Trolley Jacks – How Do They Work and Are They Safe?

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If you’re hoping to fix your car yourself, there are quite a few tools you’re going to need. A trolley jack is one of the most common and essential tools used by mechanics, helping to lift the vehicle up off the ground, enabling you to work underneath safely. However, while trolley jacks can improve safety, if they are used incorrectly they can be potentially dangerous.

Here we’ll look at how trolley jacks work and the potential safety risks you need to be aware of before using one.

How do trolley jacks work?

Trolley jacks are designed to lift up vehicles using hydraulic pressure. They work in four main stages:

  1. First, the handle is lifted, drawing oil upwards into the pump cylinder.
  2. The handle is then pushed back downwards, forcing the pressurised oil into the main cylinder. In turn, this forces the machines main piston to rise.
  3. The jack handle continues to be pumped a few times, causing more oil to enter the cylinder.
  4. Once there is enough pressurised oil in the cylinder, it extends the saddle and arm, in turn lifting the vehicle.

So, it’s quite a simple process and they are fairly easy to use. With that being said, they still come with a few safety risks you need to be aware of.

How safe are they?

While trolley jacks are generally pretty safe, you should never use them alone to support the lifted vehicle. A coroner in Tasmania, Australia, issued a warning to residents after a 36-year old man died when the vehicle he was working on fell onto his chest. 

The coroner determined the man wouldn’t have died if he’d used jack stands to support the vehicle, rather than just the trolley jack. This is something many people forget to do. While trolley jacks are designed to cope with the weight of a vehicle, they do require support from jack stands.

Of course, it is also important to make sure you’re buying a high-quality trolley jack. Ensuring you buy one from a reliable source will lessen the safety risk. However, even the highest quality trolley jack should never be used alone.

Overall, trolley jacks are fairly advanced, yet simple tools to use, but it is really important to ensure you’re using jack stands alongside them to help support the weight of the vehicle.