Welcome to the official revlimiter.net Jack Stand Review. In the following few thousand words, I’ll attempt to give a detailed and impartial review of several types of jack stands on the market as of 2010. The review will be skewed to how the stands work with a Mazda Miata, but this should be helpful to just about anyone with a smaller car that has a desire to work on it.
Before I begin, I’d like to state that I’ve not been paid for this. I’ve not received any of these stands from manufacturers for the purpose of reviewing them. I bought all of them with my own money. I didn’t even ever intend to do this. I basically found myself with a whole flock of jack stands in my garage one day and decided to write a review.
Always be safe!
revlimiter.net. is not responsible for bodily injury or property damage that results from misuse of automotive tools including jack stands. This review is meant for informational purposes only. It is to help you evaluate differences between these five models of jack stands. Follow all directions and safety procedures outlined in each stand’s manual. (Yes, these stands actually come with manuals.) Always remember that your car can kill you especially when you are working under it!
The Jack Stands:
(click to zoom to each stand’s review)
- Harbor Freight 3 ton – the orange and white one on the far left
- Torin aluminum 3 ton – the red/silver cylindrical one
- ESCO 3 ton – the silver tripod in the center
- Craftsman 3 ton high lift – the black and red stand
- MVP 2 ton – small red one to the far right
- Special guest star: the little Harbor Freight wheel chock
The Helpers: Optimus Prime, Megatron, Soundwave, Starscream, and Shockwave (super-deformed Mighty Mugg versions).
Robots are much more fun than boring old coke cans for scale comparison. And they can do useful things like holding a 12″ tape measure. Still, I’ve included a coke can (Mt. Dew actually) for those who might not be familiar with the exact size of a Mighty Mugg Transformer.
Harbor Freight 3 Ton Heavy Duty Jack Stands
Price: $32. $20 on sale. I’ve never seen these not on sale.
Buy from: your local Harbor Freight store or harborfreight.com
May 2020 Update: HF Jack Stands Recalled!
In May of 2020, Harbor Freight recalled a BUNCH of their stands made between 2012 and 2020. These jack stands were sold under the Pittsburg brand name, and can be identified by item numbers 56371 or 61196 on 3-ton models, and 61197 on 6-ton models.
If you own these stands, please check your part numbers. They may need to be returned to HF. You’ll receive a gift card or exchange for a new set.
Lift height: 11.75″ minimum, 16.75″ maximum.
Base dimensions: 7.5″ x 7″
Construction: Welded cast iron. Very good construction in my opinion. The welds are straight and even. There are small gussets in each of the base feet to (I assume) prevent sinkage in mud or sand. For $20, these feel extremely well made and are the bargain buy of the bunch.
Ease of use: Very good. This set of stands is easy to carry around your shop. The minimum height isn’t too extreme, so you don’t have to jack your car into the sky to use them. For random projects like oil changes or bleeding brakes, I prefer a smaller/lower stand. For large projects like an engine swap or transmission drop, I’ll reach for a larger stand every time. These are a really great set of small stands.
Post design: The post features a deep groove. This totally prevents any contact with the Miata’s bottom seam weld. The reinforced metal pad on the inside of the frame rail (where the stock scissor jack actually contacts) takes all of the load. I’ve never used a stand with this style post. For the past 10 years, I’ve had stands that have used the pinch weld as the load point. I’ve never crushed that pinch weld. I’m on the fence about this style of post.
Stability: Good. The extra heft of these stands over a similar 2 ton version really gives these the edge in stability. The base is not very wide, but it does the job considering the lifting height of these stands.
Overall: As I mentioned above, this really is the bargain of the bunch. For $20 it’s hard to beat a pair of these Harbor Freight stands. Spend a bit more per pair and get the rubber post covers to ensure no harm comes to your paint. If you have an HF store in your town, what are you waiting for? Heck, there’s a very good chance that you own 4 of these already.
Torin Aluminum 3 Ton Race Jack Stands
Price: $70 per pair.
Buy from: NorthernTool.com, but I’ve heard some Pepboys locations keep these in stock.
Lift height: 10.75″ minimum to 15.6″ maximum
Base dimensions: 6.75″ by 7.5″ Small. Hexagonal. Which is better than small and round. The base actually fits INSIDE my MVP 2 ton stands with the exact same base dimensions.
Speaking of round, I need to take a moment out of this review for a warning. There’s a blue version of these stands with a round base available. Amazon sells one. I think Snap On also sells this same round aluminum stand. I believe this stand to be incredibly dangerous. What happens if a round stand tips a little bit while supporting a car? The round base becomes a wheel. At least with the hexagonal base that the Torin stands use, there’s no possibility of it transforming into a wheel. So, props to Torin for the base design. I just wish it was a bit bigger.
Construction: Machined aluminum. These stands consist of main pieces: the base, the tube, and the post. All are machined out of solid aluminum. They fit together very well. The small silver base is connected to the red tube via a single screw.
Ease of use: Extremely good. These aluminum stands weigh nothing and are easy to toss around your shop/garage/pit. They are also nice and small. A pair fits easily in the Miata’s trunk along with with the small Harbor Freight aluminum race jack. For changing tires at the track, it’s hard to beat this stand. But for doing any work in your garage at all? There are many better stands.
Post design: The post is rather wide for such a small jack stand. It’s also flat. I prefer a flat post to a grooved one. The post is extremely strong. There’s not really any point of failure. The whole “tube” inspires a lot of confidence. Alas, the small base takes that confidence right away.
Stability: Poor. These stands are manufactured to very tight tolerance. All 4 of mine are exactly the same height. Exactly. And the aluminum construction means no give whatsoever. And my garage floor is not perfectly flat. See where this is going? It’s teeter-totter city. I have a hell of a time getting a car stable if supported by 4 of these stands. Add that to the extremely small base and you have a very nervous Miata mechanic.
Overall: These stands have their use. I believe that is at a track changing tires. I personally do that with the car only supported by the jack. But now that I have these little aluminum stands? I’ll be throwing one in the trunk every time I go out to kill some cones. However, that’s pretty much where the usefulness of these stands stops. They are not very good in a garage. I would not lay under a car if supported by these tiny stands. Brake work with 90% of my body not under the car is where I draw the line. And for the price? There are a lot of better jack stands in the world. Harbor Freight sells some.
ESCO 3 Ton Flat Top Jack Stands
Price: $78. EACH!!!! And that’s a sale price. I’ve seen these for $90 each. In other words, a set of four will run you around $400.
Buy from: The internet. I got mine from ASEdeals. Great customer service and free shipping!
Lift height: 13″ minimum, 21″ maximum.
Base dimensions: Triangular with the legs 12.5″ apart
Construction: Welded steel tripod. The welds are nice and clean. Nice painted silver finish on the stands. Very well made. And they seem to be hand made, not something done by a robot in a factory. I was a little hesitant to spend this kind of money on jack stands, but the high quality of these ESCOs put my mind at ease the moment I opened the box.
Ease of use: Could be better. These stands are huge and heavy. That means they require a bit more work to lug around your shop. You have to raise your car a bit higher to get these under it. And they take up more space when not in use. But…. well…. they’re worth it. These stands are totally worth the hassle.
Post design: The post is HUGE. It dwarfs any other stand I’ve ever seen. The post is basically the same size as the pad on your floor jack. The rubber pad comes on it from the factory. ESCO says this style is designed for cars with flat frame rails. It works fine on the Miata’s pinch weld and even better under my FM frame rail armor. Really, these posts are like nothing I’ve ever seen before on a jack stand. Amazing.
Stability: Perfect. Could not be more stable. There is not one millimeter of shake in the car when held up by four of these stands. I can always feel at least a little bit of movement when I shake the car after lowering it onto a set of jack stands. Just a little bit. But not with these ESCO stands. It’s like the car is supported by solid metal beams.
Overall: These are the perfect jack stands. As of July of 2010, there’s nothing else on the market of higher quality than these stands. Yes, they cost a lot. But the feeling of stability is worth it to me. I’d sleep under a car supported by these stands. I’d trust my life to them. Can you say that about your current set of jack stands?