How To Use A Floor Jack? (9 Easy Steps)

How To Use A Floor Jack

Did you ever wonder how to use a floor jack? Whether you wanted to change the wheels or oil, or do any work around your car that requires it to be up in the air?

Well, look no further because we have a simple step-by-step guide that will teach you how to do it in no time.

But first, a word of warning. There are many different models of floor jacks, and they can have some peculiarities in how they work. So, it is best that you have a manual for your model.

Here are 9 easy steps you need to use a floor jack:

Step 1 – Secure The Vehicle

Step 2 – Identify Jacking Points

Step 3 – Get Jack Stands Ready

Step 4 – Lift The Vehicle

Step 5 – Place The Jack Stands

Step 6 – Check For Stability

Step 7 – Do The Work

Step 8 – Get The Vehicle Off The Stands

Step 9 – Lower The Vehicle

What Is A Floor Jack?

In the simplest terms, a floor jack is a manually operated hydraulic jack. Hydraulic jacks come in two types:

  • bottle jacks,
  • floor jacks.

Bottle jacks are easy to recognize, as they look like a bottle standing upright, and operate by having a piston moving up and down inside of their body.

Floor jacks, also called trolley jacks because they almost always have wheels, are smaller and operate by having an arm swiveling up and down.

Both of these are used for raising a vehicle up off the ground.

How Does Floor Jack Work?

Most of the jack types work by having a piston or arm that moves vertically because you are operating a handle or some other device.

The floor jack works completely differently, in a way that can be described as horizontal. When you operate the handle, the piston inside of it travels horizontally, away from you.

As it moves, it pushes on the crank of the lifting arm, which then rotates upward and lifts your vehicle. And two important principles are at work during its operation.

Hydraulic Pressure Amplification

All hydraulic jacks have two cylinders of different sizes. One smaller, with a piston that moves as you work the handle, and a larger one that houses the piston that does all the heavy lifting, pardon the pun.

When you apply force in the smaller cylinder, because the hydraulic fluid in it is not compressible, it transfers that force to the piston in the larger cylinder.

It also amplifies this force, by the factor of how many times is the cross-section of the larger cylinder bigger than the small cylinder.

Lever Principle

A more important principle is the one because of which with very little force you can really push that hydraulic fluid. The lever principle.

When you apply force to a lever on one end, it produces an amplified force on the other end, as it rotates around the fulcrum.

For example, if the jack’s handle is 10 times longer than the piston it pushes, and you apply 1lbs of force on the handle, it will produce 10lbs of force in the piston.

How To Use A Floor Jack

Now that you know how the floor jack works, let’s get on the main subject, how to use a floor jack.

Step 1 – Secure The Vehicle

The most important thing to do is to secure the vehicle by making sure that it is on level ground and engaging the parking/hand brake or setting the vehicle in the Park, if it has an automatic transmission.

Then you must block the wheels on the opposite side from the one you are lifting. If you don’t have wheel chocks/blocks, two-by-four or bricks can be used.

Step 2 – Identify Jacking Points

Jacking points are the strongest points of the car’s body that a jack can reach, and are intended for jacks to be used on them.

All are on the underbody, with front points being roughly in the line with the front door’s hinges or slightly back, while back jack points are just about a foot in front of the rear wheels.

When you look at the underbody, you can see that near you there is a flat surface with two indentations, between them you need to place the jack.

If you are working on a pickup truck with a body on a chassis construction, you will see a long flat surface of the H frame. Jacking positions are where the cross-members are joined to it.

Step 3 – Get Jack Stands Ready

When you are lifting a vehicle with a floor jack, it’s better to then switch it for jack stands.

They can carry the weight, and there is no danger of accidentally releasing them the way you can do with a floor jack.

So, get them set to a desirable height, and near your vehicle.

Step 4 – Lift The Vehicle

Now comes the real work, and you should start slowly working the handle up and down. You should never work the handle as fast as you can because the point is to be lifting the vehicle and not punching its underside.

You should aim to bring the vehicle about an inch higher than the jack stands are set.

Step 5 – Place The Jack Stands

Now you should place the jack stands as close to the lifting pad of the floor jack as you can. And slowly lower your vehicle.

On most of the floor jacks, this is done by turning the handle counterclockwise, and you should do it slowly and steadily until the lifting pad separates from the vehicle.

Step 6 – Check For Stability

It is a good idea to nudge a bit on the side of your vehicle to check whether everything is sitting properly and is stable.

If there is any movement of the jack stands, you need to raise the vehicle with the floor jack again and slightly move the jack stand to a better location where it makes better contact with the chassis of your vehicle.

Step 7 – Do The Work

Now that you have your vehicle up in the air, on the jack stands, you can do the work that is the reason for raising it.

Step 8 – Get The Vehicle Off The Stands

When you are finished with your work, you need to lower your vehicle, which is done by first lifting it off the jack stands.

By positioning the floor jack under one of the jacking points, you need to work the jack until the vehicle is raised around an inch above the level of the jack stands.

Once done, you can remove the jack stands and set them aside.

Step 9 – Lower The Vehicle

With jack stands safely away, you can start lowering your vehicle. This needs to be done slowly so that your wheels do not slam to the ground and damage the suspension.

On most of the floor jacks, it is done by slowly turning the handle counterclockwise, but you should check the manual for your model.

Car Tire Maintenance: How to Use a Floor Jack to Lift a Car >> Check out the video below:


And that’s it. That is how to use a floor jack. But it doesn’t hurt to repeat the important points. Always place the floor jack under jacking points, which are the toughest part of the chassis.

Always use jack stands, because with them there is no danger of accidentally releasing them like floor jacks.

Always raise the vehicle an inch more than you have set the stands.

And most importantly, do everything slowly.


Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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