What Are The Best Bottle Jacks? (2020 Reviews)
Sometimes the hardest part of fixing a vehicle is simply reaching the area you need to work on. Jacking up your car can feel like a hassle. Plus, if you don’t set up the jack correctly, serious injury could accidentally occur.
Bottle jacks are a fast, easy, and safe way to raise and lower your car. Compact and affordable, they’re a great option when working on your vehicle at home.
The scissor jack is the most popular type of automotive jack. It’s the type included with most vehicles. Scissor jacks look like two pairs of scissors joined at the tips. They’re purely mechanical tools, simple in design with a classic style.
Bottle jacks are the second most popular type of jack. They definitely have some advantages over scissor jacks, but they’re also a little more complicated (and expensive).
- What are Bottle Jacks?
- What are the Different Types of Bottle Jacks?
- How to Use a Hydraulic Bottle Jack
- 1. Park Your Vehicle
- 2. Add Jack Stands
- 3. Inspect the Jack for Damage
- 4. Assemble and Test the Jack
- 5. Attach the Jack to the Vehicle
- 6. Lift the Vehicle
- How To Choose A Bottle Jack
- Lift Range
- Hydraulic Versus Pneumatic
- Do I Need A Floor Jack Or A Bottle Jack?
- How Do I Maintain My Bottle Jack?
- Our #1 Pick – Pro-Lift B-004D Grey Hydraulic Bottle Jack
- Our #2 Pick – Torin Big Red Hydraulic Stubby Bottle Jack
- Our #3 Pick – Astro 20-Ton Air/Manual Bottle Jack
- Our #4 Pick – Alltrade All-in-One Bottle Jack
- Our #5 Pick – TONDA Hydraulic Bottle Jack
- Our #6 Pick – Torin Big Red Hydraulic Bottle Jack with Carrying Case
- Our #7 Pick – Powerbuilt 640912 All-In-One 3-Ton Bottle Jack
- Final Thoughts
What are Bottle Jacks?
Even if you didn’t know what it’s called, you’ve probably seen a bottle jack before. They’re slender, cylindrical and look somewhat like a super-solid Thermos. Most of the time, they’re either black or red (although there’s no particularly reason why this is).
Also known as a hydraulic jack, bottle jacks were invented in the mid-19th century. They work due to physics principles involving pressure and fluids. Basically, when in an enclosed space, fluid can transfer pressure equally in every direction.
Inside the jack is a reservoir of a special type of oil. Pulling on the jack’s handle draws this fluid from the reservoir into a space under the main piston. Pushing the handle down forces the fluid into the main cylinder.
Here’s where the physics stuff comes in. Each up/down cycle forces more fluid under the central piston. The pressure on the fluid is equal in all directions. The walls of the jack’s cylinder don’t respond to the fluid, but the piston does. It’s forced upward, securely held by the pressurized fluid underneath.
Lowering a bottle jack is a smooth process. Turning a release valve causes fluid to flow away from the central piston back into the reservoir. As the pressure decreases, the piston lowers.
What are the Different Types of Bottle Jacks?
A wide variety of bottle jacks are available, but their basic functionality remains the same. The differences between each bottle jack typically relate to their lifting range and weight capacity.
For automotive care, you want a jack in the two to 12-ton range. That’s more than enough to securely support practically any vehicle shy of a semi. While you can buy jacks rated for 100 tons and more, they’re used on major projects like supporting entire buildings under construction.
Most bottle jacks are operated by hand pumping. While they don’t require a ton of physical strength, it can be tiring and time-consuming if you need to raise and lower your car frequently in a day.
Compressed air jacks are an easier option, but they are also more expensive. You’ll also need access to an air compressor. If you just need to raise and lower your car occasionally for routine maintenance, a hand pumping option will usually work just fine. If you’re repairing cars in a more professional capacity, a hydraulic jack is the faster option.
How to Use a Hydraulic Bottle Jack
Any jack is potentially dangerous. Always follow all included instructions completely. Also, you should never lift use a jack to lift a car when you’re by yourself. Someone else should be around to help in case an accident occurs.
Generally, you’ll want to avoid changing your tire off to the side of a road. Even if you’re comfortable changing tires, any place near traffic is simply too dangerous. Have the car towed or otherwise call for roadside assistance.
But as long as you’re working in a safe area, using a hydraulic jack is easy (and pretty fun). Here’s how:
1. Park Your Vehicle
A flat, level place away from traffic is best. The garage is usually the best option. Set the parking brake. If the car is an automatic, set it in Park. If it’s a standard, put it in first gear or neutral.
Chock the wheels. Chocks are sturdy, triangular stops which help prevent rollback. You place them behind the wheels at the opposite end of the jack:
- If you’re lifting a rear wheel, chock the front.
- If you’re lifting a front wheel, chock the rear wheels.
2. Add Jack Stands
Always set jack stands before crawling underneath your vehicle. They’re a vital piece of safety equipment which help hold your car even if the jack should move or fail. Check out this year’s Best Jack Stands for more info.
3. Inspect the Jack for Damage
Make sure the jack is in good working order before using it. Check for any signs of leaks such as oil, stickiness or stains.
Next, check the seal on the plug. It’s usually located on the back of the barrel. Wipe away any debris from the top part of the cylinder which makes contact with the car.
4. Assemble and Test the Jack
Insert the handle into the slot at the side of the barrel. Make sure it’s attached securely. You’ll probably hear a click when it’s properly in place.
Pump the handle slowly up and down to test the jack. Turn the release value slowly counterclockwise. The cylinder should ease down. In most cases, the handle will have a notched end used to turn the valve.
5. Attach the Jack to the Vehicle
The jack needs to attach to an area called the “lift point.” It’s specifically designed to withstand pressure without cracking or breaking the frame. The lift point is usually a solid metal line which runs down the length of each side just behind the tires. Check your owner’s manual for the exact location of the lift points in your vehicle.
6. Lift the Vehicle
Pump the jack carefully. Only lift the vehicle high enough to clear the jack stands. Bottle jacks will automatically prevent over-extension, but lifting a vehicle higher than needed is still a safety hazard.
Once the vehicle is correctly positioned over the jack stands, you can lower the jack. Remove the handle from the jack. It’ll have a notch on one end. Use the notch to turn the valve counter-clockwise. The lifting column will slowly descend.
To completely lower the vehicle, follow these steps in reverse. Remember, you will have to raise the vehicle up slightly so you can remove the jack stands. Then you’ll want to lower the vehicle at a slow, even pace to prevent accidental damage.
How To Choose A Bottle Jack
Choosing your first bottle jack isn’t super difficult if you know what you’re looking for. There are a few things to look for in your bottle jack. Here’s what you should keep in mind.
Make sure your bottle jack can handle the majority of the jobs you have. If your vehicle weighs two tons, your bottle jack should at least match that and preferably have more than that for clearance. Since typical ton capacities range from four to 50 tons, you should be okay with your standard vehicle.
Bigger is sometimes better, but going to higher capacities can sometimes mean a higher price. Your best option is to choose based on the average range of capacity you need rather than just going for the biggest choice.
The lift range is how high you can get your bottle jack to lift your car. If you’ve got a standard car, the standard lift range is fine. However, it would be best if you accounted for any modifications you’ve made plus higher vehicles like SUVs. Make sure you know how much lift you need before you buy your bottle jack.
Hydraulic Versus Pneumatic
Hydraulic lifts apply pressure to fluid for the power to support the lift. Pneumatic systems use air to achieve the same result. Hydraulic lifts are more efficient in their operation because fluid is considered non-elastic, but they require a lot of maintenance.
Pneumatic bottle jacks aren’t quite as efficient pound for pound of pressure, but they’re winners as far as maintenance. If you have smaller jobs and don’t need high efficiency at high lifts, a pneumatic jack might be your answer.
Do I Need A Floor Jack Or A Bottle Jack?
Floor jacks are more comfortable to use and often more stable because of their long bases. Sometimes they have wheels to maneuver around your shop. However, they’re usually more expensive than bottle jacks because of their size and can be harder to store out of the way.
Bottle jacks are very stable and often lift a little higher than floor jacks. They aren’t as quick, however, and don’t have the advantage of a long handle for lifts. They’re smaller, which is excellent for storage, but they can be heavy to move around without wheels.
The ideal situation would be having both a bottle and a floor jack to help spread out usage on jobs that require either one. However, many people start with a bottle jack just for the practicality of storage. They can go out of sight in the corner of your garage for when you need them.
How Do I Maintain My Bottle Jack?
Hydraulic jacks will need lots of maintenance, but any bottle jack will require regular lubrication between metal components to ensure smooth, efficient operation. You should keep your jack in a cool place away from sun exposure. This also prevents dust and debris from building up and causing grating between the metal parts.
Here’s a closer look at the best bottle jacks for 2020 plus a complete guide to their use:
Compare Our Picks For Best Bottle Jack
Our #1 Pick – Pro-Lift B-004D Grey Hydraulic Bottle Jack
Our top pick is a powerful, portable jack with a steel lifting saddle and plenty of safety features.
- Lifting capacity of four tons
- Portable with carrying handle
- Steel lifting saddle keeps the vehicle secure
- Critical stress areas help prevent damage
- Certain models might contain lead paint
- Might be too tall for many low-profile vehicles
It’s small but mighty. Pro-Lift’s bottle jack can lift up to four tons with no problem. A steel lifting saddle ensures even the heaviest loads remain secure in place while getting raised and lowered. The jack has heat-treated critical stress areas to help prevent damage over time even after frequent use.
An extension screw allows for quick adjustments to the working height. It has a lifting range between eight and 15 3/8 inches.
It’s portable, too. The jack weighs just nine pounds. Plus, it has a built-in carry handle.
Our #2 Pick – Torin Big Red Hydraulic Stubby Bottle Jack
Made from heavy-duty steel with a solid construction, this bottle jack can be counted on to tackle the toughest jobs.
- 12-ton capacity
- Constructed with heavy-duty steel and chrome plating
- Glide-action pressure pump
- Heat-treated saddle
- Loses pressure after a few hours of sustained use
It’s even tougher than it looks – and it looks pretty tough. Torin’s Big Red Bottle Jack has a 12-ton capacity. It’s made from heavy-duty steel and painted a bright, bold red.
It can lift 24,000 pounds anywhere from seven-and-a-half to 11 inches. A glide-action pressure pump allows you to raise and lower vehicles safely and smoothly.
Chrome plating ensures long-lasting durability. A heat-treated saddle and large base keep the jack stable even with lifting heavy loads. Every jack is factory-tested for reliability and safety.
Our #3 Pick – Astro 20-Ton Air/Manual Bottle Jack
Astro’s 20-ton jack can be powered either by hand or with an air compressor.
- Flexible air hose easily connects to an air compressor
- Holds up to 20 tons
- Extension screw lets you adjust the height
- Although it can be powered by hand, it’s mainly designed as an air-powered jack
Why use elbow grease when there’s an easier way? While Astor’s jack has a hand-powered pump, it also has an air hose which swivels in any direction. Connect the hose to an air compressor to power the jack pneumatically.
Air power allows for fast, safe operation. You can raise and lower your vehicle automatically, so you’re free to watch the process, instead of the pump. A safety valve prevents overloading.
The jack has a minimum height of seven inches and a maximum height of 12-and-three-quarters. An extension screw allows you to add extra height when needed.
Our #4 Pick – Alltrade All-in-One Bottle Jack
With a built-in jack stand and strong safety bar, you’ll stay safe even when working on large trucks and off-road vehicles.
- Jack includes a built-in jack stand
- Supports up to 4,000 pounds
- Compact and easy to store
- Included safety bar helps prevent accidents
- Can leak occasionally
It’s not just a bottle jack. It’s a jack stand, too. With a 4,000-pound capacity and 18-inch maximum lift height, it’s designed for off-road vehicles and trucks (but it’ll support cars and sedans, too).
Even though it’s both a jack and jack stand, it’s surprisingly compact and portable. The total dimensions are 9.75 inches wide by 9.75 inches tall by 12.25 inches high. It can hold vehicles with lift points of eight and 5/8 inches or higher.
It’s packed with safety features, too. A safety bar locks the unit at the designed height to prevent the jack from lowering. Plus, the wide, steel base keeps the load stable.
Our #5 Pick – TONDA Hydraulic Bottle Jack
A unique leak-free design, high-grade steel construction, and a one-year manufacturer warranty make this jack one you can rely on year after year.
- Unique design helps prevent leaks
- Supports up to four tons
- Can withstand extreme temperatures
- Lowering the jack can be a slow process
Hydraulic fluid leaks are the number killer of bottle jacks. However, Tonda’s jack has a unique inner and outer welded structure to help deliver leak-free performance.
It supports up to four tons with a maximum lift of 14 inches. It’s a good choice if you work outside, too. The jack can safely withstand temperatures between 14 and 104 degrees.
A large steel cylinder unit reduces friction to allow for fast, easy lifting and lowering. The polished, treated piston-ram prevents wobbling and skiving over time.
Our #6 Pick – Torin Big Red Hydraulic Bottle Jack with Carrying Case
A rugged, solid jack which supports up to two tons and includes a carrying case for easy transportation and storage.
- Supports up to two tons
- Includes durable carrying case
- Perfect for road trips and travel
- Serrated saddle grips vehicle securely
- Piston lowers slowly
Large vehicles can run into big problems on the road. They’re hard to lift, so you need a large jack. But the jack also must be portable enough to ride along in the trunk or truck bed. An unsecured bottle jack is likely to leak fluid if allowed to bounce around inside a moving vehicle.
Enter Torin’s Big Red Hydraulic Bottle Jack. It can lift up to two tons with a maximum lifting range of 13 and 1/4 inches. A heat-treated, serrated saddle securely grips the vehicle to prevent accidental movement.
But the real star here is the included carrying case. It’s rugged enough to bounce around on a rough road while still protecting the jack’s hydraulic system. It’s also portable with an ergonomic carry handle. A jack’s no good if it’s in your garage when you need it on the road, but Big Red is easy to bring along for a ride.
Our #7 Pick – Powerbuilt 640912 All-In-One 3-Ton Bottle Jack
This bottle jack from Powerbuilt is made of steel and features a no-chip paint finish that continues to look good in your shop even with regular use.
- Operates as both bottle jack and jack stand
- Two-ton weight capacity
- Wide base for stability on soft surfaces
- Requires a lot of maintenance
- The hydraulic component is less effective at higher lifts (check thoroughly on the first use)
Hydraulic bottle jacks are great for really heavy lifting, and this one is two tools in one. It’s a bottle jack for lifting, but once you’ve gotten your height set, it also functions as a jack stand for safety with an additional locking bar. It lifts both body-on-frame and unibody vehicles.
It has a weight capacity of up to 4000 pounds and has a broad, stable base for safety and stability. On soft surfaces, it has less chance of sinking on soft ground and offers better balance. The lift range is excellent at 11-21 inches. This range is perfect for cars, SUVs, and personal trucks.
The best part of this particular jack is the build quality. It’s sturdy and tough with materials that don’t warp. It’s on the heavy side, but that does inspire confidence when you’re trying to crawl under a two-ton vehicle.
You will need to maintain this jack reasonably frequently to ensure smooth operation. While some jacks aren’t quite so maintenance-heavy, this one will need attention in between jobs. However, if you pay attention to that, you’ll have a high-performing tool.
While traditional scissor jacks will do a fine job lifting a car, bottle jacks offer a variety of unique features. They’re safe, strong and offer a lot of control when lifting your car.
However, no matter how easy the process is, never forget that raising your car with a jack is potentially very dangerous. Always follow all proper safety guidelines. Check your bottle jack thoroughly for signs of damage before every use.
Many times, lifting your car is the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of standard auto maintenance. But the best bottle jack helps make repair work easy and fast. It’s a trusted tool every home mechanic should own.