10 Different Types of Car Jack And Their Uses

A car jack is vital whenever you need to raise your car to carry out a repair, or maintenance that requires you to get underneath the vehicle. But there are numerous types available, so which should you choose?

What Is a Car Jack?

A car jack is a mechanical device for lifting heavy loads (e.g. your car) or applying great force. Car jacks generally fall into one of two categories—mechanical or hydraulic.

  • Mechanical jacks use physical means, such as a hand-operated lever or motor, to lift or lower a vehicle and will automatically lock in place once force or power is removed
  • Hydraulic jacks, on the other hand, use pistons and an incompressible liquid to create pressure—otherwise known as hydraulic power—in a hydraulic cylinder; this pressure is then used to lift heavy objects

What Are Jack Stands?

Jack stands are devices designed to support your vehicle’s weight when lifted. Although car jacks do the heavy lifting, you’ll still need to steady the car on jack stands if you need to go underneath the vehicle. You should never crawl under a car that is only held up with a jack.

Some car lift kits will include both jack and jack stands, but you can also buy them separately. Jack stands to vary based on weight capacity and maximum height. The height usually ranges from 13-25 inches, where weight capacity can be anywhere from 2-25 tons.

Use this guide to learn more about the different types of car jacks you can use in your garage.

Types of Car Jacks

Different types of car jacks you can use in your garage:

  • Floor jacks
  • Bottle Jacks
  • Farm Jacks
  • Scissor Jacks
  • Air Jacks
  • Pneumatic Jack
  • Hi-lift Jack
  • Strand Jack
  • Hydraulic Jack
Types of Car Jack

1. Floor Jacks

Floor jacks are very simple devices designed to help lift the vehicle you’re working on. The hydraulics allow you to lift a portion of the vehicle with a hand lever. These devices are very strong and don’t require a lot of mechanic experience to use.

When choosing floor jacks for your vehicle, you’ll need to take the weight of the car into account. In general, floor jacks should be rated for a minimum of three-fourths the weight of your vehicle. Though a floor jack only lifts a portion of your car – not the entire weight of the vehicle – overloaded jacks can be unsafe. They’re also more difficult to operate.

Most floor jacks are positioned on wheels, making them easy to move them around your garage. However, their weight and size make them a less portable option for on-road use.

2. Bottle Jacks

A bottle jack is a compact, upright-standing, lifting jack, that is mainly used to raise and lower vehicles off the ground vertically. Bottle jacks are powered by a hydraulic level that, when pumped, forces pressure from a small diameter piston through to a larger piston chamber.

As lifting jack types go, bottle jacks are easy to use and store. They’re available in different sizes to accommodate different sized vehicles, but they can be a little more unstable than other types of vehicle jacks. They’re also weight restricted and can only be used to lift or lower a vehicle, so you will need to combine a bottle jack with weight supports.

3. Farm Jacks

Farm jacks are often used for farm equipment, but you don’t have to be a farmer or working on a tractor to make use of one. In fact, many people use them for off-roading vehicles and high-clearance trucks.

Also referred to as high-lift jacks, farm jacks are easy to store in the back of a large vehicle or off-roading truck. They can be used to help you change tires, but they are designed to get a vehicle unstuck from heavy mud or rugged terrain. Farm jacks can also be used as a winch or clamp, making them an exceptional all-purpose tool in certain situations.

In your garage, farm jacks can be helpful when you need to jack up a vehicle with a very high clearance and a standard floor jack or bottle jack won’t suffice. For standard cars and most trucks, classic floor jacks or bottle jacks will work just fine.

4. Scissor Jacks

Scissor jacks use a hand crank to lift a vehicle when properly positioned. In general, scissor jacks are best for lower weight cars, since their capacity is usually rated at either one or two tons. They also have a relatively low lift height, ranging anywhere from 15 inches to 30 inches depending on the model you have.

The benefit of a scissor jack is its safety, particularly when compared to high-lift jacks and farm jacks, which require more care and expertise. Scissor jacks are also lightweight and cost-effective compared to floor jacks. This makes them an excellent option if you’re looking for a portable jack you can move around with ease.

5. Air Jacks

Air jacks (also known as inflatable jacks) are the perfect jack tool when you need to lift something high off the ground (or at least higher than a regular jack would safely permit). Their lifting ability lies in an inflatable cylinder which is filled with air, although water and oil-filled types do also exist.

As types of jacks for lifting go, air jacks are by far the most versatile; able to push and clamp as well as to lift. They’re suitable for both open and confined spaces and can spring into action faster than other types of jacks for cars, giving you the advantage of speed too.

6. Pneumatic Jack

Also known as a telescope jack, the pneumatic jack is most common in the heavy machinery maintenance industry for lifting buses, trucks, and construction vehicles. They are not recommended for smaller vehicles.

Uses: Heavy machinery, Construction work

7. Hi-lift Jack

If you love off-roading, you might have seen a hi-lift jack once or twice. Also known as a farm jack, these are employed when lifting a vehicle out of the mud or when a wench is needed. These are rated to 7,000 lbs. and can lift a car up to 5 feet off the ground.

Uses: Off-road vehicle lifting, Farm equipment maintenance, Wrenching

8. Strand Jack

If it needs a heavy-duty lift, a strand jack is ready to work. These are commonly used in construction and engineering and are capable of lifting bridges, power stations, and other larger, heavier, items.

Uses: Heavy-duty lifting, Construction, and engineering

9. Trolley Jack

Another choice jack for automotive work, the trolley jack can lift up to 4 tons, can roll across dirt and gravel, has a braking mechanism, and is one of the safer and easier jacks to use in many applications.

Uses: Automotive repairs, Some high-clearance equipment maintenance, Medium to heavy construction projects

10. Motorcycle Jack

Because of their small, low-profile engines, working on motorcycles can be tricky. A motorcycle jack is employed to lift the entire unit of the ground, giving easy access to critical parts. It can also be used for ATVs, and with modification, snowmobiles.

Uses: Motorcycle repairs, ATV, and snowmobile maintenance

11. Hydraulic (Mechanical Service) Jack

Operated by a crank handle, a hydraulic mechanical service jack has a multitude of uses, but you see them most commonly as the landing gear of semi-trailers, boat trailers, and 5th wheel RVs.

Uses: Trailers (boat and hauling), Recreational vehicles

What Type Of Car Jack Should You Get?

If you drive a small to midsize vehicle, you can probably get away with owning a simple two-ton scissor jack, and a bottle jack is oftentimes included with trucks—but if you drive a heavy vehicle or do a lot of work underneath your car, you’ll probably want a sturdy, heavy duty trolley jack instead.

If you drive a vehicle with very high clearance—such as a Jeep or other off-roading vehicle—or own tractors and other agricultural equipment, a high-lift/farm jack will be the better option.

Lastly, you’ll want an exhaust air jack if you are someone who regularly takes your vehicle off-roading in sandy, muddy, or snowy conditions, as they are the easiest to use on soft, uneven surfaces.

How to use car jacks safely

Since a car jacks’ primary purpose is to support incredibly heavy objects temporarily, they must be used correctly to avoid unnecessary mechanical damage or loss of life—to use a car jack safely, follow the safety tips listed below.

#1.Park on level ground.

Before using the car jack, park your vehicle on flat, level ground. This will help ensure that your jack and jack stands do not tip over and that your car will not become severely unbalanced when all or part of it is in the air.

Professionals recommend that you set the parking brake when lifting your vehicle and use wheel chocks opposite from where you are using the jack to prevent the wheels from moving.

#2. Locate the jack points.

Depending on the type of jack you’re using, you may only be able to lift your vehicle at certain points safely—if this is the case, consult your owner’s manual or the manual included with your jack to locate the specific lift points.

Most vehicles have four such lift points, all under the car’s rocker panels: two are just in front of the rear wheels, and two are just behind the front wheels.

#3. Use a secure jack base.

If you cannot work on your vehicle in, say, a garage or some other structure with a concrete floor, you’ll need to make sure your jack can rest on a secure base to prevent it from sinking into the ground.

Any time you use a car jack on soft surfaces—such as asphalt or dirt—you should put a length of three-quarter inch plywood (at minimum) underneath the jack to act as a solid, secure base.

#4. Use jack stands to support your car.

You should never rely on the car jack alone to support your vehicle for long periods of time, especially if you plan on being underneath it—that’s what jack stands are for. Jack stands should always be positioned directly under the lift point and there should always be enough room at each lift point to accommodate both the jack and jack stand.