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How Do Car Jacks Work

Last updated on January 22nd, 2024

Car jacks are essential car tools for every car owner. Besides, they come in handy whenever you’re trying to do repair work at home. They are also used to fix flat tires.

However, some cars come with a jack for emergency purposes. But, car jacks come in different shapes and sizes. Some have a high lifting capacity, while others are quite portable.

How Do Car Jacks Work?

When hydraulic oil moves through 2 cylinders, pressure is applied on the suction valve to pull the pump plunger. As the valve pulls the plunger, it sucks oil into the pump chamber.

The operator then repeats the process, after which the pressure exerted pushes the pump plunger down, and oil passes to the external discharge valve and into the pump cylinders.

The pressure increases in the cylinder chamber and causes the suction valve to close up. The piston then rises and lifts the vehicle from the high pressure mounted on it by the pump plunger.

What is a Car Jack?

A car jack is a lifting device used to carry a vehicle from the ground. Car jacks are of different types.

Some are hydraulic jacks, while others are mechanical.

Most hydraulic jacks use hydraulic cylinders with high pressure to create high lifting force, while mechanical jacks use cranked levers or screws to lift vehicles.

Jack stands are car jack supporters since car jacks raise a vehicle and don’t necessarily hold it in place.

Types of Car Jacks

There are several types of car jacks used to lift small and large vehicles. They are of two groups, which include:

  • Hydraulic car jacks; and
  • Mechanical car jacks

Mechanical car jacks

These car jacks are the most common. They use a manual operator to crank a lever into a threaded screw to raise a vehicle.

Types of Mechanical Car Jacks

Scissor jacks

These are portable and lightweight jacks that require little or no maintenance. As the name implies, they are scissor-like.

Scissor jacks have a long threaded screw in the center of their hinge, and they use a crossover mechanism between a flat surface and a solid base to lift equipment. 

You’ll have to turn the screw to open the scissor hinge to lift a load. Note that turning the screw clockwise opens the crossover mechanism and lifts the load.

The scissor jack is the most reliable and efficient tool to change a car tire. 

Interestingly, most car manufacturers that give out scissor jacks give spare tires too. Plus, scissor jacks are useful in emergencies.

Make sure that your scissor jack corresponds with the weight of your car and the different lifting spots if you’ll ever need to get a new one.

High-Lift Jacks

Large vehicle owners mostly use a high-lift jack. This jack is made of durable and high-quality metals, which gives it a powerful lifting capacity to raise heavyweight vehicles.

Generally, a high-lift hack weighs up to 7,000 lbs and can lift vehicles as high as 5 feels.

High-lift jacks easily lift heavyweight vehicles and distribute the load even on soft ground without exerting force on the operator.

They can be used horizontally or vertically. They are very useful for clamping, winching, and pulling heavy loads, including lifting a vehicle to save an accident victim.

Hydraulic Car Jacks

These car jacks work by exerting pressure on the fluids in its closed system, supplying it with lifting power.

Types of Hydraulic Car Jacks

Bottle Jacks

These jacks exert their lifting power in an upward direction as they are used vertically. They are small in size and can only lift medium loads.

Moreso, they can only be used on hard surfaces. For instance, using a bottle jack to change a flat tire by the roadside may not be safe.

Good enough, bottle jacks are powerful, easy to use, and quite affordable. High lift and portability are major features of a bottle jack. It’s advisable for home mechanics to own an effective bottle jack as it’ll come in handy when trying to lift a load of up to 10 tonnes.

Farm Jacks

These jacks are used to jack up farm trucks (and tractors). However, they are not only used by farmers; some people who drive high-clearance and off-road trucks use them too.

Asides from changing flat tires, farm jacks are used to remove a car stuck in the mud.

Compared to bottle jacks and floor jacks, farm jacks are the best for jacking a high clearance car. In fact, they are reliable all-purpose tools.

Floor Jacks

A floor jack is a horizontal and long lifting device that carries weight parallel to its power source. Floor jacks are not portable (not suitable for on-road use) and only suit cars that have a low height (mostly small-sized vehicles)

Additionally, floor jacks are suitable for mechanics or car owners with bending difficulties and back issues. Besides, they require little or no mechanic experience to know how to use them.

Since floor jacks occupy so much space, they’re placed on wheels to make movement around the garage easy.

Strand Jack

Aside from construction vehicles, the strand jack is used to lift heavy-duty items like power stations and bridges. In addition, engineering and construction industries use this jack.

Motorcycle Jack

As the name implies, this jack is used to work on motorcycles, especially during a repair. Motorcycle jacks also work well with snowmobiles and ATVs.

Pneumatic Jack

This jack is otherwise called a telescope jack and is mostly used for lifting heavy vehicles like trucks and buses. It is not advisable to use the pneumatic jack for small-sized cars.

Trolley Jack

The trolley jack is one of the simplest and easiest jacks to use in lifting vehicles, especially medium-sized cars. They can lift a vehicle of up to 4 tonnes.

Exhaust Air Jacks

An exhaust air jack is a portable jack. It is a special lightweight jack that inflates using the air from a car’s exhaust. It usually comes with a hose and an inflatable sack attached to the exhaust pipe.

To lift the vehicle, you’ll have to inflate the sack. Also, there is a one-way valve used to deflate the air inside the sack to bring the car down.

Exhaust air jacks are most suitable for off-roading vehicles since there used on different types of terrains, including soft ground like snow, mud, or sand.

How Do I Jack Up a Car?

To lift your car, here are the steps to follow:

  • First, fasten the car’s rear wheels to the side you’ll be lifting
  • Check for the jack points
  • Position the jack beneath the lifting spot
  • Lift the vehicle by applying the pumping action
  • Insert and lock the car jack stand
  • Gently remove the jack stand and slide out the car jack when you finish.

What Should I Keep in Mind When Jacking My Car?

There are certain safety tips you must observe before jacking your car. They are:

Park your car on a level surface (ground) if you aren’t in a garage.

Secure the car by blocking the wheels with bricks or wooden wedges. Place them under the tire so your car doesn’t roll while jacking it up.

Locate your car’s jack point and position your jack there. Jacking at the wrong spot will damage the frame. If you’re not sure where your car jack point is, check the car’s manual.

Use a jack base if your car is in a muddy area or a non-solid surface.

Always use your jack stands to support your car and hold it in place; you may get injured if you go under the car and the jack slips off.

How Does a Car Jack Work?

Pressure is applied to the 2 hydraulic cylinders. The suction valve pulls the plunger and saps oil into the pump chamber.

The pressure pushes the pump piston down, and oil passes to the external discharge valve and into the cylinders.

The pressure increases in the cylinder chamber and causes the suction valve to close up. The piston then rises and lifts the vehicle from the high pressure mounted on it by the pump plunger.

What Kind of Car Jack Do I Need?

The car jack types you need will depend on the weight of your vehicle, its clearance, your budget, and portability.

So it’s important to put all of those things before getting a car jack. Anyways, that’s if your car didn’t come with a jack.

However, scissor jacks are best for emergencies, while exhaust air jacks and high-lift jacks are perfect for off-roading because of their recovery capacity and weight.

Finally, bottle jacks and floor jacks are the best when it comes to portability. Choose wisely!

Floor Jacks and Bottle Jacks, Which is Inexpensive?

From all indications, bottle jacks are less expensive compared to floor jacks. They are just inexpensive but have good and reliable quality.

Plus, bottle jacks are portable and easy to use. Car manufacturers recommend that every car owner and mechanic have a hydraulic bottle jack as it’ll always come in handy.

Final Thoughts

Car jacks are necessary for lifting vehicles (car maintenance and repairs). If you don’t understand how a car jack works, we’ve extended that in this article, including the different types of hydraulic and mechanical jacks.

If you have any difficulty using a car jack or locating your car’s lifting spot, refer to your car’s manual or contact an expert mechanic to come to your rescue.



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