Are Scissor Jacks Safe? Here’s What We Think

If you have ever had to change a tire in an emergency, you most likely have either had to use a scissor jack or a bottle jack to lift your car. 

The scissor jack, also known as a screw jack, is very convenient. It folds up nicely in some little compartment and gets tucked away. But if you ever had to employ one to change a tire, you may have asked yourself, is this scissor jack safe?

I mean, look at it: how is the car not falling over when I use this jack?  However, the answer is yes: scissor jacks are safe when used properly. 

Scissor jacks were designed for use in an emergency situation. Namely, to change a flat tire.  If used solely for this purpose AND using safe car lifting procedures, then scissor jacks are perfectly safe.

Jacking Up a Car Safely…How?

Every car has different lifting points and ways it needs to be jacked up.  So, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with your particular car’s recommendations. However, there are three basic rules that you need to follow whenever you are changing a tire.

Block the wheels. 

 Put something in front of the wheels to keep them from rolling.  I have had a car roll when I was changing my tire in my driveway, even though the car was in park. 

Are Scissor Jacks Safe - Block the wheels

 Also, make sure the car is level; bad things happen if you try jacking a car up on an incline.  

If you are on the side of the road when you need to jack up your car, you may not have everything that you need.  I carry a set of wheel blocks in my car just in case I get a flat tire.

If you do not have a set of wheel blocks, find something that you can place around the tires to keep them from rolling.

A rock, board, or broken piece of asphalt, it doesn’t take much to add this little bit of protective measure.  If you look around and can’t find anything, make sure your car is in park, and the emergency brake is on. This isn’t ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

Where do you position wheel blocks?

Wheel blocks are positioned opposite where you are jacking the car up.  For instance, if you are jacking up the rear passenger side of the vehicle. The wheel blocks would be placed on the front driver’s side of the car.

Ideally, you want to position the wheel blocks in the front and back of the tire.  This will keep the tire from rolling in either direction.

Position and lift

Positioning the jack varies by car, and the manufacturer will recommend proper lifting points.   Certain areas are built to support the car on jacks.  

You will need to familiarize yourself with the proper lift points for your vehicle.  Improper placement of the scissor jacks could destabilize the car, causing it to roll.

Take a few extra minutes to make sure that your jack is in the right spot. Even after all my years of jacking up cars, I still refer to the owner’s manual to make sure my jack is in the right spot.  

As far as height is concerned, only lift the car as high as you need it. You may need to place something under the jack to fortify it if you are on soft dirt.  Generally speaking, the scissor jack will give you enough lift when placed directly on the ground.

Support and stabilization. 

 More than likely, if you are reading this, you will not be jacking up your car in your driveway to work on it.  However, if you do, you do not want to get under your car with only the jack and wheel block in place.  

You need to place a jack stand under a solid point on your vehicle.  A jack stand is much more sturdy than most jacks you will find in an average person’s house. 

However, the situation will most likely be that you are on the side of the road, in which case you will not have jack stands. Unless you are uber-prepared, then congratulations.

In any case, remember that scissor jacks are meant primarily for an emergency. under no circumstances get under the car or put a significant portion of your body under the car when the only thing holding the car up is the scissor jack.

This is a quick overview of some of the steps that are taken to change a tire. These basic safety steps should be taken every time that your car is going to be jacked up.

How Much Weight Can A Scissor Jack Lift?

As was mentioned, scissor jacks are usually vehicle-specific. This means that the jack that is in the spare tire kit is meant for your car.  

Are Scissor Jacks Safe - How much weight can a scissor jack lift

That being said, a scissor jack is usually recommended for small cars or sedans. A scissor jack is usually rated for 1 to 1.5 tons. This means that a 1.5-ton jack has a maximum capacity of 3000 lbs.  

With that being said, please check the rating on your jack just to make sure that your vehicle does indeed meet the criteria of the jack you have.  

Also, remember the people and luggage you may have in your car. All of this is applied to the car’s overall weight and needs to be considered when jacking the car up. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you must lift the car, ensure everyone gets out and potentially unload some of your luggage if you’re carrying a full load.

How High Can You Lift A Scissor Jack?

One of the great things about scissor jacks is their ability to fold up compactly and get fit into a rather small space in your car.  But how far out can you extend a scissor jack?

The answer depends on the particular scissor jack that you have. The range that I have found for a fully extended scissor jack is 13 to 15 inches.

Does this mean that you should fully extend the scissor jack to its maximum length?  In my experience, the answer is no. The higher a scissor jack is extended, the more unstable it becomes.  You are in dangerous territory if your jack is extended even close to its maximum.

So how high should you lift your scissor jack? 

As I mentioned, a scissor jack is supposed to be used only for emergencies.  So, your scissor jack should only be extended far enough to allow you to get your tire off.  The tire should only be an inch or two off the ground.  

Final Thoughts on Scissor Jacks…

Are scissor jacks safe?  Yes, but only when used correctly.  They were designed for emergencies and should only be employed as such.  With proper precautions and a little care, scissor jacks are a great way to get you going on your spare tire.

  • You can read more on vehicle maintenance and essential items all drivers should understand how to use in the mechanical advice section of our road trip blog.
download your free road trip checklist click here button

© Family Road Trip

You might also like