All cars these days typically come with a jack and a spare, but the jack is usually one of the screw-wound, plate metal things. It’s better to buy a hydraulic jack and a full size spare instead of the insipid donut that comes standard.
A flat tire is stressful, can be embarrassing and potentially very costly when all is said and done. The fix is relatively simple. That said, the equipment that one is equipped with in order to accomplish the task is not always as good as it could be.
Quit screwing around
There are two types of jacks that are typically used to lift cars off the ground: a hydraulic jack or a scissor jack, according to Wikipedia. A scissor jack, also called a screw jack, uses a horizontal screw to raise the car. As the screw is turned by a handle the sides of the jack fold inward, pushing the car up.
There are two types of hydraulic jack. A floor jack moves a plate upward and outward as a hydraulic piston extends horizontally. The operator uses a long handle as a lever; pumping downward extends a plunger within the piston housing, moving the piston outward and raising the jack plate. In turn, that raises the vehicle. Those are the easiest to use, though they often come on casters which can make their position unstable.
The other type, often referred to as a bottle jack, raises a piston vertically. Typically, it uses a handle, some similar to a scissor jack and some like a floor jack. In both types of hydraulic jack, a pressure valve has to be tightened so adequate fluid pressure is maintained to raise the piston and thus, the vehicle.
Ease of use
There is nothing wrong with a scissor or screw jack, but the metal can weaken over time. The design also dictates the user be kneeling down to operate. It is also time consuming; using a hydraulic jack takes far less time and when one is stranded on the motorway, getting out in a hurry is a priority. The other advantage is that hydraulic jacks are designed to lift more weight, which is handy in case of a flat on a hulking Dodge Ram pickup.
They aren’t terribly expensive. A Craftsman 2-ton bottle jack is currently available on Sears.com for $17.99, and a 12-ton version sells for $35.99. A 2-ton floor jack is available on Walmart.com for $24, and a 3-ton floor jack for SUVs is available for $80. Any of them will easily fit in a trunk.
It also isn’t a bad idea to buy a full-size spare instead of the smaller tire that comes with most cars. Granted, it will take up more trunk space, but emergency spares aren’t designed to travel at highway speed or go further than a few miles.