Selecting the best floor jack (or the trolley jack) for your garage or home can be a difficult task. There are many different types, models, and brands all with different characteristics, pros and cons. There are floor jacks light and portable, heavy duty, with a high lifting capacity, low profile trolley jacks, and jacks made of Steel or Aluminum.
There are so many choices that can make you wobbly. But do not throw in the towel as FloorJackAdvisor.com is here to help you out to make an informed decision and select the best floor jack that matches your need. We also provide with ways and helpful tips on using a floor jack safely in our Safe Lifting Guide. Moreover, do not forget the jack stands…if you forget, the decision COULD KILL YOU!
Always check out our other comparison charts and buying guides as well. They are full of information in assisting you to make informed decisions.
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Types of floor jacks
Floor jacks can be divide into two primary categories namely hydraulic jacks and mechanical jacks. Both types of jacks are designed in a way that multiple times of a small force of turning a screw or moving a handle up and down, into a much stronger lifting force. To achieve this, mechanical jacks use simple machines and mechanical advantage while hydraulic jacks use hydraulic fluid, pressure chambers and pistons. Each type has separate set of advantages and disadvantages. If you are interested in learning more of how a floor jack magnifies input force, please refer to our blog post titled “How Does a Floor Jack Work”.
Mechanical jacks are the ones that usually come in the emergency roadside assistance kit of a vehicle. These jacks are compact, do not require any ongoing maintenance and fairly light in weight. The scissor jack is the most common type of mechanical floor jacks, which uses a central screw mechanism to convert smaller rotational input force into high vertical lifting force. The primary disadvantage of such mechanical floor jacks is the user has to input more amount of effort to raise the jack. As an example, the scissor jack requires the screw to be turned more than 20-30 times before the jack to lift the vehicle. This consumes quite a bit of time and effort. Another disadvantage is that they typically have a small base leading to less stability than a trolley-style floor jack. However, the chances of failing the jack is relatively low than a hydraulic one.
Hydraulic jacks are in two primary styles; trolley jacks and bottle jacks (piston jack). Trolley jacks normally have four casters (wheels). Those wheels allow the jack to be easily taken wherever you need to. Bottle jacks have no wheels and are round and in shape like a bottle. Generally, hydraulic jacks are far more efficient than mechanical ones in transferring smaller input motions into large lifting force and motion. Some multi-piston hydraulic floor jacks could be taken into the fully raised position with just three to five strokes of the input handle. They require significantly less input force than most mechanical floor jacks. Primary disadvantage of the trolley-style hydraulic jacks are their bulky size and high weight. This is due to the set of levers that are used to amplify the lifting range. On the other hand, bottle-style hydraulic jacks are small and light weight at the cost of stability and lifting range.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Floor Jack
- LIFTING CAPACITY – The most important feature of any floor jack is to know how much weight it can lift safely. Capacity of hand operated hydraulic floor jacks range from 1 ton to 20 tons. It is absolutely critical to know whether the floor jack you select is able to handle the lifting requirements of your job. If you are to lift a vehicle, the general rule is that your floor jack should have a maximum lifting capacity equal to or greater than the total weight of the vehicle. It is understood that you are not going to lift your entire vehicle with the jack, but selecting a floor jack with such capacity gives you an adequate safety margin. Keep in mind that the functional capacity of a jack is often less than its maximum rated capacity.
- CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL – Floor jacks are made out of steel or aluminium. If you are primarily using the floor jack in and around the garage, a jack made out of steel could be recommended. If you need to carry your floor jack from place to place then a lighter aluminium one is the best.
- DESIGN PROFILE – Floor jack are designed with either a standard profile or a low profile. A low profile floor jack allows you to roll under a vehicle that has a low ride height such as sport cars
- LIFTING RANGE – Every floor jack has a different minimum height and lifting range. If you need to lift you vehicle to a considerable distance off the ground or if your vehicle has large tires then consider purchasing a floor jack with a high lifting range.
- LIFTING SPEED – The standard jack takes in between 8 to 10 strokes of the lifting bar to reach full height. If you need it in 3-6 strokes, then you should consider a jack that has dual lifting pistons or a quick lift system.