designed for, it can be dangerous to overload them. The screw mechanism or lightweight metal are not designed for frequent use or heavy weights.

Pros
  • Compact
  • Affordable
  • Light
Cons
  • Not very strong
  • Limited use
  • Not particularly safe

2. Floor Jack

floor jack
Image Credit: ID 130385837 © Welcomia | Dreamstime.com

A floor jack is far more versatile and can be used for more than just changing a flat tire. Its use extends to vehicle maintenance, service, and repairs. Floor jacks are easier to use, as they take advantage of hydraulics to do the heavy lifting. The user cranks a long handle to engage the hydraulics with not much effort at all. It can also lift far heavier weights than a scissor jack, from a car or SUV to even a tractor.

Floor jacks have wheels and can be easily positioned underneath vehicles, hence their regular use in workshops. Although not as convenient and compact as scissor jacks, they are far stronger and more reliable.

With this strength and durability comes a downside: Floor jacks are notoriously tricky to store. Even though they have wheels, they are generally heavy and cannot be easily slid into the trunk of your car.

Pros
  • Strength
  • Durability
  • Ease of use
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to store

3. Bottle Jack

bottle jack
Image Credit: ID 78176905 © Peepooooo | Dreamstime.com

Last but not least is the bottle jack. It gets its name from its unique shape: a hydraulic arm housed inside a bottle-shaped metallic cylinder. As with the floor jack, a bottle jack utilizes a crank handle to lift it. Bottles jacks are heavy-duty, durable jacks, capable of lifting very heavy weights — up to 50 tons, in some cases. Still, it should never be used as the sole support for a vehicle. The internal seals could fail, causing major accidents if you happen to be under the vehicle.

Due to its unique bottle shape, this is the least stable of the jacks mentioned here. Additionally, you will need a buffer of wood or rubber to use between the jack and your vehicle, as it typically has no built-in feature. This and its heavy weight make it less than ideal for a roadside tire change.

Lastly, a bottle jack’s height is half of its extended height. This means that it can be almost impossible to get underneath lower cars. This is fine for bigger vehicles like trucks, but it won’t fit under most cars with low ground clearance.

Pros
  • Strong and durable
  • Easy to use
  • Can lift heavy weights
Cons
  • Unstable
  • Too big for smaller vehicles

Conclusion

The type of car jack to suit your needs will depend on your unique circumstances. Do you just need a jack to change a tire when the time comes but want to leave the rest up to a mechanic? The scissor jack will suit you fine, especially for smaller cars like sedans. If you are mechanically minded and like to service and perform routine maintenance on your vehicle yourself, then you’ll need a more durable, stronger jack, capable of lifting heavy weights safely.

Safety is of prime importance, and the use of any jack mentioned here should be done with a stand also in place. No matter how strong a jack is, accidents can happen.

Hopefully, this list has given you insight into the different types of jacks and helped you understand each one’s unique use.


Featured image credit: Changing wheels by Counselling, Pixabay

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