High Lift Jack (aka The Widow Maker)

High lift jacks are notorious for being Unreliable and Dangerous tools for changing tires. High Lift jacks are also heavy and bulky.  They are not the best tool for lifting your vehicle for  changing a tire. High Lift Jacks are also poor tools for the other things some people  claim they can be used for.

Much better and safer tools for lifting vehicles are available.   A safer way to lift your vehicle on the trail  to change a tire  is the jack that came with your vehicle. Probably Either a scissors jack, screw jack or a bottle jack.  For Liability reasons, no manufacturer includes High Lift Jacks with new vehicles and they do not allow their franchised dealers to install high lift jacks as aftermarket items when they sell a new vehicle.)  If your vehicle has been lifted so the OEM jack is no longer tall enough to change a tire, carry blocks to allow it to work.  Or take a look at hydraulic jack extensions like the ones offered by Bogert Manufacturing at Safejacks.com

One reason high lift jacks are unreliable is that they are badly designed, crudely manufactured and are seldom maintained properly.  Also, they are usually carried outside of vehicles where they are subject to weather and dirt. The mechanism for these jacks is easily jammed either from dirt, rust or mechanical scoring of the moving parts.  Generally whenever you go to use your High Lift you also need to get a Hammer and Lubricant to make the mechanism work.

Another problem with them is because many people use High Lift Jacks improperly when changing a tire. Most people simply put the jack under the Bumper or Rocker Panel Slider and begin to lift the vehicle. They have to lift the vehicle quite a a bit before the tire begins to  lift off the ground. The reason is that lifting from the bumper or the body one has to first “Unload” the springs before the tire begins to lift. As a result the jack has to be high up on the mast, thus  less stable.  This is particularly dangerous if the vehicle is not on flat and solid ground.

If you still insist on using a high lift jack, below are some techniques that make using a High Lift Jack safer.

  • Make sure the wheels are chocked to prevent the vehicle from rolling.
  • Try to place the foot of the jack on level, solid ground. Often this is not possible.
  • Use a ratchet strap between the frame and the axle so that when you lift the frame from the bumper, the tire raises immediately, without having to first unload the springs.
  • Make sure everyone stays clear from under the vehicle or near the jack.
  • When lowering the vehicle do not stand too close to the jack handle. 
  • When lowering a vehicle on a High Lift Jack, NEVER let go of the jack handle.

The  best place to store your  high lift jack while on the trail is back home in your garage.

About High Lift Jack Hood Mounts:
I can’t believe anyone mounts their High Lift Jack on their hood.  Do you really want that heavy mass of iron near your head in an accident, particularly a rollover?  It is likely going to break loose from the sheet metal hood in an accident .

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Author: Roger Mullins

Owner/Founder/Moderator of JustRuns 4 Wheel Drive Club. justruns.com