- Nate Kuhn
If you’re like me, there are certain things you have your eyes on buying for yourself that might not be NECESSARY. Usually it’s something I'd like to have but is slightly more expensive than you really want to spend on something you can technically do without. For the past 8 years or so, the best example of this has been the QuickJack portable car lift.
Look, anybody who works on their own cars would LOVE to have a proper commercial grade 2-post service lift in their garage. Unfortunately, they’re absurdly expensive, require a high ceiling height and are a pretty major/permanent installation. Whether it’s due to financial reasons, spatial constraints or you just don’t want to dig up the concrete floor, they really don’t make sense in nearly any domestic garage.
In my case, it’s all three. I am fortunate enough to have a VERY large garage considering it’s attached to my house, but the ceiling is low - like a bit less than 8’ of vertical room to play with. There isn’t enough space to lift a car high enough to stand under, so even a low-profile lift means I'd still be on my back when working underneath so why spend 3 grand to still be on a rolling creeper?
Once I discovered the QuickJack system, I was immediately intrigued, as most garage tinkerers are. They have multiple models that vary in frame size but mostly are aligned to different maximum weights they are rated to lift. The most popular size is the 5000 series - which as you may have guessed is rated for anything up to 5000lbs. This basically takes care of anything shy of large trucks (which they offer a 7000 model to cover). They also have a smaller 3500 series that has shorter runners (for small wheelbase stuff). Largely, the 5000 will handle pretty much everything but the very smallest or largest you can throw at it.
The main issue with the QuickJack (for me) is that largely, you can probably get by without it. I already had 2 floor jacks and 4 jack stands, so spending over a thousand dollars on a more convenient version of what I already had didn’t really appeal to me. This is the most common gripe/hangup I have heard by MANY people when discussing the QuickJack.
And truth be told, when the car is up on either the QuickJack or on traditional Jack Stands, there doesn’t seem to be a TON of difference. But there’s much more to it than that. Ultimately, the reason I finally needed to buy one of these was the recent purchase of my Corvette. For those of you who aren’t too familiar, the corvette’s chassis structure is fairly unique compared to most other cars. It doesn’t have a traditional frame rail/pinch welds on the sides, and the jacking points are a bit more complicated than most as well. When I got the car home, I tried out both of my floor jacks (including a LONG arm model that usually scoops under anything (including my VERY low FRS without issues). Most people fabricate some wooden step-up pads to drive up just to get a long arm jack under, and then the car really begs for a load-leveler attachment to your jack, which I don’t have. Add to that the Corvette really works better with flat-topped jack stands (as opposed to my cradle-style) and suddenly I need to replace ALL my stuff to the tune of a few hundred dollars which suddenly made a QuickJack enticing.
I won’t repeat the exact instruction manual step by step - there’s plenty of places to see those detailed instructions, but the basic usage goes like this:
The QuickJack utilizes a matched pair of hinged frame rails that are hooked up to a hydraulic pump that raises both in tandem. The frames have safety catches and locking arms to suspend the car at 2 height intervals safely, and lowers the car back down at the touch of a button. It all happens in a matter of 20 seconds or so - I didn’t count. Point being, it is faster, easier and smoother than the manual method and more sturdy/safer as well.
The overall height of the lift rails is VERY low - enough to slide right under the corvette’s lower side with room to spare - about three inches or so. So basically you just slide the two rails under the sides of the car, line up the included rubber pads with the normal areas on the vehicle (wherever a normal 2-post lift would grab your vehicle) and hit the ‘up’ button, and in about 10 seconds the lift is in the lower (of two) locking positions. Keep the button pressed another 10 seconds or so, and the QuickJack reaches its second locking position at max height.
When fully extended, the top edge of the QuickJack rails measure around 18.5-19” off the floor, which is about 2” higher than my standard sized jack stands. However, the QuickJack uses a set of solid rubber block pads as contact points with your vehicle, which can be stacked to add another 5 or so inches of lifting distance. Personally I am not a fan of using jack stands while fully extended for tip-over reasons, but the QuickJack feels 100% sturdy in it’s upper setting. There have been a handful of internet fails with these, but after using it I attest that most/all are due to user error.
At first, what may seem like a lot of expense for a marginal increase over a normal jack stand is actually as much as 7” higher than the jack stand can do. When you’re underneath a car, every inch of space to work counts, and there’s no comparison to jack stands, the QuickJack offers a substantial increase of working room under the car when raised.
So, is it a real car lift?
That is the big question. Personally I say no, or at the very most “kinda”. I say no at least in the traditional sense most people think about when they imagine a car lift. To me (and most) a car lift will raise a vehicle to a height where you can access the underside while on foot - standing under and looking up at the underside. In that definition, the QuickJack is absolutely not a substitute for a traditional 2-post car lift. You’re still going to be on your back or rolling on a creeper on the floor, albeit safer, easier and with more room.
Is it just an expensive substitute for Jack Stands?
Again, “kinda”, but this connection REALLY diminishes a lot of great abilities the QuickJack offers by comparing it to traditional Jack Stands. The QuickJack fixes everything less than ideal about the safety and inconvenience of using jack stands and gives noticeably more working room under the car.
Is it worth it?
For me, yes. It’s never fun to drop a large amount on something you CAN live without. However, the QuickJack is one of those garage tools that after using it just once, I got angry with myself for not doing it years earlier. I do most of the wrenching on my cars at home by myself, and I'm doing something often enough that is a no brainer for me. If you’re the kind of person who has a shop do most things and you’re just an occasional oil change kind of person? You can definitely pass on the QuickJacks. Ultimately, you know what kind of user you are.
But if you’re even THINKING of getting a QuickJack and are talking yourself out of it because you’re not positive it’s worth the money for what you’re getting? Go buy one. With realistic expectations, you’ll love it.
I write and I know things. I am also the resident motorcycle expert at Everyday Driver - check out the Cycle Report - www.thecyclereport.com - on our YouTube channel. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.