Friday, June 7, 2013

A Screw Bottle Jack With An Oversize Base

This spare tire-changing jack is so old I've long forgotten how I came by it.

Its base is small, and 'tippy' from side-to-side -- a feature that I found a bit annoying. The jack mostly just languished for years, until I got the bright idea to make a big, flat base for it. That turned out to be a very good move. Here's a view of the jack mounted on its hardwood base.

All I had to do was drill a hole at each corner of the jack's steel base; then a few tee-nuts, washers and hex socket head screws got me a much-improved jack.

One of the first uses I found for it was on vehicle exhaust system work in my driveway. I had a rusted-out muffler hanger to replace on a Pontiac Sunfire, and this jack was just what I needed to support and position the muffler, while I installed a replacement hanger.

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Adapting 1/4" Square Drive to the Crank Socket

The great, long crank for the jack proved to be pretty clumsy for my purposes, so I made a 1/4" square drive adapter for the crank socket from a 12mm socket wrench, like so.

The 12mm socket wrench was a cheap, no-name one, and it proved to be relatively easy to cut and file. It fits that 'rectangular' crank socket perfectly.

With that adapter, I can easily hand crank the jack when delicate positioning is called for, or I can apply a variable speed drill when a fast, lengthy ram excursion is needed.

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Accessorizing the Ram

I drilled a hole in the centre of the ram's face, and tapped it 10-32; that made it possible to attach helpful accessories for specialized applications.

Adding a hook gave me a way to elevate a lawnmower for changing its oil, like so.

Adding a rectangle of Ikea flooring material gave me a spray-painting stand for the upturned hopper of a fertilizer spreader I was restoring.

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Idle Storage

When the jack's not in use, it stashes away nicely overhead between a couple of joists, on cleats that I made for it.

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Obtaining a Screw Bottle Jack

No retailer that I know of sells these things -- hydraulic bottle jacks, yes; screw bottle jacks, no.[1]

The local auto wrecker is likely to have a zillion of them. My '99 Ford Ranger came with a very similar jack. I suspect that virtually all production of this style of jack gets sold to car makers.

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In Closing

This jack is a good example of how creating/acquiring an item with no immediate 'payback' to it, merely because it's a good thing in principle, can end up 'paying back' over and over again as uses crop up and suggest themselves.

When I was working, I noticed that the bosses would never 'invest' a dime in anything that they couldn't see an immediate, right-this-instant payback from. Maybe, to be profitable, there can be no other way to operate a business. I don't know; I'm no businessman.

But I do know a bit about tools and physics and getting work done and what it takes to get work done. And I know that all those profit-making outfits that I worked for over the years were the shabbiest, most ill-equipped hell-holes on the face of God's earth.

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[1] 'So why even bother with screw bottle jacks, when hydraulic bottle jacks are readily available?'

Good question. Answer -- for several reasons:

a) Lighter weight. A screw bottle jack is just less 'stuff' to have to grapple with.

b) Orientation insensitivity. A screw bottle jack can operate in any orientation -- from 'right side up' to 'upside down'; the jack couldn't care less.

c) Ruggedness. An extended hydraulic jack's ram has little tolerance for abuse. You could accidentally saw a small notch in the extended ram of a screw bottle jack, and the jack would just 'shrug' and say, "Oh, ouch.", and carry on working.

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