Boating - - BOAT DOCTOR WHAT TO LOOK FOR - — John Tiger

Tongue jacks to­day have be­come so com­mon­place, they’re just an­other com­mod­ity in the trailer ac­ces­sories world. Trans­lated, that means they’re usu­ally in­ex­pen­sive to buy, easy to in­stall, and won’t last long if they’re abused and main­tained in­dif­fer­ently. If you’re buy­ing for the first time or re­plac­ing yours, here’s what to look for.


You get what you pay for. Cheap jacks don’t usu­ally last long. You can up­grade to one with a higher ca­pac­ity, larger dolly wheel, or even dual wheels, and a bet­ter, stronger in­ter­nal mech­a­nism. Typ­i­cally, this will dou­ble or even triple the cost, but the jack will last much longer.


Check ca­pac­ity and lift height care­fully. If your rig has a heavy tongue weight, go for a jack with a much higher ca­pac­ity. Too much is bet­ter than not enough. The cheaper jacks are typ­i­cally rated to carry

1,000 to 1,200 pounds, while the more ex­pen­sive ver­sions carry 1,500 to 2,000 pounds.


The higher rat­ings come from beefier con­struc­tion. Typ­i­cally, the life tube is larger in di­am­e­ter, the gear­ing in­side is stronger, the dolly wheel and axle are larger and more durable, and the mount­ing, swivel mech­a­nism and pin are tougher.


Tongue jacks are typ­i­cally made from car­bon steel for strength and econ­omy, but marine ver­sions are al­most al­ways zinc-coated or gal­va­nized for cor­ro­sion pro­tec­tion. Those mar­keted for util­ity trail­ers, camper trail­ers and oth­ers are usu­ally sim­ply painted. Pur­chase ac­cord­ingly.


If your trailer tongue needs more height, you can buy jacks that have more travel. Most com­mon is 10 inches of lift, but jacks are avail­able with 12 and even 15 inches of travel. Don’t set­tle.


Dual-wheel jacks and jacks with larger-di­am­e­ter wheels and rub­ber tires carry more weight with­out de­form­ing un­der load and also al­low for eas­ier travel across bumpy ground. Stan­dard plas­tic dolly wheels get stuck on rut­ted ground and of­ten break un­der load.


The swing­away fea­ture is com­mon­place to­day, but there are still jacks avail­able that don’t of­fer this. It’s a great con­ve­nience be­cause you can raise the wheel with just a few turns of the jack, then pull the stay pin and swivel the jack up and out of the way for travel with­out hav­ing to waste time crank­ing the han­dle un­til it’s fully re­tracted.

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