How Does a Scissor Jack Work?by Steve Smith
A scissor jack is operated simply by turning a small crank that is inserted into one end of the scissor jack. This crank is usually "Z" shaped. The end fits into a ring hole mounted on the end of the screw, which is the object of force on the scissor jack. When this crank is turned, the screw turns, and this raises the jack. The screw acts like a gear mechanism. It has teeth (the screw thread), which turn and move the two arms, producing work. Just by turning this screw thread, the scissor jack can lift a vehicle that is several thousand pounds.
A scissor jack has four main pieces of metal and two base ends. The four metal pieces are all connected at the corners with a bolt that allows the corners to swivel. A screw thread runs across this assembly and through the corners. As the screw thread is turned, the jack arms travel across it and collapse or come together, forming a straight line when closed. Then, moving back the other way, they raise and come together. When opened, the four metal arms contract together, coming together at the middle, raising the jack. When closed, the arms spread back apart and the jack closes or flattens out again.
Design and Lift
A scissor jack uses a simple theory of gears to get its power. As the screw section is turned, two ends of the jack move closer together. Because the gears of the screw are pushing up the arms, the amount of force being applied is multiplied. It takes a very small amount of force to turn the crank handle, yet that action causes the brace arms to slide across and together. As this happens the arms extend upward. The car's gravitational weight is not enough to prevent the jack from opening or to stop the screw from turning, since it is not applying force directly to it. If you were to put pressure directly on the crank, or lean your weight against the crank, the person would not be able to turn it, even though your weight is a small percentage of the car's.