The Five Types of Car Jacks

There are five core types of car jacks: scissor, bottle, floor/trolley, high-lift, and exhaust air jacks—click here to learn more.
Written by Andrew Biro
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
There are five types of car jacks you should know: scissor jacks, bottle jacks, floor jacks or trolley jacks, farm jacks or high-lift jacks, and exhaust air jacks.
There are many reasons why you might need to use a jack to lift up your vehicle, be it something as simple as changing a tire or as involved as replacing an axle. Whatever the issue, it’s vital that you use the right jack for the job to ensure your safety and help prevent unnecessary damage to your vehicle.
If you need to work on your vehicle’s underbody but don’t know what type of car jack to use, don’t worry—
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is here to help. In this article, we’ll walk you through the five types of car jacks, how to use them, and even give you some tips on reducing your car insurance payments!
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What is a car jack?

A car jack is a mechanical device for lifting heavy loads (e.g. your car) or applying great force. Car jacks generally fall into one of two categories—mechanical or hydraulic.
  • Mechanical jacks use physical means, such as a hand-operated lever or motor, to lift or lower a vehicle and will automatically lock in place once force or power is removed
  • Hydraulic jacks, on the other hand, use pistons and an incompressible liquid to create pressure—otherwise known as hydraulic power—in a hydraulic cylinder; this pressure is then used to lift heavy objects

What are jack stands?

Generally speaking, jack stands are exactly what they sound like—metal stands whose main purpose it is to support vehicles that have been lifted by a car jack. Most (if not all) jack stands can be manually adjusted by the user and raised to different heights depending on how much space is needed to work on the vehicle’s underbody.
If you are ever doing work underneath a vehicle, you should always use jack stands to help support its weight rather than leave your life in the hands of a single jack, as car jacks are not meant to be the sole bearer of heavy loads for extended periods of time.
MORE: How to put a car on jack stands

What are the types of car jacks?

There are five types of car jacks: scissor jacks, bottle jacks, floor jacks or trolley jacks, farm jacks or high-lift jacks, and exhaust air jacks. They all serve the same purpose—to lift heavy loads—but do so in slightly different ways, some of which are more specialized than others.

Scissor jacks

Scissor jacks—named for their use of scissor-like components to lift vehicles—are one of the most common types of car jacks and are included in many vehicles with spare tires.
Unlike most of the other jacks on this list, each scissor jack has a very specific weight capacity, which means you should never use them to lift a vehicle heavier than the one they were designed to support.
Scissor jacks are designed to be low-profile and fulfill a single purpose—to raise and support your vehicle long enough for you to perform a tire change in an emergency situation.

Hydraulic bottle jacks

As you might be able to guess, bottle jacks are bottle-like in shape, featuring a cylindrical body and a narrow neck. They use what’s called a vertical lifting ram, pistons, and a reservoir of fluid—usually a type of oil—to lift heavy loads by way of hydraulic power.
Due to their narrower frame, bottle jacks are nowhere near as stable as, say, floor jacks or trolley jacks, making them ill-suited for complex underbody operations.

Floor jacks or trolley jacks

While they technically aren’t the same thing, floor jacks and trolley jacks are very similar in design, with only a few key differences:
  • Floor jacks: are lighter and cheaper than trolley jacks, as well as much easier to transport, but they cannot accommodate the same range of lift heights and are not for frequent use
  • Trolley jacks: are very robust and more versatile since they have a wider range of lifting heights; they feature wheels and a long handle for easier mobility and pumping
Floor jacks are great for infrequent, at-home use and trolley jacks are the preferred option amongst professionals.

Farm jacks or high-lift jacks

As the name suggests, farm jacks were originally designed to lift tractors and other farm equipment, but they also work well for vehicle’s with higher-than-average clearance heights, such as some Jeep models.

Exhaust air jacks

Also called an air-bag jack, exhaust air jacks use tailpipe exhaust (or an air compressor) to lift a vehicle off the ground by inflating a large rubber bag underneath the automobile. These car jacks are most often used in off-road scenarios to lift vehicles out of mud, sand, or snow.
MORE: The best mud tires for your car

What type of car jack should you get?

If you drive a small to midsize vehicle, you can probably get away with owning a simple two-ton scissor jack, and a bottle jack is oftentimes included with trucks—but if you drive a heavy vehicle or do a lot of work underneath your car, you’ll probably want a sturdy, heavy duty trolley jack instead.
If you drive a vehicle with very high clearance—such as a Jeep or other off-roading vehicle—or own tractors and other agricultural equipment, a high-lift/farm jack will be the better option.
Lastly, you’ll want an exhaust air jack if you are someone who regularly takes your vehicle off-roading in sandy, muddy, or snowy conditions, as they are the easiest to use on soft, uneven surfaces.

How to use car jacks safely

Since a car jacks’ primary purpose is to support incredibly heavy objects temporarily, they must be used correctly to avoid unnecessary mechanical damage or loss of life—to use a car jack safely, follow the safety tips listed below.

Park on level ground

Before using the car jack, park your vehicle on flat, level ground. This will help ensure that your jack and jack stands do not tip over and that your car will not become severely unbalanced when all or part of it is in the air.
Professionals recommend that you set the parking brake when lifting your vehicle and use wheel chocks opposite from where you are using the jack to prevent the wheels from moving.

Locate the jack points

Depending on the type of jack you’re using, you may only be able to lift your vehicle at certain points safely—if this is the case, consult your owner’s manual or the manual included with your jack to locate the specific lift points.
Most vehicles have four such lift points, all under the car’s rocker panels: two are just in front of the rear wheels, and two are just behind the front wheels.

Use a secure jack base

If you cannot work on your vehicle in, say, a garage or some other structure with a concrete floor, you’ll need to make sure your jack can rest on a secure base to prevent it from sinking into the ground.
Any time you use a car jack on soft surfaces—such as asphalt or dirt—you should put a length of three-quarter inch plywood (at minimum) underneath the jack to act as a solid, secure base.

Use jack stands to support your car

You should never rely on the car jack alone to support your vehicle for long periods of time, especially if you plan on being underneath it—that’s what jack stands are for. Jack stands should always be positioned directly under the lift point and there should always be enough room at each lift point to accommodate both the jack and jack stand.

How to find cheap car insurance

Should you ever need to buy a car jack of your own, you’ll be happy to learn that they’re fairly inexpensive, with most costing somewhere close to $150—which is about the same amount most U.S. drivers pay per month for their car insurance.
If you use licensed
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If your car comes with a jack, nine times out of ten it will be the standard scissor jack, but your vehicle may be equipped with a bottle jack if you own a truck or some other large automobile—especially if it is an older model.
The main advantage of using a car jack is that it gives you much more space to work with when performing emergency repairs or if you need to spend an extended period of time underneath your vehicle.
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