Tire Jack Buying Guide
What is a Tire Jack?
With all of the choices available for tire jacks, you may be a bit overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the best one for your home or garage. There are different brands, models and styles and each of them have different characteristics and features. Knowing what you need is the first step in choosing the best tire jack for your needs.
Types of Tire Jacks
Part of the challenge when choosing a tire jack is knowing what each kind does and whether it will work for your preferences and needs. We’ve outlined the most common types of tire stands below.
Scissor Jack – This type of jack is most often included in a car when you purchase it new. If you have an older car you may have what is called a bumper jack but the scissor jack has started to replace the old bumper jacks because it is a safer design. Scissor jacks operate with a screw like mechanism that lifts the jack up and down, a jack handle or tire iron is used to turn it. If it is an electric jack like one of the top rated we reviewed above, it will be powered by the cigarette lighter.
When the scissor jack is closed it is in the shape of a compact diamond for easy storage that doesn’t take up a lot of room. If you car came with a scissor jack, it is designed for your particular car and is designed to fit the car in a particular spot on the axle or frame. Your owner’s manual will stipulate where to place the jack for the safest and best results. If you are buying a scissor jack for your car, make sure you know the weight range the scissor jack can handle and the weight of your vehicle so there is no safety hazard involved when you use it.
Floor Jack – If you are going to be doing routine maintenance or repairs on your vehicle, a floor jack may be a better option. While it can be used to change the tire, it is also a better jack for long term work such as changing the oil. A floor jack has 4 wheels and is low to the ground. They don’t typically make good choices for changing a tire away from home due to their size. The hydraulic lift of the floor jack is operated by a long handle. Turn the handle clockwise to close the value and counterclockwise to open it.
Hydraulic Bottle Jack – This bottle shaped jack is designed to lift heavy vehicles and equipment. Make sure to read all of the instructions and warnings when it comes to using a bottle jack because using it incorrectly can result in damaging it or having it fail. Bottle jacks need to be placed on hard, level surfaces and it is important to make sure you have the piston ram in the right place.
Choosing the right size of bottle jack is very important. You want it to be small enough to fit properly under the vehicle but it must also be strong enough to lift it without danger. You can check the lifting capacity of the bottle jack before purchase to ensure you get the proper one.
Hi-Lift Jack – Hi –lift jacks are perfect for large vehicle and high vehicles like farm equipment. They are also good when the vehicle is stuck in the mud. They are perfect for off road situations that involve rugged terrain. Hi-Lift jacks can raise the vehicle up to 5 feet off the ground and can hold up to 7000 pounds depending on the model. They usually weigh around 30 pounds and have a vertical bar that is 3-5 feet high. They are a good alternative to scissor jacks when you need to be able to lift larger vehicles. Even though they take up more space than scissor jacks in the trunk, they can still be carried easily in the vehicle.
Common Features of Tire Jacks
Tire jacks have different features that they may offer. Knowing what these features are helps you decide on the right model. Some models may have all three of these features and others may have only one or two.
Wide base – Not all jacks have wide bases but it is a popular feature to look for because it adds stability and lessens the chances of accidents. A wide base will prevent tipping or lowering into the ground while in use.
Handle style – Most of the jacks available come with handles of some kind. Some models are designed to be able to be operated by a tire iron or crow bar as well. This versatility comes in handy in situations where the existing handle is lost or missing.
Position Stop – This feature is a safety feature and a very important one at that. Position stops prevent the user from raising the jack above the recommended height.
Things to consider when shopping
Lift capacity – One of the most important factors to find out about the tire jacks you are considering is the weight capacity they can lift. It is crucial that you get a jack that can handle the weight of your vehicle. You want the lift capacity to be equal to or greater than the weight of your vehicle so be sure to get the weight of your car or truck before purchasing a jack. In many cases the actual lift capacity will be slightly less than the weight it states it can lift.
Construction – Tire jacks can be made with a variety of materials. Most notably, aluminum or steel. Steel jacks will be more durable and long lasting than the aluminum. If you will be carrying your jack around a lot and you do not have the ability to lift heavy items easily, you will want to get a lighter weight, aluminum model.
Design – Low profile means you can slide the jack underneath the car even if it has a low profile, such as a sports car of some kind.
Lift Range – Different models will have different height level that they are capable of lifting the vehicle up to. If you have a large or tall vehicle, you will need to get a jack that can handle the height needed to raise it safely.
Lift Speed – Standard tire jacks will take 8-10 strokes of the handle. If you want it to lift your car with 3-6 strokes instead get a jack that has dual lifting pistons. It can also achieve this by having a quick lift system.
Electric or Manual – If you are looking for a more hands off tire jack, the electric jack is the perfect feature and choice. It has a 12” cord that will allow you to out the jack anywhere it is needed on your vehicle. These electric jacks are plugged into the cigarette lighter.
Where are the Jack Points?
It is important to know where to place the tire jack on your vehicle for optimum safety once you start jacking it off the ground. An improperly placed jack can cause it to tip, slip or it can damage the frame of the vehicle. It can also cause severe injury to someone working on the vehicle if the jack slips while the person is underneath it.
General Jack Point Area – When you are looking at the vehicle frame that runs from the front to the back wheels, you want to look for the seams that may be your jack point spots. You want to place your jack on this metal frame. Most often you will place the jack closer to one of the wheels. This part of your car’s frame is stronger and sturdier than other parts.
Your vehicle’s owner’s manual will more than likely have the information for where you can find the jack points. Be certain to read the manual and find out this information before you start to jack it up.
Tire Jack Safety Tips
There are several reasons you may need to jack up your vehicle. The most common one is changing a tire, although inspecting or changing the brakes, oil changes and other reasons are possibilities too.
Working with jacks, if not done properly, can be dangerous and you can get injured or even killed if the proper precautions are not taken. There are some basic tips and guidelines to follow when it comes to safely using the jack that we have included for your safety.
- If you are working on your vehicle for an extended time period, don’t leave it on the jack, get out the jack stands if you have them and put them under the vehicle.
- Block the wheels of the vehicle to keep it from rolling before you jack it up. You can use bricks, blocks, wooden wedges, or metal wheel chocks to keep them secure. You need to place these wheel stops on the side of the vehicle that is not being worked on. If you don’t have anything to block the wheels with, you can park near a curb and turn the wheels toward the curb.
- Don’t change a tire on the freeway or highway. If you are stuck on the highway, call an automotive service or roadside service.
- Make sure the vehicle is on level ground before jacking it up.
- Put the car in Park for automatics and first gear for stick shifts and press the parking brake before you jack up your vehicle.
Tire jacks are very useful and needed pieces of equipment that can help car owners safely and efficiently change flat tires, check or replace the brakes, change the oil, do other maintenance and other repairs. With the information that we have provided in this buyer’s guide you will be able to sort through the different models and styles of tire jacks and choose the one that best fits your specific needs and preferences.
Knowing what you will be using your jack for and how often will be a deciding factor in the tire jack you purchase. If it is just for emergency tire changes, you can get something much simpler and less bulky and even lighter in weight.
If you do routine work on your vehicle, are restoring one, or have your own garage where you repair cars frequently, you will want to invest in a larger, heavy duty jack that can handle frequent work without worry of the jack giving out.
Regardless of whether you are only using it for emergencies or regularly, it is crucial that you follow the advice in this guide and choose a tire jack that is rated just above the weight of your vehicle. If you have more than one vehicle in your home, go with the weight rating for the heaviest vehicle and then anything that weighs less than that will automatically be covered under the weight ratings.
With the right knowledge you will be confident that you are purchasing the jack that will safely allow you to jack up your vehicle and do the necessary work on it, from changing tires to repairs.