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Understanding the 3 different types of car jacks (and how to use them)

Understanding the 3 different types of car jacks (and how to use them)

If you are working on a car then sooner or later you are going to need to get access to the parts tucked away underneath, and for that you are going to need a jack.

The little one in your boot is really only for emergencies, and isn’t up to the job for proper maintenance work.

There are three main types of jack – the trolley, bottle and scissor jack. They all do fundamentally the same thing, but in a slightly different way.

In all three cases, start off by locating the jacking points – your owners manual will tell you where it is safe to lift the car from – and make sure your car is on a firm even surface.

Scissor Jacks

This is an old-fashioned scissor jack, which is the cheapest and smallest option available. It comes with a handle to wind the arms apart, which then lifts the car up.

Position it under the jacking point and wind it clockwise until the car is lifted off the ground. To lower it back down, it is simply a case of winding the handle the other way.

Trolley Jacks

The trolley jack is a safer, more stable and quicker option and is the choice of many professional mechanics. The wheels mean you can roll it into position easily, but before you do, start by making sure this little lever is turned to the right, which you can do using the end of the handle.

Then it is simply a case of inserting the handle and pumping it until this cradle reaches the jacking point. To lower it back down, take the handle out and twist the little lever anti clockwise, taking care to do so steadily to lower the car slowly.

Bottle Jacks

The bottle jack works in much the same way as a trolley jack, using hydraulic force to lift the car up. It has the bonus of being smaller and easier to store than a trolley, but this means it isn’t quite as stable.

Again, make sure the lever is set to the right, then unscrew the top of the jack to the correct length – the instructions should tell you how far you need to extend it. Then position it under the jacking point, insert the handle and pump until the car is raised.

Lower it again in the same way as the trolley jack. Finally, and most importantly, you should never rely on a jack alone while working underneath a car, and should always use axle stands to support it.

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