May 25, 2023
While the scissor jack remains the most common jack that comes free with most vehicles, it is fast becoming the less popular choice amongst car owners everywhere. Instead, most car owners opt for the next best thing — the hydraulic bottle jack.
However, if you have just acquired your bottle jack, or maybe it came with your new car, you’re probably wondering how to use it.
Not to worry, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about the hydraulic bottle jack, including its unique characteristics and how it works.
So, don’t stop reading.
How Do Bottle Jacks Work?
Chances are you’ve likely seen a bottle jack before. However, if you’ve not seen one, here’s a brief description — they are a slender, vertical jack and are usually red in color (although other colors exist).
Now, here’s the more science-y part.
The hydraulic jack came into existence in the middle of the 19th century. But, French scientist Blaise Pascal established the hydraulic jack principle about 200 years before. Pascal discovered that exerting pressure on an incompressible liquid in a confined space will create an equal transfer of that pressure in every direction.
So, how does that apply to the bottle jack?
Every bottle jack has a reservoir of fluid (an oil-like liquid) inside it. So, when you pull on the handle of that jack, you draw up a portion of this liquid into a small void under a small piston. Then, when you push down the handle, the piston pushes the drawn fluid into the jack’s main cylinder, which contains a larger piston.
Each pull and push cycle gets more of the jack fluid under the large piston and increases the pressure in the cylinder. However, since the cylinder walls are immobile, the pressure of the liquid can only act upwards, which pushes the piston up and holds it there.
Finally, turning the release valve will allow the jack fluid to return to its reservoir slowly, lowering the jack.
That said, what advantages does the hydraulic bottle jack offer? Keep reading to discover them.
Advantages of Using Bottle jack
Here are some top reasons many car owners prefer the bottle jack over other options:
This is undoubtedly one of the more popular advantages of the hydraulic bottle jack. You see, this jack has one of the highest size-to-power ratios among many jacks out there. As a result, they’re pretty much the favorite amongst vehicle owners, especially those who drive trucks.
Besides, they also yield more impressive results than most jacks can in higher altitude areas.
Hydraulic bottle jacks also have relatively small sizes, making them relatively easy to store (and move around). In addition, since the hydraulic cylinder of the jack has a vertical orientation, it takes up less space. This means you can usually store them without stress and enjoy increased portability.
Ease of Use
While bottle jacks are relatively easy to use, they may cause some problems when you need precise positioning. Aside from this, most car owners will admit that using the hydraulic bottle jack is a relatively straightforward process.
Disadvantages of Bottle Jack
Lack of Stability
The base of a typical bottle jack is quite small and narrow. Therefore, it’s very challenging to find the right spot and position to jack up the car in very stable condition. Thus, if the floor surface is not even or flat, you will need to place a piece of woodblock or thick wood board that is wider than the bottle jack’s base to improve its stability when jacking up the car.
Different Application Areas Where Bottle Jacks Can be Used
Admittedly, the hydraulic bottle jack is most popular on the automotive scene. However, there are other instances where having this jack can really come in handy. Here are some scenarios where the hydraulic bottle jack can prove very useful:
- In the medical field, propelling patients and hydraulic stretchers
- On the construction scene for lifting heavy loads
- In the mechanical industry, lifting and repairing huge machinery
- For lifting materials in several industries
- As cable slicers on the electrical scene
How to Use a Bottle Jack
Now that you know some of the applications of the bottle jack let us walk you through how to use it safely.
Remember, while a good jack should typically not give you any problems, lifting and balancing a weighty object on a narrow point is still dangerous business. Therefore, you must do all you can to avoid mistakes or accidents.
That said, here is a step-by-step on how to use a bottle jack:
- Assemble the bottle jack’s two-piece handle. There are usually two variations — a spring clip or a bayonet connector. If your hydraulic bottle jack has spring clips, ensure the handle aligns with the slots while a bayonet connector requires you to insert the handle’s pins into the L-shaped slots.
- Make sure that your vehicle’s handbrake is on and place chocks under the wheels to keep the car from rolling forward or backward.
- Close the release valve on your bottle jack by turning clockwise very tightly.
- Identify the lifting point of your vehicle and place your hydraulic bottle jack’s saddle directly beneath that lift point. Refer to your car owner’s manual if you need help finding its lift point.
- Make sure the jack’s saddle rests against the lift point before you start pumping, as this reduces the amount of pumping you have to do.
- Attach the bottle jack’s handle and start pumping. You’d have to place the handle into the jack’s socket and keep pumping until your vehicle reaches the height you need.
- The next thing you need to do is place your axle stands to take some of the weight of your vehicle off your bottle jack (they are not safest when they’re holding up heavy weights for extended periods). Next, you may need to lower your car (turn the release valve anti-clockwise) until it rests securely on the axle stands. But, make sure to re-tighten the jack’s release valve right after.
- Once you’ve completed the repair or maintenance works on your vehicle, the next thing you need to do is to bring it back onto its tires. First, you’ll need to raise it clear of the axle stands so you can remove them. Then, you can turn the release valve anti-clockwise again to lower the vehicle onto its tires. Finally, remove the jack.
Pro Tip? The slower you turn the release valve, the slower the jack lowers the load it carries.
Are There Different Types of Bottle Jacks?
Naturally, there are a variety of hydraulic bottle jacks available for vehicle owners and mechanics. However, they generally operate using the same principle.
The primary differences between the various types of bottle jacks are their lifting ranges and load-bearing capacities.
Nevertheless, a 12-ton hydraulic bottle jack will typically raise most vehicles conveniently. But, you can also find bottle jacks with weight ratings as high as 100 tons and more, which will come in handy on construction sites.
We should also mention that some hydraulic bottle jacks operate using compressed air instead of hand pumping, improving vehicle-raising times and reducing the effort you need to do the job.