How to use a car jack
If you’ve ever suffered a flat tire at night in the middle of nowhere, as many of us have, chances are it’s Jack LeFrance you have to thank for getting you back on the road.
With the invention of the automobile in the late 1800s, a need emerged for a tool to lift vehicles off the ground in order to perform repairs or change a flat tire, and there were many rudimentary and often dangerous concepts put into use. But it was Joseph LeFrance of Quebec, Canada—who went by the name Jack—who patented the scissor jack in 1920. His basic design is still in use today.
Almost 100 years later, using a car jack can still be intimidating as well as dangerous. But with the proper safety precautions and procedures, as well as plenty of common sense, you can lift your vehicle and change that tire without hurting yourself or damaging your vehicle. Here we’ll cover the different types of car jacks available, and we’ve included many important safety tips as well as the proper techniques for correct lifting and lowering.
Two common types of car jacks
Car companies began including scissor Jacks, as well as other jack designs, in the trunks of cars in the 1950s (along with the spare tire). That practice remained universal until recently. Today, most new cars and trucks still come with a jack and a spare, however, there are some models that do not in an attempt to save weight and increase fuel economy.
Over the decades there have been many car jack designs used by automakers or sold in stores, ranging from scissor jacks, also known as screw jacks, to hydraulic floor jacks, bottle jacks, and even pneumatic car jacks that lift the vehicle with compressed air. But the most common types used today are the trusty scissor (because of its trunk-friendly compact packaging) and the hydraulic floor jack, which is used more often by car enthusiasts, professional mechanics, and even NASCAR pit crews.
Both types of car jacks come in many shapes and sizes to lift small cars, heavier large cars, and higher-riding trucks and SUVs. If you’re going to purchase a car jack, make sure you get one with the proper weight capacity to lift your vehicle safely. Prices range from about $15 for the lightest duty scissor jack that can lift one ton, to about $800 for a high-capacity, three-ton hydraulic unit made of lightweight aluminum. But you don’t have to spend that much to get a high-quality hydraulic floor jack—many are available for less than $100.
Never climb underneath a car or truck when it’s supported only by a car jack. The jack can easily slip out from under the vehicle or fail, bringing thousands of pounds of weight down on top of you without warning. In other words, catastrophe. If you’re going to crawl under the vehicle, first purchase a high-quality set of jack stands. At just $35 they are worth the investment. Do not use boxes, cinder blocks, or bricks as a […]
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