We’ve all wrestled with using a floor jack at least once or twice. Whether you’re an avid car guy or a first-time driver, it’s one of the tools in the garage that every vehicle owner must learn to use. Simple as it looks, the floor jack can lift thousands of pounds off the ground. But don’t let its looks fool you, being reckless while using it to lift your car is downright dangerous. To keep your weekend repairs injury-free, here are five common mistakes you should avoid when using a floor jack.
Lifting a vehicle that exceeds the jack’s capacity
One of the first things you should check before attempting to lift a vehicle is your floor jack’s weight capacity. Ideally, the tool should comfortably lift more than half of your car’s total weight. It’s unsafe to attempt lifting a car that exceeds the jack’s capacity. In some cases where the vehicle is too heavy, a built-in safety feature is triggered, and the jack won’t lift at all.
Improvising a jack extension
Resourcefulness is a great thing to have, but it’s not advisable to get creative modifying a floor jack rated at 5,000 lbs. to lift a 12,000 lb. truck. If your floor jack’s maximum lift doesn’t reach the chassis of your SUV or truck, don’t improvise by placing it on pieces of plywood or brick. Any makeshift jack extension is unsafe. Always use a floor jack designed to match the minimum height and maximum lift required for your vehicle.
Using a jack on an incline
Before attempting any repairs, always double-check that your car is in “park” and that the parking brake is engaged. You should avoid working on any inclined surfaces because your car might tip over as it is being lifted. You should only jack up your vehicle on a flat section of the road remembering to block the wheels you aren’t working on with a wedge or a wheel chock just in case the brakes fail.
Ignoring designated jack points
Certain parts of your vehicle’s chassis are specifically reinforced to be safely used as designated jack points. Deviating from these areas can cause damage to weaker metal structures and cost you more in repairs. Lifting your car from other points also means there’s a greater chance of the jack slipping out from underneath your vehicle. Size is another factor that affects the stability of a floor jack. The width of the platform, lifting arms, saddle, and wheelbase must fit within the recommended support points in the chassis of your vehicle.
Using a floor jack as the only vehicle support
The most common mistake is also the biggest safety hazard when lifting a vehicle. Remember that a floor jack is only meant as a lifting device. On its own, it doesn’t provide enough stability to make it safe for anyone to work underneath your vehicle. You should always use jack stands as additional support while your car is up in the air. This way, if the jack slips or if the hydraulic ram leaks, your vehicle won’t come crashing down on you.
When used correctly, a floor jack can help you create a safe and controlled environment to work on your vehicle. By keeping these things in mind, you can avoid additional costly repairs and prevent serious injury.