Car ramps are a method of raising your vehicle so that you can work safely underneath it, like axle stands or a car jack. If you usually work on your car by yourself, it is vitally important that you have a safe method of lifting the vehicle so you can perform tasks such as an oil change or suspension check. But why choose car ramps over other methods? Let's take a look.
What are car ramps used for?
Car ramps – by which we mean the small metal ones you drive your car up onto – are as synonymous with the automobile as the engine. Quicker and easier to use than a trolley jack, ramps enable you to get under your car quickly and safely. Some cars struggle to get up ramps if they have low ground clearance, but low entry ramps are available.
Are car ramps safe to use?
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.
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 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. Cheap ain’t cheerful
Buy cheap, buy twice our dad says. And dad isn’t wrong. We are talking about something that you put your car on so you can go underneath. Why would you want to cheap out on that? Can car ramps fail? Cheap ramps are welded poorly, they can’t support weight and as such, they buckle and fail.
2. Out with the old
If you have a set of car ramps 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. Damaged goods
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 (and then the car will crush you).
4. Read the manual
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.
Are car ramps dangerous? No, they're only a risk if used without the due care and attention they deserve. 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.
How do I choose car ramps?
Car ramps are simple tools, but there are still a couple of important things to bear in mind when buying a pair for your vehicle.
1. Ground clearance
Some cars struggle to get up ramps if they have low ground clearance, but low entry ramps are available. Regular ramps will work on the majority of cars, so it is only exotic sports cars, modified cars with non-standard suspension, and racing cars that are likely to need specialist ramps.
2. Vehicle kerb weight
When you're shopping for new car ramps, you'll find that they are rated to a certain capacity. A rule of thumb is that the ramps should be capable of supporting more than half of the weight of your car. You'll find the kerb weight of your car in the Haynes Manual, AutoFix or often in the owner's manual. If you are buying ramps second-hand, they should have a rating stamped on them but if not and you have a larger, heavier car then proceed with caution.
Final car ramp tip!
If you find that the car pushes the ramps out of the way when youi try to mount them, tie a short length of thin rope around the bottom rung of the ramp and lay the rope on the ground. Drive the car over it as you approach the ramps – as the weight of the car pushes down on the rope it will prevent the ramp from sliding backwards.