Car jacks: unsung weightlifters explained

Just like people car jacks come in varying shapes and sizes... We simplify and explain them so you can decide which is best for you.

CAR's guide to the best car jacks

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

As much as gym buffs like to admire themselves in the mirror, all sinewy and veiny, they would be promptly put to shame by a car jack. It's all show and no trousers unfortunately, sometimes literally if bodybuilders have been too keen on the supplements.

A car jack is an absolute must irrespective of whether you are an amateur mechanic or not. If you get caught with a flat tyre out and about and you don't have a jack, you'll have to wait an age for roadside assistance in order to get going again. If you wish to perform basic car care tasks at home, a jack is also very handy to have for removing wheels to touch up, or to access the underside to change an oil filter, for example.

However, the two home and away scenarios demand different types of jacks and it's this issue that we address here. Fear not, car jacks are all very easy to use even if you haven't used one before.

What are the different types of car jacks?

Scissor jacks

scissor jack in use
©Photo: Getty Images

These have been around for a long time. Noah used them when working on the Ark. Maybe. Scissor jacks are by no means antiquated though, they are small and inexpensive – you'll find they are the type of jack that hides under the boot floor in cars because they are light too.

Scissor jacks don’t have terribly high weight ratings (explained below) and are good for emergency use when away from home, such as when changing a punctured tyre. They have a basic screw mechanism that you twist with an attachable lever. You should never use these to work underneath a car.

If a car jack for emergencies is all you want, see our top picks below.

Streetwize is a well-known brand that specialises in handy car hardware and accessories. One of which is its scissor jack. It has a 1000kg weight limit making it suitable for the smallest of hatchbacks. It has a minimum lift of 90mm and a maximum of 330mm. The jack itself weighs about two kilograms.

With a higher weight limit, Halfordsu2019 1500kg scissor jack will probably suit you better. Minimum lifting height is 105mm and the maximum is 385mm.

Trolley jacks

trolley jack in use
©Photo: Getty Images

For use at home, trolley jacks are the best option. They are stable and heavy-duty but still very easy to use in their intended environment. Trolley jacks use hydraulic pressure in a cylinder to lift a load via a piston, and you achieve this by simply pumping the jack with a handle.

Trolley jacks have wheels, which makes them easy to move but is indicative of the fact they are rather heavy and not very portable. Trolley jacks come in quite a range of shapes and sizes in order to cater for all the different vehicle types out there. For example, some offer extra height for tall vehicles, some are extra low in order to cater for sporty cars.

These are our recommended trolley jacks.

Einhell CCTJ 2000 Trolley Jack
Price: $46.35

Einhell is a reputable manufacturer of a great many power, garden, and workshop tools. This trolley jack has a 2000kg weight limit, making it suitable for most cars and small to medium-sized SUVs. It has a minimum lift height of 135mm and a maximum of 330mm. The jack itself weighs 8.7kg.

Sealey 1050CXLE Trolley Jack 2tonne Low Entry Short Chassis
Price: £58.00

This trolley jack from Sealey is an ideal option for low-slung and sports cars. It has the same weight limit as the Einhell jack, thus itu2019s capable of even lifting todayu2019s relatively porky speed machines. But the difference is that it has a lower clearance height u2013 minimum 78mm, maximum 330mm.

In contrast to the Sealey jack above, this is for vehicles with high ground clearance. Because SUVs and vans with higher ground clearance also tend to weigh more than normal cars, this jacku2019s weight limit is up to 2250kg. In making the extra lifting easier, this jack features Sealeyu2019s Super Rocket Lift system. The minimum lift height, 150mm, maximum is 535mm. Maximum chassis height suitable for this jack is 180mm.

In offering a solution to the largest of non-commercial vehicles, Halfords comes to the rescue with its 3000kg-limit trolley jack. Most cars will not need this but some, such as the third-generation Land Rover Discovery are over 2500kg and require the extra weight limit. The lift range on this jack is 140mm to 430mm.

Bottle jacks

draper bottle jack in use

Like trolley jacks, bottle jacks use hydraulic pressure to lift a car and have good weight limits. Unlike the trolley jacks, they are small, light, relatively portable, and therefore good for emergency use. The trade-off is that bottle jacks are not as stable as trolley jacks. In light of this, they need to be used on flat ground in order to be as safe as possible.

The other consideration to make with bottle jacks is that because they have an upright stance, they aren’t so suited to lower vehicles.

These are our recommended bottle jacks.

Silverline Tools is a global brand that produces an enormous range of common and specialist tools. This bottle jack has a weight limit of 2000kg and a lifting range of 158mm to 308mm. Itu2019s very light at 2.3kg and nice and easy to use.

The (Donald?) Draper jack is an example of how much these little bottle jacks are capable of lifting. It doesnu2019t have a great lifting range (195mm to 370mm), but thereu2019s no arguing its value for money. If it is suitable for you and you are capable of using it properly, by all means, go for it.

Jack weight ratings

In everyday life, there is often no reason to know how much your car actually weighs. But when it comes to car jacks, it’s vital.

The rules of the game are very simple: find out what your car weighs and buy a jack that is capable of taking the weight. You will find your vehicle’s weight on a sticker inside the car’s door jambs, or in its manual. Below are a selection of vehicles to give you a rough idea of car weights.

Toyota Aygo: Circa 900kg

Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost (non-hybrid): Circa 1300kg

BMW 330d xDrive Touring : Circa 1700kg

Jaguar F-Pace P250: Circa 1900kg

Audi A6 Allroad: Circa 1900kg

Jack height ranges

This is important in choosing the right jack for you. In fairness, most normal cars will be able to be used with a standard jack without going for extra low or extra height. But check your car’s manual for specific information on your car and pair it to the correct jack.

Jack Stands

If you are doing anything more than changing a wheel, such as changing an oil filter, jack stands – or axle stands – are what you will want for when your car is raised for extended periods of time, or if you want access beneath the car. You should use four of them if you want to lift your car off the ground completely.

Unlike jacks, jack stands do not have hydraulic or mechanical parts that wear or could fail. They have stable bases and are designed specifically for supporting vehicles.

Like jacks, jack stands have weight limits that differ from product to product. It’s therefore equally important that you choose the appropriate ones for you. The sticker inside your car’s door jambs should say how much weight is at the front and rear axles – and your car’s manual will explain this too.

Here are some of the best car jack stands:

A reliable pair of jack stands with each individual stand able to take a weight of 1000kg. Adjust the height (280mm to 430mm) with a sturdy but simply ratchet system.

These work in exactly the same way as the Halfords ones. The difference here is an increased weight limit u2013 3000kg per stand. Minimum height 280mm, maximum height 420mm.

Where to position car jacks

Knowing the jacking points on your car is as important as getting the right jack. Trying to lift a car by its exhaust or from beneath the radiator is not going to go well. Once again, delve into your owner's manual and find where the jacking points are. Notwithstanding jack stands sometimes being called axle stands, axles are not a good place for jack stands to be used.


Ramps are an alternative to jacks for home use. You simply position your car onto them, place chocks behind the opposite wheels and away you go. There are limitations here. One, you only get access to the underside of a car – not useful for changing a tyre. Another factor is the fact that ramps take up a lot of room.

But if they suit your needs, it makes life rather easy. Halfords' car ramps are our pick:

Lifts a vehicle to a height of 20cm; each ramp capable of holding 1000kg; suitable for tyres 135mm to 185mm wide.

Silverline 525748 Folding Steel Wheel Chocks Pair
Price: $14.78

Quality, reliable chocks for use with ramps.

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