For any serious off-roader or even a weekend warrior, choosing the right tools for recovery is important. For my Jeep Wrangler I decided to purchase a jack as part of my recovery toolbox; however, the choice wasn’t a clear black or white decision. In this article, I’ll share my honest review between the two jacks I looked at, the Hi-Lift vs the Smittybilt and share which one I chose for my JKU and why.
When I turned to the web and online forums, the reviews I found went back and forth over and over again. However, most of the debate was over quality and cost. In this review, I’ll share my honest perspective and what I recommend as the ideal jack in my Jeep Wrangler’s recovery kit. I’ll also share some ideas for mounting the jack I chose. As I started the research process, I quickly learned that the main reason for the debate really built on each of the jacks’ manufacturing, quality, options, and mount options. So let’s get started.
The Hi-lift jack comes from the factory with a 12-month warranty. Sure, there are limitations; however, I think it’ll be pretty difficult to mess up cast iron. I also really like that Hi-Lift has a jack made with the focus to support warriors. Again, an example of being American made. On the other hand, the Smittybilt jack provides no clear warranty information on their website. I also found it interesting that a warning for California residents is required, so is there something else in the Jack steel to make it protentional unsafe? Some of the reviews of the Smittybilt jack indicate that the painted finish wears off too easy and the clips that secure the handle to the body are easily lost. I didn’t see such reviews with the Hi-lift.
Hi-lift – it seems the options are ongoing and nearly never ending. From colors, mounts and sizes. When it comes to Smitybilt’s trail jack, you get one option. That might not work in your given situation. Jeep lift, tire size, etc. will all impact the specific height of the jack you might need. Smitybilt’s jack is a single option black and gray at 54inches. When you order a Hi-lift jack, you know exactly what you are going to get. Cast-steel, All-cast, X-Treme, Patriot, UTV, Equipment Jack, First Responder, etc.
Each model may range from 36 inches to 60 inches. In addition, each of these jacks has unique attachments and features that you might need. Sure the cost is almost double on some models; however, what you get is exactly what you want or might need. No surprises. When it comes to recovery from sticky situations, a surprise is the last thing you’ll want.
Jeep Wrangler Mount Options
One of the questions that most often goes along with the jack options, is what mount is best? There are many options and each one has its unique advantages; however, for nearly all of them they would work for either the
Hi-Lift or Smittybilt options, so that is good news.
- Hood Mount – This is a great hinge mount that is versatile. It can mount on the hood or on any of the door hinges. Made from steel is also has threaded knobs to tighten the jack onto the bracket. It also comes with a strap to eliminate movement of the handle. However, I feel extra straps could be handy.
- Roll Cage Mount – This mount is specifically made for the Jeep roll cage, so your jack is up and out of the way. It is built for your jack to ride horizontally and takes no drilling. The best part I feel is that the jack is out of the way but yet easy to access when you needed.
- Rear Mount – If a cool look it what you are after, this jack mount is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. First the jack is mounted solid and can be locked down, so you don’t lose cargo space. It can bolt into OEM bolts on both factory and aftermarket bumpers.
- Roof Rack Mount – Anything with the Yakima name is a great quality product when it comes to adding functionality to the outside of your rig. The Yakima Hi-Lift jack carrier is ideal for most cargo baskets.
- Driver or Passenger Side Mounts – If you want to mount your jack on the driver side door (passenger side is an option as well) BOLT makes a jack mount that is lockable with the stock Jeep Wrangler keys for Jeeps that are newer than 1997. This mount bolts into OEM holes and is easy to install in just a few minutes. What I like the most about this jack mount is its lifetime warranty. What I did notice; however, is that this is one of the mounts which is NOT compatible with the Smittybilt Trail jack.
- Tube Mount – If you have tubing that is either 1 or 2 inches in diameter, this is a great jack mount option. I’ve seen a few guys that have a front tube bumper and use this mount to put their jack on the front bumper. I think I’d be afraid to hit something and break the jack loose. However, it could be a good option.
My Choices and Why
When it comes to recovery, I choose something I can trust. You just never know where you might be and how far in the back country you or a buddy ends up needing help. Whether you are replacing a u-joint, tire, or trying to manually winch yourself out of trouble, my choice is the Hi-lift Jack (specifically the Patriot) but that is because of color and Hi-lift giving to the warriors.
- The Hi-Lift 48 inch cast and steel jack is constructed with a mix of cast components and four high-strength stamped steel components
- Top winch connector clamp and powder coated finish with zinc-plated hardware standard on all jacks
- Two piece handle and socket is durable and reliable; Operation type : Mechanical
- Safe use information stickers, including rated load details and operating instructions, affixed to handle
- For greater safety, all Hi-Lift jacks are equipped with a shear bolt which prevents the jack from being used on loads greater than 7000 pounds
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I trust the Hi-lift brand and I know what weight ratings I get. I also know I will get a quality product made right here in the United States. Mounts, on the other hand, are more of personal preference. I like the looks of BOLT that goes on the driver side; however, I’d rather have my jack out of the way when I am off-road. I chose the roll cage mount as this takes my Hi-lift jack completely out of the way. Sure, I lost a couple of inches of cargo space; however, I gained easy access and the ability to keep my jack out of the harsh weather conditions.
Can I use a Hi-lift or Smittybilt jack as a manual winch?
The short answer is yes. However, it takes skill and know-how. Spend some time on YouTube watching a few examples. Learning and practicing how to use your farmer’s jack as a winch is a good idea before the time you might actually need it.
How much weight can a jack handle?
It depends. I recommend looking at the individual jack’s manufacturers label.
What is the most trusted off-road jack for the trail?
I think with my honest review here you get the drift of what I think. However, you probably will trust the jack you have used before. I grew up with the Hi-Lift jack on the small family farm. It was familiar to me. In fact, we still have my grandfather’s Hi-lift in the garage. It’s gotta be from the depression era in the late 1920’s. The coolest thing is that it still works, and it is just another tool in the garage. Not a surprise.