Which Lifting Device Is Best For Your Needs
If you are reading Four Wheeler, you probably aren’t the kind of guy (or gal) who calls AAA when you get a flat. And that is assuming that a tow truck could even get to where you are wheeling anyway. You roll your sleeves up and fix your own rig, whether that means replacing an axleshaft or just reseating a tire bead. Your vehicle probably came with a basic scissor or bottle jack; standard issue for everything from passenger cars to 1-ton trucks for decades. Venture off pavement though, or add a suspension lift and larger tires, and that bottle jack may not be of much use anymore.
Fortunately, the aftermarket has a bevy of options for lifting your vehicle to change a tire, perform repairs, or simply get unstuck; regardless of terrain or tire size. We rounded up five very different jacks to test them in a variety of situations ranging from Glamis sand dunes to the garage to determine which is best for your specific needs. The jacks fall into two basic categories; those that lift the vehicle from the axle (like a floor jack) and those that lift the vehicle from the chassis (like a Hi-Lift).
ARB Bushranger X-Jack
How It Works: The ARB X-Jack uses exhaust fumes to inflate a giant PVC bladder, like a large balloon. This allows it to be very low profile when empty and provide excellent stability when inflated. If the vehicle is not running it also has a provision to use another air source, such as a compressor or Powertank though the attached Schrader valve.
Mounting Options: The large footprint but low weight and soft construction make it easy to find a home for the exhaust jack on your spare tire or behind your seats.
Accessories: None required. Comes with laminated instructions, hose extension, gloves, patch kit, protection mat, and carrying case.
Pros: Large footprint makes it the most stable option in sand, and its shallow depth requires minimal digging to place under a stuck vehicle.
Cons: Make certain that wherever you use the X-Jack is well ventilated; we would not recommend using it in an enclosed garage unless you fill it from a compressor. Not compatible with all exhaust systems. Outer shell can be damaged if put in contact with sharp or jagged components.
Our Take: We can see why this product is so popular in the Australian Outback. An excellent choice if you traverse a lot of soft terrain like sand or snow.
Harbor Freight Pittsburgh 1½-Ton Rapid Pump
How It Works: The Rapid Pump is a traditional floor jack with modern features like dual pumps to lift faster and aluminum construction to keep the weight down. It is low enough to fit under a buried vehicle yet lifts high enough to get most lifted rigs off the ground.
Mounting Options: Kartek offers quick-release pins that can be mounted to rollcage tubing. Otherwise, plan to strap this jack down securely. We recommend tying it down by the side handles.
Accessories: Aluminum skidplate by DMZ Fabrication, “lift kits” for the foot and roll cage mounts from Kartek.
Pros: Stable and fast, relatively light and quick to use.
Cons: Bulky for mounting in a vehicle. Adding an aftermarket skidplate makes the jack better in the dirt but impractical on concrete.
Our Take: The undisputed king of the garage. Harbor Freight also offers these jacks in 2- and 3-ton versions if you need more capacity and lift height. The smaller sizes trade sheer lifting power for lower weight and easier mounting.
Baja Designs Kwik Jak
How It Works: The Kwik Jak is like a bottle jack on steroids. First, you adjust the height of the foot under your axle, and then it relies on standard CO2 cartridges to quickly lift your vehicle.
Mounting Options: Baja Designs’ Kwik Jak is compact and light enough that it fits in standard fire extinguisher mounts.
Accessories: Baja Designs remote hose kit and quick release mount.
Pros: Super compact and lightweight, the Kwik Jak is also very fast when you have access under the vehicle.
Cons: The Kwik Jak can benefit from a larger base in soft terrain, and its compact size means that it can only lift the vehicle from the axles, not the chassis. CO2 cartridges can get expensive if used often.
Our Take: The high quality components and light weight combined to make perhaps the best bottle jack ever designed.
King Screw Jack
How It Works: The King Screw Jack looks like a giant shock but uses a threaded screw with a ¾-inch hex nut on the top to adjust the jack up or down. The nut size matches many lug nuts, so you can just leave it on your impact gun. The jacking boss is also adjustable up and down on the jack body to compensate for the height of your vehicle.
Mounting Options: King includes mounts that can be welded to a rollcage, but the jack is small and light enough to easily store in the back of a Jeep, truck, or SUV. We had Samco Fabrication weld a small section of tubing on to our rock sliders to accept the pin on the King Screw Jack. This adds stability but the tradeoff is that you can only use the jack where you have added the tubing.
Accessories: You can use a normal lug wrench or ratchet, but we highly recommend using an electric impact gun.
Pros: The King Screw Jack is fast and offers a wide range of motion to accommodate flexy suspensions. The mounting receiver also ensures that the jack remains stable.
Cons: Expensive and cannot be used if the required mount is in not in the proper location.
Our Take: A great choice if you are racing or need to change tires in a hurry. The 16 inches of travel works well with flexy suspensions.
Hi-Lift 48-Inch X-Treme Jack
How It Works: The Hi-Lift Jack operates by alternately walking two climbing pins up the holes in the main bar, which is available in 30-, 48-, or 60-inch lengths. One pin holds the load as the other is released and moved to the next hole above when raising a load (or below when lowering a load).
Mounting Options: We have seen Hi-Lifts mounted with everything from bungee cords in the bed of a truck to fully disassembled and stowed in nooks and crannies inside a Jeep. The best option seems to be to secure the jack to the bumper or tube work where it is easily accessible, yet secure.
Accessories: There is a whole cottage industry creating accessories for Hi-Lift Jacks, from mounts and bases to foot adapters for rock sliders.
Pros: Extremely wide range of motion, useful for more than just lifting, strong as an anvil.
Cons: Base can slip off of rocks, handle is dangerous if left down, mechanism tends to stick if not lubricated and exposed to the elements.
Our Take: Still the off-road standard that all other jacks are measured against.
The Jackstrap, available from Rimrock Mountain Supply, is an inexpensive way to limit a flexible suspension so you don’t have to lift the vehicle as high to get a tire off the ground. This means less work for you and more stability when jacking your vehicle off the ground. The Jackstrap is useful for any jacking method that is not placed under the axlehousing.