Posts in Recovery Equipment
Fixing the Farm Jack

A few months back we showed how we can "Hack the Hi-Lift" ... Doing that when you first buy the Hi-Lift can actual make it easier down the road when you finally have to perform maintenance on the jack. Sadly, yes, you have to perform maintenance on your Hi-Lift. The amount of work changes with how much and where you use the jack and where and how you store the jack. In the case I'll be describing below, the beam of the jack has been bent and damaged and needs to be replaced on top of general maintenance.

Hi-Lift Jack with bent I-Beam

Hi-Lift Jack with bent I-Beam

The beam on this jack was bent while being stored on the front bumper of a truck that was rock crawling in Moab, Utah. Might not have been the best spot to store a jack but hindsight is 20/20 as it were. In this photo the beam curves to the left while it should be in line with the red handle.

Obviously, the jack wouldn't work very well in this configuration and the beam needs to be replaced. Pretty much every part of the Hi-Lift can be replaced and all you need is the part number. This one was picked up from the Gear Shop but you should be able to have one brought in from your preferred 4x4 dealer. 

While replacing the beam, I thought I would go a little further and go over replacing a few of the other parts for preventive maintenance.

Hi-Lift makes something called the Fix-It Kit. This is a small package containing new climbing and cross pins for the Hi-Lift as well as a new shear pin. This is a great kit to have with you in your recovery gear as you never know when you're going to need it and the parts are extremely specialized.

The Hi-Lift Base Plate (Modified Pin)

The Hi-Lift Base Plate (Modified Pin)

To replace the i-beam you need to remove the base plate. This is super quick if you've already done the steps outlined in our Hacking the Hi-Lift article. Simply remove the pin, slide the base plate off the bottom of the jack and then ...

Reversing Latch

Reversing Latch

Using the palm of your hand, strike the reversing latch and the running gear will just slide off the end of the i-beam.

Hi-Lift Running Gear

Hi-Lift Running Gear

At this point we're going to replace some parts on the running gear as well. The springs and the climbing/cross pins are getting a little worn and oxidized. So now is as good a time as any to replace them. You certainly don't need to remove the beam before doing this maintenance but it does make it easier to manipulate the running gear as you perform the following steps.

Removing the Cross Pins

Removing the Cross Pins

You need to remove the cross pins from the climbing pins. This is best performed with a punch or drift and hammering them out. Provided the pins are not bent, you should be able to simply pull the pins out after getting to the halfway point. If they are bent, a set of pliers will be your friend.

Cross Pins Removed and Climbing Pins Free Moving

Cross Pins Removed and Climbing Pins Free Moving

With the cross pins removed, the climbing pins are simply floating inside the running gear and will be easily removed by hand.

Old Parts

Old Parts

The old pins have been heavily oxidized despite being zinc coated and has led to buildup and pitting on the pins.

The Hi-Lift Fix-It Kit

The Hi-Lift Fix-It Kit

With the Fix-It Kit, you get quite a few of the parts you need to get this job done. 

New vs Old

New vs Old

Here you can see what the pins are supposed to look like. Free of pitting and oxidization.

Dropping in the Climbing Pins

Dropping in the Climbing Pins

Putting the springs into place and dropping in the climbing pins. The orientation is important. Ensure that the beveled end of the climbing pin is facing in on the jack with the beveled side pointing towards the top of the running gear.

Cross Pins Under Springs

Cross Pins Under Springs

Next you need to install the cross pins into the climbing pins. Lift the springs out of the way as you drive the cross pins into the climbing pins. Once again, the best way is to use a punch/drift and a hammer for this. It is important that the springs sit on top of the cross pins for the climbing action to work properly.

Running Gear Installed on New I-Beam

Running Gear Installed on New I-Beam

At this point, if you didn't remove the i-beam, you'd be done. However, for us, we're going to put the running gear onto our new unbent i-beam. The best way that I've found to do this is to return the reversing latch into the up position. Slide the i-beam into the top of the running gear and operate the handle to move the climbing pins. Once the pins catch it will start climbing the new i-beam.

Fixing the Retention Spring

Fixing the Retention Spring

While we are at it, I like to check the retention spring. This is the spring that helps prevent the handle from repeatedly actioning back and forth while lowering the vehicle and losing your grip on the handle. In other words, the retention spring could save your life. You may need to tweak and twist this a few times but considering the consequences this is something you should be regularly checking on your hi-lift. When properly shaped, the spring should be forced to spread apart by the i-beam when the handle is raised close to the beam.

Shear Pin

Shear Pin

The one item from the Fix-It Kit I've never bothered to / been forced to replace is the shear pin. This is the pin that, in theory, will shear before lifting a vehicle or item that is much heavier than the Hi-Lift's weight rating. I've never seen one fail personally but I make sure to keep one with my recovery kit at all times. NEVER replace this pin with anything other than a Hi-Lift shear pin. Putting in a bolt with a higher shear strength may put you into a situation where another part of the jack fails with massive amounts of weight being held by the jack. 

Operating the jack after performing the PM (and the new i-beam) is a far easier task. Unfortunately this kind of maintenance/inspection is a necessary evil but it will allow you to keep you farm jack for years to come and to do so safely.

Hacking the Hi-Lift

Bought a new All-Cast Hi-Lift jack and took some photos as the jack was modded to be a little more convenient on the trail. By removing the cotter pins from the jack and replacing them with lock pins, the Hi-Lift is made even more trail friendly. Specifically, the base and handle may be removed very easily after this quick hack.

Complete list of needed materials;

  • Non-Extreme Hi-Lift Jack
  • 2 * 1/4" PTO Lock Pins - Cost is approx. $4 total
The running gear of the new hi-lift jack

The running gear of the new hi-lift jack

Done this exact hack to my original "survivor" jack and it has worked well for years. However, I am replacing my i-beam on it for the second time in sixth months and realized that I require a second hi-lift anyway. As a bonus, this allows me to do a quick write up on how to do this little hack, quickly, cheaply and with very few tools.

The cotter pin that needs to be removed; secures the base to the hi-lift i-beam.

Squeezing the one side of the cotter pin and pulling from the other side will free the base.

Working on the base first. There is a cotter pin that goes through the base that holds it to the hi-lifts i-beam. This needs to be removed. The hole for this cotter pin is 1/4" inside diameter. Test fit your new lock pin in the spot that the cotter pin occupied. Using a quarter inch lock pin for simplicity sake makes this the easier of the two mods. Just replace the base onto the i-beam and use the lock pin to secure everything. The base should still have it's full range of motion but now can be removed much quicker with far less tools.

Now that the cotter pin is gone, the base can be removed from the i-beam.

With the base back on the i-beam, slide the lock pin through the same hole. Hi-Lift Hack #1 complete

A second smaller cotter pin is located in the handle to keep the handle attached to the Hi-Lift running gear.

A second smaller cotter pin is located in the handle to keep the handle attached to the Hi-Lift running gear.

The next mod involves the handle. The handle is kept from flying out of the running gear on the hi-lift by a small cotter pin. This one should be a tighter squeeze as it was never really designed to be removed. After working the cotter pin out of the handle, you'll be able to remove it from the running gear. At this point you may notice that the hole for the cotter pin only exists on one side of the handle. In order to install a lock pin, we'll need to drill a secondary hole exactly opposite from the first on the the handle.

Twist and pry the cotter pin out of the handle

The lock pin needs to go through the handle, which requires drilling through the handle

With my other hi-lift, I just eye-balled this part. I drilled through the original hole with a quarter inch bit and then continued on to the other side of the handle. Missed the exact opposite side of the handle and it the lock pin sits at the slightest of angles. It still works this way but bothers me every time I go to use the Hi-Lift.

Marking out the holes to properly drill out handle

Carefully drill out both holes

This time, we're going to be slightly more precise. I measured the circumfrence of the handle, halved the measurement and marked it as such on the handle. This can be done with a measuring tape obviously but I did it by wrapping the handle with painters tape (as seen in the photos). I also took a measurement from the end of the handle to the cotter pin hole and replicated that measurement on the other side. 

With the two measurements marked on the handle I drilled the hole with a cordless drill and 1/4" bit. I'd recommend using a centre punch on the marks to make sure that your drill does not walk from the initial drill point on the curved handle surface. Being careful and using eye protection, I drilled through the original cotter pin hole (smaller cotter pin than the one holding the base) and then drilled from the other side through the marks I had made. To clean up the edges a little, I routed the edges of both holes with the edge of the 1/4" drill bit.

Test fitting the lock pin in the handle.

Result is a quickly removable handle.

Once complete, simply place the handle back into the running gear and run a 1/4" lock pin through the holes on the handle. This allows you to remove the handle and use it with your tools as a snipe to gain leverage while doing trail repairs. Always return the handle back to the jack when not in use. It would be terrible to have taken your Hi-Lift with you only to be unable to operate the jack because you've left the handle at home.

I'm sure that the above hacks would be frowned upon by Hi-Lift. I can only vouch that they have worked well for me over the years but only do these hacks at your own peril. Comment on the forum.