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Lift Kits For Car Jacks Do Exist – Hackaday

When needing to change a tire or work under our vehicles we humans reach for a trusty jack. The standard jack in your trunk or mounted behind the seat of your truck works fine 99% of the time. But what happens when the vehicle in need of repair has a lifted suspension, raising the frame in relation to the ground and making the stock jack now too short?
Off-Road enthusiast [am4x4] had that problem and came up with a neat solution. He made a lift kit for a roll-around mechanics jack! He started with a 1.5 ton jack from Harbor Freight. This jack had 2 small casters in the rear and one wide roller in the front. This combination works great on concrete but [am4x4] needed this to work out in the dirt so a few mods were in order.
First the front roller was scrapped and replaced by two large 8 inch diameter tires. To get these to fit the bolt holes for the roller were enlarged to the same diameter as the wheel bearings. A new solid axle was then made from 5/8 inch solid rod. Those may look like pneumatic tires but they are actually solid rubber and only cost $6 each, also from Harbor Freight. These tires not only raise the jack up several inches but also increase the surface area contacting the ground. This better distributes the weight of the vehicle and prevents the jack from pushing itself into the ground.
In the back, the small stock casters were removed and replaced with larger, heavier duty ones. Even with the larger casters, the jack leans rearward. [am4x4] plans on making an extension to level the jack out but for now, it works well and is definitely a conversation piece at the off-road get togethers.
Safety tip of the day, never rely on your jack to hold up the vehicle. Always have jack stands or trusty wood blocks nearby if you are going underneath. Nobody wants a crushed rib cage due to a failed hydraulic seal, or in this case a flat tire.
Safety tip #2 – Never rely on anything from Harbor Freight. Period. There is a reason that their stuff is so cheap and folks call it Horrible Fright.
I second this. Most of what they sell is cheap junk, in my opinion.
I have about 10 of their cheap DMMs, and will soon acquire more!
I use a lot of harbor freight stuff that seems to be surprisingly usable. My rule is if I use a HF tool enough to break it then I upgrade to something better. Saves me a lot of money for rarely used tools
I have a few Hazard Fraught power tools… They’re surprisingly good for someone like me, a hobbyist. If you want something to hand down to your grandchildren that you use all day every day, don’t look at their products.
I have a LOT of Harbor Freight tools, Craftsman, and some high-end tools, considering my hobby of automotive restoration. I’ve learned that my Craftsman tools would still break as often as the Harbor Freight tools – the big difference was that I had to drive across town to have Sears replace the tool under warranty, and the warranty is slowly going away. I’ve used some Harbor Freight tools for 19 years (never needed to replace those tools).
The key is (no surprise here)… take care of your tools. Keep them cleaned. Keep them oiled. The tools take care of you.
CodeRed is right though, never rely on the jack itself to protect you. I’ve had other brands fail, but my aluminum jack (just like the one pictured above) has been solid. Still, I’m not gambling with my life with ANY brand.
In my experience harbor freight tools are actually pretty good. I took a welding class at the community college, all the angle grinders were harbor freight. They were used constantly 8 hours a day. I asked the teacher about it and he said “I’ve bought Milwaukee, and Makita, but with you Neanderthal’s abusing them, I lucky to get 6 months out of them. The harbor freight ones last just as long, I have a limited budget and am trying to save up for some more Hobart Welders.“ I used to be fan of Craftsman tools, but the quality of their tools has gone down so much, that I rather have a harbor freight tool. Did you know that the Craftsman wrenches made today have 30% less steel than the ones made a few years ago?
Craftsman used to be made in the US. In the last few years they moved the mfg to China. You can feel the difference with the lower quality chrome plating and fit. There are still US made Craftsman available from eBay but they are disappearing fast.
Try as I might, I can’t find any source that validates the 30% less steel claim. Not disputing it, just want to know more as my own tool collection is just starting out.
I have an unmodified version of the very same floor jack. It works GREAT for the price. It clearly states that it’s capacity is 1.5 tons so if it fails trying to lift something heavier then that is on the irresponsible user.
Harbor freight is good for some things, bad for others. They’re hand tools aren’t bad – many are quite good. The more complex the machine, the more likely it’s not going to be as good — but sometimes you don’t need pro-shop quality. A good set of box wrenches from HB can be a great deal. Need a replacement motor for your lawnmower? Sometimes you want cheap Chinese copies of the old Tecumseh motors rather than spending a lot more for a brand new Briggs to go into an old mower. You just have to be smart about it, like anything else.
Damn, can’t edit. “THEIR hand tools” etc… please excuse the typos.
Again, the key phrase here is “rely on”. If you are a hobbiest, they may be fine. However if you use the tools for your livelihood (or in this case, to protect your life) then IMHO it is an unsafe bet.
hobbyist – still no edits?
You hit that nail right on the head big time! I do heavy duty basement waterproofing and my brother is as cheap as they come and gets all his stuff from Harbor freight and I tell him that he’s wasting his money. So I decided to go against my word and try to save a couple bucks because I thought that if I buy something like a solid steel hammer that it has to be the same as a more expensive one? Wrong!!! I bought a large hammer that looked like a East wing and when I got to the job I grabbed it and was pulling nails out of floor joists and I couldn’t believe my eyes when on the very first nail that I pulled the teeth that wraps around the nail auctully bent around the nail and made a indention in the form of the nail! I started laughing and threw the hammer across the room! If you are auctully planning on using a tool from harbor freight you better plan on failing because everything there is not only junk from China but low grade junk at that!
Obviously, but if you read the words, they aren’t pneumatic tyres.
Yes I missed that on firat skim, although someone else pointed out that solid tires may also fail catastrophically under too high a load.
TL:DR. Not pnuematic tires. Solid Rubber.
Yeah, no edit button for comments. Regardless of various potential failure modes, still good advice to neve rely on the jack.
If someone is dumb enough to rely on a harbor freight jack then it might just be time for natural selection to take it course.
All these bad words from so many people about Harbor Freight jacks, and no actual suggestions. Jason B even goes so far as to suggest that Darwin awaits those who endanger themselves with such tools.
What am I supposed to buy instead? Some else’s identical Chinese-made jack, perhaps even made on the same assembly line, from some other store with a different paint job, for more money? Perhaps a presumably high-quality US- or European-made jack for at least four times as much money, just to lift my car up a few times a year? A cheaper one that is “assembled in USA” of foreign parts?
Furthermore, injuring myself from a jack failure is impossible if I, myself, am doing it right. By the time I’m in danger of having something heavy fall on me, the jack isn’t part of the equation — that responsibility rests on the jack stands and/or other cribbing, not the jack.
I’m actually in the market for a new low-profile floor jack right now. Harbor Freight is at the very top of my list, because — quite simply — my life does -not- depend on it.
Your life does depend on it. Even with all tires on a car/truck it is still very dangerous if a jack slips. I’ve almost ended up in the hospital a few times because of that.
If you want a jack that is worth having then look at reputable vendors. Snapon, Matco, and Cornwell all sell jacks made by the same company to the same standards (I really want to say Omega but I could easily be wrong). I personally have a Matco “Beast” jack and won’t trust anything else. I have had a couple AC Delco jacks do well but I don’t have experience with them beyond just 2.
After 13 years in a high volume fab/repair shop I have seen everything fail and Harbor Freight is a horrible choice for just about anything hydraulic. Their tolerances are crap and they fail far to regular.
So, jack fails. Completely. I’m waaaay-the-hell over there, at the far end of the jack handle, away from the load being lifted.
Where is the personal danger?
(FYI: Of the two floor-type jacks I’ve personally bought new and had fail, both said “AC Delco” on them…and both were made in $random_low-bidder_sweatshop, just like everything else that is not US or European in origin.)
Also, Matco jacks:
Made in China.
Jason B: Just to chime in again, because you haven’t:
AC Delco doesn’t make tools. It’s not even clear that they (as an original purveyor of spark plugs, radios, and other electronics) do much but supply GM with quality OEM parts and license their name to other parties.
Both of my “AC Delco” fail-jacks came from Wal-Mart, and I -long knew- when buying them that they had nothing to do with the General Motors division at the time. One (the light, 1.5 ton) jack had white LEDs in its jack pad so as to aid in placement: Gimmicky, and maybe useful, but the LED gizmo didn’t survive the first rain under a car.
The other was a 3 ton jack, and it was a different beast entirely…it lacks compression, after being outside for a bit (by itself, and of no fault for itself), and while it may be able to lift a load it is in the scrap pile: 100 pounds of good steel locally nets me $4 cash, these days, which is more than that “AC Delco” broken jack has for me in usefulness….despite me paying around $100 for it not so many years ago.
I would rebuild these jacks, but I don’t want to. There are other, closer-to-the-source, alternatives available….Habor Freight’s low-profile steel -service- jack is a beauty of engineering, for instance, and has near-zero complaints on any of the requisite forums (despite obviously at least tens-of-thousands of these things in the field.).
(You know what else? You computer and your BFT and your cell phone and your pocketknife and your kitchen cookware also all have negative reviews. Go Google it: If it was widely available for sale, someone was already unhappy with it before you even considered buying it.)
This looks like an accident just waiting to happen solid tires or not. And for what gain? 3-4″ max? I have a truck on 42″ tires and waaay back in 1986 I made an extension for the lift plate which keeps the jack on the ground where it belongs.
+1 on the lift plate extension.
I have a gravel driveway, not concrete or asphalt. When I jack my car it’s always a pain in the rear. I may make this mod not for the increased lift but for the easier rolling on my driveway. I always use jackstands, but I wonder how well even solid rubber tires will hold up to the task, especially on gravel. Seems to me the rubber will get cut, then start to flake, and before long you’re replacing the tires.
Buy a better jack is the best solution. Mine lifts a pickup truck which is way higher than a car. this 4 ton jack is also 25 years old and functions just fine. My jack stands are rated for 8 tons each.
Any suggestions for a lowered car? I bought a car on lowered struts and springs and my 2ton jack does not fit under it. Usually I have to jack up the rear first, put it on jackstands and then one of the sides to get under the front. A lot of extra work. In the past I parked one front wheel on a bundle of planks first, sort of worked but annoying to get right.
Smartcar driver here. Not really. I do the same thing, ass-end first, and jackstands.
Seems to be the safest way.
Lowrider ? 😉
I wish, but it’s just a Cavalier, ha.
There are race car jacks that are designed for lowered cars. Or, you can put air-powered built-in jacks in the car itself like touring cars. (c:
Now that would be awesome.
back when I had a lowered car, I had to drive up on some 2×6 with one end cut at an angle to give me a ramp. The extra 1.5″ (2×6 aren’t 2 inches thick) gave me enough room to squeeze my floor jack in. However, they do make “racing jacks” that are designed for lowered cars. Just depends on where you want to spend your money. Also, some cars (i.e. Volkswagens) require special “pads” for your jack to fit into their proper jack locations.
Ah yes I have done the wood thing as well. It got the job done but felt unsafe as the wood moved a bit as I was driving up onto it, (well it slid on the ground, not from the tire, tire actually kind of pulled it back)
Eh? Wood is fine. So are flag stones, patio blocks, and whatever else you have handy.
Who cares it it moves?
Here are the steps:
1. Put $widgets in front of tires.
2. Attempt to drive car onto $widgets.
3. Get out, observe $widget alignment. If alignment=bad, start over.
4. See if the jack will fit where you want/need it to fit.
5. Jack car.
6. Install jack stands.
7. Relax jack; it should not be performing any work at this time.
8. Done.
You drive over and through things much more dangerous than a low-speed 2×6 all the time and probably don’t notice most of it.
NOT fine things are open core cement or cinder blocks, milk crates and anything else friable or crushable. ISTR an episode of “Rescue 911” where they re-enacted a near Darwin Award winner who “supported” his car on some plastic milk crates “reinforced” with some boards on top.
Saved money not buying proper jack stands or ramps. Spent lots more on the trip to the hospital.
I agree: Concrete, in most forms, is not suitable for supporting a car with a human under it. Nor is anything else you listed as being “bad.”
But for driving onto? Just to place a jack?
I guess I thought it was implicit, but: If you can drive onto it, and it will support a car, then go ahead and do so if that is what it takes to get the car up high enough to jack it up further. It doesn’t have to be a critically-strong thing, as long as nobody is under it.
Here is a rule that we both missed:
Never, ever, ever put your head or body or appendages under a lifted load that isn’t properly supported.
If that means that you drive your car onto honeycomb corrugated cardboard wedges before installing the jack, that’s fine: But no part of your body should be under the car during the placement of the jack.
Use a pipe, or a 2×4, or -something- to get that jack under there, without your squishy human-parts under it, because even a solid chunk of flagstone can fail suddenly and unexpectedly.
After that, jack it up. Again, keep your body parts out the path of potential destruction: Never put any body part under a poorly-supported car, if you enjoy keeping that bit as part of your body.
And then, install jack stands, properly (search the forums if you don’t know the best/most-correct lift/support points for the vehicle in question — someone else has asked and been answered before you if it is in any way not obvious).
Try (hard!) to keep your hands out of there. NEVER crawl under a car supported by a hydraulic or other jack, even just to find good purchase for jack stands.
Lower the car onto the jack stands, so that they take the entire weight and the jack has none. And then shove something else under there, too: Wooden cribbing is good, extra (mounted on wheels) tires are also good, wedged as appropriate.
This all conspires to create a system wherein a jack failure cannot harm you, and the jack stands can’t harm you too bad if they fail, because they’re backed up by a redundant independent system in case the iron casting seemingly-implicit in all of today’s jack stands fails*.
*Which reminds me: Castings are fickle things. Jack stands used to be made out of formed and welded sheet metal****, with nothing cast, and while they might fatigue they would likely do so with warning before failure. Non-annealed castings don’t necessarily warn about anything before they shatter like glass**.
**Remember, the easy way to decimate a cast iron bathtub is with a sledgehammer. But if it were annealed steel, it would bent and contort — a Sawzall or die grinder would thus become the tool of choice***.
***Do you trust your cast-iron jack stands for sudden impact? Because the real person-under-lifted-car safety issue is about the jack stands, not the jack that lifted it.
****: I used to have some of those formed-and-welded sheet-metal jack stands, branded Sears from eons ago, which my Dad gave me. A friend of mine declared them unsafe and threw them away, and I still can’t forgive him for that: Sheet metal ideally fails progressively with a creak and a groan and a shift, castings almost always fail with a bang and an instant near- (or complete-) death experience.
*****: I’ve beaten this topic to death, nobody has offered any other “safer” suggestions for Harbor Freight jacks that aren’t also made in China, and I’m off to HF next week to buy a 2-ton low-profile steel jack (because it needs to be low for my car, and I don’t care if it is heavy). YMMV. The experts on the forums that actually rebuild jacks for a living seem to have no particular ill-will toward HF products, and indeed recommend HF metric O-ring kits for rebuilding various hydraulic assemblies on all manner of foreign-produced jack.
******: You nay-sayers (you know who you are) can choke on a bucket of cocks in your own special version of hell for lacking both citations and logic. Just sayin’.
What sort of ground clearance do you have?
Regular scissor jacks have <4" ground clearance and you can find floor jacks w/ clearance <3"
The front is 2.5″ – 3″. Theres more room in the back because it goes up at an angle after the rear wheel wells. (chevy cavalier coupe)
We just stuck stacked wedges of 2×6 wood under all four tires then drove forward a foot. Then we could jack up onto jack stands. This was a track car and even the wood barely fit.
Car jacks are rated to lift thousands of lbs. Solid rubber tires have a support capacity of 300lbs at best. The rubber itself may withstand more, but the cheap stamped rims will crush when overloaded. Also, If the tires are not perfectly square to the ground, the support capacity will be even less. Unless you’re using this to lift the front end of an old VW bug, I would not recommend it.
Was going to post this – this bit of stupidity is a disaster waiting to happen and should be in the “Fail of The Week”. There’s a reason rolling jacks have cast steel wheels.
Give it a few weeks of use and it will become the Fail of the Week…
If the guy lives to post it as such. Former Merepedic here, have pulled a corpse out from under a car before.
If a jack failure can injure you the problem is the operator, not the jack. Any jack can fail and you should never get under a car supported by only a jack. I’ve used plenty of leaky jacks before and it didn’t matter because if they failed the car just came back down.
Thanks for putting into words my immediate palpitations.
Confirmed, same product as the picture in the forum post, 300lbs max capacity per wheel.
Strange that he started with such a small jack, a bigger one would’ve had no problem jacking up a lifted 4×4 in the first place. For jacking up a 4×4 on the trail, a hi-lift jack or “farm” jack is better than a hydraulic jack anyway.
Use the right tool for the right job.
This is the correct answer!
X2 this, that jack would not be found under my rig. I have to use a hi-lift
I loved my Hi-Lift (actually used to where they are made (Bloomfield, Indiana; hence their other name – a Bloomfield jack).
And while it will LIFT the vehicle in question just fine — BLOCK it once it is off the ground. I have had my jack drop my truck sideways more than once, and I was on a well packed, level gravel driveway at the time. You may or may not be able to use the jack itself to lever it back up (I was able to do that only once), don’t count on it, as the jaw is horrible at gripping anything (like the bumper).
And if you are going to use the jack off-road, get the Off-road kit (the main reason I got mine), and the off-road base. The off-road kit (and a log chain) is GREAT for pulling logs & other firewood to where it is easy to get at with other equipment. Even if you are out mudding, and have a good winch, having another winch can be useful (and one that doesn’t require a battery is even better).
One other tip I might as well share while on this topic: Get a length of at least 2″ webbing (something like this), preferably with J-hooks or sewn loop… flat hooks are next to useless for anything other than use on flatbeds.
If you know anyone that drives a tractor trailer, they generally get rid of them when the ratchet breaks. The straps are great for wrapping around a tree, either as an anchor or to pull it out of the way.
I wish Handyman jacks were still available…(sigh!)
A Hi-Lift doesn’t hold a candle to a Handyman…
That jack has casters at the crank end. Caster bearings are designed to be used horizontally, and these caster bearings are not horizontal any more. This looks likely to jerk out of alignment when under load if the casters are not turned to face the large wheels – this could cause the car to slip and fall.
Might be best to replace the two small casters with some heavy bolts that just slide along the ground – they wouldn’t slip unexpectedly.
For 4x4s you use bottle jacks, lifted or not. Thats what there made for.Then obv axle stands.
For really low cars roll onto wood then get a jack under or if you can get a “lowered” jack. Or on really low cars use a combination of both, then axle stands then work.
Is it me… I would suggest a thick plank or two under the unmodified jack would be more stable and safer than this. I have even resorted to using a 2nd spare wheel + plank to get extra height and spread the load when jacking up in boggy conditions. I agree with the other poster’s comments, this looks like an accident waiting to happen.
It “looks” cool, but I’ve also got real concerns with your taking a somewhat unsafe jack and making it even more so. Please use jack stands or solid wood blocks in addition to this modified jack to insure you are seriously hurt should this fail.
why would you wish him ill will?
With the phrasing of the rest of the sentence I’m pretty sure he meant ‘aren’t’ but forgot the ‘n’t’.
Naysayers aside I think this is a pretty good build (assuming the rubber tires arent being used way outside tolerance).
That said- A piece of scrap wood to fit under the jack frame behind the rubber tires might not be a bad idea. When under load the tires are going to compress (at least a little) and the wood could take some of the load.
In addition, load>jack>wood>ground would act as a friction brake and help keep the jack from moving unexpectedly.
The rubber tyres are being used WAY outside tolerance. This is another terrible, unsafe build being featured by HaD without any editorial consideration of the engineering safety of what they are endorsing.
Handcart grade tyres in a life-critical suspended load usecase? Fail of the Week. Or Year.
I think we got the “unsafe” part covered quite well in the comments, don’t you think?
and if there’s one thing us hackers are known for its our devotion to safety. At least when we see someone else doing something stupid anyways.
What’s your point? The guy says he thinks it’s a pretty good build, I point out that it’s a horrible build, and a further example of the continuing slide in editorial quality/engineering oversight at HaD.
I don’t know about the ‘hacking’ community, but in the machining community where I mostly hang my hat there is an intense safety focus, whether its a professional or enthusiast setting. There comes a certain respect you gain when you know the machine you’re using to make this or that little trinket is powerful enough to rip your limbs off.
And whenever I see things involving suspended loads my ears prick up. Having dropped several large, heavy, expensive things in my time, I know that people generally have nowhere near enough respect for gravitational potential energy, nor the amount of careful engineering and forethought required to safely and reliably suspend a load larger than a few hundred pounds even a few feet off the ground. Using handcart wheels to suspend a vehicle to be worked on? Perfect example of how little attention people pay to the massive forces involved in rigging.
There’s nothing life critical about a car on a jack. If he’s getting under the car, he’s going to be using jackstands. The jack is just to get the car lifted onto the jackstands.
While im sure he/she had good intentions but these kinds of jacks need solid roll-able ground. They’re on wheels so the jack can prop itself under as the arm is raised since it is a functioning leaver (jack moves instead of the load) so keeping the tiny front casters will dig into the dirt immobilizing the jack and cause the arm to slip off the load when being jacked off. This setup is an accident waiting to happen 🙁
Dodgie hack : I welded three 2″ RHS blocks on top of each other, then welded these to the lifting arm (it is an all steel 1.5 tonne jack) to give a 6″ lift. The larger wheels in this post are terrific though.
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