Last Updated on September 20, 2022
A Complete Guide to Hi-Lift Jacks for Any Off-Road Application – Safety Precautions, User Tips and Tricks, Accessories, and More
Off-Roading can be a treacherous adventure for both you and your rig. Having recovery tools, and knowing how to use them properly is vital to a fun and safe experience.
The Hi-Lift Jack is one of the best and most versatile tools you should carry in your arsenal of recovery equipment. The Hi-Lift is most commonly used to jack up your vehicle for repairs, but if used correctly it can also act as a winch in some circumstances to get vehicles unstuck.
Hi-Lift Jacks come in four different sizes: 36”, 42”, 48”, and 60”. The ride height of your vehicle will determine which size jack you’ll need, but not all vehicles can accept the assistance of a Hi-Lift. When jacking up a truck, the jack must sit under the frame, and not the body, to prevent damage to the cab. Aftermarket parts such as rock sliders and heavy-duty bumpers can also provide a safe jack point for your truck.
Do You Need a Hi-Lift Jack?
Whether or not you should carry a Hi-Lift all depends on the types of future situations you could see yourself in. Do you NEED one? Possibly. It is a great tool to have for off-roaders, although it does have its pros and cons.
For the pavement crowd, Hi-Lifts are not a necessity for your vehicle; but if you want to experience driving off the streets and onto the dirt, it is definitely a useful piece of recovery equipment. Just in case something goes south.
It all comes down to what you believe you’ll need to be safe and prepared when you are out exploring.
Hi-Lift offers five different jacks for off-road use, each with different colors, materials, sizes, and specs. The Hi-Lift jack is constructed using either All-Cast or Cast/Steel materials, both have the exact same test capacity strength of 7,000 lbs.
All-Cast: Check price
- Available in 42″, 48″, & 60″ Heights
- Most Durable Design
- Features a Red Jack with Black Handle
Cast/Steel: Check price
- Available in 36″, 42″, 48″, & 60″ Heights
- Features a Black Jack with Red Handle
X-Treme: Check price
- All-Cast Construction
- Available in 2 Sizes (48″ and 60″)
- Replaces the top clamp-clevis of the standard Hi-Lift® models and provides the ability to winch, clamp, and spread up to 5,000 lbs.
- Features a Black Jack with Gold Accents
UTV/SxS: Check price
- Available in 2 sizes (36″ and 42″)
- Lightweight, weighing less than 30 lbs.
- Designed for UTVs and Side-by-Sides
- Features a Black Jack with Gold Accents
PATRIOT Edition: Check price
- All-Cast Construction
- Available in 2 sizes (48″ and 60″)
- Zinc-Plated Hardware
- Red Handle-Keeper (HK-R) Included
- A portion of the proceeds goes to Hope for the Warriors
- Features a blue powder-coated finish with zinc-plated hardware, white, powder-coated two-piece handle, and socket
How to Properly Use a Hi-Lift
Step 1. Locate a Jack Point
Find a secure jack point that is tied into your frame and can take the load of your rig. Common jack points that can be used include rock sliders, heavy duty bumpers, and hitch receivers.
In this scenario, I am using my rock sliders that are welded securely onto my truck’s frame. Never lift your 4×4 up from the body as it can cause serious damage to the cab.
Step 2. Stabilize the Jack
Firmly plant the jack on level ground before raising the truck. A level platform is required to operate safely. To ensure extra stability, use a Hi-Lift Off-Road Base, or a traction board with an integrated base.
If you are on a soft surface such as a mud or sand, the Hi-Lift will sink under load if it is not seated on a base to disperse the weight. On hard surfaces, a base is not required but it is still recommended.
Quick Tip: Take the time to also chock your wheels and engage the parking brake to reduce the risk of any slippage.
Step 3. Begin Jacking
The Hi-lift Jack uses a two-pin mechanism to function. In the locked position, with the level bar up, both pins are engaged in the jack. As you crank down on the lever, the bottom pin remains in position while the top pin climbs up. Raising the handle then re-engages the bottom pin to the next position up.
Keep in mind not to over jack your 4×4 up any higher than you need to. I would also suggest strapping your axles to the body or frame to allow the tire to lift off the ground easier (in some cases required for vehicles with large amounts of flex).
Step 4. Lowering the Jack
After finishing up any work that needs to be done under your truck, you’ll need to safely lower the jack. To lower the jack, flip the lever above the pins down to engage the it in lowering mode. Using the same simple operation as raising, however in reverse, the bottom pin now climbs down as the top pin remains in position.
Be careful when lowering the jack, because the handle will kick up to hit you in your jaw if it slips out of your grip. Hold on firmly and take control when raising and lowering the handle.
It’s very important to make sure the pins are cleaned and oiled to allow for safe and smooth operations.
All-Cast vs Cast/Steel
Hi-Lift constructs their jacks using either All-Cast or Cast/Steel. Both are rated for the same load capacity, but which one is better?
The All-Cast Jack is as it sounds, and uses cast as its only material for construction. This makes it durable and long-lasting.
The Cast/Steel constructed jacks primarily use cast as the main material, besides these four pieces that are made of steel:
- Top clamp-clevis
- Handle socket
- Foot piece
For a cheaper price than the All-Cast, the Cast/Steel operates and functions to the same capacity as the cast, the only downside being the steel parts will not be as long-lasting as their All-Cast counterparts. Reducing durability for a reduced price, it is up to you to determine which is more valuable.
The Do’s and Don’ts
Hi-Lift Jacks are without a doubt a dangerous tool. Without the proper precautions and knowledge, Hi-Lifts can cause serious bodily harm and even death, but that is not to say you should be scared of them. The dangers of using a Hi-Lift Jack can be avoided by treating the tool with respect and handing it with caution.
The two biggest dangers of the Hi-Lift Jack include:
- Instability – The Hi-Lift’s design relies on a tall jack resting on a narrow base. You can use bases for the jack that provides a little extra stability, but you are still fighting its unstable design.
- The handle’s load when lowering the jack – When lowering the jack, the handle holds energy and wants to kick up if let go under load. It is very important to firmly hold onto the handle and keep your body clear of the movement of the handle.
- Strap your axle to the frame to prevent flex when jacking up your rig
- Keep a safe distance away from the jack, incase the jack does fall over
- Use tires, rocks, logs, or anything to put underneath the axle or frame to block up your truck in case it drops
- Understand that there is a possibility of the rig slipping off the jack and be prepared
- Always use an additional base if you have one as it provides loads more stability than the original stand
- Chock the tires and ensure the parking brake is on to prevent your truck from moving
- Never go under your vehicle when jacked up by the Hi-Lift
- Don’t go between the jack and the rig in case the rig does slip off
- Avoid using your Hi-Lift for simple repairs, use a floor jack or a bottle jack if it will work
- Do not release the lever when lowering the load as it will kick up with force and possibly cause injury
All tools deteriorate over time and the Hi-Lift jack is no exception. As an off-road tool, it is going to get beat up when used. Metal-on-metal contact will scratch off the protective paint coat, allowing rust to slowly take over.
It is a known fact that steel rusts and unless you live in a place where rust doesn’t occur, there is no way around it. Taking in the abuse of the elements and off-road use, your Hi-Lift Jack will rust and although it is unavoidable, there are ways to slow down the process:
- Store the jack inside your truck or home when not being used
- If stored outside, get a Hi-Lift Running Gear Cover (which also blocks mud and dirt build-up on the mechanical parts of the jack)
- Lube the jack frequently and liberally
If you are out on the trail and your jack’s pins or shear bolt is beyond the point of no return, Hi-Lift offers a Fix-It-Kit which comes with two climbing pins with springs, two cross pins, one shear bolt and nut, and a tube of jack lubricant.
The Fix-It-Kit is a simple install that can be done on the trail with basic tools that you should already be carrying.
Find It Online
Hi-Lift Jack Accessories
Hi-Lift offers a wide variety of jack accessories that can increase the versatility and effectiveness of your tool while protecting your 4×4.
The Hi-Lift Off-Road Base disperses the weight of the truck while on the jack and provides additional stability. Using the jack with its original base on soft surfaces such as sand and snow can cause the jack to sink while being used. The base disperses the load, preventing any sinking.
The Winch Kit is an extremely versatile tool and with the right knowledge and additional equipment, the jack can be used in some situations as a winch. Using a chain, tow straps, hooks, and other parts in this kit, the jack can be anchored to a base and winch out a stuck rig.
The Hi-Lift Keeper features a simple design that’s easy and convenient to use. The keeper secures the lever to the jack when mounted to prevent any annoying rattling or shaking while driving or wheeling.
There are plenty of different mounting options offered for the Hi-Lift Jack ranging from bumper mounts, hood mounts and roof mounts, to even tire mounts. Hi-Lift offers both universal and vehicle specific mounts.
The Hi-Lift Bumper Lift is designed to hook underneath curved steel bumpers. These bumpers lift can carry up to 3,000lb and this lift allows average height vehicles to be elevated up to two inches off the ground.
The Lift-Mate by Hi-Lift is designed to lift the vehicle wheel directly from the wheel, reducing the amount of travel up the jack bar, allowing for a safer jack height.
Hi-Lift’s Locking Knob offers a versatile threaded locking knob designed to accommodate ½ inch, 13 thread bolts. The locking knob comes with a set of keys used to unlock and lock the jack, preventing any possible theft.
Finally, the Hi-Lift Jack Protector comes in two sizes: 48” (for jacks 48” and smaller) and 60”. The jack protector fully encloses the jack, protecting it from the elements such as mud, dirt, and sand, which prolong the jack’s longevity.
Each of these useful accessories are also available on Hi-Lifts website.
For the Hi-Lift Jack’s affordable price and multiple features, you get the most bang for your buck compared to other recovery tools. Being equipped with the Hi-Lift and knowing how to use it safely provides peace of mind while off-roading. If you don’t already own one, I highly recommend picking one up before your next off-road adventure.