Any decent floor jack SHOULD serve you well for years, but it does depend on you to provide proper maintenance or it could fail when you need it most. Floor jack maintenance is simple, and it will only take a few minutes of your time 2 or 3 times a year.
It’s not a bad idea to keep a notebook in your garage with a list of all your important tools, maintenance dates, and notes regarding unusual wear or behavior to help you identify a potential problems and stick to a regular maintenance routine.
1. Regular Inspection
Know your floor jack well. Always inspect the jack before use, looking for cracks, loose nuts or bolts, and any damage that needs attention. When damage is found, repair or replace the jack. You should also be aware of any oil spots or signs of leakage where the jack was stored.
Under normal usage, a floor jack should not leak, and signs of leakage indicate that service is needed. Be sure to check the wheels for cracks, flattening on one side, or other damage. The wheels are a critical part of the floor jack system and any damage to them needs to be repaired before the jack is used again.
2. Keep It Clean
Because it has exposed grease, your floor jack will act like a magnet for dust and dirt. Clean it regularly with a clean cloth, and then wipe the surfaces down with a lightly oiled cloth. Once a year, (or more if you use your jack regularly or are extra hard on it), give the jack a thorough cleaning to remove any buildup that is not easily wiped away.
3. Lubricate Moving Parts
For best behavior, floor jack wheels and hinges need to be lubricated using a heavy grease. Grease works better than oils because it will remain in place without dripping. During your annual thorough cleaning, remove built up grease and re-grease when you are done. Some higher quality floor jacks will include a grease fitting for the hinge system, but a majority of jacks do not.
4. Change the Oil
Although your floor jack is a closed system, it is still a good idea to replace the hydraulic oil on occasion. For smooth operation, plan on changing the fluid once every couple years. Take note of the fluid level before draining the cylinder, and do not overfill when done. Underfilling will result in a weak lifting system, while overfilling could permanently damage the jack.
5. Bleed the Cylinder
Be sure to bleed the system after changing oil, or any time you notice erratic behavior of the jack. The best indication that the jack needs to be bled is slow lifting or inability to hold weight once it is lifted. Never use a floor jack that is behaving erratically or even if you have a feeling that something isn’t quite right. Below is a good video on how to properly bleed and fill a hydraulic jack.
Always release all pressure in the jack cylinder before storing it. Not only does this remove stress on the system to keep it working longer, it will also save you time in setting up the next time you need the jack, and you will need less space for jack storage. Always store the jack in an upright position to avoid causing potential leaks and jack malfunction.