The 9 Best Floor Jacks
Finding The Right Floor Jack
A great floor jack costs a fair amount of money. But a decent floor jack -- one that's entirely suitable for most people's needs -- means spending only a modest sum. There are several marked differences between a floor jack that costs well over two hundred dollars and one that costs less than fifty, with the most obvious difference being lifting capacity. A good floor jack can lift a four thousand pound vehicle; a great floor jack can hoist seven thousand pounds with verve.
So start your search for the right floor jack by considering just what you need to jack up off the ground anyway. Consider the common pickup truck, which is often called a half ton truck. That does not mean the vehicle weighs 1000 pounds, but rather that it can competently tote that much weight in its bed. Most midrange pickups in fact weigh between 5000 and as much as 9000 pounds, meaning some of the lower cost, lower lift capacity floor jacks won't be suitable for owners of or service stations catering to these types of vehicles.
That said, a floor jack is rarely used to lift a vehicle entirely off the ground, but rather to lift the vehicle partially. Thus a floor jack rated at lower than your vehicle's weight may serve for simple tasks like tire changes or basic maintenance, especially when paired with a good jack stand. For many people and many purposes, a floor jack capable of lifting two tons, a common rating for these units, is more than suitable.
Taking this two ton/4000 pound lift capacity as a standard for comparison, move on to the next most important aspect of a floor jack, the lifting range. Some jacks can lift loads higher than twenty inches off the ground, while others are capable of lifting only to around twelve inches high. It will likely come as little surprise that the higher priced models tend to offer the higher lift range. However, if you only use your jack for tire changes or wheel rotations, then there's no need for a massive lift range and the accompanying higher price tag.
Another aspect of a floor jack to consider also has to do with weight; not with the jack's weight lifting capacity, but rather with its actual weight. A floor jack that's to be used in an auto body shop can weigh ninety pounds -- as some floor jacks do -- without any issue. A jack meant to be brought along for use on the roadside for quick repairs for other impromptu purposes should weigh much less so its operator can enjoy the benefits of a truly portable tool. Many decent floor jacks weigh less than fifty pounds. A few even weigh less than twenty pounds and can be moved about quickly and with ease.
Safe And Proper Floor Jack Use
Using a floor jack is not a complex process in and of itself; you need only to make sure the handle is properly affixed to the unit and that you know how to safely lower the jack again when the lifting is done. And of course you need to never try to lift more weight than that for which your unit is rated. It's not how you operate the jack that matters exactly, but rather how you use it. Namely, you have to use it safely.
Before using a jack, you should put on thick work gloves and protective eyewear. Also consider other protective clothing such as coveralls and knee pads. The other gear you should have on hand includes the aforementioned jack stands -- as a jack is suitable for lifting a vehicle, but not for keeping it safely elevated for long periods of time -- as well as a set of wheel chocks that can keep the car from rolling once it is elevated. Any wheel that will have contact with the ground while the car is being jacked upward or held up on stands should be immobilized.
Next make sure you have located a part of the vehicle that is designed to accommodate the immense weight of the car or truck being lifted. Far too many amateur car care enthusiasts have caused severe damage to their vehicles by placing a floor jack's lifting plate under a component of the vehicle not suitable to bear its weight; improper jack placement risks damaging everything from the vehicle's doors to its frame to its oil pan to its exhaust system. If you are unsure of where to place your floor jack, consult the vehicle's manual and locate an appropriate spot.
If you will be using a jack on any surface other than concrete or cement, consider placing a section of plywood underneath the tool. The great weight of a car, truck, or trailer can actually push a jack down into many surfaces, such as obvious culprits such as dirt or gravel but including soft asphalt. This can not only make your jack harder to retrieve later, but can mean an unsteady and unsafe tool.
The Amazing Power Of The Floor Jack Explained
There are multiple forces and physical properties at work when a floor jack is doing its job. The most obvious physical feature of a floor jack is its use of the trusted simple machine known as the lever. The long handle attached to the jack allows a user to apply modest pressure downward but create lots of pressure upward, thereby letting a person weighing only a couple hundred pounds, give or take, to elevate a vehicle weighing many thousands of pounds.
But the lever is not working alone. A floor jack uses a hydraulic piston, meaning a piston operated by pressure created by a compressed fluid. The principal's of Pascal's Law, also known as the Principle of Transmission of Fluid Pressure, state that a pressure change that effects any part of an incompressible fluid in a confined space will equally effect all of said fluid.
In other words, that means that when you exert pressure to the hydraulic fluid beneath the piston in your floor jack, a lot of pressure is created in the liquid, and that pressure simply has to go somewhere. In the case of the floor jack, the only place it can go is up, no matter if there is a massive vehicle atop the piston.