What is the Ideal Jack Oil Substitute – 6 Alternatives Discussed

Floor jacks have grease or lubricant inside it. They operate on hydraulic fluid, and a situation may arise when it runs out of oil. So, refilling your floor jack becomes mandatory. Usually, hydraulic oil is an expensive fluid. That is why some people wonder, is there a jack oil substitute?

Automatic transmission oil, brake fluid, Vegetable seeds oil, engine oil, and water can be excellent hydraulic oil alternatives. These fluids are biodegradable, non-toxic, and incredibly lubricating. They are a lifesaver during emergencies.

Choosing the correct oil when refilling your floor jack is significantly crucial. Wrong oil can damage the hydraulic jack, delivering inefficient performance. I have spelled out all the vital pointers for hydraulic jack oil replacement.

What Fluid Type Does a Hydraulic Floor Jack Take?

Hydraulic floor jack takes either water-based or oil-based fluid. The fluid helps the jack maintain stability with hydraulic and shifting weight. Moreover, jack oil should come with the below characteristics,

  • Fireproof
  • The self-filtering ability for prolonged periods
  • Anti-wear properties so that the floor jack can lift heavy objects continuously

Since the floor jack is responsible for completing heavy work, the fluid type must meet the requirements.

jack oil substitute

What are the Jack Oil Substitutes?

When you don’t have access to hydraulic oil, there are a few replacements for your floor jack. Not all oils are formulated the same. So, choose precisely to avoid damage.

Automatic Transmission Oil (ATF)

Without any doubt, ATF is a widely used jack oil substitute. In reality, a few vehicle manufacturers prefer using ATF rather than hydraulic oil. Moreover, car owners are skeptical about using ATF instead of hydraulic oil. However, you will love to know that ATF is an adequate substitute for hydraulic oil when you choose the correct viscosity rating.

However, many car owners experienced some issues with the ATF fluid. For instance, ATF damages the hydraulic seals easily. In addition, ATF foams quickly, especially when exposed to high temperature and pressure. While hydraulic oils don’t foam when they come in contact with excessive pressure and temperature.

Another important note to remember is that some tools and machines are compatible with particular hydraulic fluids. If you use ATF on those machines, they will not perform as required.

ATF is an ideal choice for small floor jacks. But I recommend you avoid ATF all in all.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is a suitable replacement for hydraulic oil. Brake fluid performance is quite efficient because it contains the same properties as hydraulic oil. Also, it is well-matched with different devices.

But you mustn’t use brake fluids for an extended period in the floor jack. The reason is it contains alcohol, damaging hydraulic jack seals. I recommend you use brake fluids as a replacement during an emergency.

Vegetable Seed Oils

Interestingly, some vegetable seed oil can be used in the floor jacks as a hydraulic oil substitute. These oils provide excellent lubrication to the metal parts and offer a wide range of benefits compared to mineral oils.

Now, you might be wondering, can I use vegetable seed oils? The straightforward answer is, No. Choose between soy seed, sunflower, and canola oils.

Yet, vegetable seed oil performance depends significantly on the additives and base oil type. The popularity of these oils among many car owners is their toxic-free, high lubricity, and biodegradable nature.

These oils have a few disadvantages too. They have low oxidation resistance. Moreover, they are costlier and deliver poor performance at low temperatures.

Engine Oil

Many industries and vehicle owners select engine oil with a low API rating as a jack oil substitute. Although engine oil consists of multiple hydraulic properties, they fail to provide the required viscosity for hydraulic oil.

Compared to other substitutes, the viscosity rating is higher for motor oils. As a result, the hydraulic system can be damaged and show unstable performance.

Happily, you can reduce the viscosity rating by mixing a small amount of regular hydraulic oil and motor oil. Still, I suggest you use engine oil instead of hydraulic oil during emergencies.

However, if you don’t have any choice except to use engine oil, only use enough that helps you reach your destination. Then replace it without delay. Your vehicle’s hydraulic system can damage if you keep the engine oil in the system for many days.

Power Steering Fluids

Power steering fluid is a great replacement when no other hydraulics oils are unavailable in your hand. This fluid is already hydraulic and offers necessary viscosity ratings, making it a temporary solution for the jack required.


If other substitutes are readily unavailable, use water for the time being. Remember, water performance will be poor with some devices over hydraulic oils.

One of the most significant drawbacks of water is that it can freeze and form ice at lower temperatures. Thus, your car will not function well. However, continuously using your car’s clutch pedal and brake can make you worry-free about water freezing.

While using water instead of hydraulic oil, ensure that it is clean and debris-free.

What to Consider Before Selecting the Jack Oil Substitute?

As stated earlier, choosing any fluid type for your car’s hydraulic jack will be wrong. There are a few considerations you need to keep in mind.

Viscosity Rating

The viscosity level range of jack oil should be 22 cSt – 32 CST (centistokes) between the temperature range of -40F – 450F.

If you choose a fluid lower than this viscosity rating, the oil cannot lubricate the metal parts as per the requirement. Thus, car parts will experience damage and leak. On the other hand, oil with above the range viscosity level can’t be pumped within the system efficiently.

Antioxidant Properties

Jack can be oxidized due to the generated heat of the car. Antioxidant properties in the fluid can efficiently resist oxidation.

Thermal Stability

Your selected fluid should be able to perform at a wide range of temperatures. Simultaneously, it must resist higher temperatures. Deposits and varnish can build up because of thermal instability. Thus, the flow rate will be lower.

Resistant to Rust and Corrosion

Rust and corrosion properties will protect the metal parts from damage due to chemical and water reactions.

Hydrolytic Stability

Water can hydrolyze the oil if it lacks hydrolytic stability. This way, inorganic salt precipitates get formed, causing jammed filters and valves. In the end, the system malfunctions. At the same time, lifespan is reduced. 

Cold Flow Additives

It helps the fluid to flow as necessary at a lower temperature, ensuring smooth function of the jack.

Excellent Filtration

The upgraded filtration mechanism filters out precipitates while keeping the crucial additives in the fluid. 

If you are looking for the best hydraulic jack oil, buy Sta-Lube Hydraulic & Jack Oil. It is compatible with all hydraulic systems featuring anti-oxidation, anti-wear, anti-rust, and anti-foam additives. Moreover, it protects different hydraulic jack parts over a wide temperature range.


What do the hydraulic oil numbers mean?

Hydraulic fluids come with different numbers listed on the label. Learning what the number means is essential, helping you buy the best oil for your hydraulic jack. These numbers indicate the oil viscosity level when it reaches a particular temperature. A higher number means a more viscous and thick texture. 

Do jacks come with oil?

No, jacks don’t come with oil. After assembling them, you must buy hydraulic oil and refill the jack. Frequent refilling is unnecessary; once every 2 – 3 years is enough. A longer lifespan is the prime feature of hydraulic oil. Also, hydraulic oil doesn’t require frequent changing. 

What happens if I refill thick hydraulic oil?

Thick hydraulic oil is terrible for jacks. Proper lubrication of the parts will not happen when you refill thick hydraulic oil. Thus, empty space will be created inside the jacks, minimizing the safety and integrity of the machine.

Can I use gear oil in a hydraulic jack?

No, don’t use gear oil in a hydraulic jack. It has a higher viscosity level than hydraulic oil. Moreover, gear oil is formulated for different jobs.

Final Words

Now that you know the ideal jack oil substitute. A replacement is required if hydraulic oil is depleted. Substitute oil will keep the machine running for a shorter period to handle emergencies. 

Choosing the right oil for the jack is vital because the machine can leak when refilled with the wrong fluid. Avoid buying too thin or too thick fluid to maintain the integrity and safety of the hydraulic jack. Consider the available options and select one that fits your jack’s requirement and your pocket demand. 

Dan Jones is a car enthusiast and has been involved in the automotive industry for the last 10 years. He has a practical knowledge of vehicles and vehicle parts. Besides, he spends most of his time in the garage and deals with various car problems.