The average car weighs around 2 tons, with trucks weighing quite a bit more. And, it’s this incredible heft that warrants safety above all else when purposefully making the wheels leave the ground. So many times have we heard stories of how to jack up a car in less-than-safe ways, and sometimes we hear the sad outcome. By following a few safety guidelines, working on a properly lifted car is relatively safe.
The Best Options for Jacking-up Your Vehicle
Most cars are suspended off of the ground during manufacturing, so it’s no wonder that many systems are not accessible with the wheels touching the pavement. Good news! There are plenty of safe ways to lift a car for easy access.
The simple and fast way to get to the underside is a set of garage ramps. Like two tools in one, they act as both jack and jack stand without the hassle. Of course, car ramps need to be used safely, so a flat surface free of dirt is preferable. Once the good area is found, place the ramps up against the front tires, with the wheels pointed straight. Have a spotter guide you into launch position from in front of the car, but off to the driver’s side a bit. This is trickier if you are using these bad boys as a set of garage ramps. With everything in place, here we go speed racer…Well, maybe not so much speed. It’s hard to lay off the gas in your high performance Prius, but be careful to go slowly up the ramps with light and smooth throttle. Once at the top of the tiny hills, place the car in park or first gear for a manual transmission and set the parking brake. Like a Blue Angel crew chief, have your spotter place wheel chocks behind the rear wheels while your brakes remain applied, and shut off the engine. Now that the laundry list of steps is complete, you and your now-recruited spotter can get to work with creepers under the car. Done with the automotive surgery? Just allow the car to coast down the ramps slowly with your spotter behind and on the driver’s side to watch for traffic.
Using a Traditional Jack
Let’s say you have traditional floor jacks and jack stands, but are worried because there isn’t an app on your phone to jack up the car for you. No problem! Start by placing the car on level ground, moving the shifter to park and setting the emergency brake. Jacking points change depending on how your car was built. Cars built on a unibody chassis are lifted from the raised ridges under the body. The seam noticeably thickens close to the wheels and is usually marked with a jacking indicator. A full-framed car is lifted directly from the frame and close to the wheels. Once positioned, raise the jack one corner at a time. Place a stand close to the jacking location at the lowest setting that allows the wheels to clear the ground. Lower the jack until the jack stand takes up the weight and wiggle the car to check for stability. If nothing moves, you are good work on the car. Lower the vehicle one corner at a time once you have finished the repair.
Working on your own car or truck is a rewarding experience that saves you mucho bucks vs. going to a shop to get nailed by the nice service writer. Always remember though, jacking a car or truck is dangerous. With the right precautions and safety equipment, the danger is only reduced. In short, stay safe by taking your time, paying attention and being thorough.