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How to Jack up a Vehicle Safely

Intro:

Manufacturer’s supply a jack with a vehicle, so it must be easy to jack up a car..? Things can go wrong, when it does, it could kill or seriously hurt you.

Note: Not all vehicles are the same? Therefore proceed with caution (at your own risk). Please read the owner’s manual.

Here are my observations…

How to Jack up a Car:

Things to consider:

  1. The Vehicle Must not Move:
  2. The Ground Must be Able to Support the Jack (and the Vehicle’s Weight):
  3. The Jacking Point Must be Strong Enough (for the Vehicle’s Weight):
  4. Using the Jack:
  5. Supporting the Vehicle (When off the Ground):
  6. Your Safety – Hints & Tips:

1. The Vehicle Must not Move:

The vehicle must not move or it could fall off the jack.

  • Find level ground so the vehicle cannot roll.
  • Put the handbrake on. Note that the handbrake only usually works on two of the four wheels (front or back).
  • Chock either side of a wheel (that will remain on the ground – Do not rely on the handbrake).
  • Chocking two wheels to prevent movement is much safer than placing chock’s around one wheel. In some instances when jacking up a vehicle, the chocked wheel can also be lifted off the ground (even though it’s not the wheel being jacked up).
Jacking Up a Vehicle - Using Wheel Chocks on Both Sides
Jacking Up a Vehicle – Using Wheel Chocks on Both Sides is far Safer (Note: the wheel in the air is not the wheel being jacked up!)
  • Take the vehicle out of gear and remove the ignition keys. If the vehicle is started (when it is in gear), the vehicle will fall off the jack or axle stands.
  • Do not let passengers remain in the vehicle.

2. The Ground Must be Able to Support the Jack (and the Vehicle’s Weight):

  • Make sure the ground is firm enough to support the jack and the weight of the vehicle.
  • If the ground is unsuitable and the vehicle cannot be moved, spread the load over a larger surface area, by placing a ‘spreader plate’ underneath the jack (but only if it is safe to do so). The support must be of a suitable material, of sufficient strength.
  • Make sure the vehicle is on even ground to prevent rolling.

3. The Jacking Point Must be Strong Enough (for the Vehicle’s Weight):

There are many places on a vehicle where you could place a jack.

Jacking Up a Vehicle - Body Strengthening Box Section (Spreading the Load)
Jacking Up a Vehicle – Body Strengthening Box Section (Spreading the Load)
  • Not all are able to take the weight, and the vehicle could fall.
  • You can cause damage to the vehicle, if the jack is placed in the wrong position.
  • On modern vehicles, always use the manufactures jacking points (see the owners handbook).
Jacking Up a Vehicle - The Manufacturer's Jacking Point (Mini)
Jacking Up a Vehicle – The Manufacturer’s Jacking Point (Modern Mini)
  • Be cautious with older ‘classic’ vehicle’s (approx’ pre year 2000). There were sometimes issues with corrosion in the jacking points. It was often suggested to find an alternative ‘stronger’ structural point to use. A ‘classic’ mini was a good example of rusty jacking points.
  • The manufacturer’s jacking point is often designed to fit the jack that is supplied with the vehicle.
  • If you are using a different jack (trolly jack, etc), then you may need an additional support that fits the manufacturer’s jacking point (to prevent damage to the vehicle).
  • Do not place the jack under suspension components, as they could bend, move or fail. This may also be the area you need access to?
  • Do not use the engine as a jacking point. The engine is supported on engine mounts only designed to take the weight of the engine (in a downwards motion).

4. Using the Jack:

The process of Jacking up the vehicle can have it’s dangers:

  • Many jacks have lugs on them to help locate the jack in the jacking point. Where possible, use these lugs to prevent movement or slippage.
  • A scissor jack or ‘foot’ jack can be placed at the wrong angle under the vehicle. Make sure it’s positioned correctly in the vertical and horizontal plane (where it will not fall over).
  • Beware – As the jack raises the vehicle, the vehicle jacking point will move. The jack may start to lean, or the jack will want to move with it. As an example, a trolly jack has wheels and will start to move across the ground.
Jacking Up (Vehicle Movement)
Jacking Up and Vehicle Movement (Note: The wheel will ‘droop’ down as you start to raise the vehicle)
  • Beware – When jacking a vehicle (especially if more than one wheel is removed), the center of balance can be affected. This can affect the supports (axle stands) as well as the vehicle. It is possible for the whole vehicle to move ‘off balance’ and fall.
  • A hydraulic jack uses seals. As these wear, the jack height can creep downwards. If they fail the jack can fail. Only go under a vehicle when it is properly supported.
  • Never place any part of your body (or anyone else’s!) under the car whilst jacking up.

5. Supporting the Vehicle (When off the Ground):

Once the vehicle is off the ground, it must be supported (The only exception is when changing a wheel – No part of your body must be under the vehicle when changing a wheel).

How to Safely Work Under a Car
How to Safely Work Under a Car – Axle Stands
Axle Stands

Axle stands were so named, as they were used to support the axle of a vehicle. Most vehicles have independent suspension now and no axles! Most modern car manufacturer’s (post year 2000), assume you will take your vehicle to a garage for repair and it will be raised off the ground using the four manufacturers jacking points and a vehicle lift. No ‘official’ secondary jacking points are provided.

The downside of this, is the jacking point on a vehicle has now also become the position you put the axle stands. So how do you jack the vehicle up and put the axle stands in the same spot at the same time?

Well you can’t. You have to find somewhere else to put the jack, or somewhere else to put the axle stands?

Best Place to Put the Axle Stands?

As the vehicle is designed to be lifted by the four jacking points, this is probably the best (and safest) place to put the axle stands. You may need adapters (fitted supports) to allow your axle stands to fit the jacking points correctly.

This means you will have to jack up the vehicle using another part of the vehicles structure. Every type of vehicle is different, so there isn’t one correct answer?

  • If you identify somewhere, check the structure is strong enough to use as a jacking point.
  • Consider the outcome if the the structure you intend to jack against did bend or fail.
  • Try to place the axle stands without placing your body under the vehicle.
Jacking Up a Vehicle - Using the Vehicle Subframe
Jacking Up a Vehicle – Supporting the Vehicle on Axle Stands, (Using the Vehicle Subframe)

I have seen an articles where the vehicle is jacked up close to the jacking point. A piece of wood is used to spread the load. I don’t think this is the best solution and may be risky?

6. Your Safety – Hints & Tips:

Protect yourself…

  • Does a wheel have to be removed? Are vehicle ramps more appropriate. If used correctly, ramps can be more stable and safer.
  • Do not place yourself under an unsupported vehicle (a jack is not a support).
  • If the wheel is removed, place it under the vehicle. It may not be supporting the vehicle, but it will act as an additional safety measure.
Jacking Up a Vehicle - Using the Wheel for Additional Safety
Jacking Up a Vehicle – Using the Wheel for Additional Safety
  • Don’t raise the vehicle higher than you need to.
  • Always use the same number of axle stands as there are wheels off the ground.
  • Ensure the vehicle is stable, properly supported, and the wheels are still chocked to prevent movement, before going under the vehicle.
  • When using more than one axle stand, check each axle stand after jacking each wheel, as the vehicle can move, or settle.
Jacking Up a Vehicle - Vehicle Movement or Settling (Axle Stand Originally Placed in the Center of the Jacking Point)
Jacking Up a Vehicle – Vehicle Movement or Settling (The Axle Stand was Originally Placed in the Center of the Jacking Point)
  • Make sure no-one can hit the vehicle whilst you are working underneath (other vehicle’s parking, etc).
  • Not using the jack? Leave it under the vehicle as an additional safety measure.
  • Never use concrete blocks, bricks, man made wood (such as chipboard, etc) to support a vehicle They can crack, or disintegrate.
  • Never use a stack of items to support a vehicle. It could topple.
  • Never place a jack against a sloping surface where the jack could slip off or move.