Safe use of jacks

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MB Club Veteran
Aug 19, 2002
Not always
Following on from a thread on another forum where a member was asking about servicing an old trolley jack , I thought it would be worth copying the following over here for the benefit of newer members who perhaps have less experience of working on cars and have not heard some of the safety rules which may be obvious to others . My contribution to the thread was the following :

"For safety , NEVER get under a car supported only by a jack .

Use the jack ONLY to raise the car ; ALWAYS support the car with something else - like axle stands or ramps placed in such a way that there is no possibility of the car falling . By all means use the jack as a back-up support but never as the sole or primary means of support if you or anyone else is going to be underneath .

People are killed every year due to not following this rule ; I lost one of my best mates ( who ought to have known better ) when a Ford Anglia he was working on fell on him - so I make no apology for going on about this .

The jack that comes with your car is for changing wheels at the roadside only and is not meant to support the car for more than a few minutes . While a proper trolley jack is safer , I would still never get under a car supported only by one of these either - the very most I might do with only a trolley jack , apart from changing wheels , might be changing brake pads - but only if there is no risk of the car coming down on my hands and trapping them - otherwise I will ALWAYS put in at least one axle stand ."

Not long after I posted that , another member came along with the following :

" +1

I have lost 3 friends to date and one is severely disabled due to jacks failing, im only 25 so its obviously
still a poorly communicated message. I'd never be entirely happy with a rebuilt jack. "
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A very important post which should be auto-bumped regularly by the forum system.

People who join this super forum (I am definitely one of them) are encouraged (if not directly, but by having gained the know-how) to have a go at repairing their own vehicles.

I have gained a lot of knowledge and consequently, the satisfaction of carrying out repairs to my vehicles. This has been enjoyable and has saved me a lot of money. This thread will save someone's life.

Complacancy is a major hazard.

Thanks for posting.
Just to add another element to this:

When changing a wheel with the car on a jack, keep hands at the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions to hold the wheel - never have your hands above the tyre and beneath the wheel arch.
Thank you for that, Derek, good advice.
I always raise the vehicle on a trolley jack, drop it onto axle stands, and keep the jack just under the resting point of the axle stands, just in case.

When I worked in a garage it was instant dismissal to go under a car supported only by a jack.
One of the things that I always do when changing a wheel or have a wheel off, without an axle stand, is put the spare under the sill.

I'm not sure whether it would keep the hub high enough to prevent damage, but it always seems like an obvious thing to do in any case.

A friend of my fathers was changing the wheel of a Panda and saw the jack slipping. He tried to hold the car up by the sill, thinking it would be light. Nearly lost his hand. He was lucky that a passing jogger heard his scream as he was firmly pinned.
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A Ford Anglia my brother was working on fell off the jack and, fortunately, pinned him by his thighs rather than anything critical. My mother heard his screams and, in one of those superhuman efforts sometimes seen in a crisis, lifted it off him. At 5'4" and maybe seven and a half stone wet through this was no mean feat!
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'Bumping' is to add a post to a thread to take it back to the top of the page , much as I have just done !
Now stickied :)
Thanks Koolvin for making this a sticky .

Another useful hint , following on from David's post above re putting the wheel under the sill , is that , if you ever need to reach under the car in an emergency at the roadside , a good way of safely supporting the car is to jack it up and place the spare wheel under the road wheel nearest the area you are trying to reach , lower the car back down onto the wheel and you will have gained six inches or so of ground clearance at one corner with the car safely supported .
Might be a silly question, but what if there is no room to put the spare wheel under the car?

On my old fiesta, with it's thin wheels, I used to put the spare under the sill.

I had to change a tyre on my GF's A Class AMG Evolution. It sits lower to the ground and the wheels are so wide that i couldn't put the tyre under the sill.

An option would be to jack the car higher, but with the little jacks you get I thought that would only make the situation worse.
A Ford Anglia my brother was working on fell off the jack and, fortunately, pinned him by his thighs rather than anything critical. My mother heard his screams and, in one of those superhuman efforts sometimes seen in a crisis, lifted it off him. At 5'4" and maybe seven and a half stone wet through this was no mean feat!

Always seemed to be Ford Anglia!

When I had one I jacked it up (to change the oil), I went to get the axle stands. When I got back about a minute later the car had fallen off the jack as the jacking point had collapsed.

No one hurt, but a reminder that a minute getting the axle stands is a good investment.
Sorry if this seems a silly question but I was thinking of getting a trolley jack and stands to allow me to change my wheels for another set with winter tyres.

But, can anyone advise me, I will have to do it on a road as my drive is on a slope, if I use the trolley jack on the jacking point where do I put the stand?

I was planning on jacking each wheel separately (and turning the car round in between so I am not working in the road).
In my opinion you can jack the car up on a suspension/sub-frame joint location. Then you have the sill jacking locations free for the axle stands.

Best wait for experienced members to confirm this though.
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And never, ever do this:


Mods & OP - if this is not an appropriate place for this post/picture then please delete or move it, as I admit to being ambivalent about the content and it's place in this thread.

Perhaps taking things to extremes , but a good example of what NOT to do .

Worth posting as some people WILL do really stupid things ( he also appears to be welding the fuel tank , or something very close to it ) !
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when ever im working under a car its always held up with axle stands, even if its only for a few mintues, its not worth it to me to risk my life for the sake of waiting a few minutes while i set up the stands
i always use four ramps, because the car is too low to be driven up them, i jack each corner up and put the ramps under each wheel in turn, facing in oposit directions to stop the car rolling down them.

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