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Floor Jack vs Scissor Jack: Which Should You Choose?

floor-jack-vs-scissor-jack

Lifting an automobile can be a risky business. That’s why it’s so important to select the right jack for the job. If you opt for the wrong jack, you could easily damage your vehicle, or worse, injure yourself.

If you’ve done any research into jacks, you’ve likely stumbled upon the floor jack and scissor jack. But which jack should you choose? This article provides an overview of the two jack types and which one you should get based on your needs.

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Overview of Floor Jacks

A floor jack is a special type of hydraulic jack that allows it to be incredibly powerful and lift a variety of automobiles. Most mechanics or car enthusiasts should have a floor jack on hand since it can be used to lift a variety of automobiles for different purposes.

hydraulic floor jack
Image Credit: thanom, Shutterstock

Design

Floor jacks are designed to use hydraulics to lift automobiles. This means they include a set of two pistons, a small and large one. Most of the work is done in the small piston, creating a force that is transmitted via the hydraulic fluid to the other, larger piston. The piston then pushes a crank that is connected to the lift pad. As the lift pad is lifted, the car is lifted as well.

Because of the reliance on hydraulics, floor jacks are incredibly heavy. The average person will not be able to lift floor jacks on their own. So, they are often kept within garages or workspaces. Due to the heavy weight, floor jacks are often designed with wheels so they can easily roll from place to place.

Despite the heavy weight of floor jacks, they have a low frame. They are designed this way so that the floor jack can fit underneath most vehicles.

Advantages

The biggest advantage of a floor jack is the power. Floor jacks are suitable to hold automobiles weighing 10 tons or more. This means that you can use this jack for lifting way heavier automobiles than you could with a scissor jack.

Another advantage of the floor jack is that it is designed for versatile use. This means you can use the floor jack if you need to fix underneath the car, change a tire, or anything else. Scissor jacks, on the other hand, are primarily designed for changing tires only. This makes floor jacks more versatile.

Finally, the last advantage of a floor jack is its durability. Since these models are designed to withstand so much weight, a long lifespan is expected.

Disadvantages

As you probably suspected, one of the biggest drawbacks of the floor jack is its weight. Since it is so heavy, it is not suitable for on the go or transportable use. You pretty much need to keep the floor jack in one general location for use.

Additionally, floor jacks are more difficult to use. They do not have an intuitive design, so not everyone will know how to use it. You will need to look at the instructions or watch videos online to learn how to use this jack correctly.

Best For

Floor jacks are best for those with professional or commercial needs. For example, professional mechanics will necessarily need floor jacks. More so, those with heavy vehicles and a variety of lifting needs will need a floor jack. You should not get a floor jack, in contrast, if you simply need to change a tire.

Pros
  • Heavy-duty
  • Versatile
  • Highly durable
  • Wheels for enhanced movement
Cons
  • Extremely heavy
  • Not portable
  • Not easy to use
  • More expensive

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Overview of Scissor Jacks

If you have ever changed a tire, then you are familiar with scissor jacks. Scissor jacks are the tools that are almost always used to change a tire and are supplied upon purchase of a new car. Scissor jacks are incredibly easy to use, convenient, and are often kept in one’s trunk.

actual use of BIG RED T10152 Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jack Car Kit

Design

Scissor jacks are named because of their general scissor design, but you can sometimes hear them referred to as screw jacks. This type of jack includes diagonal metal elements that are connected in the shape of a diamond. The hinges and screws connect the opposite sides of that diamond shape.

At the top of the diamond is a flat surface. It is this flat surface that you place the car on whenever you need to lift it while changing a tire. Use a spanner to turn the screw and lift the jack. This allows you to easily raise or lower the tool.

Advantages

The biggest advantage of the scissor jack is its portability. Since it is so lightweight, just about anybody has a model within their car. You can easily store it in your car and simply take it out whenever you need to change your tire.

Another advantage of the scissor jack is how easy it is to use. Anyone from a 15-year-old girl to a 75-year-old man can easily and effectively use a scissor jack. Its simple design makes it incredibly intuitive to use.

Finally, the third advantage of a scissor jack is its affordability. Its lightweight, simple design, and ease of use mean that you can find this jack type just about anywhere for an affordable price.

Disadvantages

On to the disadvantages. Since scissor jacks are intended for tire changes, they are not as versatile as floor jacks. They simply cannot lift as much weight, and they will not lift the car as high as you may need for other jobs.

Another disadvantage of scissor jacks is that they may be difficult to use on trucks or other high profile cars. Scissor jacks cannot lift as high as other models. So, high profile trucks and vehicles will need a different type of jack.

Best For

Scissor jacks are great if you only intend to change your tire. They are especially great to keep in your car in case an accident should occur while you are out and about. However, you should not use scissor jacks for incredibly heavy vehicles, high profile vehicles, or anything other than changing a tire.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Not versatile
  • Not suitable for heavy vehicles
  • Not suitable for high profile vehicles
  • Only good for changing tires

Which Should You Get?

Scenario Jack To Get
Changing tires only Scissor jack
Versatile work Floor jack
Small cars and trucks (in weight or profile) Scissor jack
Large trucks and other vehicles (in weight or profile) Floor jack

If you need to invest in a new jack for your automobile, selecting between a floor jack and scissor jack is actually pretty easy and straightforward. You pretty much only need to think about what work you intend to do, the automobile weight, and the automobile profile.

Intended Work

Most importantly, think about the type of work you intend to do on your automobile. If you only need a jack for tire changes, then a scissor jack is more than enough. You shouldn’t have to change tires frequently or lift the automobiles very high. Get a scissor jack for tire changes.

In contrast, get a floor jack if you intend to do a variety of work on your automobile. Whether that be tire changes or underbody work, versatile use requires a floor jack instead of a scissor jack.

Automobile Weight

Another important factor to consider is the automobile weight. Most regular cars, vans, and small trucks are light enough for a scissor jack, especially if you only need to change tires. You will want something more heavy duty like the floor jack for automobiles that are much larger or heavier than standard vehicles.

Automobile Profile

Finally, the automobile profile will also impact which jack you get. The majority of cars and vans have a low enough profile for scissor jacks. Large trucks and other types of vehicles, in contrast, will require a floor jack because of their higher profile.

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How to Use a Floor jack

Floor jacks are a bit more difficult to use than scissor jacks. For this reason, you need to make sure to know what you’re doing so that you don’t injure yourself or damage your car or jack. Here is how to use a floor jack:

Step 1: Place the Floor Jack Under the Crossmember

Begin by placing the floor jack underneath your vehicle. The saddle should fall directly beneath the crossmember. You might want to slowly lift the floor jack up to make sure that the saddle actually falls underneath the crossmember.

Step 2: Lift Car

Next, use the floor jack so that it begins to lift the car. The exact way you lift the saddle will depend on your model. There will be a leveler in many floor jacks that you need to push down on for the saddle to lift towards the car.

Step 3: Place the Jack Stand Under the Mounting Point

Now, look for a metallic protrusion that falls underneath every one of the car doors. Place the jack stand underneath one of those protrusions. This is the mounting point. Finally, raise the jack stand so that it meets the mounting point.

man using Torin TAM815016L Aluminum Floor Jack

How to Use a Scissor Jack

Luckily, the scissor jack is way easier to use. This is how you use a scissor jack to lift your vehicle:

Step 1: Get the Materials

Begin by getting everything that you will need to change your tire. This includes a scissor jack, crank handle, and spare tire. In most cars, all of these parts will be in the trunk.

Step 2: Find the Jack Point

Find the jack point for your car. The jack point is the part of the frame that is reinforced and designed to support the jack. At the same time, it will also support the car’s weight as you lift it up. Look around the tire for this point.

Step 3: Place the Jack Under the Jack Point

Place the jack directly underneath the jack point on the car. The flat part at the top of the diamond should be on top and facing the car.

Step 4: Crank the Jack And Lift

Begin to crank the handle to raise the scissor jack. As you are cranking the jack, watch as it gets closer and closer to the car. You may need to readjust the positioning as you go. Continue to raise the jack until the car is lifted off the ground enough to change the tire.

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Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Floor Jack
Winner
Blackhawk B6250 Fast Lift Service Jack Blackhawk B6250 Fast Lift Service Jack
  • Has a swivel saddle
  • Safe
  • Easy to use
  • Our Favorite Scissor Jack
    Second place
    Big Red T10152 Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jac Big Red T10152 Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jac
  • Compact
  • Sturdy
  • Meets a variety of safety standards
  • Our Favorite Floor Jack: Blackhawk B6250 Fast Lift Service Jack

    Blackhawk B6350 Black:Red Fast Lift Service Jack

    The Blackhawk Service Jack is a great floor jack for heavy vehicles and intense lifting needs. The model includes a swivel saddle, which makes it easy to position the jack correctly. From there, the rugged universal joint makes load control precise and easy. It includes an internal safety valve and vent plug in, ensuring that operation is safe and easy. This is a great floor jack to keep in your garage.

    Our Favorite Scissor Jack: Big Red T10152 Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jack Car Kit

    BIG RED T10152 Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jack Car Kit

    The Big Red Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jack Car Kit is a great kit to keep in the back of your car. It has a collapsible steel scissor lift jack, making it compact and sturdy. The model even comes with an extra-wide base, which makes the model more stable and stronger than other scissor jacks. This jack also meets a variety of safety standards, ensuring that you and your vehicle remain safe during the lifting process.

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    Conclusion

    Both the floor jack and scissor jack are great for lifting a car, but you should get one over the other depending on your needs. On the one hand, you should get a floor jack for high profile or heavyweight vehicles and versatile use. On the other hand, get a scissor jack for changing tires on regular-sized vehicles.

    Our popular floor jack guides:

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