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What is a Lifting Jack?

By Mary Lougee
Updated May 23, 2024
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A lifting jack is a multipurpose tool that is used for elevating a car, boat, or airplane for various reasons. Lifting jacks allow access to tires and rims on vehicles or trailers so that they may be removed for repairs or replacement. Using this tool also permits space under items so that mechanics can fit underneath them to make repairs. There are several different types of lift jacks where each works in a different manner and is designed for a specific purpose.

When elevating a car, a car lift jack can be used under the frame in a designated place, typically near a front or rear wheel on each side of the car. Smaller and lighter vehicles often use a scissor lift jack. This type has a threaded spindle that is in the center to which a single or multi-piece handle is attached. The handle usually is turned clockwise to engage the jack in an upward motion and counter clockwise to lower it.

Trucks and heavier vehicles might use a standard lifting jack that is of a different design, such as a floor jack. This style usually has wheels so that it easily can be moved when being positioned under the frame of the vehicle. The handle is much larger than a scissor jack, and it is turned to the right to lock and then pumped up and down to lift the vehicle. To release the pressure and lower the object, the handle typically is turned left until the reversing pin is engaged, allowing for the pumping motion of the handle to lower the object.

A variation of the floor lift jack incorporates hydraulics into an air lift jack. This type is identical to the standard floor jack but much quicker to use. The air pressure allows an object to be lifted in just a few pumps of the handle, and the jack can be lowered with just a partial counter clockwise turn of the handle.

High lift jacks have many purposes and are a unique style of a lifting jack. They also operate by pumping the handle up and down like a floor jack. These sometimes are called house jacks and can be used to raise a house so that it might be placed on blocks, or raise a mobile home so that it may be properly leveled. This type of jack usually can lift items much higher into the air than other jacks can, and they can be used to pull four-wheel drive vehicles and all terrain vehicles out of deep mud.

Another type of lifting jack is mounted on the tongue on the side of a boat trailer. This jack is operated by turning the crank handle in a clockwise direction to lift up the wheel on the bottom of the jack. Turning the crank in a counter clockwise direction will lift the tongue of the boat trailer so that it can slide onto the ball hitch of a towing vehicle. After the trailer is hooked up, the clockwise direction will lift the wheel into its highest position so that it does not touch the ground and pose a road hazard during transit.

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