Some basic car maintenance can be done by just popping up the hood and taking a look at the engine. But if you really want to get your hands dirty and see what makes your car tick, you’ll have to get under the car. This can be the tricky part. The best way to get under your car when you’re limited to just your garage is to lift it with a hydraulic floor jack. But it’s important to know what a floor jack can and can’t do.
A floor jack uses a piston to transfer hydraulic fluid into a pump, allowing the average person to lift a multiple-ton vehicle without superhuman strength. Some floor jacks are mechanical. They’re typically smaller, but require a bit more strength to operate. There are also other kinds of jacks like scissor jacks and bottle jacks, which all have their own benefits.
Any well-made jack can be dependably used to lift a vehicle up, but it shouldn’t be the thing that keeps the vehicle up. Using a floor jack alone may be okay if you’re just changing a tire. But if you’re going to be under the car, it’s not safe to rely on just the jack. If the hydraulics give out, you can be facing serious injury. Instead, the weight of the car should be kept up using jack stands, which are basically really sturdy metal tripods. Like jack stands, floor jacks are sold with information on how much weight they can handle.
You can save a lot of time and money by handling repairs yourself, and the first step is having equipment you can depend on. These are some of the best hydraulic floor jacks available right now.
1. Arcan 3-Ton Quick Rise Aluminum Floor Jack
This aluminum floor jack is capable of lifting a 3-ton vehicle, but you can also choose between steel and lower power floor jacks. The price difference between the 2-ton and 3-ton jack is fairly small, which is why we favor the 3-ton option even if you have a lighter car. This jack is made out of aircraft-grade aluminum, which has numerous benefits. For one thing, aluminum is lighter than steel, making it easy to maneuver and transport. The dual pump piston makes it powerful enough to easily lift a vehicle.
Pros: Lightweight but sturdy aluminum, dual-piston for fast lifting action. Features bypass and overload valves to reduce over-exertion of the hydraulics. Detachable handle for easier storage.
Cons: Somewhat expensive.
2. Pittsburgh Automotive 3 Ton Steel Floor Jack
This floor jack from Pittsburgh Automotive has a 3-ton capacity, and the low profile design makes it easy to roll under cars that are close to the ground. At 79 pounds, it’s fairly heavy, so it’s better suited for use in the shop than as something you’d keep in your car as emergency equipment. It features a double piston design, which they call a “Rapid Pump.” The Rapid Pump is intended to allow the user to quickly and easily lift the car to the desired height.
Pros: Capable of lifting a 3-ton vehicle, reasonably priced. Double “Rapid Pump” design makes it easy to quickly lift the vehicle. Low-profile, allowing it to comfortably slide under a low car.
Cons: Potential for hydraulic fluid to leak.
3. Pittsburgh Aluminum Racing Jack
This option from Pittsburgh Automotive is made out of lightweight but durable aluminum, and its compact size and light weight make it easy to store. It’s best suited for light applications — its maximum capacity is 1.5 tons. That weight makes it well suited to compact cars, but mid-size sedans or SUVs will likely exceed the weight limit. The brand markets this option as a “Racing Jack.” That’s because the hydraulic system is designed to lift cars quickly thanks to the dual-pump system.
Pros: Lightweight and compact, features a carrying handle for easy transport. Dual-pump system makes it able to lift a car more quickly and with less effort than others on our list.
Cons: Better suited to lifting part of a car at a time, 1.5 ton total lifting power is somewhat low.
4. Arcan 2-Ton Heavy Duty Low Profile Steel Service Jack
Another option from Arcan is this steel floor jack. It’s found on the same listing as the other Arcan pick, but it’s substantially different in terms of build and capacity. This pick is made out of steel, rather than aluminum, and it has a 2-ton capacity. That makes it heavier and less powerful than the other pick from Arcan. But what it lacks in those departments, it makes up for in being substantially less expensive. It’s compact and uses a dual pump for a rapid lift. The built-in safety valve protects against overloading.
Pros: Reasonably priced jack with a built-in safety valve to protect against overweight vehicles. Dual-pump design for rapid and easy use.
Cons: 2-ton weight capacity is lower than some options on this list.
5. Torin Big Red Steel Scissor Jack
If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional floor jack, a scissor jack can be a good option. Where most hydraulic floor jacks are too large to be conveniently kept in the average car, Torin’s scissor jack is lightweight and compact. It works by manually turning the screw to lift the car up. That means that, unlike the hydraulic options, more effort will likely be required. It also has a lower weight capacity, and can hold cars up to 1.5 tons. Like all jacks, it’s designed to be used with a jack stand. But if you need an emergency option to keep in your car, this is a good pick.
Pros: Lightweight and compact option that can be easily kept in the trunk of a car for emergency situations.
Cons: Some quality control issues.
6. Pro-LifT Grey Speedy Lift Garage Jack
This floor jack from Pro-LifT is a good option for heavier vehicles — it has a total capacity of 3.5 tons, which is the highest of the options on this list. It has a rubber saddle where the jack makes contact with the car, protecting it from damage when lifting it. The release mechanism makes it easy to gently lower the car. The rear casters swivel, making it easy to maneuver the jack into place, and, as an added convenience, a magnetic tray helps you keep your tools close by.
Pros: 3.5-ton weight capacity makes it suitable for heavier vehicles. Foam handle offers comfort while using.
Cons: At 90 pounds, it’s very heavy.