First off, what is a tongue jack?
A tongue jack or a trailer tongue jack is a tool that is used to raise or lower the front of a vehicle, like a boat or a trailer, anad attach it to or from the ball on a bumper hitch. It is also used to keep the trailer level and stabilized when it is not attached or when it is parked. It is a must-have tool for anyone who likes camping, sailing or simply owns a trailer, and they want to be on the safe side.
What To Consider Before Buying A Tongue Jack
Trailer jacks come in various weight capacities and lengths, and you have to consider what you need when you want to purchase one.
- The length of the arm represents how high your vehicle will be lifted. You need to know its height when it is retracted and extended.
- To measure the height of a suitable jack, you have to measure the distance from the ground to the bottom of the trailer coupler when the trailer is parked on flat ground.
- The jack should be around 10cm higher than the coupler, so you can raise it over the ball to connect or disconnect the trailer.
The other factor, the trailer tongue weight (TW), determines the pressure the coupler puts on the hitch ball. That weight is measured by multiplying the trailer’s weight when it is fully loaded by 10-15%.
So, if a trailer’s weight is 900kg, the pressure applied on the ball is 90-135kg, and the jack needs to have the capacity that is equal or surpasses the TW.
Although tongue jacks come in different sizes and weight capacities, the price is similar, so you can use a jack that is heavier than your vehicle’s TW, but is neither too large nor too expensive.
How To Hook Up Your Vehicle To Your Trailer?
- Disconnect all utilities from your trailer (RV) and make sure the stabilizers are up.
- Make sure the rig is chocked.
- Back up the vehicle to the coupler of the hitch and center the ball directly under the coupler.
- Lower your tongue jack so that the coupler connects with the ball, and then raise the jack up.
- Secure the locking lever around the ball with a device that cannot come undone.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation if you have a weight distribution hitch.
- Check if the breaks and turning signals work on your trailer.
- Remove the wheel chocks.
Types Of Tongue Jacks
There are different types of tongue jacks, depending on the layout of your trailer, and the weight you’re carrying. These types are divided into “side winding” jacks, which are bolt-on or weld-on jacks with a vertically-mounted crank handle, and “top winding” jacks with a horizontally-mounted handle. Between the two, you would want a winding jack as it’s a better option when it comes to carrying weight.
- Standard Trailer Jacks: This jack comes with its own bracket, and it is designed to bolt directly anywhere on the side of a frame rail. It is bolt-on, comes with complete hardware and footplate attached, and it is ready to install.
- Swivel Jacks: This type of jack has a wheel or a stand that folds up when not in use, like a kickstand on a bicycle. It is time-saving, since the user doesn’t manually raise the base of the jack, and it is mostly used on boats.
- Heavy Duty Trailer Jacks: Heavy duty jacks are used for agriculture, industrial, construction trailer applications, and their capacity ranges from 4,500kg to 40,000kg. They come with or without a spring return, while a drop leg extension with its foot pad is also included. Even though their purpose is to lift and support a lot of weight, manual operation is still manageable through the design.
- A-Frame Trailer Jacks: The A-frame trailer couplers are designed to double as trailer jack mounting points. They are all equipped with a uniformly bolt hole. So, any jack brand you choose will fit, given it is the appropriate size and shape.
For example, if the hole is round, you need round jack of the same diameter, and if the hole is square, you need a square jack with the same dimensions. Like my dad always used to say, “Don’t put the square peg in the round hole!”
Mounting Styles For Side Winding Jacks
- Pull-Pin Swivel Trailer Jack: Has weight capacity of 350-680kg. A wheel is included to facilitate steering, and a pull pin holds the jack in position. It is frequently used by lightweight marine trailers, because they are zinc coated, and they have extra resistance to corrosion.
- Pipe Mount Trailer Jack: A pipe or tube is welded to the trailer frame, providing a mount for the jack to pivot on. It goes up for towing, and down for jacking and stabilizing. Has weight capacity of 900-3,175kg, and a detent pin holds the jack in the up or down position.
- Drop-Leg Trailer Jack: It has a weight capacity of 3,628-5,443kg, and it is being welded or bolted to the side of the trailer’s tongue. This jack is used for agricultural, industrial, and construction trailers. The drop-dead feature makes for fast leveling and increased lift, saving time. Some models can be paired up with a follow jack and used as landing gear. This ability and their high capacity make them an attractive option for gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers.
Manual Vs. Electric Tongue Jack
Besides the usual manual tongue jack, you can also find an electric tongue jack (automatic), and although they both do the same job, there are a few differences between them.
The manual tongue jack has a hand crank that you use yourself to raise or lower the hitch of the trailer. It is ideal for people who don’t want something fancy, but something simple just to get the job done. It’s relatively cheap, and it is less prone to break because it is a simple device, although this isn’t the case for the type of jack that uses gears. Also, due to the physical difficulty needed for its use, it isn’t recommended for people who suffer from back pains.
On the other hand, the electric jack does the job for you, while still having a manual option. What it does, it draws power from your battery when you flip a switch. It is safer, faster, and easier to use, but on the downside, it costs more and requires installation and knowledge when it comes to wiring.
So, if money is not an issue, and considering the possibility of a manual tongue jack breaking, it is definitely worth changing it for an automatic one. Not only will you have both automatic and manual feature, so there is always a backup plan, but you will also make your life easier and save yourself from back pains.
Having an automatic jack is also a great idea if you intend to rent out your camper in the future too.
How To Install An Electric Tongue Jack?
The first you want to do when you install an electric tongue jack, is to stabilize the front of your trailer by putting a stabilizing scissor jack under it for support while installing the electric tongue jack. Make sure that the trailer is secure and the wheel chocks are preventing it from rolling off.
If you already have a tongue jack on your vehicle and you want to replace it, remove the existing bolts that hold it in, and place the new one.
You screw the new bolts, so the unit is grounded by being bolted to the chassis. The sole wire of the jack connects to the positive pole of the battery, so unscrew the wing nut on the positive terminal of the battery, attach the wire through the eye, and screw back the wing nut.
Check out the Best Electric Trailer Tongue Jack Here.
What Do I Do If The Electric Jack Is Jammed?
Some people may be hesitating to buy an electric jack because they’re thinking “what do I do if it stops working?” Well, if you ever run out of power or if the jack is jammed, don’t worry, there’s a way around it.
The old jacks have a small valve on the side. You pull it and twist it to hold. This releases the pressure and enables you to work manually. Then, you take a tool, such as a pipe, and put it in the small handle of the jack on the other side. You push and pull left and right to lower or lift the jack.
Modern jacks have a manual override cap. Remove the small rubber plug on top, and you will find a nut. Then, grab a crank handle and hook it in. Turn clockwise or counter-clockwise slowly to extend or retract the jack.
Repair Parts And Kits
If your tongue jack breaks, whether it is manual or electric, you can find repair parts that may be more cost-efficient than buying a whole new jack, but first, you have to make sure that these parts fit your jack, as some of them are specifically made for your model.
Trailer Jack Gears: They are an economical alternative to replacing a whole jack, and they are not available for all models unless the manufacturer and the production year match.
Jack Handles: They are available to fit most jacks, manual or electric.
Replacement Mounting Brackets: They provide an attachment point on the trailer tongue, they come in weld-on and bolt-on styles, and they are designed to fit specific tongue jack models.
DIY: A Cordless Drill Tongue Jack
It is possible to make the tongue jack raise or lower faster, by using a cordless drill. This technique comes in handy if your only option is the manual feature, and you don’t want to bend over and crank with a handle. This makes easy work for raising and lower the foot without any load weight.
For the adaptation, besides the drill, you need some kind of adapter to connect the drill to a socket, a coupling nut of matching size, and a pin.
Basically, these are the steps you take for this DIY:
- Remove the crank handle from the jack.
- Drill the coupling nut horizontally.
- Slide the nut over the top of the jack without the crank handle.
- Pass the pin through the nut to hold the nut to the jack.
- Place the adaptor and the socket in the nut.
- Place the drill on top of the socket adapter.
- Put the drill in low gear.
- Set the direction you want to extend or retract the tongue jack.
Making Things Simpler for You
This is an easy, fast, and practical way to manually operate your trailer tongue jack, while at the same time it doesn’t cost you a lot of money, and it is a fun thing to do if you like DIY in your free time. This adaptation makes it easier for trailer owners to enjoy their trip even if the tongue jack is jammed or if there is not enough power to make it work.