Favorite driver's magazines

"Four Wheel", March 1, 2013



BY Harry Wagner


THE HI-LIFT JACK IS ONE OF THE most ubiquitous tools you will find on any trail rig, right up there with a winch and spare tire. Although they are found on most wheeling vehicles, not everyone knows how to use one properly. In the right hands the Hi-Lift can be used not only to lift your vehicle, but to winch, clamp, and more. In the wrong hands, if you are really lazy or inexperienced, it can smash fingers or knock out teeth. Fortunately, armed with a little knowledge and the right accessories, you can safely use your Hi-Lift on the trail and look like a superhero to your friends.

The Hi-Lift jack was introduced by Phillip John Harrah of Bloomfield Manufacturing in 1905. Over a century later the Harrah family still runs Bloomfield and is constantly refining the ubiquitous Hi-Lift. Called a jack-all, a farmer’s jack, or a sheepherder’s jack, the modern Hi-Lift comes in three models: Cast/Steel, All-Cast, and X-Treme. Each is available in either 48-inch or 60-inch lengths.

We like the All-Cast version, but the X-Treme ups the ante with a unique top clamp, a pin to remove the base easily, and a durable powdercoat finish. The 48-inch length works well for most leaf-sprung Jeeps, but with lots of articulation we would recommend the 60-inch jack. The extra length is necessary to get the tire off the ground with tall lifts and flexible suspension. The 60-inch jack doesn’t cost much more, and if it is too long you can always cut down the bar to fit whatever space you have available.

A Hi-Lift can be a wheeler’s best friend or his worst enemy. It is best to become familiar with your jack at home on level ground so you are familiar with how it functions before you need to use it in an emergency situation. To safely use a Hi-Lift, you must keep it clean and lubricated, otherwise the climbing pins will stick. As this happens you have to bump or wiggle the handle against the jack, and that is when trouble can occur. When a heavy load is placed upon the jack, it stores a lot of energy. That energy can release when the climbing pins move and the handle comes flying up, smashing anything in its path. Never put any part of your body between the handle and the jack, and never leave the handle in the down position. That is a good way to fight cavities, but only because you might be missing some teeth.

There is a whole cottage industry of accessories to make the Hi-Lift jack even better at the variety of tasks it can perform. Whether you have a bone-stock 4x4 or a full-tilt buggy, there are products designed to make the Hi-Lift more functional for your specific needs.

1 The Hi-Lift jack relies on two climbing pins that alternate up the bar’s ladder of holes. One pin holds the load as the other is freed and moved to the next hole above when raising a load, or below when lowering.

2 The Jack Strap from Rimrock Mountain supply is a valuable tool that keeps your suspension from drooping when you lift your vehicle by the chassis. This means that you don’t have to lift as high, getting the fix done quickly and safely.

3 In addition to the charcoal powdercoat finish, the X-Treme model comes with this unique top clamp that can be used for winching, clamping, and spreading. The position is easy to adjust with the included Grade 5 wing nut.

4 Whether jacking or winching, remember to keep your arms extended with your head away from the handle. Other safety tips include always wearing gloves and chocking the wheels before lifting your vehicle.

5 We tried winching with two straps since that was what we had with us. The straps stretched enough to make winching very slow though. A chain would have been a better option. Hi-Lift sells an off-road kit with everything you need to turn your jack into a winch.

6 The Hi-Lift can be used to unseat a tire bead. First remove the valve core and then place the base on top of the tire and under your vehicle. Always use the baseplate for this, otherwise you could puncture the sidewall of the tire.

7 Bent your tie rod? After getting it relatively straight you can sleeved it with a Hi-Lift handle to get off the trail. The handle will help keep the tie rod from bending again.

8 The top attachment can be used to clamp items together on the trail if they are wider than 6 inches. Any less than that and you can use a piece of wood to make up the difference between the foot and the top clamp.

9 The normal base on the Hi-Lift works fine on hard ground, but it can sink in soft sand, snow, or mud, particular when lifting heavy vehicles. Hi-Lift’s molded Off Road Base more than doubles the surface area of the jack while capturing the factory base to ensure that it does not move.

10 The billet aluminum Baja Base from Baja Off Road Products is designed as an upgrade for the Hi-Lift, adding the ability to articulate and pivot through the innovative use of a traditional U-joint. The articulating ability enables the Hi-Lift to remain upright and vertical for safe jack use on terrain with as much as a 32-degree slope.

11 To ensure that your Hi-Lift is working when you need it, the mechanism must be lubricated. WD-40, oil, or grease will all do the trick. However, grease and oil attract dirt, so covering the jack when it is not in use is the best way to keep your Hi-Lift clean.

12 Hate rattles? Daystar created the jack isolator to provide convenient, rattle-free storage for the jack handle by sliding over the main bar of the jack and the handle itself. It is inexpensive, and the polyurethane isolators are available in several colors.

13 These billet tube mounts from FourTreks allow you to securely mount your Hi-Lift to tubing from 1 to 2 3/8 inches in diameter and look good doing it. Mount your jack to your bumper, rollcage, or roof rack where it will be secure yet easy to access.

14 The Lift-Mate is a Hi-Lift brand accessory that allows the vehicle to be lifted directly from the wheel, greatly reducing the amount of travel up the jack bar needed to lift the wheel in an adequate and safe height. Make sure the Lift-Mate is centered and the vehicle is in Park so the wheel does not try to rotate when it is lifted.

15 Slee’sJac-Kof slides over the foot of your Hi-Lift to fit ARB Bull Bars, tube sliders, and recovery points safely and securely. The Jac-Kof also comes with an axle strap and wheel strap to safely lift any vehicle, resolving several issues with one product.




















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