Instructables
Picture of Rebuilding a Hydraulic Floor Jack
This is a 1 1/4 ton hydraulic floor jack my father passed on to me.  He bought it new during the 1970s. It began to leak down a little a few months ago. The lift arm no longer rises when the handle is pumped up and down. (I was able to pull the lift arm up by hand and it settled slowly enough that I could make a photo with the arm partially raised.)

I checked to be sure it was adequately filled with fluid, but that was not the problem.  A few months before this problem, there were bubbles coming up through the vents at the filler plug.  At that time I raised the lift arm with the handle, released the jack's valve, and let the arm fall slowly several times to purge air from the system.  Finally, one day, the lift arm would not rise at all.  If filling with fluid and purging air from the system do not restore function, there is probably internal leakage, even though fluid is not leaking from the jack.  From what I have read, forty years of service is a reasonable time for a hydraulic jack to operate before it needs a rebuild. 

A word of caution: Rebuilding this jack presented several challenges that seemed almost insurmountable at the occurrence of each.  Rebuilding this jack was much more difficult than simply replacing a few "O" rings, and it required more than the very few hours some say are required for rebuilding a jack. Further, I had to make several special tools to get the job done. If you want to attempt rebuilding a jack and you are not a member of Instructables, I would encourage you to pick a password and a screenname, and join.  Doing that will allow you to download a PDF of this Instructable for printing, or to view at any time later on your computer, assuming you wish to consult what I have done as a guide. 

When putting fluid into a jack never use anything other than hydraulic jack fluid.  Do not use motor oil or brake fluid. Brake fluid makes the seals swell.  

At this link you will find one man's description of how he rejuvenated his twenty-five year old jack by flushing its insides with a solvent, letting it dry completely, and filling it with fresh hydraulic jack fluid. It could be worth a try. I did find one manual for a floor jack that said the fluid should be changed every year. The procedure is to place the jack over a large pan, remove the filler plug, turn the jack on its side and let it drain. Then fill it again.
 
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Phil - this process you documented is so awesome - many many thanks. Like you i am very much against throwing anything away and i only buy tools and cars etc made from those glory days after the war. of course, i am always chasing parts or making parts but in the end - when there is an end ha - the tool blows modern tools out of the water, looks wicked bad bc for some reason the old tools are just gorgeous and of course i am now intimate with the inner workings of said tool. Of course, since i have this great knowledge now - and might forget it all 10 years fropm now - i start fixing every similar tool i have, my family and friends have and of course i might even score a few new ones now that i am not intimidated by the repair. suffice to say, i have 5 blackhawk jacks ready to be bought back to their former glory plus lincolns, hein werner and a monster 10 T that i already finished which started the whole deal. i hope your still contactable bc i may have some questions after i get deeper into my blackhawk s4 which is disassembled now. talk about a badass jack - the 4 ton s4 has a light that shines up from the body and has a locking handle so you can leave it it up with a load and noone can drop it. its just a gorgeous art deco bad to the bone floor jack. thanks again man. eric in terrebonne oregon

Phil B (author)  JeanDavis1 year ago
Thank you. It was lots of work.
bearing12 years ago
This is very well done and is exactly acting as was yours.
Thanks for such a well done description of the procedures
Will try rebuilding my 30+ year old floor jack
Phil B (author)  bearing11 year ago
I apologize for not discovering your comment until now. Thank you for looking at this. I am glad it may be helpful to you. Let us all know how rebuilding your jack goes for you.
Kellydog2 years ago
I just signed up with instructables in order to award you a high five for a most excellent article. Not only is this impressive for the clarity and precise language, but it demonstrated perfectly the steps with illustrations giving the detail to understand. Not an easy undertaking. Probably a lot more thought went into it than most people are capable of making.

I very happily stumbled into this page because I acquired a floor jack this week without the instructions and since I follow warnings, looked on line for them after reading the warning: Fully read ALL instructions before attempting to use this Floor Jack.
Haven't found them yet but what a treasure this piece was to read!
Bravo! And I will be reading more of your articles. Your dad did a fine job rearing his son.I'm pround of you for him.
Phil B (author)  Kellydog2 years ago
Thank you very much. I am glad you found this Instructable and it is useful to you. I believe I mentioned there are manuals on-line for some various hydraulic jacks.
jamilks3 years ago
Phil,aloha from the Big Island~ Thank you for taking the time to document what is in essence a labor of love...love of the environment and respect for your father...You are correct in assuming that many would just replace this with a cheaper import, and while I am an avid recycler myself, there are times when I have to ask what my time is worth....'Course with the economy as it is now, it is worth less and less so it is more worth taking the time and expending the energy to fix things rather than replace them. I have an OLD 3 ton Sears/Craftsman brand jack which won't go up and I suspect the piston/valve....Reading your instructable encourages me to dive in....I'll just need to come up with model numbers and search the net for parts. Thanks again and keep up the good work!
Phil B (author)  jamilks3 years ago
We spent ten days on the Big Island back about 2005 using a time share condo in Kona as our "base." Our hosts have been there many times and showed us just about everything. That visit became the cause for this Instructable on building a nut cracker that can handle macadamia nuts without crushing the meats.

Get in touch with Blackhawk Parts or someone similar. Blackhawk can probably tell you who made those jacks for Sears and can probably get the right parts kit to you.

Thank you for your comment.
dani_1013 years ago
Hi Phil,

Im a grade 9 student and im having trouble finding exactly what parts are used to make up a hand-driven hydraulic car jack. Could you prehaps help me?

Thank you!
Phil B (author)  dani_1013 years ago
From your description you must have a bottle jack. I understand you are asking which parts kit you would need to rebuild the jack more than what parts go into a hydraulic bottle jack. I would click on the link I gave for Blackhawk parts and ask them. They are very helpful. Send any information you can find about make and model. Send some photos with your inquiry. If anyone can help you, they should be able to do so. Thank you for asking. If you are asking what parts go into the make up of a hydraulic bottle jack, they would be very similar to those in my floor jack, except there may be fewer steel balls. One of my steps shows an exploded diagram of a bottle jack.
mattSP3 years ago
great instructible Phil. Thanks for sharing it.
Phil B (author)  mattSP3 years ago
Thank you, Matt. I hope you can use it. I wish I had been able to say, "This job is simple as A, B, C!" But, it was a little more complicated than that. Still, a jack you would rebuild may be easier to take apart than mine was.
I had to read it and learned something new. Though we don't have a jack we did inherit a huge vice which I have no idea what you would use one that big for in the home..So I like to just see how things are put together. Thanks for the great instruction.
Phil B (author)  NaturalCrafter3 years ago
Thank you. A huge vise anchored to something very heavy or to something set into a concrete floor so it cannot move would have been a help for rebuilding this jack. I managed by bolting the bottle jack unit back into the jack's frame and using the frame for leverage. You may yet need to rebuild a jack one day. Thank you for reading my Instructable. I like to know how things work and to see what other people have done, too.
Nice instructible! I'm a hydraulic specialist and I don't think I could explain the procedure as well as you did!
Check out IFPS.org
Alan Hale
Phil B (author)  Skipper3333333 years ago
Dear Alan,

Thank you for your gracious comment. I hoped someone like you might see this and comment, especially in case I might have given totally false information, and you would correct me. This is my first intrusion into hydraulics, other than replacing a couple of brake lines on a previous family automobile and bleeding air from the system afterward. As I mentioned in the Instructable and in response to a previous comment, I needed to rebuild my jack; but, could not find all of the information I felt I needed. I wanted to document what I did, should I ever need it again, and also make it available to anyone else in the situation in which I found myself.

Thanks again. I hope to run into you on this site again.

Phil
red9er3 years ago
it is of little importance, but brake fluid doesn't make seals swell. i am currently taking an auto brakes repair class and you're thinking of antifreeze and tranny fluid. my instructor in his earlier year worked on mercedies-benz and he specifically said, if u put tranny fluid in the brake lines, the seals will swell, and u'll have to overhaul the entire system and replace the seals.
Phil B (author)  red9er3 years ago
Thank you for the information. It was a warning I read in someone's post about hydraulic jacks. I once poured some power steering fluid into the braking system of my car absentmindedly by mistake and had to spend a couple of hundred dollars to get things made right again. Since that time I have been more on guard about what bottle I grab.
red 9er Phil B3 years ago
lol i bet that was fun :P and any one else reading this, liquids in ur car can not be mixed and matched! they r formulated and designed for different jobs, even if 2 different liquids are glycol based, there are different substances in some not found in others, like a seal swell additive.
Phil B (author)  red 9er3 years ago
As I said, it was an absentminded mistake.
perfect timing, I need to repair my father's jack. Also a super through instructable!
Phil B (author)  technosasquatch3 years ago
Thank you. I made it for people just like you. I wanted it to be thorough. As I mentioned, I had trouble finding good detailed information on the Internet and wanted to make available what I wish someone had published earlier so I could have made use of it. Please take notice of the mention I made that information about the size of the balls in the check valve (photo text boxes in steps 8 and 13) contains errors in the PDF version, but has been corrected in the on-line version of this Instructable. Basically, the smallest ball is used in the safety overload valve. The medium ball is the first ball to go into the iron block that is the base of the bottle jack unit. A short spacer (or possibly a spring) is on top of that, followed by the largest ball. There is another spacer or spring followed by the screw cap.

I always pray that my Instructables will be a blessing to someone who needs them. Thank you for letting me know about your need. Please report back when you are finished. I would enjoy hearing how it went for you.
rimar20003 years ago
Awesome, Phil!

I confess I did not read fully, this is a full super instructable.
Phil B (author)  rimar20003 years ago
Thank you, Osvaldo. It is good that you did not read all of it. This Instructable is for the person who wants to rebuild a jack. There is no reason to read every word until you are faced with a jack that no longer works. Then all of the details will be very important and very interesting.

There are very few helps available for the person who needs to rebuild a jack. I am hoping this will be found by those who need it.

Rebuilding my jack was more difficult than I expected from what I had read. I needed to make several special tools. Several times I thought I had encountered a roadblock I would not overcome. A couple of times I thought I had ruined a critical part and would need to send the whole thing to the junk.

Doing this took quite a lot of time over at least a week. Still, I am finding small, silly mistakes.

Thank you for looking.