3 Common Types of Jack for Automotive Use

A jack is used to lift your vehicle when you need to work on the underhood or when changing a wheel, an integral part of the automotive industry. It is essential to have the right type of jack for the work you are performing for the safety of both the vehicle and the mechanic.

When using a jack to lift up a vehicle, ensure that you use more than one jack or jack stands for your safety. There are several types of jacks, but we shall discuss the 3 Common types of jacks every automotive user and mechanic should have.

You may have several Jacks in your auto mechanic arsenal, but these three types of jacks, in a body, can swap others in terms of convenience, stability, and portability.

Among the three types of jacks described here, it is tough to declare any to be the best. The best jack for automotive use is relative, as it mostly depends on your budget and intended use. So far, the mentioned benefits involve you having them in any of the following jacks.

Having said that, jacks may differ in profile, lift range, and weight capacity. That’s where a thorough inspection of the most talked about three is a call for any auto mechanic or car owner.

Scissor Jacks

A scissor jack is one of the oldest styles and simplest among the different types of car jacks. It is a powerful jack that is operated using a screw in the horizontal position. The screw shortens or lengthens the horizontal diagonal of a parallelogram, which consists of the linkages of the jack. One great thing about scissor jacks is that they are compact and fold awesomely. They are lightweight and easy to carry around. Scissor jacks are easy to use, and maintenance is next to none.

Scissor Jacks

A scissor jack has two base ends and four main metal pieces. The metal pieces are connected using bolts on the corners, allowing the corners to swivel. The jack is operated simply by turning the crank injected into one of the scissors jacks. The screw turns when the crank turns, causing the jack to rise. This screw works similarly to a gear mechanism. The screw thread has teeth that turn the two arms to produce work. The scissor jack can lift a car with thousands of pounds by just turning the crew thread.

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Pros of Scissor Jacks

  • Compact for easy storage and transport
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Very simple to operate
  • Short enough for fitting under vehicles

Cons of Scissor Jacks

  • Slower compared to hydraulic jacks
  • It can cause finger-pitching
  • The base is narrower, thus less stability

Trolley Jacks

A trolley jack is also known as a floor jack or service jack. It is a lifting device or a hydraulic jack mounted on wheels for easy movement. It also features a long handle, which is used as a pump handle. This handle can be pulled in any direction the user desires. It enables you to lift your vehicle when working on brake assemblies, changing tires, or doing anything else under the vehicle.

Trolley Jacks

This type of jack can lift weights varying from 2 tons to 4 tons depending on the weight and size of the vehicle. Some trolley jack models have manual braking system controls while others have brake systems that lock automatically when the jack is in use.

Trolley jacks can be used safely, even on dirt and gravel grounds. Other mechanical jack types need to be on a firm surface to prevent disengaging and slipping, but trolley jacks can be used anywhere. It is, therefore, a quicker, more stable, and safer option for professional mechanics. The wheels allow the user to roll the jack to any of their desired position. You should have basic ideas on how to use a floor jack for an easy and secure process.

Before you put it in position, ensure that the lever is turned to the right using the handle end. Later insert the handle and pump it until the cradle gets to the jacking point. When you finish using the jack, remove the handle and twist the lever a little in the anti-clockwise direction.  Carry out this process steadily and carefully so as to lower the vehicle slowly.  The trolley jack aims to lift the vehicle with minimum effort.

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Pros of Trolley Jacks

  • Quick and easy to move
  • It can fit and be used underneath most cars
  • Longer handles enable faster operation and quick lifting
  • Reduced slipping risk due to the large jack saddle
  • More stability due to elongated base
  • Easy to use

Cons of Trolley Jacks

  • More expensive
  • Requires more space

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Bottle Jacks

Just like the name suggests, bottle jacks have a shape and appearance that resembles a bottle. It is a hydraulic jack with a vertical mounting. These jacks have a pressure pump and handle mounted on the side. They can list vehicles weighing between 3 tons and 20 tons. There are a variety of bottle jacks with different features. Some of them have an incorporated stand, and others do not.

Bottle Jacks

Bottle jacks are equipped with one piston, which is aligned vertically, known as the bottle.  The hand plunger on the side pumps oil into the bottle, resulting from the exchange of pressure. The pressure exchange leads to vertical movements of the bearing pad.  Some high-end and higher-capacity bottle jacks are operated mechanically, not manually.

Bottle jacks can list heavier cars to higher elevations due to their straightforward design. This jack is a perfect choice for truck owners since it can easily be stored in a cab compartment, and clearance will not be a challenge.  Bottle jacks are portable and thus can easily be carried to the scene in case of emergency.

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Pros of Bottle Jacks

  • Can lift high-capacity vehicles
  • Ideals for tall vehicles like trucks and SUVs
  • Easy to store
  • Portable and easy to carry around
  • Have smaller footprints

Cons of Bottle Jacks

  • It May take longer to lift due to the shorter handles
  • The stationary footprint may increase the risk of slipping

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Types of Jack FAQ

What Type of Jack Stands Do I Need?

The type of jack you buy will depend on the weight and size of your vehicle. It would be prudent to buy a jack stand that can handle twice the weight of your vehicle. If your vehicle of 4000 pounds, then the jack stands should be able to hold a minimum of 8000 pounds. A jack stand should be of high quality. Consider jack stands from renowned manufacturers that have passed the test of time.

What Are The Different Types of Jacks?

There are two basic types of jacks, which are hydraulic and mechanical jacks. Under the two are several other types of jack stands with different features, advantages, and disadvantages. The most common types of jacks include scissor jacks, floor jacks, motorcycle jacks, trolley jacks, strand jacks, hi-lift jacks, pneumatic jacks, and bottle jacks, among others. The different types of jacks have different ratings. The best jack to buy depends entirely on the type of your vehicle.

Can a 2 Ton Jack Lift an SUV?

A 2-ton jack lift has a safe load limit of 2 tons. This stand may not have any problem with lifting the weight of the SUV. However, most of the SUVs are much higher from the ground, and a small jack may not be ideal. This is because this jack lift may not be very stable when its height is extended fully. If you want to lift the whole vehicle, you can lift a corner at a time and then put a jack stand as you move to the other corner. If the vehicle is more than 2 tons, kindly consider another type of jack lift for more stability and safety.

How Much Can a 3-ton Jack Lift?

A 3-ton Jack can lift up to 6000 lbs. The jack is more convenient to work with a bigger end, a taller reach, and a bigger base. A floor jack needs to be rated for a minimum of three-quarters of the gross weight of a vehicle. According to these calculations, 1.5 tons can lift a vehicle that weighs as much as 4000 pounds.

How Much Do Jack Stands Cost?

The cost of jack stands varies depending on their size, make, type, and manufacturers. A car jack can range from $18 to $150. The cost will also vary from where you buy the jack stand. Some of the best quality jack stands tend to be of high quality, but the price is worth it. High-quality jack stands not only serve you for a long time but also provide safety for the person working underneath the car. Check the features and reviews of the jack stand type first before you purchase and ensure it is safe and serves its purpose.

What Size Jack Do I Need For My Car?

The right size of a jack depends on the size of your vehicle. The rule is you should buy a jack stand, which holds twice as much weight as your vehicle. If your car is 3 tons/6000 pounds, the jack stand should be able to hold as much as 6 tons/ 12000 pounds. On top of the weight of the car, also consider its model. The lift should be able to move underneath the car with ease. Ease of operation and portability should be considered after you have fully satisfied with its capacity.

What Size Jack Do I Need For My Truck?

Just like a jack for your car, the size of the jack for your truck will depend on its weight and height. The other thing to look at is the lift height, which dictates how high you will light your vehicle. With the two factors, you will be able to get the ideal jack size for your vehicle. For high trucks, you will need a jack with high lifting capabilities. It is crucial to check the width of the jack at its lifting arms as well as its width at the platform.

Final Words

The above-discussed jacks are the 3 common types of jacks a professional auto mechanic or car owner should consider. When selecting a jack to buy, look at its weight capacity, stability, profile, and lift range. Consider the distance from the ground to the undercarriage of your vehicle. Jack and Jack stand safe when used in the right way. Always check your car manual to see the recommended support stands and lifts for your vehicle. Never miss to use a jack stand on a level surface, and it should be in the parking brake before you jack it up. Before you go beneath the vehicle, shake the vehicle to ensure it is secure and stable.

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Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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