4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS BY DANIEL EVERETT

SOME re­cov­ery ac­ces­sories have cut­ting-edge de­signs, are easy to use and can dra­mat­i­cally in­crease safety. But not the high-lift jack. They’re heavy, al­most laugh­ably low-tech, and they have the po­ten­tial to put a grown man in hos­pi­tal with a bag full of pre­vi­ously at­tached teeth. De­spite this, they are with­out doubt the most ver­sa­tile piece of re­cov­ery equip­ment you can buy and should have a place in any tourer worth its salt.

The ba­sic de­sign has been around for more than 100 years, with the Bloom­field Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pany (owner of the Hi-lift Jack Com­pany) first putting it on the mar­ket in 1905 as the Au­to­matic Com­bi­na­tion Tool. Over the next cen­tury, the num­ber of uses the jack was put to paled only in com­par­i­son to how of­ten the de­sign was copied.

Un­like more niche prod­ucts, the high­lift is so ver­sa­tile due to its sim­plic­ity – in ba­sic form it’s es­sen­tially a huge me­chan­i­cal lever. Us­ing a range of var­i­ous at­tach­ments, tour­ers can utilise that force and per­form a huge range of jobs with the one tool: straighten bent steer­ing rods; press in uni joints; turn a ve­hi­cle around on the spot; it can even dou­ble as a hand winch.


IF YOU’VE ever ran your eyes over a high­lift jack, you’d no doubt be fa­mil­iar with the I-beam spine and the nu­mer­ous holes through­out. While the holes keep weight down, their main pur­pose is to pro­vide a sta­ble foot­ing for the jack­ing mech­a­nism. As the han­dle cranks back and forth, each cy­cle un­seats one of the two climb­ing pins from a hole in the spine, be­fore lift­ing up and slid­ing into the next hole above.

Think of it like walk­ing up a ladder. One foot comes off the rung, moves up to the next, and the next foot fol­lows. All the work is done by the run­ning gear, with the spine act­ing as a ladder for it to climb. With a long-enough spine, there’s no end to how high you can lift.

A high-lift jack will gen­er­ally have a lit­tle over two tonnes of lift­ing force and is ca­pa­ble of driv­ing in both di­rec­tions up and down the spine. That said, when cy­cling down, the jack re­quires a con­stant load to work cor­rectly. When the load gets too light, the run­ning gear will drop the rest of the way down the spine.


FIRST and fore­most, a high-lift jack is for lift­ing heavy things like 4x4s, and this is prob­a­bly the most com­mon rea­son peo­ple buy a high-lift. How­ever, there are a few tricks and tech­niques to be mind­ful of be­fore swing­ing the big red han­dle like a maniac.

Due to the long sus­pen­sion travel and high start­ing height of most 4x4s, lift­ing di­rectly off the bar­work is use­less. You’ll still have all four wheels firmly on the ground long af­ter you run out of wheel travel. Higher jacks can over­come this, al­though there are more el­e­gant so­lu­tions.

To lift di­rectly from the wheel, the go-to ac­ces­sory is known as a Lift-mate. It’s an adap­tor that slides onto the nose of the jack, with two hooks that grab the wheel. If you’re lift­ing it to clear an ob­sta­cle this will get the tyre off the ground; if you’re re­mov­ing the wheel you’ll need to lower the axle back down onto a wheel-chock be­fore re­mov­ing the jack. Al­ter­na­tively, a ratchet strap be­tween the chas­sis and axle will elim­i­nate sus­pen­sion droop, al­low­ing you to jack off the ve­hi­cle’s bar­work.

That said, in some cir­cum­stances the in­sta­bil­ity can play in your favour. By plac­ing the jack on an an­gle (in your re­cov­ery point or bow-shackle) and cy­cling the jack into the up po­si­tion, the 4x4 will not only lift in the air, it will

also push it in the di­rec­tion the jack is lean­ing. This can be used to get you out of ruts or even just to re-po­si­tion your­self in off-cam­ber sit­u­a­tions.

If you find your­self in a dead-end with no room to turn around, a high-lift can be used to turn your ve­hi­cle on the spot. Use the same tech­nique as pre­vi­ous to shift the rear end over the length of the jack, and then do the same for the front end in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. The process ba­si­cally in­volves lift­ing your 4x4 into the air and re­peat­edly push­ing it off the jack, so it’s def­i­nitely a last-re­sort tech­nique.


IF YOU’RE a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment, you might con­sider us­ing a high-lift jack as a makeshift winch. Due to the sim­ple na­ture of the high-lift, the ac­tual process is rather sim­ple. Like any winch­ing op­er­a­tion, you’ll start off by wrap­ping a tree trunk pro­tec­tor around a suit­able an­chor point. With a bow-shackle through the ends of the straps, at­tach it to the top cle­vis on the high-lift, so you’re winch­ing from the fixed end and not from the mov­ing ve­hi­cle.

You’ll need a five-me­tre drag chain to be able to get any sort of us­able dis­tance be­fore re-rig­ging. From here, the ac­tual op­er­a­tion is sim­ple. You’ll have two short chains at­tached to the high-lift with a hook on the other end – one at­tached to the spine and the other to the jack­ing mech­a­nism. Run the drag chain past the jack and grab it with the hook from the jack­ing mech­a­nism. Af­ter en­gag­ing the jack­ing mech­a­nism, cy­cle the han­dle to be­gin pulling the drag chain tight. Once you’re out of travel from the jack, hold the drag chain with the sec­ond hook at­tached to the spine. Then slowly crank the jack back­wards, al­low­ing the main chain to take the load so you can re-rig to get the full length of travel again.

It’s a slow and phys­i­cally de­mand­ing job, but if you’re stuck with no other op­tions it can get you out of trou­ble.


THEY’RE of­ten bought as a com­pli­cated re­place­ment for a bot­tle jack, but a high­lift should be looked at as a tool that ap­plies mas­sive amounts of di­rec­tional force. When viewed in that light, they be­come much more of a do-it-all tool rather than a stand­alone jack. If you want to lift a wheel off the ground to change a tyre, a bot­tle jack is a far more ap­pro­pri­ate tool. If you need to winch your­self out of mud, lift a tyre out of a bog hole, jack the en­tire ve­hi­cle up to clear a rock, straighten a bent steer­ing rod, or flip a rolled ve­hi­cle, the high-lift jack is the go-to piece of kit.


BE­FORE you go rac­ing off to use your high-lift jack as a mo­bile 4x4 work­shop and res­cue tool, there are a few key safety as­pects to be con­sid­ered.

Firstly, lift­ing a large weight a me­tre in the air in un­sta­ble con­di­tions should al­ways be a last re­sort. The po­ten­tial for the jack to slip off or out of re­cov­ery points shouldn’t be ignored. As a rule, al­ways work on the as­sump­tion the ve­hi­cle will fall off the jack.

Sec­ondly, the large arc of the han­dle ap­plies a mas­sive amount of force into the jack. So, if the jack’s mech­a­nism or the load slips, that force can come back into the han­dle and turn it into a gi­ant power ham­mer. Re­mem­ber to keep two hands on the han­dle at all times, and keep any bones you don’t want bro­ken out of its way.

The third and per­haps most of­ten over­looked fac­tor is what will hap­pen when the ve­hi­cle be­comes un­stuck. If you’re winch­ing your 4x4 out of a mud hole and you’re stand­ing down­hill when it fi­nally comes un-stuck, your day is about to get a lot worse. If pos­si­ble, al­ways have some­one in the ve­hi­cle ready to steer or stop.

1 The two chains at­tached to the high-lift al­low the load to be held while the jack­ing mech­a­nism re­sets, to al­low near-con­tin­u­ous winch­ing.

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