Safely Raising (Jacking Up) Your Car

Jacking Up Your Car

If you need to raise your car, my advice is… don’t. But at some time or another, you may want or need to lift your car, or what is more commonly called jacking up your car. Be warned though, this can be extremely dangerous. People have died from improperly jacking up their vehicles. According to statistics released by the U.S.

Photo by Davids Kokainis on Unsplash

Consumer Safety Commission, injuries from jack collapse included amputations, sprains, fractures, lacerations, contusions, internal injuries, and of course, death. Scared yet? You should be. It’s dangerous. My goal is to provide some helpful tips in addition to all existing rules for properly jacking up a vehicle. Remember, this is not meant to be a complete course, just some helpful tips. You take full responsibility for whatever happens when you lift your car. Always take the necessary precautions, use common sense, and follow proper procedures.

Read

First, for goodness sake, please read your vehicle’s owner’s manual! This is really, really, important.  In the manual, not only will they tell you “how” to jack up your car, but also “where” to place the jack. This can be critical as the construction of some cars calls for using the jack in only certain, approved, places on the frame. Also, if you have an electric vehicle, you may not be able to jack up your car. This is because you may pierce a battery. Just be sure to check the owner’s manual first.  If in doubt, leave it to a professional mechanic.

Solid Surface

Make sure your vehicle is on a solid surface. Grass, loose gravel, and even blacktop on a really hot day can cause your jack or jack stands to lean or slip. If you are raising your vehicle on blacktop, it is a good idea to put a very thick wooden board (at least ¾ inch thick) completely under the jack or jack stands to spread the load out over a larger area.  Otherwise, the weight of the vehicle is concentrated on the base of the jacks and can puncture the hot blacktop. I have actually seen this happen.

Be sure the car’s transmission is in park.  If you are lifting the front of the car, it’s a good idea to put a block of wood or a brick behind the rear tires to make sure the car does not roll. If possible, make sure you are not alone. Having someone else there to help or call an ambulance in case of an emergency is important.

Placing the Jack

Place the jack under the part of the car according to the instructions in the owner’s manual. This will most likely be the frame of the car. Do not try to jack up the car on a flat piece of metal like the floorboard. A jack will easily go right through soft, unsupported areas of a car. Also, don’t put the jack on fuel lines, electrical wires, parts of the exhaust, or any other area where important parts could become crimped or damaged.

After carefully following the instructions in your owner’s manual, jack up the car only as high as is absolutely necessary.  Use sturdy, actual jack stands rated for the weight of your vehicle. These will actually support the car. Place the jack stands as recommended. Slowly lower the car until the car is resting firmly on the jack stands. At this point, I like to pump up the jack a little until it is almost touching the car frame again.  This provides an extra measure of safety, in case the car slips off of the jack stands.

Test

I like to test the car before I begin working on it.  I do this by standing next to the vehicle and pushing (sometimes even jumping onto the vehicle) to see if I can make it slip or move. If I can’t get the vehicle to move, even when I try to move it using my own weight, the vehicle will likely not slip off on its own and crush me. I would rather test it this way, then get under a vehicle that could slip.

Conclusion

I hope this gave you a few ideas and safety tips on jacking up your car.  Please be careful. It at all possible, don’t jack up your car. But if you do, be SAFE.

Written by Gary Pradel