How to pick & use a (recovery) jack


When off-roaders think of recovery systems, chances are they think of winches and tow straps. Not many would think of a jack as an item that can help get your 4×4 unstuck and continuing down the trail. Recovery jacks have been around for decades and can be real time savers when you get hung up on the trial. 

These devices are primarily used to jack up a vehicle. They work just like any other jack, you place it on a flat and strong surface with the jack pad under a structural point and simply use a lever to lift the vehicle. We also offer jack bases which you can use on rugged terrains to set your jack on a flat stable surface.

At first these rachet-type hi-lift jacks appear odd; the single-post jack has a very primitive operating style. Its design is narrow and tall, and this is what makes it so versatile. They can fit into tight spots and lift the vehicle as high as needed. If your vehicle needs to be lifted higher than the jack can complete, you’re probably going to need a crane. 


Let’s say you’re stuck, and you nor your friends have a winch readily available. With the use of some tow straps, these jacks can double as a hand-operated winch.  You basically use the recover jack horizontally, with the top end attached to the stuck 4×4 via tow strap, and the other end around an anchor, also via tow strap. Get rid of any slack in the lines, and ratchet your vehicle out of wherever it’s stuck. It takes longer than a winch, but it simply works. And yes, this “recovery” jack has a purpose in the “recovery,” so it’s not just marketing speak. 


Recovery jacks are not small, some can be up to 60-inches (152 cm) tall, which can cause storage issues. But the aftermarket has addressed this and provides multiple recovery jack storage devices.

First is a popular and rugged-looking location: above the headlights. This may look odd on the street, but it’s effective off road due to super easy access when stuck on the trails. Out back, you can mount them across the bumper, whether that bumper is square or a tubular type. Or you can actually replace the spare tire mount with one that doubles as a storage area for your recovery jack.  The recovery jack storage mounts can also be attached to the roll bars on the car, if you’re running topless you can keep the jack just above your dome or you can secure it to your roofrack.


Aside from the recovery jack and storage devices, you should consider some additional accessories to help during a time of recovery. Begin with strong tow straps. Also remember that recovery jacks are super desirable, and thieves can easily snag yours while you’re not looking. Be proactive and pick up a lock system for your external recovery jack storage unit. Another good tip is to get a cover for your jack to keep it protected from all weather conditions.

Do’s and don’ts

These jacks are tall and narrow, which creates some limitations. Jacking up a vehicle on a flat surface with a regular floor jack can be risky—let alone using a narrow jack where surface areas are limited. Also, when used as a winch, loads of stress is placed on the recovery straps. Here are some safety tips to consider while using a recovery jack.

When you’re hung up on a rock in loose gravel, or in a deep puddle, using a recovery jack becomes much more dangerous. Don’t get excited and try anything crazy. If you’re hung up on a rock and need to make extra clearance, remain calm and find a flat surface to use. The last place you need to find yourself is between your rig and a boulder. If your surface is wet or lacks traction for the bottom of the recovery jack, use a jack pad. These are super cheap and could be total lifesavers. Throw it in the cart when you’re grabbing locks and straps; you’ll thank yourself later.

Recovery is a little less scary, but risk factors exist due to the high tension on the tow straps. Again, it’s all about keeping a level head and taking your time. The jack is extremely strong and can handle the stress, but if your tow straps give way due to fragile connecting points, you don’t want to be anywhere near the recovery jack. 

Recovery jacks are a wise investment, and easily transition a bad day of off-roading into a good day. And the best part is the price point–you get the convenience of a jack and winch in one device, though winching requires some added effort.

You can shop all our Hi-Lift gear here.