There are times in every off-roader’s life when they have to jack their truck, whether to change a flat tire or get the vehicle unstuck. So it is important to know that for offroading, not just any jack will do. Standard jacks that can lift wheels and bumpers off the surface don’t offer the versatility needed for dealing with problems on the trail. With what could happen, it’s important to have a hi-lift type of jack with the rest of the rescue gear carried in off-road trucks.
Why Standard Jacks Just Don’t Cut It
A standard scissor truck jack is designed for one main purpose: to change a tire. It is made for use on a flat, solid surface to lift one wheel and its bumper high enough to clear the pavement so the tire can be changed.
Trying to use one of these jacks anywhere else can be extremely dangerous. In most cases, it won’t actually work if there isn’t a solid or level enough surface as the jack will slide out from under the truck. In addition, many vehicles have specific undercarriage jack points that can be difficult or impossible to access when attempting to jack in the field.
In other words, lifting a truck with heavier steel truck bumpers and big tires using a standard jack even just to change a tire is extremely challenging and very dangerous.
Walking Beam Style Jacks
One type of jack that is more effective when jacking on uneven terrain is the walking beam type, which offers greater height and easier use. These jacks are useful on a variety of safe vehicle jacking points on the vehicle including along the frame and various body panels as well as under securely attached steel truck bumpers. They have a height range greater than most other jacks and are rated to safely lift considerably more weight than most stock vehicle jacks.
Used with the right accessories to accommodate them to different vehicle shapes or increase jack plate size for use on softer surfaces, beam jacks give off roaders many options for swapping a tire or getting their trucks unstuck.
Heavy Duty Bottle Jacks
Another reliable type of jack for off road needs is the heavy duty bottle jack. These units are very stront yet fairly small, making them easy to stow away. Rated to lift almost as much as the beam style jacks, bottle jacks have a smaller, more stable footprint than most standard truck jacks. Although their reach is not as much as a beam jack, many bottle jacks are still sufficient for jacking up some off-road trucks to change a tire.
Airbag or Bladder Jacks
Useful for tire issues and various clearance problems, exhaust bag jacks can also work out in different situations. These inflatable jacks are made of heavy-duty material that is inflated with either an air compressor or exhaust from the truck. They have a decent height range and when correctly used, make a much more stable option than either of the above choices. Airbag jacks stow easily in any truck with bumpers; however, they are fairly expensive.
Although most trucks do come with a stock jack included, it’s important to understand that these jacks have limited use. Designed for lifting a truck even with steel truck bumpers in ideal conditions such as along a paved highway, they can be extremely dangerous when used on the trail. To get the strength, stability, and versatility needed for off-road use, truck owners should consider bringing one of the above jack types along with them. Used safely according to their specific instructions, all three types give truck owners better options for getting a tire changed or even recovering a truck that’s stuck on the trail!