Working on your car is an active pursuit. Sometimes you’re stood up, sometimes you’re hunched down and the rest of the time you’re lying on your back. Usually, you’ll be doing so under the car, unless of course your name is Mr. Tickle.
Jacking a car up is such a trivial thing, but it’s shocking how many people get it wrong. And that’s a remarkable thing, because you’d like to think that most people would rather not have a car land on top of them.
Cars are not nice when they come crashing through your ribcage. Yet still, A&E wards are still regularly home to people who have done it wrong. Occasionally, so is the morgue. Sorry if that’s a bit grim, but there really is potential for loss of life here, so follow these five tips and stay safe.
01 DO NOT USE THE FACTORY JACK
We really can’t stress this enough. Unless it’s an emergency, and unless you are just changing a wheel, do not use the jack from the boot. It is for occasional use, not for supporting the car for five hours while you take the engine out.
Not only that, the factory jack normally has a small footing because it needs to fit in the boot. As such, they are incredibly unstable. Leave it in the boot.
02 Stay on the level
Don’t ever jack your car up on a gradient. Not even a slight gradient. All you’re doing is helping gravity, and gravity very much wants your car to be on the ground.
If you jack the car up on a slope, you’re changing the angle of gravity, and in doing so, you’re putting stress on the jack. The chance of failure is great.
Because gravity is basically pulling the car at an angle rather than straight down, there’s a very real chance it will slide off the jack.
03 Don’t use the car’s jacking points
That might sound counterintuitive, but stay with us. The car’s jacking points are designed to work with the car’s own jack. Normally, the jack has a slotted mouth that sit around a sill edge.
If you jack up on the with a trolley jack, you’re just going to crush the metal. Instead, try and jack up on the chassis rails, or subframe mounts, something with substance.
You can always look at your Haynes guide to find out where is best.
04 Use axle stands
Always use axle stands. You can buy a part for less than £20, which is nothing for the safety they provide. A jack, even the best one in the world, is only built to lift the car in the air. Once the car is up, the jack has done its job.
It is not designed to take weight for a long period, that’s what axle stands are for. Again, check your Haynes manual for the best positions for your particular car.
05 Chock it up
If you’re only jacking up one side or end of the car, be sure to put chocks under the wheels that still reside on terra firma.
Proper chocks can be bought for about a tenner, but even a big wedge of wood will do the job. This will stop the car from moving, it will also minimise the risk of the car sliding off the jack.