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I’m looking to purchase a new floor jack. Is there any advice you can give me before I make a decision?
Floor jacks may seem simple, but there are a few different things you should consider when purchasing one, and they should all be considered together to determine the best one for you.
First is the jack capacity. What is important is that you purchase a jack that can handle the weight of the vehicles that you work on. This not only affects the safety of the jack, but also the physical force that is required by the operator.
A jack’s capacity is related to two things: one, the ability of the hydraulics to lift the specified weight and two, the ability of the jack frame to support the weight. This can be translated to the obvious; the heavier duty the jack, the larger it will be physically, the materials it is made out of are heavier and the more it will weigh.
Next you’ll want to consider the minimum and maximum heights. Minimum height is far more important than it used to be with so many vehicles having low ground clearance, and maximum height is important simply because, for the context which we are discussing, every inch counts when working under a vehicle.
Weight is important because it can get tough to drag a heavy jack around or lift it, depending on the circumstances.
Don’t overlook handle length, especially if you work in tight quarters next to other techs in a shop. If space isn’t a concern, then longer naturally provides more leverage, but either way, two nice accessories are a foam bumper on the lower section of the handle to prevent damage to a car bumper and also a jack handle protector that slips over the top and protects not the handle itself, but the paint of the vehicle “next door.”
A quick-lift jack generally takes only one or two pumps for the saddle to contact the vehicle, saving time. It’s safe to say a majority of jacks feature the hydraulics that make this work, but not all so be sure and check if you are looking for this feature.
The saddle (the pad that contacts the vehicle) is also important and they can be all metal, metal with a rubber pad in the middle, or metal with a rubber pad covering the entire saddle. Rubber will prevent the saddle from slipping and protect the vehicle, but the rubber will also wear over time and need replacement, so if you are looking at one with a rubber pad, make sure that replacements can be ordered easily.
For the extra-particular details, grease fittings in the wheels and pivot points are a benefit for maintenance, and the release mechanism is also important. The u-joint style of release tends to be the smoothest and it is important to have precise control when lowering a jack.
Last but not least, don’t forget jack stands. A jack is only for lifting. Once you reach the desired height, install jack stands and lower the vehicle onto them. Remove the jack and make sure the vehicle and the stands are secure before working next to or underneath a vehicle.
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