Ask The Experts

Choosing The Right Hydraulic Jack

Every day hydraulic jacks, lifting cylinders and other lifting equipment are used in different ways.

It could be at the tyre depot when the family Mondeo needs a new tyre, or as part of a major engineering project to stabilise a subsiding building - or even to move a new bridge deck into position. Whatever the application, the choice of equipment, its safe use and correct maintenance is vital if the job is to be done safely, cost-effectively and efficiently.

The right choice will make your life easier and safer.

As with any equipment, the right choice of jacks or lifting cylinders will make work easier and safer for years to come. The wrong choice, as well as not doing the required job, is likely to prove costly when it is time for maintenance and servicing. And of course, with people's safety at stake - and your reputation - you should never cut corners on the specification of hydraulic jacks or any other lifting gear.

Hydraulic jacks

Let's get some terminology clear before we start. A hydraulic jack is a powerful lifting or pushing tool designed to provide effective lift over greater distances than a basic mechanical jack.

You are unlikely to find a hydraulic jack in the boot of that family car, but you will find them in workshops or on-site for specialised engineering applications. Hydraulic jacks use a plunger mechanism and a non-compressible fluid, typically a hydraulic oil, to create the required pressure - and resulting lifting capability.

Choosing the right hydraulic jack requires thought about factors including the following:

  •  What you need to lift.
  • The weight to be lifted
  • How high you want to lift it.
  • The space available to position the jack.
  • The required stability when the jack is extended.
  • How mobile the jack needs to be (portability).
  • Whether the motive power will come from human effort or with compressed air (a pneumatic jack).
  • Ease of servicing and maintenance.

Lifting cylinders

Hydraulic lifting cylinders (also called linear hydraulic motors) consist of a cylinder containing a piston which is operated by a hydraulic pump.

Broadly similar selection criteria apply when choosing between general purpose lifting cylinders, lightweight aluminium cylinders, high-tonnage construction cylinders or low-height cylinders for use in confined spaces. Add in hollow plunger cylinders and long stroke/high cycle cylinders for other special applications and you enter a field where specialised knowledge and experience, and a suitable partner, is vital.

Key factors to understand before choosing

With such a wide range of lifting cylinders available, the key to successful specification lies in understanding the following:

  • What you want to lift, push, pull bend or hold
  • The weight you want to lift (typically 50 to 1000 tonnes)
  • How far you want to lift or push it
  • High or low cycle operating regimes
  • The operating environment (indoors or on-site)
  • Available clearance to position the lifting cylinder
  • The amount of control required, maybe over multiple lift points in civil engineering applications)
  • The available hydraulic supply
  • Special protection requirements (such as piston blow-out protection or safety locking for mechanical load holding)
  • Transportability
  • Is there a tensioning or testing requirement (hollow plunger cylinders)

Lifting safety and jacks

For this section, we'll use the term 'jacks' very loosely to encompass hydraulic jacks and lifting cylinders. It's also a brief section - for very good reason.

In both cases, lifting safety comes down to correct specification for the required purpose, suitable product quality, quality maintenance and regular testing.

To achieve this, most users of hydraulic lifting equipment will draw on the experience and knowledge of an established expert partner.

Look for someone with a decent track record in the business, excellent contacts with the major equipment manufacturers such a Enerpac and Tangye, maintenance, servicing and training skills - and a reputation to protect.

Then ask their advice, listen carefully and follow their advice on using and maintaining hydraulic jacks. That's the secret to lifting safety and jacks - with no accidents and efficient use of your equipment to achieve your lifting objectives.

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