using a jack to raise a car

What’s the best way to jack up a car when you need to change a wheel? A trolley jack provides the best degree of stability and strength, but your emergency jack (also known as a scissor jack) is designed to lift one corner of the car to enable a wheel change. There's also one other type of car jack.

Using a trolley jack to raise a car

The safe way to jack up your car

Always observe the following precautions when jacking up a vehicle:

  1. Park the vehicle on firm, level ground and chock the wheels that aren't going to be raised off the ground.
  2. Put the gearbox in Park (automatic) or neutral (manual). Apply the handbrake/paring brake.
  3. If applicable, any passengers should exit the car and move to a safe area away from the road, even if the weather is poor.
  4. If you’re changing a wheel, loosen the wheel nuts before you raise the vehicle. It’s dangerous to try to loosen them after the wheel is off the ground.
  5. Jack points on a car: on some vehicles, you’ll find a notch in the longitudinal seam that protrudes downward below the sill; on others, you’ll find lifting pads on the underside of the vehicle, right behind the front wheel housings and immediately in front of the rear wheel housings. If you can’t locate the designated jacking areas on your vehicle, refer to your owner’s manual.
  6. Get the jack out of the boot (If you can’t find the jack, refer to your owner’s manual). It's usually beneath the spare wheel, so remove that, too.
  7. Place the jack in position under the side of the vehicle and closest to the wheel to be changed, and adjust the jack height until it fits between the notches in the sill - or touches the lifting pad.
  8. Operate the jack with a slow, smooth motion until the wheel is off the ground.
  9. Remove the wheels nuts by hand, pull off the wheel, install the spare and thread the wheel nuts on with the beveled sides facing in. Tighten them snugly, but wait until the vehicle is lowered to tighten them completely.
  10. Lower the car to the ground and remove the jack. Don’t forget to tighten the wheel nuts. If possible, tighten them to the specified torque (see your Haynes Manual), in a criss-cross pattern. If you don’t know the torque specification, tighten the wheel nuts securely and have them checked by a service station as soon as you get to the next town.
  11. If your vehicle is equipped with a space-saver spare wheel, remember that it’s intended only for temporary use until the regular tyre can be repaired. Do not exceed 50 mph while using the temporary spare.

What to watch out for when changing a wheel

The scissor jack supplied with your vehicle is designed by the manufacturer for raising the vehicle to change a tyre in an emergency. Don’t even think about using it for anything else!

No matter what jack you are using, you should never rely on it if your life is on the line, and only get under the car once jack stands are supporting it securely. You could receive serious injuries working under the vehicle using a jack as the only means of support, and scissor jacks fail or allow the car to roll with alarming frequency.

Always observe the following precautions when jacking up a vehicle:

  • Park the vehicle on stable, level ground and chock the wheels you aren't going to remove.
  • Put the transmission in Park (automatic) or leave in gear (manual) and set the parking brake (both).
  • Locate and remove the jack, wheel nut wrench and spare tyre from the car. If they are not in the boot, check behind storage panels in the cargo area or under the back seat. Occasionally they are also stored under the bonnet next to the engine or under, or behind, the front seat of a pick-up truck.
  • Never work under the car while using a scissor jack.

How to jack up a car

Lift your car correctly

In this short video we show you how to use the different types of jacks and when you might want to use them.