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Saturday
Dec152012

Transform your Hi-Lift jack

It isn’t very often I test a product that defies criticism even when subjected to the harshest analysis. But I’ve just been using a brand new accessory for the Hi-Lift jack, and I find myself at a loss to write anything that would approach even the level of nitpicking. 

Anyone who has used a Hi-Lift jack knows it will do things no other jack will do. Anyone who has used one also knows the thing is a widow-maker if not handled with the same circumspection one would employ with a pissed-off rattlesnake. The operating handle continuously lies in wait for the head of a careless user to stray within its arc of movement. (Lose your grip then and a broken nose would be light punishment.) The lift mechanism is prone to jamming until doused with WD-40, and the selector lever frequently requires a stomp with a boot rather than a push with a finger to switch from “raise” to “lower.” 

Then there’s stability. Now and then you want an unstable Hi-Lift, when using it as a “casting jack” to raise one end of a vehicle and then tip it sideways out of a rut. Far more often, the thing tips on its own when you don’t want it to. Woe to anyone trying to insert sand mats under the tires at that point—much less anyone attempting to change a tire. And human body parts are not all that are at risk: The Hi-Lift’s main beam will crease truck-body sheet metal effortlessly if the vehicle tips away from the baseplate.

Until now we just put up with these hazards to exploit the inarguable versatility of Bloomfield Manufacturing’s century-old invention. Now Richard Bogert of Bogert Manufacturing has solved one of the Hi-Lift’s salient drawbacks with a product of palm-to-forehead simplicity.

The Safe Jack comprises a sturdy, powdercoated steel baseplate into which the base of the Hi-Lift slots snugly. The plate offers exactly the increase in area (144 square inches total) as the ubiquitous orange plastic ORB jack base, to enhance flotation in soft sand or mud.

The Safe Jack base (left) offers the same flotation as the plastic base

But the brilliance of the Safe Jack lies in the two swaged steel cables bolted to each corner of the base, which triangulate the jack’s structure by connecting to the top of the main beam with a quick-connect clevis pin. The user tensions the cables by simply screwing in an eyebolt snug against the main beam, and . . . shazam: Suddenly that tippy Hi-Lift is the Rock of Gibraltar. I raised the front of my FJ40 with the Hi-Lift a foot off-center—normally a recipe for a drunken sideways flop as soon as the weight comes off the tires—hung both wheels in the air, then shoved sideways on the vehicle. Nothing—it rocked an inch or two and settled back comfortably. The total extra time to set up the Safe Jack system was maybe 30 seconds.

The Safe Jack's cables attach with a pin and tension with a simple eyebolt.

In the end, I found one small thing I thought would improve the Safe Jack, although it’s far from a criticism: I plan to replace the bolts securing the bottom ends of the cables with clevis pins and J-clips. That way if I want just the base I can quickly remove the cables to keep them out of the way.

The Safe Jack provides all the flotation benefits of an expanded baseplate, then adds a different universe of stability and safety. I’m finding myself viewing my 20-year-old Hi-Lift as an entirely new tool. If you’re a Hi-Lift jack owner—or have avoided buying one because of all the horror stories you’ve heard—trust me, this accessory will change the way you view your jack too. For 69 bucks it’s a steal.

The Safe Jack is available direct from Bogert Manufacturing: Go here. They also make some intriguing accessories for bottle jacks which I hope to test soon.

 

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Reader Comments (14)

Jonathan, thanks for posting this. Perfect idea for a stocking stuffer for someone who thought he had everything he would ever need.

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDale Avery

Since this story, the price is now $109 (up $40 in a month???)

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ. R.

Looks pretty easy to fab one of these up on our own.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterW.S.

J.R. - Hmm. As I said originally, for $69 the Safe Jack is a steal. At $109, not so much. Although to address W.S.'s comment, I weld and have a nice Miller 180, and even for $109 you couldn't pay me to fabricate one of these.

January 12, 2013 | Registered CommenterJonathan Hanson

I just got this note from Richard Bogert, along with an offer for those reading this who'd like to purchase a Safe Jack:

Jonathan, I'll be happy to explain. The problem was with my cost estimator, who calculated the cost/price of the base plate accurately enough but had not included the steel cables or the upper clevis. I discovered the problem when I was reviewing the supply chain costs. The base plate by itself is still about $70.

What I can do is extend a $69.00 price to your readers through the end of February. They will have to use discount code "OVERLAND" when they place their order for the 51M-SJS Safe Jack Stabilizer.

So, my original comment turned out to be more prescient than I knew: At $69 it is indeed a steal. Even if you never use the triangulating cables, the Safe Jack makes a fine base plate and takes up less storage space than the bulky red plastic bases.

January 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterJonathan Hanson

Note: If you use the discount code, be sure to use all upper case letters.

January 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterJonathan Hanson

I would be advertising for a new estimator. Regardless of the quality of the item or the willingness to "discount" to those knowing the secret handshake, a mistake like this could have serious and far reaching ramifications for a company's credibility.

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjay

Jay, thanks for the comment. I guess you and I have different degrees of tolerance for a manufacturer's mistakes with a brand new product. Given that the unit I tested was still a prototype, and hadn't been available on the website for more than a week when I posted the article, plus the fact that, as I wrote, the original price seemed improbably low to me, I wasn't that surprised to learn of the jump, and thought the company's offer to us more than fair.

Regarding the higher price (not directed at you): If someone feels $45 for a molded piece of plastic (the ORB jack base) is reasonable, and $110 for a welded, powder-coated steel tool comprising two major multi-sectional pieces and swaged cables (not to mention the ingenuity involved and the hugely increased versatility) is a ripoff, then we have markedly differing views on value.

January 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterJonathan Hanson

One thing that's unclear... Is this accessory useable on uneven terrain like those found on harder 4x4 trails?

January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRS

RS, I found the Safe Jack helped stabilize the jack on moderate slopes. In really rough terrain you'd have to assess the conditions case by case. It's certainly usable any place the plastic ORB base is. I can picture of a lot of situations I've been in on very rough trails where it would have helped.

I think of the Safe Jack as a valuable accessory for many situations, rather than something to hook up every time you use the jack. But it's so quick to deploy that it's worth experimenting.

January 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterJonathan Hanson

I bought one. Bogert said you were to blame for them selling out twice already.

February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNothingClever

Nice! I'd like to hear what you think of it.

February 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterJonathan Hanson

So much to say, so little time! Much like the picture - leaving the handle in that position is dangerous - regarded as an UN-safe operating condition. Hi-Lift Jack has a series of clear protocols that dictate the safe operation of their jack. Most people ignore them (your picture) and that is how the simple mechanical jack gets a bad rap. Well intentioned, misinformed trainers and club aficionados do a disservice to this product by calling it a "widowmaker" when actually learning how to use it properly is so easy! The cable/bolt assembly of the stabilizer, blocking the proper stroke of the handle compromises the overall jack safety and function! Good idea, just needs some adjusting!

February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill Burke

Bill, thanks for the comments. I think.

I gather from your last comment that you've reviewed the Safe Jack and found the function compromised. I'm curious if that's so and you came to different conclusions than I. I found no interference with a proper stroke - in fact, as Im sure you know one of the most common minor hazards of the Hi-Lift is pinching one's thumb between the operating handle and shaft if you fail to keep it out of the way, and the presence of the top cable attachment might very well help prevent that. I felt the Safe Jack added hugely to the safety of the jack in many situations. I'd like to know if you had different results.

The handle was positioned where it was for the photograph purposely, so it did not block the view of the top mechanism. Normally when I use a Hi-Lift I don't leave it unattended for a second until I'm finished with it - basically the same attention I give to a loaded weapon. I don't care what position the handle is in.

I couldn't tell if you were accusing me of being a "misinformed trainer" or a "misinformed club aficionado," but since I belong to no 4WD clubs I'll assume it's the former. If you disagree that the Hi-Lift can be, as I specified, a widowmaker if not handled with circumspection, then you have a more sanguine view of its potential for injury than I. Admittedly, I've only personally seen one person who required stitches in his forehead after leaving it in range of the operating handle. But that was enough for me to treat all Hi-Lifts like pissed-off rattlesnakes, and to look kindly on any product that enhances their safety. If your experience with the Safe Jack was different I'd be happy to hear why.

February 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterJonathan Hanson

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