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BEST JACKS TO BUY

BEST JACKS TO BUY

by James Stanbury, 19th August 2016

James Stanbury explains the best types of jacks available now and puts nine of them to the test


Most motoring enthusiasts will, at some point, upgrade from DIY-style trolley jacks to something bigger, sturdier, and higher. But owners of Land Rovers tend to make that jump sooner than most, simply because budget trolley jacks are practically useless on such high off-the-ground vehicles. With maximum saddle heights usually scarcely more than 35cm, basic jacks will, at best, just about reach some of the lowest hanging drivetrain and suspension components. That leaves precious few inches of actual lift – in some cases not even high enough to remove a wheel and tyre. Short chassis jacks can be classed as entry-level professional kit, and they’re the obvious upgrade from DIY models. In reality they often don’t exceed the smaller models’ lifting capacity – which can be up to 3 tons. But they are superior in every other way.

The big bonuses for Land Rover usage are a much-increased maximum saddle height – which is at least 45cm – and the added security of larger saddles and a generally heftier, more durable build. And, if you happen to have other cars to work on, you’ll also find that these professional models slide under ground-hugging sills and spoilers that will stop DIY models in their tracks. But short chassis jacks aren’t without their drawbacks. First off, they’re a lot dearer – at least four times the price of a DIY model. Then there’s the issue of weight and size. At around 40Kg, these are not ideal pieces of kit to have in your boot at all times, so forget using them for emergency wheel changes. In fact, you don’t want to be carrying them at all, which is something to bear in mind if you don’t have a garage to store equipment in. Regularly carrying one of these, from a storage shed in a garden, would be no joke. Over the last few years, many manufacturers have introduced aluminium models, which are significantly lighter. However, most have limited load ratings, and some aren’t significantly better than DIY jacks in the maximum lift height stakes. But a recent development, of combined alloy and steel jacks, may be the ideal solution for owners of Land Rovers. Or is it just an electrolytic corrosion problem waiting to happen? Read on to find out...

TALKINGS RATINGS:

The weight rating stamped on your jack doesn’t mean the jack can only lift a vehicle of that rating. So, if your jack can manage 1.5 tons, that doesn’t mean you can only jack vehicles up to 1.5 tons in weight. A vehicle’s weight is shared between its four wheels, so even a Land Rover weighing three tons will only be putting roughly a quarter of that through each corner. In other words, three-quarters of a ton. So in theory you’d only need that amount of lifting power to jack one corner up, and probably little more than 1.5 tons if you intended to lift an entire side. But never forget that few vehicles share their weight equally over all four wheels. Generally, the engine end of a vehicle carries significantly more weight than the other. And despite this theory, in practice the jack’s load rating needs to be safely above the actual load 
being lifted. If you can’t quite get your jack in under your vehicle’s suspension arm, don’t throw it away just yet! Try driving it onto shallow pieces of wood. Or else you can temporarily over-inflate tyres by a few PSI to give a bit of extra lift.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT?

VERSATILITY: Chances are that even the most avid Land Rover fan will have to work on other cars, so minimum saddle height – to slide under spoilers and trim panels attached to sills – is an important consideration. As is maximum lifting capacity.
LIFTING: The main reason people upgrade from DIY-style jacks to professional models is the latter’s much improved maximum lift. So it’s vital that any max saddle height here is way above what cheaper DIY models can offer. Pumping up the jack can be a slow business, particularly if the saddle has to be raised a fair distance before it even reaches load. It’s a big bonus if there’s a method of raising an unloaded saddle up to working height quickly. 
SADDLE: Generally, the larger the saddle is, the more securely it holds its load. It’s better, too, if the lugs around the edge of the saddle are a good few millimetres taller than the surrounding metal. When jacking box sections or subframes, making sure at least one lug is behind the box is a surefire way of preventing the box – and obviously the vehicle – sliding off the jack. Bear in mind that if you’re lifting one side of a vehicle, the surface you’re jacking will become more sloping as the jack gets higher. Some jacks come with rubber pads as part of their saddles. These are a bonus because they reduce marking on the vehicle’s jacking points. They also mean you don’t need to keep the time-honoured block of wood handy!
EASE OF USE: Although jacks are not complicated, some are nicer to use than others. The weight of the jack itself is well worth considering for most home enthusiasts. After all, unlike in professional workshops, it may not be possible to simply wheel the jack from place to place. Talking of wheels, the quality of these varies heavily from model to model. Some go exactly where you want, whilst others are noisy, leave marks, and generally have a mind of their own. Finally, the lowering mechanism on some jacks is better than others. Traditionally, most of these jacks have used the main lever to control lowering/raising. Simply twist the lever clockwise to tighten the valve prior to lifting, and twist it anti-clockwise to open the valve and let the jacking arm down. But trying to grip the circular smooth metal lever can be a nightmare with oily hands, particularly if you unwittingly over tightened the valve in the first place!

THE TESTS

VERSATILITY: We checked each product’s maximum allowed load and awarded up to two points to the best performers. To get both, we feel that a jack has to support up to 2.5 tons. Another two points are for grabs for each jack’s minimum saddle height. For a full house, this must be 80mm or less.
LIFTING: Another two points are available for each jack’s maximum lifting height. To get both of the two, max saddle height must be at least 50cm. We also award up to two points to jacks that make it quick and easy to raise the saddle up to load height – whether that’s through a rear mounted hydraulic pedal or dual stage hydraulics. One point goes to models with pivot mounted pedals, because – whilst effective sometimes – they can be difficult to use if the jack’s pivot is positioned a fair distance in under the vehicle.
SADDLE: We appraised each product’s saddle and awarded an extra point to the best ones. We considered size, the height of the lugs, and whether any form of pad was supplied.
EASE OF USE: We weighed each jack and gave up to two points to the lightest. In order to get both, the jack must weigh in at no more than 15kg. Another two points are for grabs for the best wheels – as tried out on tarmac, smooth concrete, and even wet smooth tiled surfaces. Finally, an extra point goes to any jacks fitted with a better lowering mechanism than the usual “twist the lever anti-clockwise” method.

SEALEY 3003CXQ

COMMENTS: Although a stalwart of Sealey’s range for some years now, this model continues to be popular because it gets so much right. We like the wide saddle – 130mm diameter in this case – especially as it includes a protective rubber pad. The very impressive max lift of 47.8cm is obviously a big bonus for Land Rover owners too, though the min height of 130mm is also pretty respectable for use with other cars – or under suspension components. A final plus point is dual hydraulics, which raise the paddle swiftly until it hits load.
PRICE: £122.98
CONTACT: 01284 757500
PRICE FROM: www.pvrdirect.co.uk
WEB: www.sealey.co.uk
PERFORMANCE: 7/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 6/6
OVERALL SCORE: 13/20
LRM | BEST BUY

^ KENNEDY KEN-503-7100K

COMMENTS: A snazzy offering from Kennedy, but essentially this is a completely conventional heavy steel professional jack with few frills, other than the pivot-mounted lever to speed the saddle up to load height. In terms of the all important maximum and minimum heights, min saddle height is now up to 148mm. And this has a knock on effect of increasing the max height up to 51.5cm. Again, that almost 15cm minimum saddle height will limit use on low cars, but the correspondingly increased max height is great for Land Rovers.
PRICE: £115.29
CONTACT: 0116 288 8000
PRICE FROM: www.cromwell.co.uk
WEB: www.cromwell.co.uk
PERFORMANCE: 6/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 6/6
OVERALL SCORE: 12/20
LRM | RECOMMENDED

^ SEALEY 2200HL

COMMENTS: This is one hell of a tool, with easily the most impressive lifting range in the group. Minimum saddle height is right down there with those aluminium racing jacks, at 80mm. But max lift is a staggering 81cm. Perhaps surprisingly, for such a large model, max weight is 2 tons. The jack is a much more professional item to use than most, too. At the rear, there’s a small pedal that allows you to pump the arm up to load height very quickly. And we love the lowering/release mechanism. Simply pull the jack lever up about a centimetre, and rotate it to the left slightly to lower. As soon as you rotate it back, the release stops. At no point do you have to physically shut a release valve.
 
PRICE: £246.19
CONTACT: 01284 757500
PRICE FROM: www.pvrdirect.co.uk
WEB: www.sealey.co.uk
PERFORMANCE: 9/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 3/6
OVERALL SCORE: 12/20
LRM | RECOMMENDED

^ CLARKE CTJ2QLG

COMMENTS: The cheapest jack in the group, but a solid – if somewhat basic – performer. The 120mm diameter saddle has a minimum height of 120mm, which stacks reasonably favourably against most of the professional style jacks here. Especially as max lift is a whopping 52cm. As you’d expect, only basic hydraulics are used, but Clarke has supplied a foot pedal, attached to the pivot, which brings the saddle to working height quickly with a press of your boot. A good budget alternative to Kennedy’s KEN-503-7100K, with the main difference being a reduced maximum load of 2 tons.
PRICE: £83.98
CONTACT: 01992 565300
PRICE FROM: www.machinemart.co.uk
WEB: www.clarkeinternational.com
PERFORMANCE: 5/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 6/6
OVERALL SCORE: 11/20
LRM | RECOMMENDED

^ DRAPER 31479

COMMENTS: Here’s a great idea: a hybrid aluminium and steel model. On the plus side, this is a lightweight jack with a much more realistic max load capacity than purely aluminium models: 2.5 tons in this case. But before we get too carried away, perhaps we should define lightweight. This isn’t like the baby aluminium racing jacks that weigh in at not much more than 10Kg. Actual weight is closer to 30, so this is still a hefty lump to carry – albeit around 10Kg lighter than a fully steel model. Take away the weight issue, and the rest of the spec is pretty average. The 47.5cm max lift is okay rather than exceptional.
PRICE: £129.53
CONTACT: 02380 494333
PRICE FROM: www.lawson-his.co.uk
WEB: www.drapertools.com
PERFORMANCE: 6/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 5/6
OVERALL SCORE: 11/20

^ SIP 03904

COMMENTS: Like Draper’s 31479, this is another jack that’s part aluminium and part steel. And, once again, we’re not sure whether it’s the best of both worlds or simply neither one thing nor the other. The 2.5 tons max load is a bonus over purely aluminium models. But the overall weight has drifted up to 26Kg, which means this is not a true lightweight. Max lift is a reasonable 465mm, and min saddle height is actually good at 100mm. But the biggest problem this SIP model has is its Draper competitor – which is every bit as able, in all ways, but costs over forty quid less.
PRICE: £172.91
CONTACT: 01509 500300
PRICE FROM: www.toolite.org.uk
WEB: www.sip-group.com
PERFORMANCE: 5/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 1/6
OVERALL SCORE: 6/20

^ SEALEY 2000LEQ

COMMENTS: With a minimum saddle height of 77mm, this is obviously a very low entry model. But just look at the overall design. The whole jack is super low until a few inches before the lever assembly. In other words, not only will this fit under the sills of even the lowest-slung cars, it will actually sneak right under to the centre of the underside. And that’s really what you’re paying for with the premium price. Take that out of the equation and you’re simply left with a pricey jack with a disappointingly low max height of 36.5cm. We did, however, like the super-fast dual hydraulics. But unless your vehicle is extremely lowered or modified, we can’t recommend this for Land Rover usage.
PRICE: £233.23
CONTACT: 01284 757500
PRICE FROM: www.pvrdirect.co.uk
WEB: www.sealey.co.uk
PERFORMANCE: 7/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 1/6
OVERALL SCORE: 8/20

^ WEBER WDK20

COMMENTS:
One of the few jacks in the group to be designed and made in Europe rather than the Far East. And, we have to say, it shows! On paper, this is a reasonable performer: min height 80mm, max height 47.5cm. But, in use, it’s in a league of its own. Like Sealey’s 2200HL, lowering the saddle is simply a case of lifting the lever slightly and rotating it a fraction to press on a spring release button at the base of the jack. Again, you never physically tighten any valves prior to jacking. We love the wheels, too, which boast a central “O” ring. This grips even the wettest or smoothest floors, making the jack much smoother to move than most. But, for the money, we’d expect dual hydraulics at least.
PRICE: £247.20
CONTACT: 01787 476319
PRICE FROM: www.pteonline.co.uk
WEB: www.weberuk.com
PERFORMANCE: 7/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 1/6
OVERALL SCORE: 8/20

^ SEALEY 2500LE

COMMENTS:
This is another low entry model. But unlike the premium 2200HL, on a much more realistic budget. Sadly, we’re not sure that’s a concept that actually works. The min height of 90mm is lower than most traditional style jacks, but it’s not a universal “go under practically anything” level of low, like the 80mm most ali-racing jacks manage. And keeping the price down seems to have had a detrimental effect on other areas of the jack. Such as very small rear castors, unusably tiny lugs on the saddle, and very slow single circuit hydraulics – which took no less than 11 pumps to raise the saddle by 20cm.
PRICE: £104.98
CONTACT: 01284 757500
PRICE FROM: www.pvrdirect.co.uk
WEB: www.sealey.co.uk
PERFORMANCE: 4/14
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY? 3/6
OVERALL SCORE: 7/20

VERDICT

Effectively, we have three very similar jacks that take the top three awards. Sealey’s 3003CXQ Best Buy is the best all rounder, balancing an impressive maximum saddle height against a very respectable minimum, and featuring fast operating dual hydraulics to boot. Close behind is Kennedy’s Recommended KEN-503-7100K, which is cheaper, slightly higher, but only has basic hydraulics. The third model is Clarke’s CTJ2QLG Best Budget Buy. This is considerably cheaper than the other two but, compared to the Kennedy, the only real drawback is a lower max lifting capacity of 2 tons. Our final award winner is Sealey’s premium 2200HL. At close to £250, this is a lot dearer than the other three award winners. But its dramatically higher maximum lifting height makes it well worth the money for traders and serious enthusiasts.