What are the different types of jacks, and how should they be used?

Including the emergency jack you (hopefully) have stashed away in the boot of your car next to the spare tyre, there are three types of jacks you’re likely to see around a well-stocked garage, workshop or industrial setting: the scissor jack, the bottle jack and the trolley jack.

Each one operates on different principles, and so has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. That makes each one best suited to different types of jobs.

Bottle Jacks

A bottle jack uses hydraulic pressure to lift heavy things – like cars – up into the air. Bottle jacks tend to be fairly small, and are fairly easy to move around and store. However, their size also makes them less stable, and they can be too small for many jobs.

To lift a car (the most common application, but hardly the only possibility) with a bottle jack, do the following:

  • Set the lever to the right
  • Unscrew the top of the jack to the length specified in its instructions
  • Position the jack under an appropriate jacking point (see the car’s manual)
  • Insert the handle and pump until the car is the desired height

Note, never rely on a jack alone to lift any car you will be working under. That’s what axle stands are for.

To lower the bottle jack:

  • Remove the handle
  • Twist the release lever slowly anti-clockwise to lower the car.

Trolley Jacks

Trolley jacks are beloved by many mechanics as they are a safe, stable and fast way to lift cars and other heavy equipment. Like bottle jacks, they use hydraulics to lift. They are called trolley jacks because they are mounted on wheels, allowing them to be rolled into place easily.

To lift a car with a trolley jack:

  • Position it under an acceptable jack point (see above)
  • Pump the jack until the cradle presses firmly against the jacking point
  • Slowly pump the jack until the car is at the desired height.

To lower the trolley jack:

  • Remove the handle
  • Twist the release lever anti-clockwise to lower the car. Again, lower the vehicle slowly, for the sake of safety.

Scissor Jacks

Scissor jacks are small, cheap and fairly low-tech. They don’t use hydraulics, but rather a screw system to lift weights.

To lift a car with a scissor jack:

  • Position it under an acceptable jack point (see above)
  • Wind the jack clockwise until the cradle presses firmly against the jacking point
  • Continue slowly winding the jack until the car is at the desired height.

To lower the scissor jack:

  • Simply wind the jack counter clockwise until the car is sitting firmly on its tyres.

Have more questions about the different types of jacks available, or how to use them? Contact us at

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