hydraulic floor jack under Alfa Romeo Stelvio

How To Use A Floor Jack To Lift Your Car Or Truck

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You do not need to have a repair garage at home to be able to fix your vehicle. With a few essential tools you can tinker away with no problems. One of these tools is a floor jack.

When the time comes to change to your winter tires, or when you need to change the engine oil, or if you need to remove a flat tire, a floor jack will come in handy. Keeping one in your garage or vehicle will mean that you have it on-hand for when you need it most.

Why Should You Own A Floor Jack?

A floor jack is the tool used to lift a vehicle off the ground, to take the weight off the tires or to access the vehicle’s underside. Garages use a high-power version of the same floor jack you can purchase for personal use.

Vehicles are very heavy, so taking care when using a floor jack is crucial to avoiding injuries or damage. While it might be tempting to leave the work to a professional, you can save tons of money by making minor repairs or adjustments yourself with a floor jack.

It is not enough to just own a floor jack; you also need to know how to properly use one.

If used correctly, you will avoid harming yourself or your vehicle, and it will let you take advantage of the many opportunities for home repair using this versatile and dependable tool.

How To Properly Use A Floor Jack

1. Set Up The Work Space

There are a few preperations to take before you even start using the floor jack. These steps keep you safe and will provide a stable work surface to make the work easier.

Clothing: Wear safety goggles, gloves, and sturdy footwear like workboots to protect yourself. Wear sturdy clothes that you can get dirty.

Floor Jack Conditon: Give the floor jack a visual inspection. Look for missing parts or accessories, and check for signs of damage. Pay close attention to the jack’s valve, as this can cause problems during a lift if it’s damaged, not tightened, or it leaks pressure.

floor jack pressure valve
Pressure valve on a hydraulic jack stand.

Weight Capacity: Find the floor jack’s weight capacity and make sure it matches your vehicle’s weight. Remove any extra luggage or heavy items from inside the vehicle to keep it as light as possible.

Work Surface: Park your vehicle on flat ground, and pick a hard surface like concrete. This will provide extra stability and keep the floor jack steady.

2. Find The Jack Points

The floor jack needs to be deployed on a vehicle’s jack points, the locations where you get the best leverage. Every vehicle will be different, but there are a few common jack points to look for.

Check the vehicle’s manual, where the jack points are listed. The most common jack points are near the front or back wheels. Often there will be a flat metal edge near the wheels with a spot for the floor jack to be inserted.

jack point on Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Jacking point on Alfa Romeo Stelvio
jack point on Ford Escape 2
Jacking point on Ford Escape

The internet is also a great resource for locating your vehicle’s jack points. There are countless dedicated guides available for your specific vehicle.

Always double-check the jack point is correct before you start to use the floor jack, as connecting to the jack point incorrectly can leave the jack unstable.

3. Use The Jack To Lift The Vehicle

If you have the jack points figured out, now is the time to start lifting your vehicle. Should the jack feel wobbly at any point in this process, it is best to stop and replace your jack rather than risk damage to your vehicle or yourself.

Place the floor jack under the vehicle’s jack point. The jack’s saddle should nestle into the vehicle frame with as much even contact as possible.

hydraulic floor jack under the car

Start pumping the floor jack with the handle. Continue pumping until the jack’s saddle meets the vehicle’s frame. Pause, check the saddle’s placement relative to the vehicle frame and the jack points, and restart if necessary. Otherwise continue pumping until your vehicle is high enough to work on.

Accessories

Most of these accessories are totally optional, put can add an extra layer of safety. The most common accessories are jack stands and wheel chocks, sometimes included with your floor jack kit.

A jack stand can be inserted between your raised vehicle and the ground to prevent it slipping and crashing down. Once in place gently rotate the jack’s handle to lower the vehicle so it rests on the stands.

Wheel chocks can be used to prevent your vehicle from rolling as you work on it. Slip them underneath your tires and make sure they fit snuggly.

You can also buy a soft rubber jack pad that will prevent scratches and bending on your vehicle’s jack points.

saddle of the hydrualic floor jack
Floor jack saddle without a rubber pad protector.
potective rubber on the saddle of the hydrualic floor jack
Floor jack saddle with a rubber pad protector.

Extra Tips

Here are a few additional tips which can make sure you get the most out of your floor jack and to ensure you are using it safely.

  • Ask a retailer for recommendations. Different floor jacks suits different vehicles better than others, and your vehicle’s retailer will know which one is best for you.
  • If you do not have wheel chocks, use bricks, cement blocks, or scrap wood to keep your wheels in place instead.
  • Use your floor jack on a hard surface. Soil or other soft surfaces are spongy and will destabilize your floor jack as you lift your vehicle.
  • Only use floor jacks to lift the vehicle. Using them to hold the vehicle in place can cause undue strain and damage the floor jack.
  • When working under a vehicle, always use a jack stand. Jack stands are made to keep the vehicle supported and to take the weight off the floor jack.
  • Give your vehicle a gentle shove after it is jacked up to ensure it is stable. Only then should you begin working underneath it.

How To Lift A Car On 4 Jack Stands

When performing serious work underneath your vehicle, it may be worthwhile to lift it entirely off the ground and place it on jack stands. For help with this process, check out this video guide.

Related: 5 Best Heavy-Duty Jack Stands For Your Car, SUV, or Truck