How Does a Trailer Jack Work? [Step-by-Step Guide]

How does a trailer jack work? How to use a trailer jack? How to jack up a horse trailer?

As you know, horse trailers are large and heavy, so you need a special tool to maneuver them onto your tow vehicle’s hitch.

This is where this jack comes into play and why I set out to figure out how they work.

After researching and speaking to horse trailer manufacturers, I learned loads, which I wanted to share with you.

Let’s go!

CHECK: Best Lightweight Horse Trailer

Functions of the Horse Trailer Jack

A horse trailer jack, also called a jockey wheel, in some countries, is an essential part of the trailer.

Trailer jacks have five main vital functions.

  1. Lift the trailer and its tongue so you can place it over the trailer hitch ball.
  2. Lower the trailer after unhitching from the tow vehicle.
  3. Keeping the trailer stable while in the process of loading and unloading.
  4. Keeping the trailer level when it is unhitched and parked.
  5. Helps keep the horse trailer stable while it is parked.

Pretty straightforward and easy to understand, right? So now let’s tackle the question “how do trailer jacks work?”

How Do Trailer Jacks Work?

How does a trailer jack work? Next, let’s take a closure step-by-step look at how jacks actually work.

I’ll admit, while it is easy, it took me a while to master which way to turn the jack handle up and down. I’d always mix it up!

Step 1 – Attach The Trailer Jack

Ok, most horse trailers will come with a jack already installed. However, you might have to do this yourself if, for some reason, your trailer doesn’t have one.

You will also have to replace the jack from time to time, or you might want to change the manual trailer jack for an electric jack. One important note is to install a jack with a suitable lift capacity.

There are different ways when installing a frame trailer jack. Most, which are easier, are attached with bolts that secure them to the trailer tongue.

Another less common way a trailer jack is attached is by welding it to the tongue’s frame. However, this makes replacing them difficult when the time comes.

RELATED: Best Electric Jacks for Gooseneck Trailers

Step 2 – Remove The Pin

Removing the pull pin allows the jack feet to slide down to the ground. When the jack foot is level and balanced on the ground, stick the pull pin back in.

Remember, you want to do this only when your horse trailer is on level ground.

There are different types of jacks. Those with a flat foot plate and those with a wheel.

Step 3 – Turn The Crank Handle

Next, you need to turn the crank handle to raise the tongue. This is if you have a manual jack, not an electric jack, which works differently. The goal is to raise it, so it is a little bit higher than your vehicle’s hitch.

Step 4 – Move Your Vehicle

Once the tongue is lifted, hop in your pickup truck and line it up, facing away from your trailer, and slowly reverse into place. Do this slowly, so you don’t hit your horse trailer.

If you don’t have a reversing camera that allows you to see your hitch, then it is so much easier to do this with a helper that stands at the front of the trailer as you back up your pickup truck.

They can guide to by telling you when your truck hitch is just under the tip of the tongue so you know when to stop.

Some people like to put their trucks in place before raising the trailer frame. This is ok but only really works when you are hitching up a small bumper pull horse trailer. And if your jack has a wheel instead of being a drop-leg jack.

That is because it is possible to pull the horse trailer a little if you aren’t perfectly lined up.

Step 5 – Lower The Tongue

Next, you need to crank the jack again to lower it onto the hitch ball. It should slot on and sit securely.

Lock the tongue latch to ensure it is as secure as possible using the safety lock pin.

Step 6 – Lift The Jack Base

The last step is to lift the jack foot of the jack back up. You don’t want this down when you’re on the road!

This will require you to take the pin out again and lift the base. Don’t forget to put the pin back! Some jacks rotate so that you can lie them horizontally. If yours does this, ensure you carry out this step.

Make sure the jack is lifted as much as possible and completely secure. You want plenty of ground clearance, so it doesn’t interfere with the towing vehicle and safety.

Now, you are all hitched up and ready to hit the road!

This video will give you a little insight into how this works and includes important hitching safety information.

CHECK: How to Make Homemade Trailer Jack

How Much Weight Can a Trailer Jack Hold?

An important question and the answer are variable. The tongue jack needs to hold a minimum of 10% of your trailer’s fully loaded weight. [1]

So, for example, if the fully loaded weight is 7,000 pounds, the jack needs to hold 700 pounds. Many jacks are capable of more than that, and this is not a bad thing.

Heavier trailers will need a hitch jack with more lift capacity than, say, something light like a utility trailer or travel trailer.

It is better to have leeway when it comes to the jack’s weight capacity. It is always better to be extra cautious about safety concerns than be blase about it. A heavy-duty trailer jack is the best one to choose.

5 Tips To Consider While Jacking a Trailer

Now that you’ve mastered the theory part of ‘how does a trailer jack work’, it is important to learn some tips that will keep you safe.

1. Use Chocks

Before moving your trailer and jacking it up, make sure that wheel chocks are in place. This is a really important safety tip that I was taught.

They will prevent your trailer from rolling while you are maneuvering it.

2. Know The Weight

Before installing or operating a trailer, make sure you know the maximum load weight the hitch jack will have to hold.

If the weight is over the jack’s lift capacity, this can cause it to fail, which could be catastrophic, causing serious injury or damage.

Additionally, you will need to know your vehicle’s towing capacity and weight.

3. Make Sure The Ground Is Level

Always park your trailer on a level surface. It also should be hard, not soft ground. And this also applies when you are jacking a trailer. If the trailer is on uneven ground, its balance is off. This will also make the jack foot unbalanced.

If this happens, the hitch jack can fail as it is not stable enough to hold the weight. It also means your trailer can shift or even roll.

This also applies to your towing vehicle. Both the trailer and the towing vehicle need to be on the same level ground.

4. Maintain Your Jack

It is important to treat your manual jack with regular maintenance to prevent rust. Rust will affect the integrity of the jack’s metal material. It will also make the jack difficult to crank.

This means regular greasing or lubrication. You should also clean the jack monthly to remove any built-up dirt.

5. Local Saftey Laws

Check up on your local safety rules with it comes to hauling horse trailers, towing vehicle regulations, and chain requirements.

These will guide you in the right direction of jacking up correctly and safe driving.


#1 How do you manually use an electric trailer jack?

Most electric trailer jacks will come with an included hand crank attachment that you can use if it gets stuck. The jack should have a rubber plug or some other cover over the place where you insert the manual crank. [1]

#2 Can you jack up your trailer with a bottle jack?

Yes, you can jack up your trailer with a bottle jack. While not ideal, it will work if your tongue jack doesn’t Just make sure it has the right weight capacity and your put wheel chocks in place.
However, the type of trailer will affect if this jack will work safely.

#3 How long do trailer jacks last?

A heavy-duty trailer jack will last three to four years before it needs to be replaced. However, these manual jacks can last less or more depending on wear and tear and maintenance.

#4 What is a trailer tongue weight?

According to truck manufacturer GMC, “The tongue weight is the static force the trailer tongue exerts on the hitch ball.” “Proper tongue weight is roughly 10 to 15 percent of the total loaded trailer weight.” [2]

#5 What is the consequence of having an overweight tongue?

An overweight tongue is dangerous as it can cause the brakes to work poorly, unsafe cornering, frame damage, sway, too much axel pressure, and too much tire pressure. [3]


I hope you found my guide helpful to your question ‘how does a trailer jack work?’ It is pretty easy to operate a trailer jack itself.

What is hard is reversing your truck to the precise spot necessary! I’m still pretty terrible at this and usually ask someone else to do it.

I’m just amazed at people who can just drive their truck around and reverse it perfectly in like 30 seconds!

back view of a horse trailer

Have you tried to use a trailer track already? How did you get on? Which of the styles of trailer jacks did you use? I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments.


  • 1. Available from:
  • 2. Tongue Weight Is Key To Safe Towing – GMC Life [Internet]. GMC. [cited 2022 Sep 21]. Available from:
  • 3. Understanding Trailer Weight Safety Issues [Internet]. Available from:

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
Find her on FACEBOOK
Read her latest ARTICLES.
Learn more about HER

Leave a Comment


Want The Best Care For Your Horse? Subscribe to our EXPERT RIDER Tips