Are car jacks strong enough to safely lift and support my vehicle ? This is a question that many people wonder about before purchasing a specific car jack, especially if they are not experienced in lifting heavy objects. But are there any side effects or risks involved with using car jacks?
Are Car Jacks Dangerous?
Card jacks are designed to be safe to use. The hydraulic car jacks on the market today are built quality-wise, and are designed to be safe to use.
All models are guaranteed to be safe, and come with a limited lifetime warranty (which is actually increased for every additional model purchased). You can also count on them to lift the very heaviest vehicles, and to remain secure during transportation and storage.
The Safest Car Jacks
The safest car jacks are the ones used properly and in good working condition. They are safest when used to lift the vehicle weights they are capable of, and placed on a hard and smoothe surface.
Scissor jacks, are only made for changing spare tires. These are not to be used for any other applications, such as working on the engine or axles. They are best used for roadside tire repair.
Floor jacks can safely lift a vehicle in a shop or garage setting and only to be used on the vehicles jack points.
Bottle jacks are more compact and able to lift heavy weights, but are potentially unstable because of their small footprint. Bottle jacks should only be used on a hard flat surface.
Jack stands are the key to making jacking up a car safer. They are often overlooked when people lift their cars, but this just makes the whole activity much more dangerous. Using jack stands each time you lift your vehicle will greatly minimize the risk of it falling on you and causing serious injuries. Also, add wheel chocks, such as wood or conceret blocks to stop a vehicle from rolling each time you raise it with a car jack to make repairs.
Types Of Car Jacks
- Bottle Jacks
- Floor jacks (garage jacks, trolley jacks, service jacks)
- Scissor jacks
- Electric jacks
- Hydraulic air jacks
- High-lift jacks (farm jacks)
- Motorcycle jacks
The most common type of jack is the scissor jack because they come in the trunks of new cars. They are designed for changing a flat tire and are often hidden underneath the spare.
Bottle jacks, or whiskey jacks are very popular type and resemble a whiskey bottle. It has a single rod that acts as a piston using hydrualic energy. It has an attached arm which is used to pump the jack and lift the vehicle. Bottle jacks can lift heavier weight than scissor jacks and are often used for lifting trucks or trailers.
Floor jacks are mostly used in a garage or workshop setting and not for roadside use. They are heavy and capable of lifting both large and small vehicles. They have small wheels and are used by sliding them underneath the car. The arm is pumped to lift the jack upwards, and released with a valve to bring it back down.
High-lift jacks are usually found on farms or racetracks for lifting heavy vehicles on site. They are lifted with a long arm that raises a rod with climbing pins. It stands vertically on a flat base and hooks under the bumper or other lift site on the vehicle. These are mobile and can be carried by hand or on the vehicle.
High-lift jacks and scissor jacks are considered mechanical jacks and do not use pneumatic force to create lift. They rely on hinge mechanisms and screws to raise and lower the vehicle. A ratcheting system will lift the vehicle slowly and hold its position.
Sizes of Car Jacks
Car jacks come in a range of sizes, for the purpose of different vehicles and roadside situations. These include both small and large car jacks.
Small Car Jacks
Small car jacks are common and often are included with a new vehicle. Scissor jacks and bottle jacks fall into this category, as do some electric floor jacks.
Small scissor jacks range are generally 4-5 inches wide x 15-16 inches tall. These can usually lift up to a 1.5 ton vehicle (3000 pounds). They are very portable and easy to carry and will fit inside a small trunk.
Small electric scissor floor jacks use 12 volts of power and are great for tire changing. They fit inside a hard plastic case and can fit inside a trunk or a shelf in a garage.
Large Car Jacks
Big car jacks are almost as common as their smaller cousins. They are designed to life much more weight, upwards of 3-6 tons. Floor jacks, bottle jacks, big red hydraulic / pneumatic jacks, trolly jacks all fall into this category. Big car jacks are best for busy garages and lifting large vehicles such as pickup trucks.
How To Choose The Right Jack Size For Your Car
The size of the car jack best for your car depends on the type of the car and its ground clearance. There are several other factors to consider:
#1. Car Weight
The right car jack will be able to lift the car weight safely. Small cars will need a car jack that can lift 3-4 tons. Using a car jack with a higher weight lifting capacity than the car will guarantee it can lift it.
The best car jacks for small cars that are low to the ground is a floor jack. A bottle jack will not be able to fit underneath a small car.
#2. Car Make And Model
Sedans and trucks will use different sized jacks or jack types. A floor jack is best suited to lift sedans and cars with a low ground clearnce. Bottle jacks are better for trucks because they can lift more weight and fit underneath the body of the truck.
16 inches is generally enough height needed to lift up a car to get underneath.
If you are lifting off-road vehicles, a high lift jack will work best. If you work on mulitple types of vehicles in a shop setting, purchasing different types of jacks to have around is a good idea.
Full sized cars, suvs, vans, and trucks require a 3 ton jack. Or, you could buy a 3.5 or 4+ ton jack, which will give you that extra margin of safety.
A jack must be able to lift 3/4 of a vehicle’s gross weight to get part of it up off the ground. So, a 3000 lb. car needs a jack that can lift 2200 lbs.
#3. Where The Car Jack Is Used
If you plan on taking the car jack with you in your vehicle, then a scissor jack is best. However, this is only good for changing a flat tire.
If you plan on doing repairs on your vehicle in a garage setting, then floor jacks and bottle jacks are optimal.
Injuries From Car Jacks
When car jacks fail, or are not used properly, they can cause some significant injuries. Certain portions of the body will be impacted most severely. This can happen to people of all ages who use them.
Injuries from car jacks can include:
- Limb damage leading to amputation
- Bone fractures
- Cuts and lacerations
- Internal organ injuries
- Dental injuries
- Hand, finger, wrist injuries
Most jack caused injuries are to the hands, fingers, and wrists. Other severe injuries happen comonly to the upper body, the upper trunk, head and face.
Most jack failures are due to the vehicle slipping from the jack or falling and hitting the person below. A small number of accidents are due to pneumatic jacks losing pressure and not being able to support the lifted vehicle.
Can Car Jacks Lift A Truck?
The right car jack can lift a truck. A small jack may not be tall enough to lift a truck which has a high ground clearance. Trucks also generally weigh more than sedans, so require a jack that can lift the added weight.
Large floor jacks, bottle jacks, and high-lift jacks are best for lifting trucks. Also, use jack stands and make sure the parking break is on before lifting your truck.
Can Car Jacks Lift A Motorcycle?
Yes, a car jack can lift a motorcycle. However, the best car jacks for lifting motorcycles are multi-use car jacks with wide bases and lifting platforms.
First make sure the motorcycle is standing upright. A regular floor jack may not fit underneath the bike, so it will have to be lifted and straightened with the kick stand and holding the handlebars.
You can place a wood block under the kick stand to keep the bike upright.
You can use a back-wheel ramp to give the bike enough clearance. While shifting the bike, make sure the break lever is pulled.
After, slide the car jack under neath the frame in the center of the motorcycle and pump it up. Do not lift it too quickly. Once it is lifted up, tie it down on the left and right with straps to keep it from fall off.
Do Teslas Have Car Jacks?
No, Teslas do not come with car jacks. They also do not come with spare tires. There is a solid reason for this, as Tesla thought it was not worth spending the money because most spare tires and jacks are never used by drivers the entire lifespan of the vehicle. Most drivers just take their car to a local repair shop or service center when their tire goes flat.
Instead, Teslas have included a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) to alert the driver each time the tire pressure drops too low. This gives the driver enough time to get to a repair shop before the tire goes flat.
Tesla owners can buy 3rd party spare tire kits for Tesla models S/X/3/Y, but they are expensive. They sell for between $250 and $400. Also, single motor Teslas can fit a spare tire in the trunk, but not the dual motor versions.
Lifting a Tesla with an ordinary floor jack is also not very safe, as it can damage the battery underneath if it is not lifted at specific points. However, it may be best to not leave your Tesla in the hands of a service station that does not know how to lift your Tesla without damaging it.
Do Car Jacks Fail?
Yes, car jacks can fail, although it is very unlikely. This event depends on a number of factors, including:
- The load rating of the jack.
- The jack’s condition and lifespan.
- The slope of the floor the jack is resting on.
- The jack’s placement underneath the vehicle.
Also, the jack itself may not fail, but supporting jack stands could. So, it is always important to inspect each before lifting your vehicle.
Sometimes a vehicle needs to be lifted on a slight slope, such as in a roadside situation. Just make sure the slope is not too steep. If a jack or jackstand is used on a slope it could weaken it over time due to extra stress.
Also, never try to lift a vehicle with a jack sitting on dirt. Always place them on a hard surface and they should work properly.
Also, depending on where you live, an earthquake could cause a jack or jack stand to fail. So, if you live in California, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska, keep this in mind.
Car Jack With Jack Stand – Is It Safer?
Yes, using a car jack with a stand is safer most of the time. However, in roadside situations, this may not be possible unless you have one with you. It is best to use them in a DIY garage setting.
Jack stands do not lift the vehicle, but provide a stable flat base to rest it on and keep it raised. You will likely need 2 or more jack stands each time you lift your vehicle. More is better, as it provides extra support to prevent the vehicle from falling on you and causing serious injuries.
Also, have wheel chocks under the tires that are still touching the floor to prevent the vehicle from rolling if the parking break fails or shifts.
Jack stands can be removed by simply raising the jack slightly and sliding them out. If you do not have jack stands, then a ramp will serve as a stable replacement for certain repair jobs.
Help Using A Car Jack – Do You Need It?
A car jack only requires one person to put it in place and lift it. It can be released and lowered with one person as well. However, putting car jack stands under the car can always use an extra pair of hands and eyes. This will make the whole process safer. Just make sure the other person is paying attention and communicates effectively.
Also, a roadside emergency situation may need the assistance of another person to watch traffic and shift the car onto a less sloped area for lifting.
Portable Car Jacks
Car jacks are designed to be portable so they can be moved around. The most portable is the scissor jack which is light enough to be carried. However, portability can negatively affect the jack’s size and lifting ability, but high-lift jacks are able to be carried by a person and can lift heavy trucks.
Car jacks usually come with a plastic case to store them in and can be carried with an attached handle. However, car jacks are generally heavy tools, so a person wouldn’t want to carry or move them a long distance.
How Much Weight Can A Car Jack Lift?
Different sized and types of car jacks can lift a varying range of vehicle weights. Generally, a car jack will be able to lift a minimum of 1.5 tons (2000 lbs.), which can be done using a basic scissor jack.
Here is a breakdown of the types of vehicles and weights car jacks can lift:
|Vehicle Type||Vehicle Weight|
|Small sedans||2000 – 4000 lbs.|
|Large sedans||4000 – 5000 lbs.|
|SUVs, midsize cars||3000 – 5000 lbs.|
|Small / light pickup trucks||4000 – 5000 lbs.|
|Large pickup trucks||5000 – 7000 lbs.|
|Motorcycle / Harley||250 – 800 lbs.|
Make sure to check the car jacks weight carrying capacity before attempting to lift your vehicle. The jack should be able to lift a minimum of 3/4 of the vehicle’s weight to get it off the ground safely.
How Do You Release A Car Jack?
Releasing a car jack is easy to do and can be done by one person.
Make sure you have pulled the jack stands out from under the car before trying to release it. This can be done by slightly raising the jack.
If you are using a floor jack, to lower the vehicle apply slow but firm pressure on the jack handle and twist it. Do this slowly and carefully or the car will bounce off the floor and the jack valve may be damaged.
A floor jack needs to have adequate grease on the jack’s lowering mechanism to make it smoothe and easy.
A malfunctioning floor jack will drop a car instantly when the knob is turned. This should be repaired or replaced before using again.
Where Should You Not Jack Up A Car?
Car jacks should not be used at just any point underneath a car. This also depends on the type of vehicle it is and how old the design is.
Generally, a person should never try to jack a car up in these places:
- The spare tire well
- The suspension arms
- The exhaust pipe
- Under the battery (if on an electric car).
Additional ways a car jack should not be used:
- Using a jack with no pads.
- On dirt, or a sloped surface
- With objects underneath the vehicle, excect the jack and jack stands.
Newer vehicles should have jack points built into their unibody construction. This is where to use a car jack to lift them. The place to use car jacks on older vehicles is always on the pinched welds or the seperate vehicle frame.
Where Is It Safe To Jack Up A Car?
There are only a few places where it is safe to jack up a car. These include:
- Flat hard surfaces, like concrete
- Inside garages and flat driveways
- On the trailing axle
- Jack points
- Subframe on a front wheel drive vehicle
- Pinch welds
- Behind the front wheel
- In front of the back wheel
You never want the jack to slip or the car to tip over, so the jack needs to be placed near the vehicle’s center of gravity. This is usually on the top of the windshield of a sedan. Also, only one side of the car should be lifted at a time.
Where Is The Car Jack Located?
A car jack that comes with a vehicle can be found in several locations, such as:
- In the trunk, under the floor or spare tire (under a flap, held down by screws or a rubber band).
- In the side compartment of the trunk (with the jack and tools).
- Behind or under the seats.
Where the car jack is depends on the type of vehicle it is.
Is It Safe To Go Under A Car With A Jack?
Yes, but only in certain arrangements where the car is also held up with jack stands or ramps and wheel chocks. It is never a good idea to only use a car jack to lift the vehicle and then go underneath.
The car jack could fail or there could be an earthquake that causes the vehicle to fall off.
Can I Jack My Car On The Axle?
Yes, you can jack a car on the axle or differential, atleast this is what many mechanics will swear by. It is best to use only the jack points to jack a car up if possible.
The car’s owner manual will describe where the vehicle can be safely lifted with a car jack. Even still, some professional mechanics with years of experience will tell you that your car can be lifted at the axle.
Jack A Car From The Front – Should You?
Yes, you can jack a car from the front. Look for jack points at the front of the car. Jacking up a car from the front could be easier and go smoother than other parts. just make sure to use wheel chocks on the rear wheels and have the parking break engaged.
Check with your vechicle’s users manual to find the points in the front you can jack the car with. This is vital because lifting the car in the wrong place can seriously damage it.
The stabilizer bar is the location where there is likely to be a jack point. Do not lift on the ac compressor, oil tank, or battery.
Always Have A Jack In Your Car?
Most new OEM cars have car jacks included with them. It is a good idea to always have atleast a small scissor car jack in your car for minor roadside repairs. Not having a car jack could mean the difference between making it to a service station or being stranded on the side of the highway.
If you buy a new Tesla (3/Y/S/X), a car jack will not be included. So, you will have to purchase one from a 3rd party.
Can A 2 Ton Jack Lift An Suv?
Yes, a 2 ton jack is enough to lift an SUV, but this is not recommended. Most SUV’s are 5000+ pounds a 2 ton jack is barely strong enough to lift one, which makes it not safe.
It is best to use alteast a 3 ton jack (preferrably 4 ton) to lift SUVs. This however, depends on the SUV’s weight class.
Can A 3 Ton Jack Lift An SUV?
Yes, a 3 ton jack can lift an SUV safely if it falls in the right weight class. However, the heaviest SUV’s will require atleast a 4 ton jack.
Lifespan Of A Car Jack
Car jacks should be able to last years of regular use, if they are properly treated and maintained. Car jacks are usually made of heavy duty steel in their construction, so this makes them strong and tough.
Maintaining a floor jack is easy and takes only a few minutes every few months.
Most new car jacks also come with 1 year warranties.
Signs your floor jack needs maintenence or replacement:
- The floor jack is leaking
- Cracks in the wheels
- The lifting arm is bent
- The jack drops too quickly when the handle is turned.
- The lifting pads are missing
Ways to maintain a car jack:
- Lubricate all moving parts
- Bleed the cylinder
- Change the oil
- Store it properly away from poor weather and heavy equipment.
- Clean it
Car jacks do not require much maintenance, and anyone should have time to do it.
Can You Jack Up A Car By The Body?
Older cars could be jacked up on the solid metal frame which extended the length of the underside of the car.
New cars have special jack points because they use unibody construction. Unibody construction uses thin metal welded together to create a sort of frame for the car.
However, a unibody is too weak to hold a car on a jack or a jack stand. It is not recommended to jack a car up on any point other than the designated jack points.
Car Jack Will Not Pump Up
The car jack could be broken?
Both bottle jacks and floor jacks rely on a pumping mechanism to lift up the vehicle. These are pneumatic jacks? hydraulic jacks?
Car Jack Will Not Lift / Not Go Down
This depends on the type of car jack. Most often this is due to overloading of weight because the jack is not strong enough to lift the vehicle. A safety feature on most jacks prevents them from lifting a vehicle that is too heavy.
Check for the jack’s maximum weight capacity on the jack and compare it to the vehicle’s overall weight in the user’s manual.
The jack could also have oil levels that are either too high or too low. This will affect its ability to raise and lower.
Air could also be built up inside the floor jack, which will require bleeding. The jack could also not lift because the release valve is turned too tightly.
The jack could also be damaged or rusted in some way, or be cracked. Jacks also require lubrication, as this will allow them to raise and lower more easily.
Any type of jack could have trouble going down.
Car Jack Vs Ramp
Car jacks and ramps provide similar abilities to lift a car off the ground. However, just by looking at them a person can tell there are differences.
A car ramp looks straightforward in the way that it works, whereas a car jack is not so obvious.
Car jacks and car ramps are similar in price. A working garage that handles regular vehicle repairs probably has both around when needed.
A car jack uses mechanical or pneumatic force to lift the vehicle vertically and hold it there. A car ramp, however, must have the vehicle driven, towed, or pushed up the ramp on its tires. This will lift the front or back of the vehicle into the air.
Both car jacks and car ramps can lift a vehicle. However, a car ramp will prevent the person from potentially ruining the underside of the vehicle by lifting it in the wrong place with a car jack.
Car jacks also require jack stands to stabilize the vehicle and prevent it from dropping.
A car jack and car ramp are used for specific situations. An area without a lot of room to move the vehicle is probably best to use a car jack. Whereas a car ramp can be best if a person does not want to worry about the vehicle potentially falling on them.
Car Jack Vs. Jack Stands
Car jacks and jack stands look similar, but have 1 major difference in function. A car jack actually lifts the vehicle, whereas the jack stand only provides stability and keeps the vehicle lifted. A jack stand is crucial for keeping the person safe while working underneath.
A car jack always has the potential to fail, so using additional jack stands is recommended.
Where To Store A Car Jack
Car jacks are fairly easy to store in a garage or vehicle. Car jacks can be stored in:
The trunk of your car, or behind the car seat.
Your garage, in the corner out of the way.
Inside your house, in a closet if you can carry it in.
A car jack will be greasy if it is not brand new, so it should be kept in a bag or case so it doesn’t get things dirty around it. Most car jacks come with plastic blow mold carrying case for easy storage.
Jack stands and ramps can also be stored in a garage out of the way. They can be placed under a shelf or work table or hung on the wall with metal hooks.
Car Jack Safety Tips
Its important to jack vehicles up correctly, regardless of the jack location. To do this safely, start with looking at the vehicle’s user manual. Some additional tips include:
- Make sure the vehicle is parked on a flat surface.
- Only use a car jack on hard surfaces (concrete, asfault, etc.)
- Use additional jack stands to support the vehicle’s weight.
- Only use a jack that can handle your vehicle’s weight class.
- Never go under a vehicle that is only lifted with a car jack.
- Always block the wheels with wheel chocks or blocks.
- Always have the parking break engaged.
- Gently shake the vehicle to make sure it is stable on the jack stands before getting under it.
The Verdict – Are Car Jacks Safe?
So, are car jacks safe?
Car jack manufacturers make all of their machines extremely safe to use, and they test each and every model for quality control purposes.
Most car jacks are very sturdy, and the manufacturers make very little effort to compromise their quality. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be cautious when using them.
You should always read the instructions carefully, and never use a car jack that has been modified in any way. With proper maintenance and usage, car jacks are safe for lifting your vehicle when you need it.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.