Using High Lift Jacks (Part 1)

The high lift jack is an extremely useful piece of equipment for the off-roader. In this first part David Bowyer explains how it works, what accessories to have and how to use it.

Let there be no doubt about it, everyone who takes a 4X4 off-road should not only carry a high lift jack, but also know how to use one.

The high lift jack has been around for many years now. In fact it is said that it appeared in it’s simplest form about a hundred years ago first seen in the farmyard. The name originally given to it was the “Sheepherder’s Jack”. Fifty years later it was simply called the “Implement Jack”.

During the last twenty years the high lift jack has many names the World over – “Hi-Lift”, “Jackall”, “Jack-all”, “Railroad Jack”, “Vaporjack”, “Unijack”, “Handy Man Jack” and no doubt a few more.

This equipment is manufactured by two different companies across the atlantic. In the U.K., both these models are available to us – the “Hi-Lift” made in the USA by The Bloomfield Manufacturing Company Inc., and the “Jackall” made in Canada by New-Form Manufacturing Co.Ltd.

Both are similar in construction utilizing a cold punched rolled steel beam, resembling a small section of railway line and is commonly known as the ‘rack’. These ‘racks’ are either 48″ or 60″ in length giving the term either a 4′ or 5′ jack. Throughout the length of the ‘rack’ is a series of holes pierced at 20mm centres. These holes are in fact slightly wider than deep. To the bottom is attached, by a split pin, a simple base. The “Hi-Lift” has a cast base and the “Jackall” a pressed steel one.

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This reversing latch lever must be in the upright position at all times, unless you are ready to lower the load

The lifting mechanism is basically a cast steel socket which drops over the top of the rack which contains two hardened steel lifting pegs. These ‘pegs’ are chamfered on their no-load tops and are pushed into the holes in the rack by two light springs.
To the bottom of the lifting mechanism is the ‘toe’ which carries the weight of the load. On the opposite side of the top is pivoted the operating handle. The “Hi-Lift” has a two piece handle and the “Jackall” is all in one. In either case, just above the handles’ pivot point is a further pivot to which a short link is attached to it’s lower runner that carries one of the two ‘pegs’. The upper runner which is the main body of the mechanism carries the top ‘peg’

With the ‘reversing catch’ on the side of the top runner in the upright position – ie: to lift, movement of the operating handle causes the two pegs, in turn, to be located in the rack. It is extremely important to make sure at all times that the reversing catch is in the upright position whenever a load is held. Similarly the operating handle should always be left in the upright position against the rack when a load is on the toe.

If you already own a high lift jack, next time you get it out, observe exactly how the two pegs work in unison with one another. If you are going to buy one of these brilliant jacks, when you take delivery make a point of understanding what happens as you swing the operating handle through it’s arc.

When lifting, the bottom peg is taking the load whilst the handle is being pulled downward on it’s power stroke. The chamfer of the topside of the top peg lifts this peg clear of the rack during this simple operation. The top peg then takes over the load as the handle is lifted up again ready for the next ‘lift’ dragging the bottom peg upwards in readiness to take the next load.

To lower the load, first make sure the handle is in the upright position against the rack and hold it there with one hand. With the other hand, or side of your boot, knock the reversing catch lever downwards. This unclips the upper part of the catch which is attached to a reversing slide. This works in conjunction with the weight of the load which traps the pegs. The reversing slide is brought into play by downward movement of the reversing catch lifting the pegs one at a time clear of the rack thereby allowing them to enter one hole down in turn as the handle is operated.

The lifting mechanism is basically a cast steel socket which drops over the top of the rack which contains two hardened steel lifting pegs. These ‘pegs’ are chamfered on their no-load tops and are pushed into the holes in the rack by two light springs.
To the bottom of the lifting mechanism is the ‘toe’ which carries the weight of the load. On the opposite side of the top is pivoted the operating handle. The “Hi-Lift” has a two piece handle and the “Jackall” is all in one. In either case, just above the handles’ pivot point is a further pivot to which a short link is attached to it’s lower runner that carries one of the two ‘pegs’. The upper runner which is the main body of the mechanism carries the top ‘peg’

With the ‘reversing catch’ on the side of the top runner in the upright position – ie: to lift, movement of the operating handle causes the two pegs, in turn, to be located in the rack. It is extremely important to make sure at all times that the reversing catch is in the upright position whenever a load is held. Similarly the operating handle should always be left in the upright position against the rack when a load is on the toe.

If you already own a high lift jack, next time you get it out, observe exactly how the two pegs work in unison with one another. If you are going to buy one of these brilliant jacks, when you take delivery make a point of understanding what happens as you swing the operating handle through it’s arc.

When lifting, the bottom peg is taking the load whilst the handle is being pulled downward on it’s power stroke. The chamfer of the topside of the top peg lifts this peg clear of the rack during this simple operation. The top peg then takes over the load as the handle is lifted up again ready for the next ‘lift’ dragging the bottom peg upwards in readiness to take the next load.

To lower the load, first make sure the handle is in the upright position against the rack and hold it there with one hand. With the other hand, or side of your boot, knock the reversing catch lever downwards. This unclips the upper part of the catch which is attached to a reversing slide. This works in conjunction with the weight of the load which traps the pegs. The reversing slide is brought into play by downward movement of the reversing catch lifting the pegs one at a time clear of the rack thereby allowing them to enter one hole down in turn as the handle is operated.

Now the really serious WARNING. The reversing catch must NEVER be released when the operating handle is in the lowered position. The reason is simply this. With a heavy weight on the toe of the jack, that handle will almost certainly fly up against the rack with a hell of a clout. This shock on the jack will undoubtedly cause the handle to fly back down again as the pegs take their turn in lowering the load rather rapidly. And that handle will continue in flying up and down until the load comes off the toe.

If you have lifted your vehicle halfway up it’s rack, that handle could easily fly in each direction a dozen times in a blur of speed. If you dare to try and catch that flying handle, then you will surely break a finger, thumb, palm, wrist or arm. Or worse still, trap your face. I know many people who have had broken jaws and knocked out teeth. Pay heed to this warning and you should not have any problems.

The lifting ratio by the way is almost 30:1, so you can imagine lifting the whole front of a Land Rover would require an effort of only about 50lbs. With a little practise nearly everyone should achieve this effort on the end of the handle.

So why is the high lift so popular amongst those who go off roading? Well, let’s think about it. They are easy to use, fast to operate, large amount of travel to easily lift a 4×4 out of deep ruts, will lift at a push about 3 ton (for the first foot – continue trying to lift this sort of load right up the rack and you will bend it!) They are extremely versatile: lifting, pulling, clamping, spreading to name a few, easy to maintain, not too heavy – about 27lbs (12Kgs) and not too expensive. Looked after it will last you a lifetime.

Accessories

To make this versatile tool even more versatile there are a few accessories which one could carry to make full use of the high lift. For the purpose of illustration nearly all the pictures here show us using the “Jackall”.

I personally prefer the Jackall to the Hi-Lift, because not only is the handle a one piece affair and therefore doesn’t rattle about so much when lying in the back of the vehicle, but according to the manufacturer’s literature it is designed to lift 8,000lbs instead of the Hi-Lift’s 7,000lbs. I also like the design of the accessory top clamp and mounting rack. As with most things in this World – you pay your money and you get your choice. One must remember however, that the weight limit reduces as you come up the rack in both cases.

Jack Pad

There is just no point in trying to lift a vehicle clear of the ground if the base of the jack is resting on a soft surface is there? All too often, you will simply achieve pumping the rack with it’s metal base into the ground with the vehicle staying put!

A Jack Pad made from plywood would be ideal. Take two pieces of waterproof (WPB) plywood. One piece approx. 12″ x 12″ x 1″ thick (300 x 300 x 25mm) and nail and glue a similar sized piece of 1/2″ (12mm) plywood to the top having first cut a hole in it just slightly larger than the base of your jack. This will stop the jack base from sliding off the top.

You could of course simply use your shovel, a sand ladder, Waffle or even the spare wheel laid down in the mud or sand, but I know what I would prefer to use!

Maintenance Kit

A maintenance kit is available that includes all the items you are likely to require should the need arise.

90/110 Adaptor

On all Series 1,11 and 111 Land Rovers you simply place the toe of the jack either under the front bumper or under the rear crossmember for lifting. However, with the advent of the One Ten, its maker kindly built in proper lifting points into the front dumb irons of the chassis (those two holes just under the bumper hidden by rubber plugs). And into the rear crossmember there are two tubes welded in. Just after the launch of their new vehicle I designed a heavy duty adaptor to locate onto the toe of the Jackall and ‘plug’ into either of these four holes on the vehicle. This same adaptor fits all models of 90, 110, 127/130 as well as Classic Range Rover and Discovery fitted with my BRB Roo Bars or a set of Jack Mates on the front.

The reversing catch must NEVER be released when the operating handle is in the lowered position. The reason is simply this. With a heavy weight on the toe of the jack, that handle will almost certainly fly up against the rack with a hell of a clout. This shock on the jack will undoubtedly cause the handle to fly back down again as the pegs take their turn in lowering the load rather rapidly. And that handle will continue in flying up and down until the load comes off the toe.

High capacity bodied Land Rovers present a bit of a problem on the back in so far as the rear crossmember is tucked away underneath. But then owners of Range Rover and Discovery will already know that there’s not a lot on the back to use the jack on.

Enter adaptor number 2! Launched three or four years ago, I have designed a Rear Adaptor to suit all models of Land Rover, Defender, Classic Range Rover and Discovery. This adaptor has been designed to lift the whole of the back of the vehicle when casting to clear deep ruts or changing rear wheels. It fits onto the rear towing drop plate and secured either by the tow ball bolts or fitted above the ball.

Top Clamp

A most useful accessory indeed. It may not have many uses when out off roading, but around the home, workshop or farm it turns the Jackall into a device that will either spread or cramp depending on which way the lifting mechanism is facing on the rack. Incidentally, you can slide off this mechanism right off the top of the rack and turn it around and replace it onto the rack and it won’t fall to pieces or collapse. I thought you would like to know that!

The Top Clamp can be used anywhere along the rack so if you want to squeeze up an object which is only a foot thick, then that’s fine. Or you may need to force a door frame open in an emergency. Again any width up to nearly 5′ is possible with the longer of the two jacks.

Shackles

A couple of 1/2″ (12mm) shackles are ideal to keep alongside your jack. As in any jacking operation, one must NEVER climb under a raised vehicle. If you have to get underneath to carry out a repair or adjustment, locate proper axle stands under the axle and possibily also under the chassis.

The high lift jack is brilliant for helping one to change wheels quickly. In that case you are only raising the vehicle high enough to get the replacement inflated tyre on the studs. And it is safe to do just that, but no doubt one day you will have a binding brake lining to see to, or a disc pads to change. You could easily be out in the field, so to speak.

Providing you are most careful in chocking the other three wheels, have parked on level ground and don’t start thumping things with a huge hammer, you could work at arm’s length on that stub axle working at all times with an awareness of danger: Keep your head out of the wheel arch.

High capacity bodied Land Rovers present a bit of a problem on the back in so far as the rear crossmember is tucked away underneath. But then owners of Range Rover and Discovery will already know that there’s not a lot on the back to use the jack on.

As an extra safety precaution secure a shackle to the rack with it’s pin through the nearest hole directly under the lifting mechanism. Whatever you do, make sure nobody goes near or touches that jack, If the handle keeps flopping down, to avoid somebody walking into it, tie it back to the rack with a piece of string.
Shackles, however, also come very useful for attaching the top of the rack and the underside of the toe to secure either chains or ropes for short pull winching. You may have to file out the hole under the toe to accept the shackle pin. This is a cast hole and therefore not always perfectly round.

Mounting Rack

Ideally your high lift jack should always be secured in the vehicle. Not quite so easy in a Classic Range Rover or Discovery, but in a Land Rover – no problem. In a vehicle with a bulkhead behind the front seats the high lift can be secured and indeed locked into place on the special two part Mounting Rack. It can also be secured on the side of one of the rear wheel boxes should seats be installed above as in the case of a Station Wagon. If your hardtop doesn’t have rear seats fitted, the Mounting Rack could be bolted to the top capping on the lower body above the wheel boxes.

Sometimes you see high lifts mounted outside the vehicle to one side of the rear door. In my case it is up on the roof rack. For total security I’ve gone a bit overboard by utilising two Mounting Racks and discarding the non locking top brackets. I therefore end up with padlocks each end.

You could of course make up your own mounting rack by using two longish 12mm bolts coming through the bodywork from the back secured with one nut with washers each side. On the protruding studs, Locktite a ‘stand off’ nut into position. The high lift ‘rack’ is then simply lifted onto these two fixings and secured into place with another nut. You could cross drill the end of the studs to accept small padlocks. The handle could be kept closed to the rack with a bungy strap to stop it clonking about when driving off road.

If there is nowhere to secure it at all, then either wrap it up in a blanket or make up a rifle case type of bag in heavy canvas. At least this will protect the inside of the vehicle.

Winching Chains

A pair of adjustable high tensile winching chains and perhaps a webbing tree strop with the appropriate shackles turn the high lift into an even more versatile piece of equipment. Quite often one only requires a short pull to get out of a predicament.

Using the Jack

Let’s start with a simple use. Changing a wheel for instance, either on or off road. So you have a puncture. Well it happens to us all at sometime or other and sometimes it happens all too often. Even if you have got your trusty screw jack or hydraulic bottle jack, it’s not much fun in trying to reach under the vehicle to place it under the axle is it? If it’s muddy you will have to get a base under it as well to stop the jack from sinking. Then nine times out of ten you have to screw out the centre section of the jack to locate it first under the axle before raising. All very fiddly and time consuming. To be honest, I’m not very pleased with the rather slow operation of the standard 90/110 bumper jacks either.

So this is the way to do it! Out with your high lift jack, find the wheel wrench and take off your spare wheel. Aren’t the standard wrenches terrible! Spindly affairs. Take my advice. Ring up one of the major advertisers in one of the magazines and order a proper wheel nut wrench. They come in two nut sizes. 27mm for metric wheel nuts on most Series 111’s, all Land Rover/Defender 90/110, all Range Rover and Discoverys. 15/16″ for imperial for nuts on Series 1 or 11. I have no idea who makes them, but they are painted blue – refer the advertiser to this article!

Whichever Land Rover product you own, engage low ratio (and make sure it is fully engaged). If your vehicle has full- time permanent transmission, engage the centre differential (if fitted) as well. Switch the engine off, engage first gear and have the handbrake on. You should also chock behind one or preferably two of the wheels at the opposite end of the vehicle.

BEFORE placing the toe of the high lift jack under the front bumper or rear crossmember, CRACK the wheel nuts first. In other words slacken all five nuts off half a turn. This will save dislodging the vehicle once the tyre is off the ground.

Now position the toe of the jack under the front bumper or under the rear crossmember in line with the MAIN CHASSIS RAILS. This will ensure you are picking the vehicle up at it’s strongest point. As mentioned earlier, if you have a proper jacking point, use the adaptor, preferably using the bolt to locate the adaptor fully onto the toe of the jack.

Raise the reversing catch lever, position the jack upright with the Jack Pad underneath if necessary, and with one hand holding the rack to steady the jack operate the handle with the other hand. Once you raise the lifting mechanism away from the jack’s base you can lift bodily by the handle the whole lot up the rack until the toe sits snugly where it should, or you have the adaptor into place.

Probably you will continue to hold the top of the rack with one hand as you pull the handle down with the other through it’s power stroke. Keep pulling or pushing down until you hear THAT click. That click is the top peg falling into it’s rightful hole in the rack being pushed by it’s own spring.

Lift the now slack handle upwards until you hear and feel the next click. This second click is the bottom peg falling into it’s next hole after dragging it up the rack. At this stage both pegs are fully located for maximum strength and safety. And so you continue. Pull or push down through the click, lift up through the next click. A short person will pull the handle down, whilst a tall person will push it down!

Whow, this is easy! But don’t get carried away. Simply raise that corner of the vehicle sufficiently to clear the wheel and tyre away from the ground to allow for it’s inflated replacement.

Now I’ve taken you through it’s operating sequence you can see why the handle must be left upright against the rack can’t you? Because in this position both pegs are in place – good, got it!

Finish changing the wheel. If you have a shovel handy, use it to position the new wheel into place by lifting the wheel over the studs, then lightly tighten the wheel nuts up against the rims.

Back to the jack, knock down the reversing catch lever making sure one hand is holding the handle still up against the rack. Then with BOTH hands, grab hold of the handle bring it right down through the first click, lift it up through the second click and so on and so forth ‘walking’ the mechanism back down the rack.

As the weight starts to come off the toe replace one hand back onto the rack and finish lowering the mechanism. The moment the weight comes off completely, the mechanism will collapse to the ground with a thump. Be warned! This is because as there is no weight on the toe, the ‘pegs’ are no longer trapped.

Having completed the wheel change don’t forget to tighten your nuts well! A smile indeed, but seriously it is very important to ensure that the wheel nuts are re-torqued as required by the handbook. For now, place both hands on the wheel wrench and pull upwards with a reasonable effort. With exactly the same amount of effort, go around the remaining nuts working in a diagonal fashion. When back at base, check again, using the torque wrench. It is good practice to check those wheel nuts again after doing a few more miles. You will be surprised how often you can keep tightening, especially if you have 8-spokes fitted.

Finally, don’t forget to disengage the centre differential lock if fitted and come back into high ratio if continuing on the road. In case I’ve left you wondering why you had to engage the diff lock in the beginning it is simply this: when you jack up the corner of a full time-permanent drive vehicle, if you haven’t locked your front and rear propshafts together, they can contra rotate allowing the vehicle to swivel and fall off the jack – as simple as that.

The next jacking article will continue covering many other uses of the high lift.

Telephone: 01363 82666

Fax: 01363 82782

Email:sales@goodwinch.com

Goodwinch Ltd, David Bowyer's Off Road Centre, East Foldhay, Zeal Monachorum, Crediton, Devon, England, EX17 6DH

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