NAPA Guide: How to choose a car jack for your car, truck, or SUV

How to choose a jack

Of all the tools an automotive do-it-yourselfer must have, a floor jack is without a doubt in the top 5 alongside a good 3/8-inch ratchet and a complete set of sockets, including the infamously always-missing 10-mm socket. There are a few different types of service jacks available and, as such, figuring out your needs will help you pick the right one.

Like SUVs, which range from small urban roundabouts to massive V8-powered ones, floor jacks come in different sizes, with varying capabilities and uses. Here are a few key points:

 

Weight: The average car and SUV tips the scale somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 kg (4,400 and 5,500 lb.). For most simple jobs, a 2-ton jack will work; however, investing in one with more capability is never a bad idea. The selected jack’s ideal capacity should reach about three quarters of the vehicle’s overall weight. More often than not, weight ratings are indicated on a sticker located in the driver’s side door jam.

 

Clearance: This is useful for those who drive a lowered car or one that is equipped with often delicate side skirts. There are some low-profile jacks that are only 2 to 3 inches tall and are designed to roll under the car without issue. Most mainstream vehicles have at least 5 inches of clearance, meaning that most regular floor jacks will fit with ease.

 

Reach: Although some jacks include extension adapters, all have a maximum reach at the top of their upward travel. Lowered cars and lifted SUVs require different maximum lifting heights. Specifically, a jack may serve a Volkswagen Golf, yet will not provide enough reach to lift one side of a Mazda CX-9 to get two wheels off the ground for a tire change.

Important safety tips

No matter which jack you select, jack stands should always be used to secure the vehicle once it is raised off the ground. While this may not always be possible, it needs to be mentioned. Furthermore, lifting a car or SUV off its wheels with a jack should always be done on a level surface to avoid tipping and potentially serious injuries.

 

With all of this in mind, there are different types of jacks available for purchase. The most common ones are the scissor jack, floor jack, screw jack, bottle jack, and farm jack. For the richer among us, there are also portable car lifts, but for this list, we’ll focus on the more familiar types.

Compact or scissor car jack

 

This is the type of jack that is typically included with your vehicle. Despite looking somewhat flimsy, they are effective and will lift the vehicle. Operating the scissor jack is simple but its use should be limited to emergencies such as a roadside tire swap because of a flat. They should not be used for a real job as they are prone to tipping—not to mention that cranking the scissor jack to raise a car can be a long process.

Evercraft - 1-1/2-Ton Scissor Jack

31.99 $

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Bottle jack

 

This jack is named for its shape, and it also happens to be fairly compact. As they can also be relatively inexpensive, one could be left in a vehicle as a mildly safer alternative to a scissor jack.

 

The bottle jack is surprisingly easy to use as well. Once it’s positioned under a jack point and the pump handle is slotted into place, a vehicle can be raised in moments. Like the scissor jack, as the base is narrow, it can be prone to tipping over if it’s not perfectly parallel to the vehicle or if it’s used on a loose surface.

This jack’s highlights are its size, affordability, and capability. It’s far from the steadiest, however.

Evercraft - 4-Ton Bottle Jack

31.09 $

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Floor jack

 

An automotive do-it-yourselfer’s best friend is a solid, reliable, and capable floor jack. Although a typical is heavier and slightly more cumbersome to manoeuvre than the other two styles, its built-in robustness and stability inspire confidence, which is of the utmost importance when lifting your baby!

 

Among floor jacks, there are those known as trolley jacks. These models are narrower than the well-known wider floor jacks that typically offer a wider track. They strike a compromise between the bottle and floor jacks. They are fine for occasional work as they are far less expensive to purchase. But, as you know, when it comes to tools, you always get what you pay for.

 

Floor jacks are not all made equal either. Some offer a quick rise function (no need to pump a dozen times to reach the vehicle’s underside), whereas others have a lower profile to slide under lowered vehicles, while others still are designed with a considerable reach capable of raising most mainstream SUVs. The only downside to this type of jack is that they can be quite expensive.

Manual Hydraulic Floor Jack - 3.5 Ton

450.99 $ 362.99 $

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Evercraft - 2-Ton High Lift Hydraulic Trolley Jack

94.99 $

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Farm jack

 

A farm jack is one you may have spotted attached to the rear of an SUV that’s prepped for serious off-roading adventures. This is due to farm jacks requiring external lift points in order to work. They also provide a considerable amount of travel, necessary for swapping out a 35-inch tire that’s been slashed by a rock.

 

Their small foot or pad does make them prone to tipping, but they are extremely easy to handle and use. For the most part, they are also relatively affordable.

Ultrapro Farm Jack

242.69 $

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Tips on using a jack

Locating your vehicle’s jack points is critical to avoid unwanted and potentially expensive damage to body panels or the vehicle’s floor. If you can’t find them, they should be noted in the owner’s manual. Before starting, make sure the vehicle is on a level surface, that the shifter is in Park (or in gear for a manual transmission), and that the emergency brake is on.

 

If you are in the process of changing over wheels, make sure you “crack” the bolts or nuts while the tires are still on the ground. Once the vehicle is off the ground, before going ahead with the job, make sure the jack stands are positioned for optimal security. The best locations to set them up are on the suspension anchor points, frame rails, or pinch points.

 

At this point, gently release the jack down onto the stands, and off you go.

9 Replies to “NAPA Guide: How to choose a car jack for your car, truck, or SUV”

  1. Kashweka says:

    Is a 5 ton bottle jack adequate for a 2500kg gvm light truck with a payload of 1500 kg?

    1. Ken says:

      Yes, always carry a few 2×4 stubs for bottom of Jack to keep the chrome rod as short as possible. It aids stability & enhances safety. Block or use stands under all elevated machines, autos.

  2. Rhys Faulkner says:

    Is a 5 ton bottle jack the best floor jack for trucks for a 2500kg gvm light truck with a payload of 1500 kg?

    1. Ken says:

      You’re at the limit, I’d go 1 size bigger at least.

    2. Jacob says:

      Hi Rhys, we recommend that you refer to your 5-ton bottle jack’s instructions manual to know exactly what its lifting capacity is and how to safely lift your light truck.

  3. Jason Shums says:

    Great article. Also a good idea on some vehicles to use a solid axle adapter on the bottle jack while lifting from the axle.

  4. John says:

    Best jack for 1 ton GMC

  5. John Lynn says:

    Best jack for 1 ton GMC?

  6. John Lynn says:

    What size jack is needed for a 1 ton GMC pick up?

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