All About Car Jacks and Jack Stands

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Jack stands are an essential tool to any serious DIYer. They’re a necessary tool for tire rotations, changing a flat, any serious engine work, and much more. Picking out the correct jack stand for your vehicle is essential to complete the job but also for safety. It is very important to know how to properly lift your vehicle. You must know where the jack points on your vehicle are, what weight your stands are rated too, and how to check the condition of your stands before use.

Types of Car Jacks

Scissor Jacks – Scissor jacks are small and cheap to manufacture. Because of this, cars are typically sold with a scissor jack from the factory. The jack utilizes a rod which is cranked, and it translates the cranking motion into lift. In many cases, the tire iron doubles as the rod to operate the jack. The linear motion lifts the car into the air. To lower the car, simply turn the rod in the reverse direction. Scissor jacks lift vehicles to heights ranging from 15 to 30 inches and can be loaded up to 1 to 2 tons depending on the type of jack, but we’ll get into that later in this article.

Floor Jacks – Floor jacks utilize mechanical advantage to lift vehicles. These jacks utilize a hydraulic system to multiple the input force of the user and raise the vehicle. When the handle is pressed downwards the fluid in the jack will be pressurized creating lift. A check valve is used to allow the pressurized fluid to flow into the main cylinder, but it will not allow flow out of the main cylinder. Because of this, a release valve is needed to lower the vehicle. Opening the release valve allows the fluid to depressurize and flow out of the main cylinder. Floor jacks usually have wheels which allow them to slide under vehicles and reach the jack points. These jacks are much quicker to use than scissor jacks. However we recommend using floor jacks to lift the vehicle and then placing jack stands underneath for added safety.

Jack Stands

Jack Stands – While jack stands don’t actually lift your vehicle they are necessary to use as a backup when using a floor jack. Most jack stands are adjustable. You will need a floor jack or a scissor jack to lift the vehicle. Then simply raise the jack up to the lift point and lock the jack stand into position. One very important thing to consider is the weight rating of the jack stand. Since they are sold in pairs, the weight rating is for both stands combined. For example a 3 ton jack stand set is rated for 1.5 tons for each stand. When selecting a jack stand it is a good rule of thumb to have a pair of stands that are rated for twice the weight of your vehicle. For instance, my truck weighs approximately 5,000 lbs I should use four 2.5 ton rated jack stands.

How To Properly Lift Your Vehicle

Knowing where the jack points on your vehicle are is essential to safety. Consult your owners manual to find the jack points. Before lifting the vehicle, make sure that you are own a flat hard surface such as a garage floor or flat driveway. Be sure to block off all of the wheels that are not being raised into the air with a block or wedge. This is essential so that the car doesn’t roll off the jack! Put the car in park and apply the parking brake. Now you are ready to lift the vehicle. Place the scissor or floor jack underneath the jack point and slowly raise the vehicle off the ground. If you are going to work underneath the vehicle, always use a jack stand. Never rely just on a floor jack or scissor jack.

If you are going to work underneath the vehicle, always use a jack stand. Never rely just on a floor jack or scissor jack.

After the vehicle has been lifted off the ground, place a jack stand underneath the jack point. Adjust the jack stand so that it is as close as possible to the jack point. Then slowly lower the vehicle so that it is fully supported by the jack stand. Lastly, lightly press on the car to make sure that it is secure.

Car Jack Maintenance and Inspection

Floor jacks, scissor jacks, and jack stands should work well for years. However it is important to properly inspect them before each use. Floor jacks should NEVER leak fluid. They should also always hold the weight of the vehicle at the set height. Any drop in height of the vehicle indicates that there is internal leakage either with the check valve or release valve. The most important maintenance is keeping the jacks clean. Floor jacks have exposed grease on them because of this they can attract a lot of dirt. To clean, simply wipe the exposed parts with a clean cloth, then make a second pass with a slightly oiled cloth. Lubricate moving parts like the hinge with grease. Lastly always release all of the pressure in the floor jack before storage.

Periodically the hydraulic fluid in the floor jack will need to be changed. After it is changed, you will need to bleed out the air in the system. This should also be done if the floor jack starts behaving erratically. and its a pretty standard process. First, twist the rod in a counter clockwise direction and pump up the jack.This should be done thirty times. After that is complete, twist the rod in the clockwise direction and pump the hydraulic jack up as far as it goes. Then release it.

While a scissor jack doesn’t have any fluid, you can follow the same maintenance with cleaning and greasing as the floor jack. Always check your jack stands for corrosion and wear before use. Many jack stands lock by inserting a pin. Make sure that the pin does not show any signs of wear or damage. Also inspect lift point and frame of the jack stand and scissor jacks to make sure that they are not bent or deformed.