Types of Car Floor Jacks

Sep 13, 2022

In today’s post, we’re going to go over the types of floor jacks out there, and the one we recommend for working on your car. From the Wikipedia definition “A jack is a mechanical lifting device used to apply great forces or lift heavy loads” (source: Wikipedia – Jack).

From the linked article you will find different kinds (farm jack, strand jack, bottle jack), but there are mainly two that you will use for your car. These would either be the Scissor Jack or a Hydraulic Jack. If you’re into cars, you’ll already know the difference and why you’d use one or the other but let’s go over those getting into their first car and wanting to know what to use.

Scissor Jack

This is the typical jack you will find available in your trunk for emergency situations whenever you buy any new car. Very useful for lifting up one wheel of your car to change when you have a flat tire on the side of the road, and to put on your spare tire. It is also very useful in that it compacts well, and is very portable (hence it fits in you trunk hidden for when you need it). For visual reference, here is the Torin T10152 Scissor Jack.

BIG RED T10152 Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jack Car Kit, 1.5 Ton (3,000 lb) Capacity, Red

A scissor jack really is one of the simplest type of jacks you will find. The top of the scissor has a notch where you would line that up with the jack point on the side of the car (usually close to the wheel in the mid frame). From there you twist the jack to raise the car and do your tire change. Really, this type of jack is mainly intended to be used for tire changes in an emergency use. It can not reach the same heights as a hydraulic jack, and does not bear the same weight capacity’s. For heavy or high profile vehicles, these are not a great option. Here’s a really great clip from 1A Auto explaining scissors jack (showing a variety of different kinds) and how you would lift your vehicle with it to change your tire.

Hydraulic Jack

The hydraulic jack’s are definitely more heavy duty than scissors jacks, and really what you should be using when doing most maintenance that requires you to lift the car up. It’s for shop work or for a DIYer who wants to do their own maintenance. Some use cases:

  • Changing Oil
  • Changing Brake Pads and Calipers
  • Seasonal Tire Change (Winter and Summer Tires)
  • and other maintenance tasks you feel comfortable doing yourself

They have a varying capacity from 2 ton, 3 ton and even 4 ton plus capacities depending on what type of vehicle you have. SUV’s and Trucks need the higher capacity jack’s for the work you intend to do.

For a visual reference here is the Arcan 3 Ton ALJ3T Jack which we have written a review on.

arcan alj3t reinforced lift arm
3 Ton Arcan ALJ3T Aluminum Floor Jack

For a highly detailed explanation of how a hydraulic jack works, here it is from Wikipedia:

A hydraulic jack uses a liquid, which is incompressible, that is forced into a cylinder by a pump plunger. Oil is used since it is self lubricating and stable. When the plunger pulls back, it draws oil out of the reservoir through a suction check valve into the pump chamber. When the plunger moves forward, it pushes the oil through a discharge check valve into the cylinder. The suction valve ball is within the chamber and opens with each draw of the plunger. The discharge valve ball is outside the chamber and opens when the oil is pushed into the cylinder. At this point the suction ball within the chamber is forced shut and oil pressure builds in the cylinder.

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_(device)

Here’s a great little video by Scotty Kilmer showing how to properly jack up your car. A lot of good little notes like jack it up on a flat surface, where to jack up under the newer unibody cars, and safety tips like the parking brake.

Hope that gives you as a beginner to cars, a great overview of the most common jacks used on cars, and when you should use them and why. Scissor Jacks for Emergency use, and Hydraulic Jacks for almost everything else.