They’ve been around almost as long as the car itself, but one question still surrounds them: are car ramps safe? Allow Haynes to give you the lowdown.
Within minutes of the first car clattering out of Karl Benz’s shed, there was a set of car ramps available. Probably. The point we’re trying to make is that the car ramp – by which we mean the small metal ones you drive your car up onto – is as synonymous with the automobile as the engine, as the fluffy dice, as Tarmac, as… you get the idea.
But does ancestry mean safety? The humble car ramp has been the subject of much discussion over the years, with many stating that they’re an accident waiting to happen, while others swear by them. And while we don’t mean to deliberately stoke the fires of debate, we are going to stick our neck out and say that, yes, the car ramp is perfectly safe. The issue is operator error.
Look at it objectively. The car ramp is generally constructed from sturdily welded angle steel, complete with lots of diagonals to support the load. In terms of a design, there is nothing wrong with the car ramp. In fact, it’s loadbearing engineering 101. Yet still, countless people end up in A&E every year because they’ve had a run-in with a car ramp. Here’s why:
1) They buy cheap
Buy cheap, buy twice our dad says. And old dad isn’t wrong. We are talking about a garage aid that you put your car on so you, the handsome but ultimately soft and fleshy thing you are, can go underneath the car. Why would you want to cheap out on that? Cheap ramps are welded poorly, they can’t support weight and as such, they buckle and fail.
2) They don't replace them
Car ramps are old, but that doesn’t mean yours have to be eligible for the Antiques Roadshow. If you have a set and you use them a lot, think about their upkeep. Give them a lick of paint every few years. Bent them by accident? Bin them. Are they starting to rust? Bin them again. It’s £50 for a set of decent ramps. There’s no excuse.
3) They bend them
As we touched on above, if they get bent or buckle, you need to chuck them. The load-carrying abilities of car ramps lie within their design, and if that design is altered, you’re in trouble. The weight of your car will exploit any weaknesses within the ramp and crush them.
4) They use them incorrectly
But you just drive your car onto them, right? Well, yes. But what about the back wheels? Have they been chocked? Is the handbrake on? Are the ramps being used on a level surface? All of this matters. Disregard the simple stuff and you’ll just hurt yourself.
So, in conclusion, no, the humble car ramp isn’t unsafe. It is only a risk if it’s used without the due care and attention it deserves. When you use axle stands, you do so with care and consideration – car ramps should be no different. So instead of blaming the humble ramp, be safe, use them properly and you should have no trouble and there'll be no need to be on first-name terms with the staff at your local A&E.