Jun 13, 2023

How to Use a Hi

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There are two common Hi-Lift jack misconceptions circulated among new Jeepers. The first one is that if they have 35-inch-or-taller tires, they have to carry a Hi-Lift jack with them. The second one is that they shouldn't use a Hi-Lift jack because they are not safe. The truth is, a Hi-Lift is a very useful and versatile tool to have, no matter what size tires you own, and they can be unsafe if not used or maintained properly. Though I cannot go into all the possible ways to use a Hi-Lift jack in this short space, I will share with you the most common ways I use my Hi-Lift jack and a few key safety points.

First, what I don't do with the Hi-Lift jack is change tires or work on my Jeep. I find an appropriately sized bottle jack or the factory scissor jack with a broad and sturdy base to be a far simpler option for tire changing. I also never use the jack for holding up a car to crawl under it—use jackstands.

The most common way I use the Hi-Lift is to lift a wheel off of the ground to get myself unstuck or lift off of something stuck under the belly of the Jeep. To lift the wheel for that purpose, secure a strap through or around the wheel, being careful of brake components, or use a handy accessory with plastic-coated hooks called Lift-Mate to grab the wheel. Once the wheel is lifted high enough that the stuck undercarriage parts are clear of it, stack rocks (or dirt, Maxtrax, etc.) to create a new high spot under the tire for it to bite on and drive clear. An alternate method would be to actually remove the obstacle itself from under the Jeep once the wheel is lifted up, in the case of a loose rock or log jammed under it. I do not recommend crawling under the vehicle at any point while it's on a Hi-Lift.

Both of these next techniques are not endorsed by Hi-Lift because the body of the vehicle is moving, using the jack as a fulcrum point. However, a Hi-Lift may also lift the body of the Jeep by the rock rails or bumpers so that it can either be cast off or driven clear of an obstacle. Casting is lifting the bumper and then carefully pushing the body to the side to move it away from the obstacle. I have used the drive off method as well, especially effective with vehicles with axle-lock capability. In both cases, extra caution and planning must be taken into consideration. Anticipate where the Jeep will land. When the weight shifts off of the jack, the jack is going to fall. Think of the possible directions it could fall, and plan accordingly. Stay out of its way. Will it hit the body of the Jeep or will you drive over it? A few carefully placed shop towels or bungee cords can assist with the outcome.

One of my favorite ways to use the Hi-Lift is as a manual winch. Yes, most of my rigs have a power winch on the front, but sometimes you need a second winch or to pull in a different direction than the front-mounted winch is able to do. One of the most common recoveries we perform is pulling up a vehicle that has slid sideways off of the edge of a shelf road.

If you pull on the front or the back with the winch, the opposite end wants to slide off. So we use the Hi-Lift to apply tension on the opposite end while winching, and often the whole vehicle pops back on the road like magic.

Read the instructions (they are very thorough) for the Hi-Lift jack and remember these key points. Make sure the foot is placed securely, and keep your foot on it while jacking. Wear gloves and keep a firm hand on the end of the handle, especially when lowering the jack when the jack handle is more likely to fly upward. Keep all body parts out of the scissoring area of the jack, between the handle and the upper part of the shaft. I hold on to the top shaft of the jack, but keep my thumb out of the line of fire of the handle. Keep your jack clean and lubed. A dirty, unlubed jack is a dangerous jack.

Keeping your jack clean and lubed, using it safely and properly, placing your hands and feet correctly, and taking your time to adequately assess the situation can make the Hi-Lift one of your most useful pieces of equipment.

If the Lift-Mate won't work for some reason, you can always use a short strap to wrap around or through the wheel to lift it. Make sure to not pinch sensors or brake lines on the backside of the wheel.

Casting off is lifting one end of the rig off the ground and then carefully pushing it over to reposition the stuck wheels. This can be dangerous if you have not anticipated where the vehicle and jack will fall once the vehicle has been cast to the side.

The legendary Bill Burke demonstrating perfect Hi-Lift form while jacking this wheel up to place it on a Maxtrax.

When I am using the jack in a casting off scenario, I place a towel between the jack and anything I would like to keep pretty.

Need to get the tire off the bead to repair a valve stem in the field? Hi-Lift!

Need to get the tire back on the bead in the field? Hi-Lift!

Someone (ahem) slid her truck sideways off of this steep ledge road while trying to winch a disabled vehicle. Winch on front, stabilize and pull up the rear of the truck with the Hi-Lift.

You can see how JR stabilized the back of his Jeep with a Hi-Lift to keep it from sliding sideways while he pulled the Jeep up the hill with the winch on the front.

My favorite Hi-Lift accessories (these, plus a can of WD-40): Lift-Mate, the top clamp for the Hi-Lift Xtreme (or the Jack-Mate), and the Daystar Hi-Lift handle isolator that stops those rattles.

This story was originally published November 15, 2018. Photos by Nena Barlow.

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