Choosing the right size of floor jack is essential for lifting your vehicle safely during maintenance or repairs.
In this guide, I will tell you how to calculate floor jack size (it’s super easy!), the most common sizes of floor jacks and their specs so you can find what’s the most convenient size for your vehicle.
What Size Floor Jack Do I Need?
The size of the floor jack you need depends on your vehicle’s weight and the intended type of use. Compact cars and medium sedans can be lifted using a 2-ton floor jack, and larger vehicles like SUVs and trucks need 3-ton or bigger floor jacks. Lifting a car for repairs requires a higher capacity jack than changing a tire.
How to Calculate?
You might have heard about the 3/4 rule, which states that a jack with a lifting capacity of at least 3/4 of the vehicle’s weight is sufficient to lift the vehicle safely.
The source of this rule is unknown, but it’s a criteria mechanics and automotive industry workers use to determine what floor jack size is needed to lift a vehicle. This rule considers that cars are usually lifted from one corner, so the jack won’t hold the whole vehicle’s weight. Even if you raise a car from its heaviest side, you usually need a lifting force of about 60% of its weight to do the job. That’s why a 3/4 or 75% of the vehicle’s weight is more than enough.
Although the 3/4 rule makes sense, it’s important to note that the vehicles don’t have an even weight distribution. If you plan to use a floor jack in a car repair garage or to work on your vehicle, a bigger jack is the safe way to go and will allow you to lift multiple vehicle sizes with one tool.
Understanding a Floor Jack’s Lifting Capacity
Many floor jacks manufacturers express their capacity in Tons, a weight measuring unit created by the US government that equals 2,000 pounds. It’s important not to confuse this unit with the metric Tonne (1,000 kilograms) or the UK Ton which equals 2,240 pounds.
1 US Ton is 20% less than a metric ton, which is a considerable difference. That’s why it’s important to read the jack specs and find out your vehicle’s weight before choosing a floor jack.
In this article, I will use the US Ton to refer to floor jacks’ lifting capacities for practical purposes.
Floor Jack Size for Different Vehicles
What Size Floor Jack for a Truck? (F150, F-350, RAM 1500, etc.)
These trucks weigh from about 5,000 to 6,000 pounds. If you just want a floor jack to change a tire or eventually do some repairs, you can use the 3/4 formula. That means you would need a floor jack with a lifting capacity of 3750 lbs for the lightest models and 4500 lbs for the heaviest.
If you convert that to Tons, you will need a 2 or a 2.5 Ton floor jack.
A 3 or 3.5 Ton floor jack would be ideal if you want to use it for working underneath your truck.
Jack for SUV
The smallest and lighter SUVs weigh about 3,000 to 3,500 pounds. For example, a Jeep Renegade weighs about 3,100 pounds, and a Hyundai Tucson 3,300.
Average-sized SUVs like the Ford Expedition or the Cadillac Escalade can weigh from 5,000 to 6,200 pounds.
The largest and heavier SUVs, like the Lexus LX or the Lincoln Navigator, weigh around 6,000/6,100 pounds.
So, depending on the model, you need a floor jack of 1.5 Ton for the smaller models, 2 or 2.5 Ton for the average models, and 2.5 up for the heaviest models.
For working on your SUV, I advise using a 2.5 Ton jack for SUVs up to 5,000 pounds and a 3 Ton for larger models.
Jack Size for Cars
1.5 Ton floor jacks are great for carrying in small compacts and medium-sized sedans, and they are also great for working in small vehicles.
For lifting bigger cars or vintage muscle cars weighing between 3,000 and 4,100 pounds, 1.5 Ton floor jacks are okay for replacing a tire, but 2 or 2.5 Ton floor jacks are best suited for doing repairs and working on your car.
These vehicles usually weigh between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds. Using the 3/4 thumb rule, you will need a 3-ton floor jack.
For bigger vehicles, like full-size trucks, that weigh about 10,000 pounds, you will need a 4 or 5-ton floor jack.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Floor Jack
This is one of the most important factors when choosing a floor jack. Earlier, I explained to you how to know the floor jack’s size needed for many applications, and I showed you a hint about how to calculate it. It was easy to do it, as I used standard vehicle weights to show you how to figure out what jack size is right for every application. However, if you want to determine the exact lifting capacity you need for your vehicle, you must know how much it weighs, and you can find that information in your vehicle’s user manual.
Once you know your vehicle’s weight, you can use this formula:
(weight in pounds x 0.75) / 2000 = minimum floor jack’s capacity
For example, if your vehicle weighs 3000 pounds, then:
(3000 x 0.75) / 2000 = 1.125 Ton.
For safety reasons (you shouldn’t load a floor jack to its maximum capacity) and because it’s the nearest size you will find, you should buy a 1.5 Ton floor jack for your vehicle. In this case, a 1.5 Ton floor jack is also safe for replacing a tire and working on your vehicle.
This is another important feature to consider when choosing a floor jack. The lift height helps you determine if it will fit under your vehicle and expresses the maximum height the floor jack’s plate will lift from the ground.
It’s key to know what’s the distance from the ground to the underside of your vehicle so that you can ensure it will fit. On your vehicle’s user manual, you can find what’s your vehicle’s ground clearance and the distance from the ground to the jacking points.
One of the reasons I prefer the floor jack over a bottle jack is its ability to work with low ground clearance. If you have a very low vehicle or have lowered its suspension, you can find special low-profile jacks designed to fit underneath the lowest vehicles. I bet you have noticed those special trolley jacks that they use at racing car pitstops.
Side note: They don’t allow powered jacks at F1 pitstops during the tire change, those are manual ones.
In the case of SUVs, trucks, and vehicles with high ground clearance, you will have to get a floor jack with a bigger lift height.
Swing Arm’s Length
The length of the swing arm is another thing to consider when buying a floor jack. Cars and small SUVs usually have accessible lifting points, so this isn’t a concern. However, when you can’t use the factory lifting points, and you need to lift the vehicle from the subframe, for example,
you will need a floor jack with a swing arm long enough so that you can work without damaging or being blocked by the rocker panel and other parts of your vehicle.
Build Quality and Materials
These features affect floor jacks’ durability, reliability, and performance. That’s why it’s important to consider its intended use, for example, whether it will be used for keeping it in the car and changing tires, using it in your garage, or for professional use.
Well-built floor jacks made of high-quality materials are more expensive but are strong, durable, and better suited for heavy-duty work and dealing with heavy vehicles. Cheaper, low-quality floor jacks don’t withstand frequent use and lose reliability over time.
You will find floor jacks with different wheel types and sizes. The trolley wheels size is yet another factor to consider when choosing a floor jack.
For example, big swivel caster wheels make floor jacks more stable and easier to maneuver in tight spaces and uneven surfaces.
Small plastic wheels are difficult to move and less durable, but might be practical as front rollers especially for vehicles with low road clearance.
Weight and Stability
Weight affects floor jacks’ portability and stability. While it’s true that light floor jacks are easier to carry, they are also less stable, as heavier floor jacks have a low center of mass.
There are wide light floor jacks that provide excellent stability, but they are usually expensive and bulky, making them not so easy to carry.
When choosing a floor jack, it’s essential to consider these factors and balance portability vs. stability. Besides, if you want to carry it in your vehicle, it’s important to choose a floor jack that doesn’t use much storage space.
Lifting speed is measured in inches or centimeters per handle stroke. It’s defined by the jack’s mechanism design. For example, dual-pump floor jacks have a higher lifting speed than most traditional jacks.
This is not a deal breaker, unless you are looking for a jack for professional use.
Floor jacks start as low as $50, and the average price for medium-sized aluminum floor jacks is $300. However, professional-grade jacks cost above $1,000.
When choosing a floor jack, set a budget and consider different well-known brands and models to find the best value for your money.
Floor Jack Recommendations by Size
Small Floor Jacks
- Lifting capacity: 1.5 to 2 tons
- Best suited for: compact cars, small sedans, and motorcycles
Medium Floor Jacks
- Lifting capacity: 2 to 3.5 tons
- Best suited for: mid-size sedans, SUVs, and light trucks
Large Floor Jacks
Lifting Capacity: 3.5 tons and above
Best Suited for: heavy-duty trucks, RVs, and commercial vehicles
How to Use Floor Jacks Safely?
It’s important to remember that improper use of floor jacks can cause severe injuries, damage to your vehicle, and even death. That’s why taking safety very seriously when using them and while working underneath your vehicle is crucial.
Proper Placement and Usage of Floor Jacks
- Always work on a leveled and even surface to ensure the floor jack and the vehicle are stable and prevent the vehicle from moving.
- Secure your car by engaging the parking brake. Besides, never leave the car in neutral, engage 1st or 2nd gear for manual vehicles, and “P” for auto gear.
- An additional safety measure would be to place a chock, wedge, brick, or wood block on the opposite wheel from the one you are lifting. For example, if you lift the vehicle’s front left tire, place the chock behind the rear right tire, preventing the vehicle from rolling from the jack.
- Check your vehicle’s user manual to find the jacking points. These are reinforced areas where it’s safe to place the jack.
- Always use jack stands. If you are replacing a tire on the side of the road, unscrew the lug nuts using a breaker bar or an impact wrench, lift jack to remove the flat tire and then put the tire you just removed beneath the vehicle’s rocker panel to avoid being crushed by your vehicle if the floor jack fails or the car falls from it.
- Never exceed the jack’s weight capacity.
- Follow the floor jack’s user manual to learn how to operate it safely.
Importance of Using Jack Stands for Additional Safety.
I already mentioned jack stands. Never rely solely on the hydraulic jack; always use a jack stand as a backup to prevent any chance that the car falls on you.
Accidents can happen, the jack can fail! When it happens, the jack stands work like a lifesaver as they don’t have mechanical parts that can fail and are more robust than floor jacks.
Besides, never lift two wheels or more at the same time. For example, if you need to work on your vehicle’s front to change the oil, lift one wheel first, place a jack stand, remove the floor jack, lift the opposite wheel, and put another jack stand.
Ensure to place the jack stands under designated lifting points or strong parts of your vehicle’s underbody. Never place them on spots that could be damaged by the vehicle’s weight, like the suspension grill or the drive axles.
Floor jacks have a hydraulic system that requires maintenance. Check your user’s manual to determine how often you must change the oil and inspect your floor jack for leaks.
Periodically, you will have to bleed the jack and fill new hydraulic jack oil. Also, check the lifting arm and swivel saddle for any signs of wear or damage to ensure it’s in perfect working condition.
David Castillo is an automotive industry expert specializing in vehicle electronics and stand-alone fuel management systems. He has over 20 years of experience and owns a car repair garage and tuning shop.
David still runs his shop but is now more focused on pre-purchase car inspections and writing for FinePowerTools.
Back to Contents
- What Size Floor Jack Do I Need?
- Floor Jack Size for Different Vehicles
- Factors to Consider When Choosing a Floor Jack
- Floor Jack Recommendations by Size
- How to Use Floor Jacks Safely?