A jack is a mechanical device used to lift heavy loads or apply great forces. Jacks employ a screw thread or hydraulic cylinder to apply very high linear forces.
A mechanical jack is a device which lifts heavy equipment. The most common form is a car jack, floor jack or garage jack which lifts vehicles so that maintenance can be performed.
More powerful jacks use hydraulic power to provide more lift over greater distances. Mechanical jacks are usually rated for a maximum lifting capacity (for example, 1.5 tons or 3 tons).
Scissor car jacks usually use mechanical advantage to allow a human to lift a vehicle by manual force alone. The jack shown at the right is made for a modern vehicle and the notch fits into a hard point on a unibody]]. Earlier versions have a platform to lift on the vehicles' frame or axle.
A house jack, also called a screw jack is a mechanical device primarily used to lift houses from their foundation. A series of jacks are used and then wood cribbing temporarily supports the structure. This process is repeated until the desired height is reached. The house jack can be used for jacking carrying beams that have settled or for installing new structural beams. On the top of the jack is a cast iron circular pad that the 4" × 4" post is resting on. This pad moves independently of the house jack so that it does not turn as the acme-threaded rod is turned up with a metal rod. This piece tilts very slightly but not enough to render the post dangerously out of plumb.
Hydraulic jacks are typically used for shop work, rather than as an emergency jack to be carried with the vehicle. Use of jacks not designed for a specific vehicle requires more than the usual care in selecting ground conditions, the jacking point on the vehicle, and to ensure stability when the jack is extended. Hydraulic jacks are often used to lift elevators in low and medium rise buildings.
A hydraulic jack uses a fluid, which is incompressible, that is forced into a cylinder by a pump plunger. Oil is used since it is self lubricating and stable. When the plunger pulls back, it draws oil out of the reservoir through a suction check valve into the pump chamber. When the plunger moves forward, it pushes the oil through a discharge check valve into the cylinder. The suction valve ball is within the chamber and opens with each draw of the plunger. The discharge valve ball is outside the chamber and opens when the oil is pushed into the cylinder. At this point the suction ball within the chamber is forced shut and oil pressure builds in the cylinder.
In a bottle jack the piston is vertical and directly supports a bearing pad that contacts the object being lifted. With a single action piston the lift is somewhat less than twice the collapsed height of the jack, making it suitable only for vehicles with a relatively high clearance. For lifting structures such as houses the hydraulic interconnection of multiple vertical jacks through valves enables the even distribution of forces while enabling close control of the lift.
In a floor jack (aka 'trolley jack') a horizontal piston pushes on the short end of a bellcrank, with the long arm providing the vertical motion to a lifting pad, kept horizontal with a horizontal linkage. Floor jacks usually include castors and wheels, allowing compensation for the arc taken by the lifting pad. This mechanism provide a low profile when collapsed, for easy maneuvering underneath the vehicle, while allowing considerable extension.
A pneumatic jack is a hydraulic jack that is actuated by compressed air - for example, air from a compressor - instead of human work. This eliminates the need for the user to actuate the hydraulic mechanism, saving effort and potentially increasing speed. Sometimes, such jacks are also able to be operated by the normal hydraulic actuation method, thereby retaining functionality, even if a source of compressed air is not available.
A strand jack is a specialized hydraulic jack that grips steel cables; often used in concert, strand jacks can lift hundreds of tons and are used in engineering and construction.