Best Car Jack Buying Guide & FAQ

Your car, truck, or SUV weighs thousands of pounds, and that’s why you need a car jack that is strong, stable, and reliable. Cutting corners such as using a lower weight rating than you should can mean not just expensive damage to your vehicle but could cost you an arm, a leg, or your life. There is more to picking a jack than just getting the biggest and heaviest, however, and we’re here to help you decide which jack is right for your needs.

What to Look for in a Car Jack

Don’t let the weight of lifting your vehicle weigh too heavily on your mind. Here are some of the main things you need to look for when you’re choosing a car jack for your garage.

Weight Rating

Car jacks give their capacity in tons, and a ton is 2,000 pounds. If you’re planning on lifting a small car, a basic 2-ton jack should be more than enough. If you’re lifting your pickup, you’ll need something with more capacity. On a car or crossover, you can use the gross weight vehicle rating of the vehicle (usually on a sticker in the door frame) as a guide to how much capacity you need. On a pickup, take that same number and subtract the payload rating.

Height of Lifting Pad

Car jacks have to go under the vehicle to access specific lifting points. If your car is too low, the jack won’t fit underneath. About an inch less lift pad height than your actual ground clearance to the lift point is the right move. If you have a truck, however, you need a higher lift pad or you’ll be pumping all day just to get to the frame.

Maximum Heighty

Your jack is useless if it can’t lift your vehicle off the ground. This shouldn’t be a problem with cars, but trucks and SUVs, especially lifted ones, need more attention. Your jack’s maximum height needs to reach the frame or the axle lift point and then still go high enough to cover your suspension’s “droop” travel. That’s the amount the wheel drops relative to the body before the suspension is fully extended.

Types of Car Jacks

Car jacks come in different types. Here are four of the most common:

Scissor Jack

A scissor jack is the type you’ll usually find included in your new car or truck by the manufacturer. A long screw is turned to draw the legs of the scissors together. As the legs are drawn closer, they also grow higher. While these do work and require little effort to use, they are intended for emergency use only. Don’t use one of these to do more than an emergency roadside tire repair, and don’t reach under your vehicle with it suspended by a scissor jack.

Floor Jack

This is the most common car jack, and it’s great for changing tires as well as performing repairs and general maintenance. It works on the principle of hydraulic pressure to lift heavy objects with relative ease. They come with four wheels for ease of placement under the car as well as a long handle that operates the lift mechanism. Floor jacks can be big and bulky and heavy, although on a smooth concrete garage floor this isn’t much of a problem.

Bottle Jack

These jacks look like bottles, hence the name. They’re thin and short, with the lift mechanism coming straight up out of the body of the jack. These jacks can be found with weight capacities much greater than a floor jack, but since they can only be used straight up and down, they can be less stable than floor jacks when used to lift a vehicle.

Hi-lift Jack

These are specialty jacks that are designed to raise off-road vehicles or any other vehicle with a lifted chassis. These can raise vehicles up to a staggering height of 5 feet and have truck-ready available lift capacities. They are also exceptionally long, the shortest being 3 feet. This makes them very impractical to put in your car’s trunk, but they can be indispensable for off-road and farm use.

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