The High-Lift Jack – Hero or Hindrance?

We take a look at how to use the high-lift jack safely; the uses it has; how to make the high-lift jack a hero; and the carnage it causes when not used quite right. The …

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Club 4X4 Insurance
May 01 2017
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We take a look at how to use the high-lift jack safely; the uses it has; how to make the high-lift jack a hero; and the carnage it causes when not used quite right.

The high-lift jack is arguably one of the most valuable (yet simple) low-tech tools you can carry on your 4X4. However, it’s also one of the most ill-used. Being such a versatile piece of equipment, it’s not surprising how many you’ll see on your average tourers, and a lot of old blokes will pull them off the truck to do a job you’d never imagine them being used for.

They can be used as a jack, hand winch, bead breaker, bush vice and a vehicle pivot among other things. In all of these instances there will be immense pressure on the jack – so as always, you’ve gotta be bloody careful with them. And yep, this is coming from a personally bruised sternum and ego.

Using the high-lift jack as intended – as a jack!

First things first, you’ll need barwork to jack off (unless you’ve got a wheel lift harness, which we’ll get to later). The jack’s running gear clamp goes under the barwork, and you lift the lever to raise your 4X4. Do your business, flip the reverse lever, and then lower the 4X4. Simple, right? Just remember, these jacks work with the weight of the vehicle. If the weight of the vehicle moves, or comes off the jack for even a fraction of a second, the whole thing will come crashing down.

The other thing to remember – when you’re lifting, make sure the shear pin clicks into the I-Beam… If it doesn’t click in and engage, you’re gonna have a bad time on the upstroke. How this bloke didn’t end up with a wired-up jaw, and eating his 400g rump through a straw, is beyond me


Always take it slow, and whatever you do, as you’re jacking, it’s not enough to just listen for the ‘click’ of the pin locking into the next hole on the I-Beam – make sure it goes all the way home. Many a bloke has near lost the Jatz Crackers believing the pin had snuck home.

The jack handle is near three feet long for a reason – you’ll get solid leverage down the end of it, plus it gets your hands, fingers, toes (and anything else you’re inclined to stick in the mechanism) well away where nothing can get crushed or beaten to a pulp!

The ol’ Jack and Slew

The jack and slew technique is probably the most helpful, yet sketchy, thing you can do with a high-lift. We’ve all been rolling through a set of ruts, and gotten to that point where some muppet has spun his 40in muddies just so any other normal truck is going to diff out; and you usually won’t find this until you’re beached on your diff-pumpkins.

Using the jack and slew, you lift up the front (or back) of your 4X4 with the jack, so your tyres are out of the ruts; then run out to the side of your rig and push it off the jack sideways – hopefully pushing your truck onto the middle of the ruts. This works a treat, but it’s sketchy as hell, ’cause chances are the jack’s gonna take out your front bar or slingshot itself in any random direction… cleaning up anything in its path. At the end of the day, use this method only when you really need to; and when you can make sure everyone can get well away from your truck and the 30kg of steel you’ve been jacking it up with!


If you’re getting yourself out of a set of ruts, try to get yourself at least three inches above the high side of the rut if you can manage it, to allow for the drop. Remember the jack becomes a huge weight-bearing pivot, and your truck becomes the fulcrum. Smaller bites at the cherry are key in here – and if it becomes absolutely necessary, you can turn your truck around a full 180º.

The Jack’s also a Winch… No Really!.

With a high-lift and a drag chain the jack doubles as a winch without too much trouble. All you need to do is secure the chain to your 4X4, secure the jack to a tree, and use your jack to winch your truck in. With the drag chain, you just need to shorten up the chain every time you go the length of the jack – but hopefully you’ll get out in the metre-and-a-half of jack you’ve got to use.


As always – we’re winching! So utilise appropriate dampeners as if you’re winching with your typical 12V winch, and keep everyone clear of the area.

Choosing the right jack, servicing it, and the parts…

As with all recovery gear you’re planning on putting two-and-a-half tonnes of fourby behind, cheap crap just won’t do. If you want to save a few bucks, get a cheaper UHF, or one less light bar that’s on sale for the 40th time this month.

Recovery gear needs to be reliable, and quality. The absolute last thing you want is to be using your high-lift jack, and have it buckle, break, or otherwise let you down – ’cause it’s not just warm beer (like if your el-cheapo fridge carks it); this could potentially be fatal (come to think about it, it is kinda in the same severity category should the beer get warm… I guess).

Servicing your high-lift is simple, not time-consuming, and well worth the effort. Simply give it a solid clean after you’ve been away, and give the mechanism a good shot of WD-40 to keep things moving as they should. Keep in mind after a smashing of WD, it’ll pick up every bit of dust you drive near – so regular maintenance is a must!

This article was originally posted by Unsealed 4×4.

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