The key to being a DIY god is not having the most expensive tools and equipment for getting the job done. It’s all about doing it as economically and efficient as possible. If you’re looking to do at-home car maintenance, the first things you need are a pair of reliable service jacks.
For any car enthusiast, service jacks are a piece of equipment that they cannot live without. How are you going to service under your vehicle when you can’t even get it off the groundWe don’t have to tell you that cars are heavy, nor do we need to let you know that if one falls on you (God forbid), then it’s pretty much game over for you.
How reliable are Service Jacks?
Unfortunately, using service jacks to lift your car is not 100% foolproof. You could end up pinching your fingers in the screwing mechanism, or (God forbid) the car can come crashing down due to failure.
Service jacks are mainly used to lift your vehicle off the ground, giving your access to the belly of the car and the ability to remove wheels. They’re not meant to keep your car in the air for extensive periods.
If you need to keep your car propped up for hours at a time, consider getting jack stands along with your service jack. These stands slip beneath your car, next to the spot where your car is jacked up, and come with anti-slipping features for added safety.
How many Jacks do I need?
The number of service jacks needed depends entirely on what you plan on doing. For emergencies such as changing tires, a single jack that lifts the flat tire off the ground is all you’ll need.
If you’re doing more extensive maintenance underneath your car, then you’ll need all the help you can get to safely lift your car before slipping in jack stands.
In this case, you’ll need at least two to keep your car perfectly balanced. Setting one jack stand at a time while lifting another part of your vehicle with a single floor jack can be a recipe for disaster, no matter how many chocks you place around your car’s tires.
Differences between Service Jacks and Car Lifts
If you need a tool to lift your car off the ground, there are many different ways of doing it. in this article, we’ll focus mainly on service jacks, but let’s go over car lifts quickly.
There are several types of car lifts that cost between a couple hundred to more than ten grand. Depending on the type of car lift, you can lift your car several feet off the ground, giving you additional parking space beneath. Car lifts are also great for pro mechanics who need an unobstructed view of what’s going on underneath.
Service jacks simply lift one part of your vehicle and give you access to the wheel and parts underneath. They’re considerably cheaper and a heck of a lot more portable. For the average DIY-er or car owner, using service jacks for light-duty car maintenance is all you’ll ever need to prop your vehicle up.
Top 5 Best Service Jacks
It may not be hard deciding on which type of service jack you want, but it can be a pain finding the right model. To assist you on your shopping endeavors, we’ve compiled a list of our top five favorite service jacks. A quick note: these are all floor jacks (we prefer sacrificing storage space for safety and convenience).
The Blackhawk B6350 is one of the most highly commended floor jacks based on customer reports. With a comfortable handle and 3-1/2-ton (7,000-pound) weight capacity, most car owners would be happy to have a B6350 in the trunk of their car.
The B6350 is made of heavy-duty steel and comes with rolled side plates. This guarantees that the jack will prove you with car-lifting abilities for several years beyond the 1-year warranty period. You’ll love the durable design when lifting your car to the jack’s maximum height of 22 inches.
This floor jack has fast-lift technology where the saddle is raised quickly with each pump of the handle. But after making contact with your car’s lifting point, the arm rises slowly to give you maximum control over how high to lift. A built-in bypass design is helpful in preventing over-pumping, which could potentially damage the internal pistons.
However, there are a few notable drawbacks of the B6350, the most prominent of which being its tall profile. This floor jack isn’t designed for use under cars with less than 6 inches of ground clearance. Also, it is a lot heavier and bulkier than most floor jacks, although its casters help slide the tool on the ground.
Appearance-wise, the Blackhawk B6350 and Sunex 6602LP don’t look a lot alike. However, it’s not the looks that matter – when it comes to performance, there’s not a lot that the Sunex 6602LP can’t do.
This floor jack is a lot smaller than the Blackhawk. It has a maximum weight capacity of 2 tons (6,000 pounds), making it suitable for a wide range of smaller vehicles. If you have a truck or SUV, this is not the floor jack for you.
But if you have a low-riding sports car, then the 2-3/4-inch height profile of the 6602LP is perfect. Despite it being slow short, its lifting arm can lift 6,000-pound cars off of the floor at a maximum height of 24 inches!
Rapid Rise Technology helps you get the job done a lot quicker compared to most floor jacks. With the double-piston system, it only takes 6-1/2 pumps to lift your car to the maximum height. This is done using the long, padded 43-inch handle (51-1/2 inches when vertical attached to the floor jack) that offers a ton of leverage for optimal lift per pump.
It’d be nice if the saddle were padded, so you don’t accidentally scrape your car’s axel or lifting point. Also, several customers have experienced leaking within the first month of purchase, but Sunex’s customer support has been extremely helpful in accommodating complains and even sending replacements (backed by a 1-year warranty)
The Arcan XL2T is a compact floor jack with a low profile and high-raising arm. Like the previous model, this floor jack is limited to 2 tons (6,000 pounds). It’s not just a sleek-looking jack either; it’s got all the features – and more – that make this floor jack an awesome buy.
Quality is the selling point of the Arcan XL2T. The entire unit is made of steel that is coated in an anti-corrosion coat of black paint. The construction of the XL2T meets all sorts of safety standards, so you can rest assured than you’re getting a perfect floor jack that won’t come crashing down during crucial moments.
When at rest, the XL2T measures in at only 2-3/4 inches high. The lifting arm can rise as high as 24 inches in less than ten pumps (dual-piston support), giving you a ton of room to move when working under your vehicle. Just like the previous model, this unit’s limited weight capacity and clearance space does not make it the right floor jack for trucks and SUVs.
On the arm, you’ll find a wide rubber pad that cushions your vehicle as it lifts. The width of the pad also helps in spreading out the weight of the work.
Liftmaster 3-Ton Floor Jack with Quick-Lift
The Liftmaster may look like an ordinary floor jack, but its simplicity is the key to its quality. Its 3-ton (6,000 pounds) weight capacity makes it a great solution for small- to medium-sized vehicles.
Except for the handles and wheels, the entire unit is made of anti-corrosion steel that will withstand moist environments. This is necessary when working outdoors when you have a flat in the rain.
This is a low-profile floor jack that measures at 3 inches high (slightly larger than the previous two models). Using a dual-piston design, it can lift heavy SUVs to 22 inches high. With quick-lift technology, this Liftmaster floor jack can jack up a car to the maximum height in less than ten pumps after making contact with your car’s lifting point.
The Liftmaster is also equipped with paddings that prevent damage to your car. On the saddle, the hard rubber disc makes its way into all of the notches, reducing the amount of metal-on-metal contact. The lower part of the handle is encased in long rubber tubing to prevent dents in your car’s frame and door.
If you’re looking for a floor jack that’s straightforward, made of durable materials, and you don’t care about appearance, then the budget-friendly Liftmaster could be the right jack for you.
Finally, we have another floor jack model from Arcan. This time, it’s the XL20 – the smaller brother to the XL2T.
Both of the Arcan floor jack models are designed to lift to 2 tons (4,000 pounds) of car off the ground; the the XL20’s lifting arm is slightly shorter. At most, the XL20’s arm lifts at a max height of 18-1/2 inches (less than 15 pumps after initial contact), which is more than enough space to change the wheel of a sedan or hatchback. Its low profile of 3-1/2 inches helps it slide under shorter cars, but pickup trucks may prove to be too tall for the XL20.
One ingenious little feature of the XL20 is the built-in breaker bar. The long handle can be used to tighten or loosen stubborn bolts with the correct adapter. The handle is also covered in foam to prevent accidental scratches and damage to your car’s door while jacking it up.
But the real value of the XL20 is its steel wheels. If you’re looking for a new floor jack, most likely your old one’s wheels have fallen off or become warped in a way that does not provide level work. The XL20’s durable steel wheels won’t dent or bend, so you’ll have a great jack for use on all types of surfaces.
Service Jacks Buying Guide
If you’ve read the description of each of our picks of the top five service jacks, then you’ll see that there aren’t very many things to consider before making a purchase. If you decide not to go with any of the five mentioned above, then the only things you’ll need to keep in mind are the following.
Before you decide to purchase a set of service jacks online, the first thing you’ll need to do is determine whether those jacks are right for your car. Although service jacks can lift several tons of metal, they’re not indestructible, and getting the wrong model could end up costing you a fortune on repairs.
Consult your car’s owner’s manual or check online about how much your vehicle weighs. It’s also a good idea to purchase service jacks that have weight ratings that are higher than the weight of your car. That’s just common sense.
The next thing to consider is how far off your car is from the ground. Once again, check the owner’s manual or online about how much vertical clearance there is from the ground to your car’s frame. You can also go about doing this by manually measuring the distance with a ruler. Service jacks can be as small as 2-3/4 inches or as tall as 6 inches.
The height of the jack should be smaller than the minimum distance between your car’s frame and the ground. Although the jacking point of your car may be several inches higher than this, it’s important that the jack doesn’t cause any damage to the frame of your car first.
Maximum Lifting Height
You should also be aware of how high the jack can lift your vehicle. Higher isn’t always better or cost-effective, especially when dealing with shorter cars like sedans and hatchbacks. As long as the jack can lift your car from its jacking point to allow several inches of clearance between your car’s wheels and the ground, then you’ll be fine.
Trucks and SUVs will require a higher maximum lifting height since their axels or other lifting points may be several inches higher than in sedans.
Next, take a close look at what sort of materials go into making the service jack. The two most widely used materials are aluminum and steel.
Aluminum service jacks are lighter than steel but just as strong. Certain aluminum models can be even stronger than steel jacks in terms of longevity. They typically have the same lifting heights and profiles as their steel counterparts. Aluminum is also naturally non-corrosive, so if you live in a particularly rainy or snowy part of the globe, aluminum is the way to go. The only drawback is that they can be several times more expensive than steel jacks.
Steel jack frames are several times heavier and larger than aluminum. Comparing the aluminum and steel jacks of the same size, the steel jack will have a lower weight capacity rating. They’re also prone to corrosion if not properly cared for or covered in weatherproof paint. Storing steel jacks can be a problem unless it comes in its carrying case. The good news is that they’re less expensive than aluminum.
Types of Service Jacks
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about floor jacks, but maybe you’re looking for something differentHere, we’ll go over the most popular types of service jacks to help with car maintenance.
Scissors jacks are the most common type of service jack available. If you’ve ever purchased a brand-new car, it most likely came with its own set of scissors jacks.
A scissors jack kit consists of the jack and a crank handle. To use one of these, you simply place the jack beneath the jack point of your vehicle (check the owner’s manual if you still have it). When the jack is correctly positioned, insert the crank handle into the hole that connects to the screw drive. Turning the handle one way will jack the car up while turning in the opposite direction will bring your car back down.
Scissors jacks are the lightest type of service jack, making them easy to store in your car’s trunk. This is the only benefit of scissors jacks compared to other types. These are typically slower to use and a lot more dangerous due to their narrow top bases. Plus, there’s a real risk of getting your fingers trapped in the turning mechanism (scary).
Farm jacks, also known as high-lift jacks, are the tallest type of service jack. If you need to raise one side of your vehicle or other object by several feet, then you need a farm jack.
To use a farm jack, place it under the axle of your car or as close to the center of an object’s base. Lift the handle and press it down until it’s reached the desired height. To bring it back down, move the handle up slowly so it doesn’t come crashing down.
You may be wondering why you’d ever need to lift your car up to 48 inches off the ground. Well, if you’re offroading and get trapped in mud, scissors jacks won’t do you much good. However, since farm jacks are long and slender, they don’t offer a ton of stability, so it’s not the best jack for doing at-home repairs.
Bottle jacks are one of the most versatile jacks available. They’re small in size so you can store one in the trunk of your sedan or hatchback. They use a hydraulic system of pistons and fluid to lift several tons of metal to more than a foot off the ground.
Using a bottle jack is sort of a combination of both scissors and farm lifts. Place the jack beneath the lift point of your vehicle, insert the handle, and pump the jack until your car has reached the desired height. To bring your car back down, put the notched end of the handle on the release valve and turn counterclockwise carefully.
The major downsides of using a bottle jack include having to be close to the vehicle as you operate the jack, and it being a bit too tall for shorter cars. Plus, they’re not 100% reliable on their own; you’ll need jack stands to support the car after lifting it with a bottle jack.
Like bottle jacks, floor jacks rely on pistons and hydraulic fluid to lift one side of your car. They have lower profiles and slip beneath vehicles of almost any size. They’re a lot larger than most types of service jacks, but the wider base sits on top of wheels that make it extremely easy to navigate beneath your car.
Using floor jacks is almost exactly like using bottle jacks, except you don’t need to be in such close proximity to your vehicle. Instead, place the jack on the ground, slide it beneath your car until the saddle is right beneath your car’s lift point, insert the handle, and pump until it has made contacted and lifted your car to the right height. To release the jack, remove the handle, place the notched end on the release valve, and turn counterclockwise slowly.
There’s nothing too bad about floor jacks – they offer a ton of stability, they’re easy to use, and they’re a lot safer than the previous service jacks types. The only real issue with floor jacks is that they have more moving parts than other service jacks, so they’re more prone to damage and wear over time.
After reading this article, you should have a pretty good idea about what service jacks are, how each type is used, and what to look for when shopping for a pair of jacks. The most important factor to consider is whether the jack can lift your car.
When it comes to jacking your car up, safety should be your priority. Service jacks aren’t meant to keep cars up for hours at a time, so consider getting additional accessories like jack stands and/or chocks to further simplify the lifting process.