Every time I have to jack up my car, I am a bit surprised by how slowly the scissors jack works the higher I raise it, and close to maximum height I need very little force to turn the crank. This agrees well with the principle of simple machines. Since I have to jack up my car at least twice a year to change between winter tires and summer tires, I thought it was time to take a closer look at the physics behind the process. And like most physics teachers, I am always looking for new ideas for my teaching. In this note I will present a few ideas on how a jack can be a topic in physics teaching.

AAPT members receive access to The Physics Teacher and the American Journal of Physics as a member benefit. To learn more about this member benefit and becoming an AAPT member, visit the Joining AAPT page.