A hydraulic jack is one of those tools that every automobile owner should have handy. They’re essential for emergencies (think a flat tire while driving) and regular maintenance procedures and good to have for DIY projects.
There are some jobs that we just can’t do when our cars are on level ground, such as flushing your radiator, replacing your brake pads, and so on — the list is extensive.
If you prefer to do your own work on your car, picking the right tool to lift it up is crucial. It can make the job you’re doing safer and easier, and can give you peace of mind that you’ll make it out of there alive (!), and won’t spend an eternity working with something that’s not fit for the task.
In this article, we’re going to settle the debate of bottle jacks Vs. floor jacks. We’ll talk about what each one is, how they work, and what differences and similarities they both share.
We’ve also detailed the advantages and disadvantages of both types that you should know about. By the time you’re finished reading this, you’ll know which one is the best fit for you for whatever task you have at hand.
Key Takeaways: Bottle Jack Vs. Floor Jack
- Choose a Floor Jack if…–…you have a low-clearance vehicle and need as much stability as possible.
- Choose a Bottle Jack if…–…you need to lift heavier vehicles and are happy to use a little extra elbow grease to save cash.
- Don’t Skip the Stands – Whichever lifting device you choose, be sure to use jack stands before you get to work. Jacks are designed to raise vehicles, not hold them in place, and can fail if left to bear weight for long periods.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Key Takeaways: Bottle Jack Vs. Floor Jack
- 2 How Do Jacks Work?
- 3 What Is a Bottle Jack?
- 4 What Is a Floor Jack?
- 5 Bottle Jacks vs Floor Jacks: How Are They Similar?
- 6 Floor Jack vs Bottle Jack: How Are The Two Different?
- 7 What Are the Advantages of Using a Bottle Jack?
- 8 What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Bottle Jack?
- 9 What Are the Advantages of Using a Floor Jack?
- 10 What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Floor Jack?
- 11 Which Is Best For Me? A Floor Jack or Bottle Jack?
- 12 Conclusion
How Do Jacks Work?
A jack is a piece of equipment that’s capable of lifting heavy objects and mainly used for the purpose of lifting cars. You can think of them as car ramps. Aside from automotive uses, they’re also practical in industrial applications, such as construction.
Jacks come in many forms, aside from bottle and floor models. Most have the same basic components, but they vary slightly in their operation and in which situations they’re best suited.
The main operating mechanism is a lifting pad for support at the top. This part enables it to lift tons of weight without puncturing through whatever it’s lifting.
Powering jacks is either carried out manually with a handle or through pneumatics, for example through an air hose. Some use a hydraulic fluid such as oil, whereas others are mechanical in the way they work.
These designs all work off Pascal’s principle; fluid is compressed within a closed system. In turn, this extreme pressure is transferred throughout the body of the tool.
This enables the internal mechanisms to power the lifting or support pad. It extends upwards, hoisting the item (your car, a foundation, etc).
Whenever force isn’t being applied, the jack locks in place. The base of the gadget is designed for stability to keep the weight lifted in an efficient and safe manner.
What Is a Bottle Jack?
Bottle jacks are also known by a more colorful moniker: whiskey jacks, which comes from their bottle-shaped bodies.
The base of the bottle is the support.
Some have a built-in base for additional stability, such as a square platform. This variety of jack uses single-action pistons that work mounted vertically. The piston inside the bottle is what drives the lifting ram and support pad upwards to lift your vehicle.
These jacks can be manufactured to work with a handle or a pressure hose. On the same note, these varieties can be hydraulic or screw-operated.
Some bottle jacks will have screws and gears inside the body, which are what force the lifting ram upwards, as opposed to hydraulics.
What Is a Floor Jack?
Unlike bottle jacks, floor jacks are almost exclusively hydraulic, using oil as the fluid of choice. You work the handle to operate a horizontal piston, which moves the lifting pad upwards.
They’re usually wheeled to compensate for the arc of the support pad as it rises. It also doesn’t prevent any movement. On the contrary, it permits the tool to move with your car as it’s lifted.
The body of a floor jack is typically flattened and low to the ground. The majority are rectangular in shape; longer than they are wide.
Bottle Jacks vs Floor Jacks: How Are They Similar?
Similarities between the two are few, but they definitely do exist.
In short, both can be powered by hydraulics and can lift our automobiles. That’s pretty much where the resemblance ends, though.
Floor Jack vs Bottle Jack: How Are The Two Different?
These two kinds of hoisting tools are distinct from one another in many ways. This ranges from how they can be used to how much they cost, how portable they are, and more.
Here are their differences at a glance:
- Portability and storage.
- Handle length.
Clearance – What Kind of Cars Are Compatible?
Bottle jacks must have a higher clearance due to how they’re built. If the neck and body can’t fit under the vehicle, the jack won’t work.
Since the bulk of a floor jack is longer than it is tall, it doesn’t have this issue.
Portability and Storage
Wheels don’t necessarily equal portability.
Standard floor models are not the type of gadget you can pack into your trunk. Storage can be similarly challenging with a floor jack, as you can’t fold the long rectangular body away to fit it into a corner.
Comparatively, bottle jacks are compact. The tool’s body is upright, meaning it takes up less space and is more portable and easier to store.
Stability and Security
In terms of stability, floor jacks take the win. Since the bottle jacks are smaller and tend to be stationary, this makes them less stable than the heavier, larger wheeled floor models. As a result, the floor jacks tend to be more stable and secure to use without a jack stand.
Manually operated bottle jacks tend to have shorter handles than floor models.
A good rule of thumb to remember is this: The longer the handle, the less force you have to exert to get a higher lift.
What They’re Used For
Most floor jacks are limited to automotive applications. They’re capable of lifting loads rated between roughly 1.5 and 4 tons.
On the other hand, bottle jacks can be used for other projects besides any of your automotive needs. They can tackle heavier loads as well: 6 tons or more, depending on the brand.
What About Price?
Bottle jacks are usually expensive.
Even still, this type of equipment is supposed to be a long-term investment, so you really shouldn’t be opting for something cheap just to save a few bucks. You’ll most likely end up regretting this later, in some way, shape, or form.
Price shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing between these two jacks.
What Are the Advantages of Using a Bottle Jack?
Bottle jacks have some highly appealing features.
Here are some that you may want to think about before making your final buying decision:
They Can Lift More Weight
A significant advantage of hydraulic bottle jacks is their power and capacity to lift heavy loads. You can buy a model that can lift several tons or 20 tons, whatever fits your needs.
This makes them compatible with hefty vehicles, such as heavy-duty trucks. You’ll also be able to use a tool like this outside of your garage too, not just for heavier varieties of vehicles.
People who enjoy DIY construction work could find many uses for a powerful tool such as a bottle jack. Even though it can lift extremely heavy objects, that doesn’t mean it’s not suited for home use.
Bottle jacks are very convenient to store. An empty corner of your garage will be enough for the average model.
Those of you with limited storage space will appreciate this.
As we touched on, these models are often less expensive upfront.
If you’re serious about saving cash, then this is the way to go.
Ease of Operation (Pneumatic Models)
Air-powered units will get your vehicle into the air with little effort. Users who work on their cars regularly may appreciate the time saved.
For a one-off requirement, then you could be forgiven to overlook this advantage. With that being said, if you need a car jack once, there’s a very good chance that you’ll need it again sometime.
What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Bottle Jack?
While the downsides to using a bottle jack aren’t game-changing, you should still be aware of them.
There are only a couple of disadvantages that should warrant your attention:
Stationary: Increased Risk of Slipping
You probably won’t find a bottle jack with built-in wheels. The unit is built to remain stationary; it is not deliberately designed to move when your vehicle is lifted into the air.
Due to physics, it’s only natural that your car will shift slightly when hoisted. It may move around even more if you’re working on a task that requires more movement, such as changing tires.
As the bottle jack isn’t designed to move with your car when this happens, the risk of slipping is a more considerable one. Needless to say, this can be extremely dangerous.
To counter this, you should always use stands when you lift your vehicle. However, this might not always be possible under certain circumstances.
Shorter Handle Makes for More Effort
The handles of the non-pneumatic bottle jacks are typically shorter, so you’ll have to exert more effort pumping the handle to raise your vehicle.
This can be frustrating if you need to get your car up high fairly often.
However, pneumatic alternatives require extra equipment, which isn’t a feasible option for everyone.
Higher Clearance Cars Only
Bottle models tend to be taller, which won’t suit vehicles with a low clearance distance to the ground. Even the more squat bottle jacks need more ground clearance than others.
Sports cars and customized vehicles are typically built to be low to the ground. This renders a bottle jack highly incompatible, since it most likely won’t fit underneath the car chassis because it has a minimum lift height.
So, bear the clearance level of your vehicle or equipment in mind before committing to a specific style of bottle jack.
What Are the Advantages of Using a Floor Jack?
Consider the following advantages of picking and using a floor jack:
Moves With Your Vehicle
Wheels permit the unit to move with your vehicle rather than against it. In the event that you don’t have stands nearby, the risk of your car slipping is low.
Suits Almost Any Vehicle
The flattened body means that floor jacks have low clearance. They can be rolled under the majority of cars, even low-down sports models.
This versatility is an asset for multi-car households. You want to be able to lift your truck and sedans or convertibles with the same tool, not having to incur more expenses by having different types of car jacks that you need to buy for different purposes.
The Long Handle Is Easy to Use
A long handle will speed up the job for you due to increased leverage. This is very important if you’re looking to achieve quick lifting.
You’ll get a greater lift with fewer pumps, making it a user-friendly alternative to short-handled bottle units.
What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Floor Jack?
There are a handful of drawbacks you should know about before you buy one of these. These consist of the following:
Less Lifting Power
There’s a limit to floor jacks when it comes to the pressure they can exert.
If you want a multi-usage tool for non-car-related projects, floor units could fall short.
Generally speaking, the price of a floor jack will be higher than that of a bottle jack.
They clearly have distinctive differences, so don’t let the expense sway your decision too much; you don’t want to be stuck with a cheaper bottle jack that won’t fit under your car!
Neither Portable nor Compact
Don’t expect to fit a floor jack in your hatchback. They’re far from portable, and take up a sizable amount in storage.
Consider this when deciding on which type of jack to buy. Ideally, there’s a space in your garage or a dedicated storage area for it.
Which Is Best For Me? A Floor Jack or Bottle Jack?
Ask yourself what you’re looking for from a car jack. Then, take into account your automobile.
Is it a high-clearance truck or a low convertible that you’re planning on working on? Don’t forget that bottle jacks won’t be suitable for low-clearance cars.
Most users should be satisfied with a standard floor unit. They’re simpler to use and work with nearly all makes and models of cars.
This is not to say that a bottle jack isn’t right for you, though. Perhaps you plan to use the tool for other tasks aside from maintaining your automobile. That’s why you need to take into account your specific needs.
The next time you hear about two people having an argument about the merits of bottle jacks and floor jacks or you get asked by someone about them, you’ll be way more well-informed.
You can lay out all the pros and cons of each type, and guide others about which of the two is best suited for them and whatever kind of work they’re trying to get done with their vehicles.
In short, floor models are appropriate for most home garages. They might come at a higher cost, but they should last a lifetime. Of course, you’ll need to maintain it as necessary.
Bottle types are ideal for users with ambitious projects and plans outside of their garage. They might also be a great fit for truck owners. As long as there aren’t any low-built cars to work on, the high clearance won’t be a problem.