Using High Lift Jacks (Part 2)

Please see PART ONE before you read this section.

David Bowyer continues to explain the many uses of a high lift jack when out off roading.

Casting the Vehicle

The high lift jack is a very unstable unit. In off-roading terms this can be to your advantage. Imagine you are stuck well down in deep ruts with your axle diffs high centred.

No problem. Place the jack pad on ground below front bumper (make sure the ground is level), drop the base of the high lift into it and lift the toe up under the middle of the bumper. You now realise why you don’t want your number plate protruding below. It’s always a good idea to either place a block of wood between the toe and underside of the bumper or at least wrap some rag around the toe. This is to stop the toe from slipping sideways off the bumper which can happen so easily, especially when working in mud and water.

Ensure that the rack is upright and have a person stand each side of the vehicle slightly pushing towards each other. Continue to raise the vehicle as high as you can to a point where the two front tyres are well clear of the ruts. The vehicle must be left in gear and low ratio, first or reverse, with the handbrake on. You don’t want the vehicle moving either backwards or forwards. Remember at this stage there is a certain amount of stability as the rear wheels are held in the ruts.

Ask your two helpers to ‘stand clear’ whilst you hold the top of the rack with one hand and the outstretched handle with the other. Simply then push the high lift over to the desired side taking the front half of the vehicle with it. The front wheels should ‘land’ onto the ground above the ruts. Sometimes, some additional help is required from one of your two assistants by way of a slight shove by pushing on the front wing in the appropriate direction. As the vehicle ‘falls’, only have one hand on the jack – the handle – pulling it out to the front to stop the jack from becoming trapped.

If you don’t completely succeed the first time, simply do it again. Sometimes it’s better to take small bites, instead of trying to do it in one. This type of recovery is often called the ‘lift and slew’ method.

If you need to get the rear of the vehicle out of the ruts as well, then simply carry out the same procedure by either placing the toe of the jack under a secure part of the towing assembly, under the chassis (on a Land Rover) next to the towing unit or engage the jack’s toe under our rear lifting adaptor.

173497Breaking the Suction

Another common use for the high lift is breaking the suction when stuck firmly in a ‘bog’. Those of you who have spent much time well and truly stuck in these conditions will know what I mean.

It doesn’t matter how good your winch is, if you have gone down to your chassis to the point of opening your door across the surface of the ground, you have a big problem. What you need to do is lift each end or corner of the vehicle in turn as high as you can and fill the holes dug out by the spinning tyres with whatever you can lay your hands on. Even bundles of reeds will do, to support the vehicle by it’s wheels rather than it’s diffs or chassis. This is where sand ladders or Waffles come in useful. Your Jack Pad will probably be useless on it’s own in these conditions. Placing your Jack Pad on top of a sand ladder, Waffle or even the spare wheel will ensure that you don’t lose the pad in the bog and will spread the load better.

Exercise great care when trying to raise a stuck vehicle in these conditions. For one thing there is usually a panic. Don’t panic! Survey the situation, think out the recovery and carry out whatever is needed methodically.

Secondly, the vehicle will appear to be very, very heavy. That’s the suction. I’ve had cases where we have had to employ two high lifts working in unison on the same end of the vehicle as it was obvious we were going to bend a single jack. Once you have bent a jack rack you have had it. One of the pictures feature one of these banana racks.

Having de-bogged your vehicle continue your recovery the best way you can trying your hardest NOT to spin the wheels, or you will be back where you started! Later in this series I will be covering the various techniques.

Stuck in a Rut
Sometimes you can easily become caught out by dropping just one front wheel in a deep hole or over the edge. This could be an eroded part of a track. Rather than trying to pull the vehicle which could damage a diff, why not simply get the jack out, lift one corner, and fill the hole with some rock, or a log or two. Lower the vehicle back down again and simply drive off.
However you decide to effect your recovery, always bear in mind the environment, cause as little disturbance as you can to the ground.

Winching with a High Lift

173501If a high lift is capable of lifting 7-8,000lbs, think how useful this tool could be if the need arises to pull yourself along a short distance. Quite often, being able to winch yourself out a few feet is all that is required. You will need a ground anchor of course. I’m going to cover ground anchors in detail another chapter, but let’s suppose for now that we have a handy stout tree a short distance away.

Attach a suitable webbing strop around that tree, down as near to the ground as possible, using a large bow shackle to bring the eyes of the strop together. Ideally, use an adjustable high tensile alloy chain to connect from that point to the top of the high lift using an appropriate small shackle.

Lay the jack out towards the stuck vehicle and use a second chain attached to another small shackle fitted to the underside of the toe. Couple the other end to a secure recovery point on the vehicle. Having taken up all the slack on either or both of the shortening hooks on the chains you are ready to winch in. If your rig won’t quite reach, use a ‘dead’ tow rope or a strop to make up the difference at the vehicle end.

Remember to raise the reversing latch lever so when you operate the handle you ‘walk’ the lifting mechanism up the rack. As before, take the handle through the ‘clicks’ each end of the arc. Having pulled the vehicle along the length of the rack you can secure the vehicle if it is trying to roll back by means of footbrakes or perhaps a long length of non-stretchy rope tied between the vehicle and ‘made off’ around the tree.

The chains can then be re-rigged by shortening them. You will need to ‘back off’ the jack first though by holding the handle against the rack, knocking back down the reversing latch lever and walking the mechanism back a few holes in order to re-rig for another pull.

It may seem a little slow and laborious, but believe me those two chains with your jack could be a godsend. I’ve tried using lengths of rope and shortening knots, but at the end of the day you spend half of your time taking up the slackness in the stretch of the rope and/or knots, which can be very frustrating.

Other Uses

With the chains and webbing strop you could pull fallen trees to one side to allow you to pass. You could break the bead of a tyre by placing the jack’s base on the edge of the tyre right next to the rim and jack it down by using the weight of your vehicle.

The high lift could be used to lift a heavy trailer onto your tow ball, or lift it off come to that. A wrongly positioned gate post could be lifted out of the way, but don’t get into trouble for doing it if it’s on a ‘green lane’! The uses are endless. Any photographs from readers on unusual uses of a high lift would be appreciated.

Back at the Farm, or Workshop….

You could pull out a bent front bumper or spread the front dumb irons of a bent chassis. Laying a boarded floor in the barn? Cramp the boards up before nailing! The trailer sides have spread, no problem, pull them back in. The wire fence needs tightening, get the high lift out. Need to lift an engine out? All you need is a good strong beam above.

Talking of beams. By careful placing of a suitable sized piece of timber on the toe and a loose strap attached to the top of the rack you can even gently use it as a makeshift Acrow Prop. But don’t try and lift the side of a house up! Better wear the ‘hard hat’ too!

Putting things into perspective a 4′ Jackall won’t cost you any more than a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife, complete with survival kit and leather pouch. One of these jacks must surely be an Off-Roader’s best friend – well next to a towrope, a shovel…


When you first buy your Jackall, you will find nine times out of ten that the ‘rack’ is gunged up in some thick black paint which doesn’t help the mechanism to run nicely. Also the cold punching leaves a blur on one side of the rack.

Lift the mechanism right off the rack and give the rack a good sandpapering. Then take a flat file without a handle and take the burr off leaving two nice flat sides. This is done for a good reason. Should you lift off the mechanism you won’t have to worry about which way it should go back as you don’t want any burrs on the peg side do we?

And another thing. I know you are always wearing gloves, but just say you forgot (slapped wrists!) The tops of the racks more often than not have a very sharp top edge where they are cold cropped. With that file still in your hand but with the handle back on it, round off all the top edges. You’ll be pleased you did!

A light oiling, WD40, Duck Spray or whatever you have is all that is needed to keep the pegs, pins and pivots working properly. Only the very lightest of oiling is required of the rack itself otherwise the jack would be nasty to pick up. If the jack is used regularly, especially in mud, then do gunk it down from time to time and re-oil it.

Over the years you may find that the holes in the rack become rounded off on the bottom load bearing surface. This could cause the pegs to slip out of engagement. Simply reverse the rack by fitting the base to the other end.

Finally, always remember to read and understand the instructions before using your high lift for the first time. I wish you years of successful safe jacking and hope you get out of your predicaments easier! As with anything else, practice perfects.

Telephone: 01363 82666


Goodwinch Ltd, Oakleaf Way. Gunn. Barnstaple. Devon. Ex32 7NZ

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