In our Choosing the Best Floor Jack for Your Truck, Car, or SUV article, hydraulic lifting expert Bob Fox of Sunex Tools helped explain the differences in jack materials and capacities. In the second part of our conversation, I asked Mr. Fox for tips on how to use a floor jack safely that deal with common mistakes and misconceptions. Using a floor jack properly involves a combination of common sense and proper technique.
Use a Floor Jack for Lifting NOT for Supporting a Load
Eventually, all hydraulic jack seals will fail. If the jack is supporting a load when the seal fails, catastrophic injury, death, and damage are likely. Use the jack only for lifting and, when the load is in position, use jack stands to support it.
Only Operate Floor Jacks on a Hard, Level Surface
From the “Do we even have to say it?” files comes this gem of wisdom. A floor jack is really a hydraulic transformer (perhaps not as cool as an Autobot). As it transforms, it must push against a level surface to keep the proper point of contact with the load. If the surface is soft, it might not be able to transform in the first place. An unlevel or soft surface can cause catastrophic failure or injury when the vehicle you’re working on slips.
Don’t Use a Floor Jack as a Dolly
It’s common to see someone use a jack as a dolly but that’s risky. The load can shift or slip off the saddle (the jack’s point of contact) and come crashing down. Aside from the damage it could cause to the vehicle, it can bend or twist jack components as well.
Balance the Load
For safe, effective lifting, you must balance the load on the jack’s saddle. Clearly, an unbalanced load can shift dangerously toward the heavy side. Also, be sure you move the jack in straight to the load rather than an angle. Going in at an angle can cause an issue as the jack transforms during the lift.
Double Pump It Up
You can speed up the time it takes a jack to reach the load’s point of contact by using a double pump piston jack. Once under load, however, Pascal’s laws of hydraulics take over and the jack can’t lift on both the up and downstroke. Double pump piston jacks bypass one of their pumps under load and only lift on the downstroke.
Hopefully, these basic tips on using a floor jack safely helped. If it gave you a better sense of security when working under vehicles or similar, leave us a note. We also want to hear form you if you have additional tips. Just leave them in the comments below.