Seeing as this site is focused mainly on Jacks, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss different types of Jacks on the market in an attempt to clear up any misunderstanding or confusion you may have when it comes to deciding which one you need.
The Different Types of Jacks
Its easy to see why consumer can become confused when trying to choose the best jack for their needs, there are over 8 different types of Jacks! For our purposes there are 5 main types of vehicle Jacks
Different types of automotive jacks
- Scissor Jacks
- Hydraulic Jacks – these include Floor Jacks and Bottle Jacks
- Hi-lift Jacks – also known as a High Lift or Farm Jack
- Motorcycle Jack
A scissor jack is perhaps the most common type of jack you may have encountered as these jacks come with your car!
They are usually in close proximity to your cars spare tire and are used mainly for roadside repairs, in the main to change a flat tire.
Scissor Jacks are lightweight and reasonably small, making them easy to store and use for the average consumer / car owner.
A scissor jack is also known as a Jackscrew, they are sometimes called that, due to the way they work. They use a mechanical action to screw in the sides of the jack in a squeezing, “scissor” motion in order to raise the vehicle.
Check out the video below to get a better idea of how it works.
These days there are even electrically operated scissor jacks available that run off your vehicles battery. This makes jacking your car up to change a tire a very simple process. They usual come in a neat carry case like the one below.
Hydraulic Jacks often referred to as a floor jack, garage jack, trolley jack or service jack. A hydraulic jack is better suited to a garage or workshop than in the back of your car. This is mainly due to the large weight and size of these jacks.
Floor jacks are operated by wheeling and sliding the jack under the car (these jacks have wheels and coasters, so they are very easy to maneuver. You do need to ensure the ground is as flat and hard as possible). Once in place under the designated lift point of your vehicle (refer to your owner’s manual), the arm of the unit is pumped repeatedly. This pumping action sucks oil out of the jacks oil reservoir and forces it into the lift chamber, creating an increase in oil pressure and resulting in the saddle arm of the jack rising and lifting your car.
Releasing the pressure in the Jack by slowly turning the pressure release screw / valve will see the vehicle, slowly and safely return to the ground once repairs have been performed.
Check out the video below for a demonstration on how a hydraulic floor jack (trolley jack) works
These jacks are far superior to scissor jacks for a workshop or garage setting as they take much more punishment, wear and tear and rarely if ever fail, even after decades of use!
If you drive a low profile vehicle there are even specialist “racing” jacks that will fit under your vehicle, check out our low profile floor jack reviews
Another type of hydraulic jack that you may be familiar with is the bottle or whiskey jack. So named as its physical appearance resembles an old fashioned whiskey jug or bottle.
Rather than have a lift arm as a trolley jack does, the bottle jack has a single lift rod, which acts as a piston. Its a very simple mechanism, you simply pump the arm of the jack and the piston will rise.
They have a whopping 50 tons lift capacity and are often deployed in the act of raising houses in a chained group of jacks,
When using on a vehicle many people like to use a block of timber to help cushion the impact on the cars body of the relatively small (in comparison to a floor jack saddle) point of impact.
One major drawback with the bottle jack is its height its collapsed height is usual only half that of its extended height, this means its unsuitable for many regular vehicles, but is ideal for vehicles with higher clearances, such as trucks and 4wds. The range of height is much less than a garage jack as well, but once again for vehicles that already have high ground clearance this isn’t a problem.
In contrast a benefit is they are usual more robust, take up a lot less space in your vehicle when compared to a trolley jack and can safely take more weight.
Hi-Lift Jacks, also known as High Lift and Farm Jacks (mainly because they are an invaluable tool for the farmer as they can be used for an almost endless number of tasks) are an extremely versatile Jack when it comes to lifting, levering, pulling or winching.
The jacks are not suitable for conventional vehicles, but for off-road vehicles or farming these are perfect.
Hi-Lift jacks were originally developed for farm work, they are made of a pair of climbing pins, that climb the height of the jack (sometimes as high as 6 feet) by a ratcheting action, achieved by a manual pumping mechanism.
How To Use A Hi-Lift Jack Safely
Safe use of these jacks cannot be overstated, due to the fact they often are lifting heavy vehicles to a considerable height. Always use it on as flat a surface as possible and also apply a range of ad-dons that can be purchased to help stablise the jack and the vehicle it’s being used on. Read More about Hi-Lift Jacks here.
The last type of Jack we will look at is a motorcycle jack. As the name implies this Jack is used for lifting a motorcycle in a stable manner to enable cleaning, modifications or repairs on your motorbike to be performed easily.
These particular jacks are often referred to as motorcycle lifts.
These Jacks are designed specifically for safely lifting motorcycles and most ATV 4 wheel style vehicles.
They hold the back securely so they can be worked on at an elevated height.
How To Use A Hydraulic Motorcycle Jack
To learn more about motorcycle lifts and read our recommendations if you’re looking to purchase one, take a look at our review page here
There are of course other types of Jacks that server purposes other than lifting a vehicle. There are house jacks and all manner of industrial Jacks, we may even create an article around these types of jacks soon, as the varied uses of the Jack is quite an interesting topic!