A trolley jack is a superb device for raising your car for a quick tyre or oil change - but it can also play a big part in allowing you to undertake a range of maintenance and repair tasks.
One of these powerful hydraulic jacks will raise your vehicle quickly and safely to enable you to place axle stands below it, thereby allowing you to gain access to the undercarriage to carry out various types of work.
Different cars require different floor trolley jack to ensure they are raised correctly and securely. You can read all about the various types of trolley jack elsewhere on this site.
The primary consideration when buying an automotive trolley jack is how much weight it can lift, or in short, its ratings. Should you opt for a 1.5 tonne jack, a 2-tonne jack, a 3-tonne model - or a jack with an ever larger lifting capacity?
A 2-tonne device is adequate for a small to medium sized car, but if your car is larger, or you want to raise a truck, minibus or Range Rover, for example, a jack with a larger load capacity will be needed.
If speed of lifting is important to you, it might be worth opting for a quick-lift jack which will get a vehicle raised in around half the number of pumps on the lever required on a standard device - that said, all trolley jacks are pretty rapid anyway at getting a vehicle off the ground. Their efficient hydraulic action means they rarely require more than a maximum of around 12 motions. Quick-lift jacks are available for people in a hurry, such as pit crews on racing car circuits.
When choosing the jack that's right for you it's also important to take into consideration how much clearance you have below your vehicle - if this is very low then you may need to buy a low profile floor jack.
Regular trolley jacks need around six inches of clearance, which is not a problem under most cars and other vehicles. However, if you own a vehicle with very limited clearance, such as a sports car, low-profile jacks are widely available to buy. These can slide with ease into areas as shallow as two to five inches.
Every floor jack is different and each has its own lifting range determining the lifting range that's right for you is a matter of finding your vehicles ground clearance. A jack will need to be low enough to fit underneath the vehicle and have a maximum lift height greater than the ground clearance.
For example, if a car has 15 inches between the ground and jack point, then you'll need a jack that can lift higher than this - this applies even if you are only changing a flat tyre, or you might not even get your tyre off the ground if you do not reach the top of the car's suspension.
You should be able to read about your vehicle's jack points in your owner manual or find out the information you need online. The jack points on the majority of vehicles are located on the side of the frame, near the inside of the wheel.
You also need to bear in mind the maximum lifting height of a jack to allow for plenty of room to move around below the vehicle to carry out maintenance work when height-adjustable axle stands have been put in place. Maximum lift is around 18 to 22 inches on most trolley jacks and the normal lift range is around 15 to 20 inches.
If you plan to carry out work regularly below a vehicle, a floor creeper is a superb device which has several gliding casters or rollers to allow a professional mechanic or amateur auto enthusiast to move freely back and forth while underneath a car or truck. These handy devices are often padded and moulded to body shape for added comfort.
Another thing to think about when buying a hydraulic floor jack is how reliable and durable is it - you will want peace of mind to know it is unlikely to fail due to being made of inferior materials. With this in mind, it makes sense to buy the best quality jack you can afford. It's unwise to compromise on quality just to save a few pounds.
Thankfully trolley jacks are very reasonably priced, taking into account how powerful and versatile they are. It's also a good idea to read a few reviews to see how previous buyers rate the model you are interested in.
You should also choose a jack that's being sold by a company with a reputation for producing top quality products and ideally one which is renowned for having an excellent after sales service, just in case you encounter any problems after buying. Also make sure any jack you buy comes with a decent warranty period.
The type of material a trolley jack is made of is another factor to take on board - many are made of heavy duty steel, so there are able to stand up to plenty of wear and tear. Aluminium floor jacks are lighter, but they are easier to move around. Aluminium/steel hybrid combinations are another option.
You should try to choose a jack with as wide a base as possible, so it will have plenty of ground contact. The size of a jack's saddle is also worth bearing in mind - this determines how easily and effectively a jack is able to grip onto the undercarriage of a car or other vehicle you are raising off the ground.
The number of pumps it takes a device to reach the vehicle jacking point is another factor. The fewer pumping motions required, the quicker the jack will be able to raise a vehicle. This will not be a deal-breaker for most people as all trolley jacks will get a vehicle lifted pretty quickly anyway. It takes around 8 to 12 pumps with a standard jack, but a dual-piston jack or one with an integrated quick-lift system will only require about six pumps of the jack handle.
You may also want to consider splashing out and buying a complete trolley jack kit. These are a great cost-saving idea which come with the jack itself, two axle stands, a floor pad for comfort under a vehicle and a handy jack carrying case.
Some kits even include a contoured creeper which resembles a board on castors or wheels to allow a professional or budding mechanic to glide around under the vehicle with ease, with none of usual shuffling about with their back on the hard ground.
If you take on board all of the points above, you should be well on the way to finding a trolley jack that best suits your needs.