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Jacking your way to freedom...

2002-09-13 11:23

Johan de Villiers

Ensure your jack is well-made and properly mounted

When you are determined to start venturing into more challenging terrain, it is vital to add the purchase of a Hi-lift jack to your inventory.

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Remember, at this point in time, a kinetic snatch strap should already be part of your equipment list, although a second vehicle is required to use it.

Considering the high cost of a properly rated winch, a much more cost-effective solution must rate as the Hi-lift jack. A Hi-lift jack may also be used as a manual winch with the aid of chains.

There are a number of cheaper imitations of the original American manufactured Hi-lift jack available locally, but I recommend that you do not consider the purchase of a no-name brand version. It is simply not worth the risk of failure in the event of a recovery in the middle of nowhere.

Once you have purchased your Hi-lift jack, get an engineering firm to make a jacking plate for you to be used as a platform when jacking the vehicle in soft sand or mud. The dimensions should be in the region of 30cm by 30cm and preferably about 4mm thick steel. Wood may be used as an alternative.

With most of today's vehicles having plastic bumpers or running boards, it is imperative to determine where the correct jacking points of the vehicle resides before venturing into the bush. These are specially strengthened points on the vehicle that can the carry the full load of the vehicle when lifted.

Remember, a Hi-lift jack will easily lift even the heaviest Landcruiser or Defender, way above the capabilities of the normal vehicle's jack.

Several accessories are available from Hi-lift that may be attached to the underside of a curved bumper of even the actual bull-bar, when suitable jacking points are not available.

Hi-lift Jacks may be used to recover your vehicle from a number of difficult situations.

When your vehicle gets "hung-up" on its belly, (normally on top of a large rock or "middelmannetjie"), a Hi-lift jack can be quite useful to lift the vehicle and place supporting material under the wheels to clear the underbody.

In the same vein, when the vehicle gets sucked in by deep mud, the Hi-lift jack can be used to break the hold of the suction and to fill in the holes underneath the wheels with suitable traction material, such as leaves, rocks or even twigs.

When using the Hi-lift jack as a winch, the top of the jack is attached to a length of chain (using a D-shackle), which is in turn, is attached to the vehicle (also using a D-shackle).

The moving leg of the Hi-lift jack is attached to another length of chain, which is securely anchored to a suitable point. Ensure that both chains are already under a light load before starting the recovery.

Proceed to horizontally jack the Hi-lift, as the vehicle will now move approximately 1 metre. The moving leg of the jack will have reached the top of the jack and simply gets reset to the bottom.

The entire process is repeated until the vehicle has been cleared. Make sure to practice this at home at least once before setting out.

Remember to carry extra lengths of chain and D-shackles.

If your vehicle is stuck in a very soft section or rut, the Hi-lift jack can be used to lift the entire front end (or back end) of the vehicle up into the air.

The 4x4 can then be "pushed" sideways to allow the front (back) wheels to clear the obstacle.

There are, however, a number of safety rules to consider when attempting this, as the vehicle is very unstable with only two wheels on terra firma!

Safety rules

  • Ensure all bystanders and passengers on both sides are well clear of the vehicle. The person operating the jack should also be aware that the entire Hi-lift jack may jump out from underneath the vehicle.
  • Do not jack the front end (or back end) of the vehicle more than 25-35 cm higher than the ground level.

    Now ensure that the vehicle is between yourself and the jack and proceed to push the jacked up end of the vehicle until it falls off the jack. By repeating this procedure the vehicle will "walk" sideways out of the rut or obstacle.

    Ensure that when the vehicle topples off the jack, the Hi-lift jack will not make contact with the vehicle and cause damage.

    In conclusion, you may also consider the purchase of an exhaust bag jack.

    This is simply a huge inflatable bag, made from very strong plastic material, which may be placed underneath the chassis of the vehicle when stuck.

    It has a plastic pipe which connects to the exhaust of the vehicle. When the engine starts, the bag will fill up and physically lift the entire side of the vehicle, clear of an obstacle.

    Ensure that the gearbox is in neutral, the handbrake is on and the wheels are blocked before attempting this.

    The bag has a small control valve to let the air escape and allow a controlled descent of the vehicle back to ground level. Be especially careful to ensure that there are no sharp sticks or rocks to damage the bag before using it.

    It is really most effective in sand. Should you be forced to use it on a rocky surface, place the car mats underneath the bag before inflating it.

    Remember that any exhaust with even a small hole will not inflate the bag properly. In addition to that, an old or rusted area of the exhaust can blow out when the bag is used, owing to the pressure buildup in the system.

    As a final reminder, never ever get underneath a jacked vehicle!

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