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What is a Ratchet Jack?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 17, 2024
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A ratchet jack is a tool that lifts a heavy piece of equipment, vehicle or other item by the principle of applying force in small incremental processes. The ratchet jack is a type of jack, a lever based machine, that uses a ratchet method to raise up cargo. Ratchet jacks come in many different forms, and are used in many industries.

Different ratchet jacks make use of various forms of engineering for lifting a lot of weight from a relatively narrow position. A “jack and ratchet” setup might include technology where a screwing motion turns a bolt and raises up cargo steadily. Many of the ratchet jack designs need a separate steel bar to operate them.

In many cases, a ratchet jack has a small ‘reversing lever’ that determines whether the jack will raise or lower a load when the operator pushes down on the steel level arm. Those operating the jack simply flip this switch to reverse the direction of the load. Ratchet jack makers often include the reverse lever near the base of the jack for easy location.

The best ratchet jacks are built of sturdy, heat-forged steel or steel alloy. Heat-treated components generally perform better under pressure, and thorough testing provides more operational security for these kinds of devices. With this kind of construction, some ratchet jacks can hold and manipulate as much as 20 tons of material.

A ratchet jack with a larger base often provides more stability for adjusting large loads. Some ratchet jack designs are also made specifically so that operators can use them in small areas. According to their design and purpose, ratchet jacks can cost from several hundred dollars to well over a thousand dollars each.

Ratchet jacks are used often in many different fields, including a wide range of building and construction industries, as well as heavy lifting operations such as mining. Metal fabrication shops or other indoor facilities may include ratchet jacks in a tool set for moving tools, equipment, or goods. A retail warehouse or other storage facility may also keep ratchet jacks on hand.

Jack and ratchet design represents some of the newest technology for safe and sturdy lifting. Many of these designs are in compliance with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards for a safe workplace. Workers should always use all of the precautions spelled out in user manuals for the best chance of operating ratchet jacks safely, and contributing to an injury-free workplace.

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Discussion Comments

By kylee07drg — On Nov 01, 2011

@OeKc05 – I know what you mean. It is amazing and kind of scary to see that much weight supported by a thing so small in comparison.

I keep a ratchet jack in my trunk in case I have a flat tire. However, I won't change it myself. I either wait for help to stop or I call a friend to come change it for me.

Sometimes, strangers who stop to help don't have a jack with them. That's why it's always good to keep one in your vehicle. You never know when you will need it.

By Perdido — On Oct 31, 2011

My husband uses a ratchet jack to enable him to work on several different things. He has raised up the lawnmower with it when he had to remove the blades and sharpen them, and he also used it to replace the belt. I have seen him jack up various types of heavy machinery and parts, because he is great at repairing things like this, and people often bring him their broken stuff to fix.

He has to rotate a handle in order to raise the jack. When he's ready to lower it, he flips a lever to reverse the motion and rotates the handle again. It's all so easy, and he doesn't have to do any heavy lifting.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 31, 2011

I have seen my dad use a ratchet jack on the car. It amazes me that such a small object has the power to hold up tons of metal. It's like watching a mouse lift a cow!

He jacked the car up so that he could have a look under it. I was very scared that the car might fall and crush him, but he told me that would not happen. Still, I don't place enough faith in ratchet jacks to slide up under a car while one holds it up for me.

Once he slid out from under the car, he pushed something on the jack to lower the vehicle. The jack made a decompressing sound, and the car slowly sank to the ground.

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