7 Best Electric Jacks | April 2017
- can be powered in two ways
- impact wrench isn't very strong
- overall quality is questionable
|Brand||The Spare Kit Company|
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- works with standard a-frame trailers
- basic three-bolt installation
- travels extremely slowly
|Brand||Best Choice Products|
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- water-resistant motor
- protective vinyl cover
- large zinc base
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- long 12-foot power cord
- built-in overload protection
- simple two-button operation
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
- operates smoothly and quietly
- comes with a manual crank handle
- durable textured housing
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
- height adjusts from 5 to 14 inches
- protective storage case
- ideal for small to medium-sized cars
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- can be controlled by remote
- smooth ball bearing drive
- 18-inch travel distance
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
Getting Your Car Jacked The Right Way
Human beings are capable of some pretty incredible feats of strength, some of which are the result of years of training and discipline, while others come from sudden bursts of adrenaline in moments of severe stress. Famous examples of the latter case exist in which people have lifted two-ton cars off their crushed loved ones, saving their lives with scarcely a memory of the deed.
These seemingly superhuman abilities are due to a phenomenon called hysterical strength, which would probably become a curse if its effects lasted more than a few precious minutes. Thankfully, mankind has the ability to create complex tools capable of executing feats of incredible strength on our behalf. The car jack is one such device, and its electrical iteration requires even less muscular exertion than its original design.
One of the two types of jacks on our list are known as scissor jacks because of the shape and function of the jack arms. A scissor jack's source of mechanical motion is something called the jack screw, which is a long, threaded screw running parallel to the ground.
When you've positioned your scissor jack beneath the edge of your ride, you can turn the jack screw, which brings the two hinged jack arms closer together, elongating them and pressing their tips against your car's undercarriage. The amount of leverage distributed across the arms, the screw, and the bars that fit into the screw head is enough to make the car raise up on the jack with relative ease.
An electric jack performs the same motion as described above, but instead of you slaving away over the bars connected to the jack screw, a small motor turns it for you in either the up or down direction, depending on which button you push. What's more, the electric jack takes its power from your car's cigarette lighter or AC port, so you can keep one in your trunk for emergencies and use it anywhere you need.
It is not uncommon for one to find themselves in a scenario much like the following: You take the family on a road trip to Disney World, and somewhere eight or nine hours into a drive filled with unplanned stops, screaming kids, a bored spouse, and more games of "I Spy" than you ever thought you could play in a lifetime, you get a flat tire.
You're in the middle of nowhere, on some back-country Georgia road you were sure would cut forty-five minutes off your trip. It's hotter than a griddle-top, so humid you could drown just breathing the air, and all you've got to lift your over-laden minivan is a small, hand-cranked scissor jack.
Some people would just get out of the car and start walking – not to get help, just to get away, maybe abandon the family forever there on the side of the road, walking off into the woods to see what happens. Other folks might bear down and jack up the car, no matter how painful the process, how many blisters cropped up on their hands, or how much guff they'd have to deal with for barely being able to get the job done.
Then there's this subset of human beings smart enough to invest in an electric car jack. All they have to do is pop the jack under the car, plug it in, hit a button, and in a just a few moments they're at work swapping out the tire. On to Disney!
Still, the specifics of your situation and your level of expertise and safety concern will determine which jack you ought to get for yourself, as will the weight of your vehicle.
There are scissor jacks on our list, for example, that are only meant for vehicles built on a truck frame, which includes a majority of larger SUVs. Others will buckle under the weight of a truck or even a classic car. Check your ride's weight against the purported strength of a given jack to make sure the jack can get it up.
The packages available with each jack differ, as well. Some of these electric scissor jacks just come with the jack itself, a plug, and a controller. Others have entire roadside emergency kits with them, including small jumper cables and wrenches for your lug nuts.
Ensuring Your Recreation Vehicle Stays Recreational
Imagine you have just bought yourself a luxurious towable RV for your next family vacation. The guy at the dealership hooks it up to your truck and off you drive to bring it home and show it off to the family who is, of course, suitably impressed with your fantastic purchase. Since you are the kind of person who likes to be prepared, you have made this purchase weeks, or maybe even months, before your planned vacation time. After a lot of oohs and aahs from the family, it's time to unhitch the RV so you can drive to work tomorrow without bringing your new toy along for the ride. Uh oh. How do you get this 8,000lb. monstrosity off of your truck? We can guarantee that you aren't going to be lifting it off like the Hulk.
This is where the other subset of electric jacks on our list, known as tongue jacks, comes into play. These are designed to be used with trailers to make hitching and unhitching them from a vehicle easier and less labor-intensive. While it may be easy enough to lift the tongue of a small trailer, say one carrying a wave runner or two, it becomes an entirely different story when one is confronted with a trailer carrying a 30-foot cuddy cabin boat or a towable RV. Standard scissor jacks that come with cars aren't capable of lifting a trailer tongue high enough to be hitched onto, or unhitched from, a car.
A tongue jack has a metal shaft that extends out from another, slightly thicker metal shaft as the internal gears turn. With a manual tongue jack, the turning of the gears is accomplished via the use of a manual crank. As you might imagine, this can quickly become a sweaty and labor-intensive endeavor. Enter the electric tongue jack. It removes any and all physical strain on your part and instead requires you to simply push a button or flip a switch to raise or lower the tongue of your trailer.
The average electric tongue jack will have somewhere between a 3,000 and 5,000 lb. maximum lifting capacity. When choosing the correct one for your needs, bear in mind that your jack won't be lifting the entire trailer or RV, but just the tongue. Tongue weight is generally between 9 and 15 percent of the total trailer weight. This means that if your trailer weighs 8,000 lbs for example, your electric tongue jack will only be directly lifting roughly 1,000 lbs. As with any piece of lifting or supporting machinery, it is always best to err on the side of caution and buy a unit that is over-powered rather than underpowered.
Other features to consider are more of a convenience rather than a necessity. Picking a unit that is water-resistant can be beneficial, as can choosing one that has built-in LEDs to illuminate the hitch area at nighttime. Some models come with a remote control, which allows you to keep your fingers far away from any potentially dangerous areas. Nearly every electrically powered unit will also come with an emergency crank to be used for manual operation in case the motor fails or you don't have any source of power on hand.
John Of All Trades
If you were fortunate enough to own a car in the early decades of the 20th century, you were equally unfortunate to be cursed by the intensity of its frequent maintenance. Even starting up those old kickers by hand-crank would have been enough to get me walking instead. By 1919, car jacks for consumers flooded the market, allowing for roadside maintenance of tires and other vital components of the vehicle.
The jack itself takes its name from the nickname for John, a name that became synonymous with degrees of labor throughout England in the 13th-17th centuries. In the late 1600s, the Oxford English Dictionary makes its first reference to a jack as a machine, in this case one used for moving around big, uprooted trees.
From then on, any mechanical lift designed to apply force from beneath the item lifted carried the name jack, and the term was well in place by the age of the automobile.