Should You Repair or Replace Your Floor Jack?

Whether you are a professional auto mechanic or just a consumer, there is no real replacing the value of a quality floor jack. Because of how heavy vehicles and their components are, you cannot simply find an alternative tool to accomplish the same or a similar task. That said, it definitely makes more sense to repair some floor jacks while others are better simply replaced altogether. To be clear, budget-friendly floor jacks should always be replaced rather than repaired unless the repairs take little to no time, effort, or money. With this is in mind, we bring you an article on whether you should repair or replace your floor jack. Keep in mind, there are few bottle or scissor jacks that cost enough to justify fixing them as opposed to replacing.

Parts of a Floor Jack

Pump – By this, we are not actually referring to the arm that you use to activate the pump, though that is a common problem. Instead, we are referring to the component within a hydraulic floor jack that is responsible for pressurizing the hydraulic fluid to generate the lifting force in the first place. If the pump is the issues, then there is a good chance that you should replace the faulty shop floor jack. Of course, if you are making this decision about a larger service jack that costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars, you will want to will want to take it to a hydraulic jack repair shop.

Hydraulic Jack Piston

This is the component which is displaced by the hydraulic fluid when the jack is being used. When combined with the pump check valve, the piston is incredibly important in generating and maintaining the pressure of the car floor jack’s hydraulic system. This is a fairly time consuming and difficult fix, so you may be better off just getting a new floor jack. Unfortunately, this component’s failure can present as a number of simpler easier problems, which you are likely to try to ‘fix’ before realizing the real problem.

Master Cylinder

This is the part of a floor jack that fills hydraulic fluid and seems like it might be important enough to simply replace a broken hydraulic floor jack over. However, the master cylinder is not only one of the most common components to fail but is actually also one of the easier to fix, more often than not. While there can be types of damage that are simply too far gone to save, but even most cheap hydraulic floor jacks can fix this component with little effort and money, though it may take a bit of time. Regardless, the master cylinder should rarely be the reason you purchase a new hydraulic garage jack.

Reservoir

This is the part that holds the hydraulic fluid when the floor jack is not in use and is actually pretty similar to the master cylinder in terms of deciding whether or not to replace or repair your floor jack. Because the reservoir does not actually have any moving parts, the kinds of issues that affect it are generally fairly solvable. Again, the damage can be so severe that there simply is no saving a failed hydraulic floor jack, but more often than not the solution will simply cost a little bit of money and effort and a bit more time.

Valves

There are two valves which are vital to the proper functioning of a hydraulic floor jack: the check and release valves. If these components are the issue, then you may have a difficult decision ahead of you. More often than not, the release valve is located in the lift arm and is fairly quick, easy, and cheap to fix. The check valve, on the other hand, is similarly cheap to fix but is neither quick nor easy, instead of requiring you to disassemble the hydraulic floor jack’s hydraulic system.

Common Problems

Damaged Wheels

This may seem like a bit of a convenience issue, but broken floor jack wheels can make using the floor jack a pain to impossible. More often than not, a hydraulic floor jack’s wheels will become damaged either when the jack is in transit or use. When in use, the weight from heavy objects that regularly test the limits of a floor jack’s lifting capacity can bend the wheel frames and axles. Regardless of how the wheels become damaged, this is a common issue that you should fix even on a cheap $100 hydraulic floor jack. This is because the wheels are the easiest and least expensive fix that nearly anyone can do.

Damaged Body

While most consider this to be limited to the frame, we think that a bent hydraulic floor jack arm should be included in this. This is because the arm is far more likely to bend than the frame is to dent. Still, this one can be a bit difficult to gauge as a superficial dent will cause no issue but a deeper crack indicates structural damage and is a sure sign that the floor jack is done. If the arm is bent, you can often simply purchase a new replacement arm from the manufacturer.

Hydraulic Floor Jack Won’t Lift

While there can be a couple of reasons why a floor jack’s hydraulic system fails, the signs of failure a pretty consistent across the board. The first issue is that the floor jack will simply not lift when you work the arm and demonstrates a lack of generated pressure. The other issue involves a hydraulic shop jack that slowly drifts down after you have lifted the object and highlights a leak in the hydraulic system that slowly seeps the pressure used to keep the jacked object suspended. Both of these problems should be fixed with expensive floor jacks but not for cheaper models.

Kicking Handle

Technically, if the handle of a hydraulic floor jack kicks back up after using the floor jack’s pump arm, this represents a failure somewhere in the hydraulic system, likely with the release function. However, because of the potential for danger, it is strongly advised that you do not try to fix this problem on your own. With over-pressurized hydraulic systems, it is important to have the proper tools, setting, and knowledge to safely depressurize them before you even begin to repair them.

Discolored Oil

The issue really comes down to the color of the oil, though a quick reference can help: if the oil is dark, then replace it. Unfortunately, if the oil is whitish or foamy, then this means that water somehow managed to get inside. Depending on how long this has been the case, you may be able to repair the problem by flushing and changing the oil. However, if your hydraulic truck jack has had whitish or foamy oil for a while, then you need to replace the jack–even if it is an expensive, professional shop jack. Once water has gotten into the jack and worn down the internal components, there really is no saving it.

Repair or Replace?

So far, you should be able to draw some rough, general conclusions as to whether or not you should repair or replace your floor jack. First, if the issue is with an internal component of the hydraulic system, you should only repair a professional service jack. Generally, the cost of the component and labor for the repairs will run you more than simply purchasing a new, inexpensive floor jack. On the other hand, any superficial damage to the hydraulic system should be repaired as it generally requires little money or effort. Structural damage to the body or wheels should be fixed unless it is too far gone. An issue with the fluids should also be repaired unless it has persisted long enough to cause permanent damage.

How-to

One of the easiest and first solutions you should try when repairing a hydraulic floor jack is to simply change out the oil and hydraulic fluid. Regardless of the issue, make sure to thoroughly clean the floor jack to ensure no debris gets inside the hydraulic system or oil.

For the hydraulic fluid, there will be a plug that you need a screwdriver or some other prying tool to remove. Though a bit tricky, you will need to turn the floor jack over a bucket and let the hydraulic fluid drain. When finished, replace the hydraulic fluid with new fluid and replace the cap–remember, most areas have fairly strict legal requirements for disposing of hydraulic fluid.

Replacing the oil is similar except you have a screw at the base of the frame and need to depressurize the hydraulic system. Basically, once you have refilled the floor jack with new oil, open the release valve and work the pump arm to push out any air that might be trapped in the system.

Leave a Reply