Finding and buying the best car jack
A car jack buying guide
Whether you need to change a tire at the side of the road or want to conduct your own major auto repairs in your garage, a top rated car jack deserves a key place among your automotive tools and equipment. Despite the many types of car jacks from which you can choose, it's easy to decide which car jack to buy. Just consider your vehicle's dimensions and how often you expect to use your new jack.
>> What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Most auto and tires sections carry a wide assortment of one-car jacks. To find the best car jacks for you and your vehicle, start by understanding your vehicle weight and clearance height. The car jack model that suits you best not only fits underneath your vehicle smoothly but also can easily handle your vehicle's full weight. For example, a tiny economy-sized car or roadster can be lifted by a less heavy-duty jack than can a full-sized SUV. However, the SUV can accommodate a much taller jack underneath it.
In the case of most passenger sedans and coupes, the best car jack for your vehicle is one that can lift at least two vehicular tons. If you have a large pickup truck or an SUV, the best car jack for you is one that can lift that heavier weight. If you need to jack up a recreational trailer, RV or an even larger vehicle, even greater capacity is needed. For example, certain farm machinery requires a specialized jack that's capable of lifting 10 tons of weight.
For maximum safety and peace of mind, open your vehicle's driver-side front door and find its informational decal. This sticker is usually found on the door itself or on the jamb. Check the measurement for the vehicle's weight, usually given as "Curb Weight," "Gross Vehicle Weight" or "GVW." Now you can shop confidently, knowing that the best car jack purchase to make is one that will support no less than the weight you read from the sticker.
Weight is not the only consideration when it comes to choosing among different types of car jacks. Even if they can hoist the weight you need them to, buy car jacks only when you are sure they can fit easily under your vehicle when it's parked. Here again, a regular sedan or coupe has low clearance, whereas most larger vehicles such as SUVs, trucks and RVs have significantly higher clearance.
Fortunately, car jack dimensions have been designed to take this into account. You can find top rated car jacks in low-profile designs that are no problem to position under a typical passenger sedan and can lift its weight easily. You also can find car jack designs that take advantage of the higher clearance often found on heavier vehicles.
For example, some car jack brands offer a bottle-jack design. Not only do these taller jack types fit well underneath an SUV or truck, but the bottle-style car jack designs are also capable of lifting substantially more weight. Additional designs are available to handle specialized vehicle-lifting needs. For example, trailer jacks are built to smoothly lift your recreational or other type of trailer without damaging its underside. Knowing this will help you decide which car jack to buy.
>> How frequently do you expect to use your jack?
The best car jack choice for you also depends on how often you expect to use your new purchase. If you love to work on your own or others' vehicles, your automotive supplies kit needs the right choice of floor jacks to be complete. You're also going to use your new car jack much more regularly than someone who only expects to need a jack for emergencies.
If you're one of those who is likely to use a jack frequently, look for a car jack design that has casters for easy maneuvering. An agile jack design can simplify the process of finding and hitting the right spots for lifting on a vehicle's undercarriage, saving you time and hassle. For frequent use, it's also worth investing in a model with a sturdy handle that moves the jack around effectively and offers a good grip. The heavier the jack, the more use you'll get out of a handle. Some jacks even have detachable handles, which offer a nice option for keeping the handle out from underfoot once the vehicle is lifted.
If you don't expect to use a jack often, a handle, casters and the overall maneuverability of your car jack design are probably less important. Just keep in mind that these are still useful features to have and can potentially get you back on the road sooner.
>> Think about finding packages
Several brands offer good car jack deals in the form of combo packs. These often include equipment such as a creeper, which helps you slide under the lifted vehicle. Whether your new car jack comes with a creeper or not, anyone who frequently works under cars lifted on jacks usually finds that a creeper is handy to have around. It may be worth purchasing one separately.
>> Consider the different lifting mechanisms
No matter how frequently you expect to use your new car jack, there are two major jack mechanisms to know. Some car jack designs use hydraulic fluid to lift the vehicle, and others use a screw mechanism.
The screw design is often thought of as a manual jack. These types of jacks require significantly more energy from the user to lift a car. However, screw-type jacks are the most economical. If you do not expect to use your jack often, you may feel that the cost savings of buying a screw-type jack is worth that extra sweat on the rare occasions that you need to use it.
Hydraulic jacks are also referred to as pump jacks. On the one hand, these are much easier to use and require comparatively little effort to raise a vehicle to the desired height. On the other hand, they are often more expensive than their screw-type counterparts, although some purchasers feel that even for only emergency use, the reduced hassle of hydraulic car jacks is worth their extra expense.
>> Should you replace the jack your vehicle carries?
If your budget allows, it's often a good idea to replace the jack that came with your car's spare tire. The typical scissor-type jack that comes with your car may be sufficient for a quick roadside fix, but for any work beyond that, a model with more features is easier on you. Most car jacks you can purchase are sturdier and easier to use than the one your vehicle's manufacturer supplies.
Look for aluminum floor jacks when you're ready to replace the jack you routinely carry in your car. These are strong yet lightweight, which is important for a jack whose weight you'll carry on every trip, even to the grocery store. When you are deciding which car jack to buy, keep this in mind.
Many factors go into deciding on the best car jack for your needs. In a nutshell, they come down to understanding your vehicle's dimensions as well as your expected usage of your new car jack. Stay aware of jack safety, as well, and enjoy the smooth lifting power you're about to have.