Buying a Car Jack
Whether you’re changing a tire or getting underneath to do some serious work on your car, a good car jack is an important tool in any home mechanic’s shop. Getting the car up in the air safely and securely is critical.
When shopping for a jack, we recommend a few key features:
- Handle length: A longer handle will typically give you more leverage, allowing you to lift the car with less struggle.
- Wheels that roll smoothly: Jacks are usually heavy, so dragging it across your shop will be easier if the wheels roll well.
- A wide, sturdy base: The wider the jack, the more stable it will be when you go to lift the car.
- An appropriate saddle height and maximum lifting height: The saddle is the part of the jack that touches the car. Consider what you need to lift. Some larger jacks won’t have a low enough saddle to get under low sports cars, while others won’t raise lifted trucks high enough.
One other thing to know: Jacks are generally rated by the weight they can lift, in tons. Typically you’re only lifting half your car, either two side wheels or one end. So you’ll need to know your car’s weight.
First, check the placard in the door jamb gives you the weight. Then cut that in half to determine the appropriate minimum size of your jack. It’s never a bad idea to have more capacity than the minimum.
Also, remember to wedge weights snugly against the wheels that remain on the ground when you go to lift, AKA chocking the wheels. If you don’t, those wheels might decide to roll as you jack the car.
Best All-Around Jack Stands
Technically, these aren’t jacks. But sturdy jack stands are absolutely critical any time you’re working underneath a car, because you cannot trust a hydraulic jack to hold a car securely for any length of time. A falling car can pin you underneath, with risk of severe injury or even death. Don’t get under a car without securely supporting it with good jack stands. Ever.
We like these Big Red T43002A Three-Ton Jack Stands. They feature four widely-spaced legs for stability, and a double-locking mechanism that ensures they stay in place. The double lock’s steel pin keeps the saddle from slipping.
Best Budget Car Jack
When you’re just starting to outfit your shop, it can be hard to justify spending a lot on any single automotive tool. This Craftsman 2.25-ton CMXLETNT82253DS Trolley Jack is a great choice for your first jack.
It’s lightweight and compact, yet much more sturdy than the scissors jack already in the trunk of your car. The handle is compact and easily removable, so it’s easy to store out of the way in your shop.
Best Lightweight Racing-Style Car Jack
No, this isn’t exactly like the megabucks specialized jacks professional racing teams use. But this Arcan A20018 Aluminum Car Jack is still much lighter than most other three-ton jacks.
If you’re a weekend racer frequently swapping tires, you’ll appreciate that lighter weight that also makes it easier to toss in the trunk or trailer. That way you can get your tire and brake changes done and get back on track.
Best Low Profile Car Jack
Low-slung sports cars can be a challenge to jack up because their chassis often hang lower than the starting height of a typical jack. This Husky HD00120-DIP Car Jack has a minimum saddle height of 3-1/8-inches, low enough to get under nearly any car.
It still has a three-ton capacity and can lift the car up to 19-3/4-inches. The quick-lift feature gets the saddle up to the jacking point quickly, saving strokes and time.
Best Heavy Duty Car Jack
If you’re working on bigger vehicles and trucks, you need a jack that can handle the weight. This Blackhawk B6350 Car Jack can lift up to 7,000 pounds — good for most pickups or off-road rigs. Further, it can raise your vehicle up to 22 inches, enough to remove oversized tires or to safely (with jack stands) work on the underside.
Best Bottle Car Jack
If you’re working on your car’s suspension, you may need a second jack. A bottle jack like this Sunex 4402 Car Jack is incredibly compact, yet provides two tons of lifting capacity.
While in theory a bottle jack could lift your car, it’s too narrow to be stable, and the short handle will get annoying quickly. I use a bottle jack to move suspension components while the car is already in the air, safely supported by jack stands. The compact size and strength helps break stubborn components free.
Best Farm/High-Lift Off-Road Car Jack
Hardcore off-roaders need a high-lift jack to get their lifted rigs off the dirt. It can also be used on the farm when you’re far from the shop.
This Hi-Lift HL-484 Car Jack has a 7,000 pound lifting capacity and will lift up to 48 inches. It can also be used in conjunction with a chain or strap as a 5,000 pound winch.
Caution: Be careful with any high-lift jack. The handle is under a great deal of load and could snap back, causing injury.
Best Portable Lift
If you plan on doing a lot of work on your cars, investing in a hydraulic lift can make the job much easier. However, a big lift like you’d see in a commercial shop simply won’t fit in your garage.
The BendPak QuickJack BL-5000SLX is a great alternative. It can jack the entire car (up to 5,000 pounds) safely in about a minute. We love the QuickJack because it keeps the entire undercarriage of the car accessible for repairs.
At times, you don’t want or need to break out the car jack and jack stands to get under a car. If you just need to do a simple oil change, you usually don’t need to take off the wheels. For jobs like that, just roll a pair of wheels up on these Race Ramps RR-56 ramps.
Though made of lightweight solid polyurethane, these ramps can still handle up to 6,000 pounds. Other ramps, like the old metal ones I’ve had for a few decades, can slide around as you try to drive up. These won’t slide, making positioning the car a snap.
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