Hi-Lift Jack Do’s and Don’ts

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

There are two common Hi-Lift jack misconceptions circulated among new Jeepers. The first one is that if they have 35- inch-or-taller tires, they have to carry a Hi-Lift jack with them. The second one is that they shouldn’t use a Hi-Lift jack because they are not safe. The truth is that a Hi-Lift is a very useful and versatile tool to have, no matter what size tires you own, and they can be unsafe if not used or maintained properly. Though I cannot go into all the possible ways to use a Hi- Lift jack in this short space, I will share with you the most common ways I use my Hi-Lift jack and a few key safety points.

First, what I don’t do with the Hi-Lift jack is change tires or work on my Jeep. I find an appropriately sized bottle jack or the factory scissor jack with a broad and sturdy base to be a far simpler option for tire changing. I also never use the jack for holding up a car to crawl under it—use jack stands.

Another need for lifting the vehicle off of a rock instead of dragging it over is here, where dragging it backwards risks the tie rod, and dragging it forwards scrapes everything else in the undercarriage. Lift the Jeep up, drag the rock out, keep wheeling.

The most common way I use the Hi-Lift is to lift a wheel off of the ground to get myself unstuck or lift off of something stuck under the belly of the Jeep. To lift the wheel for that purpose, secure a strap through or around the wheel, being careful of brake components, or use a handy accessory with plastic-coated hooks called Lift-Mate to grab the wheel. Once the wheel is lifted high enough that the stuck undercarriage parts are clear of it, stack rocks (or dirt, Maxtrax, etc.) to create a new high spot under the tire for it to bite on and drive clear. An alternate method would be to actually remove the obstacle itself from under the Jeep once the wheel is lifted up, in the case of a loose rock or log jammed under it. I do not recommend crawling under the vehicle at any point while it’s on a Hi-Lift.

If the Lift-mate won’t work for some reason, you can always use a short strap to wrap around or through the wheel to lift it. Make sure to not pinch sensors or brakelines on the backside of the wheel.

Both of these next techniques are not endorsed by Hi-Lift because the body of the vehicle is moving, using the jack as a fulcrum point. However, a Hi-Lift may also lift the body of the Jeep by the rock rails or bumpers so that it can either be cast off or driven clear of an obstacle. Casting is lifting the bumper and then carefully pushing the body to the side to move it away from the obstacle. I have used the drive off method as well, especially effective with vehicles with axle-lock capability. In both cases, extra caution and planning must be taken into consideration. Anticipate where the Jeep will land. When the weight shifts off of the jack, the jack is going to fall. Think of the possible directions it could fall, and plan accordingly. Stay out of its way. Will it hit the body of the Jeep or will you drive over it? A few carefully placed shop towels or bungee cords can assist with the outcome.

Casting off is lifting one end of the rig off the ground and then pushing it over to reposition the front wheels. This can be dangerous if you have not anticipated where the jack will fall once the vehicle falls the side.

One of my favorite ways to use the Hi-Lift is as a manual winch. Yes, most of my rigs have a power winch on the front, but sometimes you need a second winch or to pull in a different direction than the front-mounted winch is able to do. One of the most common recoveries we perform is pulling up a vehicle that has slid sideways off of the edge of a shelf road. If you pull on the front or the back with the winch, the opposite end wants to slide off. So we use the Hi-Lift to apply tension on the opposite end while winching, and often the whole vehicle pops back on the road like magic.

Read the instructions (they are very thorough) on the Hi-Lift jack and remember these key points. Make sure the foot is placed securely, and keep your foot on it while jacking. Wear gloves and keep a firm hand on the end of the handle, especially when lowering the jack when the jack handle is more likely to fly upward. Keep all body parts out of the scissoring area of the jack, between the handle and the upper part of the shaft. I hold onto the top shaft of the jack, but keep my thumb out of the line of fire of the handle. Keep your jack clean and lubed. A dirty, unlubed jack is a dangerous jack.

Keeping your jack clean and lubed, using it safely and properly, placing your hands and feet correctly, and taking your time to adequately assess the situation can make the Hi-Lift one of your most useful pieces of equipment.

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About the Author
Nena Barlow
Nena Barlow

Barlow Adventures owner, Nena Barlow grew up in the Southwest, exploring the back roads by Jeep, horse, and hiking boots. She has been in the Jeep business since 1996, providing tours, 4wd instruction, location scouting, offroad event planning, trail mapping & photography, and recovery.

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