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What Is a Scissor Jack?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 23, 2024
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A scissor jack is a type of device that helps to gradually raise a vehicle off of the ground. It is called a scissor jack because it consists of diagonal metal pieces that expand or contract in a manner resembling a pair of scissors. These jacks are handy because they are compact when they are in their contracted position.

Auto shops or other businesses may use a large electronic or hydraulic scissor jack to raise vehicles up in order to do advanced diagnostics, maintenance, or repairs. The most common and familiar type of scissor jack to most consumers, though, is a manual jack. This type of jack stand is smaller, and is included with many new or used vehicles. The manual jack often fits into a trunk compartment, and it’s part of what car buyers get, along with a spare tire, to help them fix any roadside flat tire situations. For a used car buyer, it’s helpful to look into the trunk of the vehicle and make sure that these tools are available, along with an owner’s manual.

The manual scissor lift jack uses a long handle piece that is a lot like a wrench. The jack user inserts the handle into a point on the jack stand, and turns it, expanding or contracting the “scissor” pieces by threading them through a long, horizontal bolt. Another way that these types of jacks are convenient in a roadside situation is that the long handle piece makes it easier to access the jack when the vehicle is on the ground. The best jacks have adjustable handles so that the user can move the handle from one ground-side horizontal position to the other and then flip the handle over to continue moving the jack bolt in the same direction.

Manual scissor jacks are often used for raising just one corner of a vehicle. The user positions the jack directly behind the wheel and jacks up that side of the vehicle to work on a flat tire or damaged wheel. For more involved vehicle repairs or maintenance, it’s good to have more than just a regular manual scissor jack. Vehicle owners who want to have access to the underside of their vehicle should invest in sturdy, solid jack stands, which will hold the vehicle in a raised position more securely. The user can raise up the vehicle with the scissor lift jack and insert the jack stands for better support before moving in under the vehicle.

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