Lifting Jacks: Types, Uses & Safety - Red Box Tools

If you need to lift and hold a heavy load, there’s no better tool than a lifting jack. Whether it’s suspending a vehicle in the air so you can change a tyre or positioning steer girders into place, the job will be made easier and safer with a lifting jack to bear the load.

Like most tool families, lifting jacks come in a variety of styles, each intended for a specific type of job. Jack safety relies on knowing which jack to use and when, so in this guide we’ll run through the key lifting jack types and teach you how to handle them safely.

How to Use a Jack Lift?

How to use a jack lift is one of the most important things to get to grips with from a safety point of view. Attempting to operate a jack without the proper know-how could result in a serious bodily injury and/or damage to the vehicle.

How to use a jack lift is one of the most important things to get to grips with from a safety point of view. Attempting to operate a jack without the proper know-how could result in a serious bodily injury and/or damage to the vehicle.

Once you’ve positioned your jack correctly, begin raising it slowly (the action needed to do this will depend on whether your jack is mechanical or hydraulic). When the base plate meets the car, pause to check it’s aligned properly. Then, simply continue a slow raise until the vehicle is in the desired position. If you’re working beneath the car, prop the vehicle securely on axle stands before moving underneath it.

Lifting Jacks

Types of Jacks for Lifting

There are many different types of jacks for lifting, ranging from mechanical to hydraulic styles. To help you buy with confidence, we’ve summarised nine of the most common types of jack and their main uses below:

1. Bottle Jacks

A bottle jack is a compact, upright-standing, lifting jack, that is mainly used to raise and lower vehicles off the ground vertically. Bottle jacks are powered by a hydraulic level that, when pumped, forces pressure from a small diameter piston through to a larger piston chamber.

As lifting jack types go, bottle jacks are easy to use and store. They’re available in different sizes to accommodate different sized vehicles, but they can be a little more unstable than other types of vehicle jacks. They’re also weight restricted and can only be used to lift or lower a vehicle, so you will need to combine a bottle jack with weight supports.

Bottle Jack

2. Scissor Jacks

Lifting jack types don’t come more old-school than the scissor jack. Still used by professional mechanics today, scissor jacks are a classic type of car jack that raise or lower vehicles using two sets of vertical arms. These arms (which resemble scissors) are then elevated or contracted by turning a screw that rotates where the four arms interlink.

A scissor jack is a compact and portable type of lifting jack that requires minimal maintenance. They easily fit in the boot of a car – making them ideal if you find yourself needing to change a flat mid-journey. And, because, scissor jacks don’t use any hydraulic components, there’s no danger of fluid leakage.

Scissor Jack

3. Trolley Jacks

Like a bottle jack, a trolley jack lifts heavy loads via a piston powered by hydraulic pressure, but they offer better stability than a bottle jack because they are much more heavy-duty. Like many jack types, car trolley jacks are pump-operated using a handheld lever. Although heavy, they’re mounted on castor wheels, so moving them around isn’t too much of an issue.

You’ll find car trolley jacks in a range of sizes and shapes, designed to be compatible with different vehicle types. They’re a good and reliable choice of lifting jack to have at home if you’re someone who spends a lot of time tinkering with cars but they’re an equally good investment for professional car maintenance and MOTs too.

Trolley Jack

4. Air Jacks

Air jacks (also known as inflatable jacks) are the perfect jack tool when you need to lift something high off the ground (or at least higher than a regular jack would safely permit). Their lifting ability lies in an inflatable cylinder which is filled with air, although water and oil-filled types do also exist.

As types of jacks for lifting go, air jacks are by far the most versatile; able to push and clamp as well as to lift. They’re suitable for both open and confined spaces and can spring into action faster than other types of jacks for cars, giving you the advantage of speed too.

Air Jack

5. Axle Stands

An axle stand is an essential bit of kit if you’re planning on suspending a vehicle for a prolonged period of time – for instance, if you need to change the oil filter. Designed just for holding and bearing the weight of vehicles, axle stands – or jack stands as they’re also known – have a stable four-pronged base for even weight distribution.

They come in different weight limits so it’s important to refer to your car’s manual or door jambs for guidance when selecting an axle stand, so you know how much weight you’re lifting.

Axle Stands

6. Hydraulic Jacks

If a jack uses hydraulic pressure to lift an object, it falls into the hydraulic lifting jacks category. These types of lifting jacks force hydraulic fluid through a cylinder via a piston in order to generate movement.

The jack then retracts when the fluid flows backwards. Common hydraulic jack types include the floor jack and the bottle jack.

Hydraulic Jacks

7. Mechanical Jacks

Mechanical jacks are jacks that operates on a purely mechanical basis, using a system such as a screw or ratchet, rather than hydraulic components.

A scissor jack is one of the most well-known mechanical jack types still in use today.

Mechanical Jacks

8. Transmission Jacks

A transmission jack is a special type of lifting jack that lifts and lowers a vehicle’s transmission from the bottom of a vehicle. This type of jack comes equipped with a large cradle that allows the car to be positioned in such a way as to make it easy for a mechanic to install, maintain, or replace the transmission.

Operated by foot pedal, they really are an essential jack to have for any vehicle work involving the transmission.

transmission jack

9. Floor Jacks or Service Jacks

Floor Jacks or service jacks are wheel-mounted on swivel castors, making them easy to move and manoeuvre into position. They’re operated using a long lever-arm (similar to a bottle jack) except in this case the lever is also used to direct the jack where you need it go.

As well as being strong, nimble, and easy to operate, the long-levered handle also means it’s possible to stand upright while operating the jack, saving you the struggle of bending down. Their low profile and agility also make them extremely easy to work with, which is why you’ll commonly find this popular car jack type in garages and mechanics’ workshops.

floor jack

How to Safely Use a Car Lifting Jack and Stands

There are some important safety precautions to be mindful of when working with car jacks. We’ve summarised the main safety points below:

  1. Never go under a car when it’s suspended on a jack
    The purpose of a car jack is to help you to raise the car off the ground. If you need to access the underneath, make sure you always secure the vehicle on axle stands first. The only exception is if you’re changing a tyre, as you don’t need to slide under the car to do this.
  2. Make sure you’re working on solid ground
    Car jacks should only ever be used on solid, dry, and level surfaces, and in safe environments. Never attempt to jack up a car on grass, a slope, or beside the road, as this could lead to serious injury or fatality. If you experience a flat while driving, carefully pull off to a safe stopping point and call for assistance.
  3. Ensure the vehicle is in park with the brake engaged
    Before you even position the car jack in place, make sure you engage the brake on the vehicle and check that the transmission is in park. For cars with manual transmission, place the car into first gear. It’s also a good idea to chock a tyre with a block of wood to stop the car rolling.
  4. Always choose the right jack weight for the vehicle type
    There are many types of jacks for cars, each designed to help you lift and lower a car safely. But that doesn’t mean that all jacks are suitable for all cars. Jacks come in different weights, according to the size of vehicle they can lift, so be sure to check the car manual or door jambs for the vehicle weight, and never attempt to lift a car with a jack that’s too light for the job.

Popular Car Lifting Jacks

From screw jacks and air jacks to mechanical and hydraulic jacks, whether you’re a trading mechanic or just a hardcore petrol head, our best-selling car jack models are perfect for professional and domestic use.

Take a look at our most popular styles below or see the full extent of our lifting jack range here.

screwed bottle jack



air balloon jack



draper axle stands

DRAPER 54722


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