How to Use Car Ramps

Getting your car up onto ramps the safe and easy way. 

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Need to get under your car without squeezing your body like a professional limboer? Short of buying an expensive professional car lift, a good, solid pair of car ramps will get the job done with just a bit of set-up when it comes time for your next oil change or tune-up. The best car ramps can be used for low-profile rides like sports cars, heavy-duty vehicles, and more.

Here's how you can add some ground clearance and get your car up a set of ramps to access your undercarriage without destroying your vehicle ramps, car, or yourself.

Safety

Using a pair of auto ramps is pretty straightforward, but don't underestimate how much can go wrong if you cowboy your way up the ramps. The most important thing is safety. Since you are driving a multi-ton vehicle up some small plastic ramps, you should take some extra steps to avoid damaging anything or anyone. 

  • Find a flat surface when using car ramps. Slopes and angles increase the chance of the vehicle falling off the ramps. 
  • Pay attention to the weight capacity of the automotive ramps. Each pair of ramps will list the specific weight capacity.
  • Avoid soft, wet, or slippery surfaces.  Use a non-skid mat if necessary.
  • Use ramps that are rated for the weight of your vehicle. The maximum rated load will tell you if the ramps can support your vehicle's Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) which you can find on the driver's door sticker or the owner's manual. There's nothing worse than hearing the sound of plastic cracking under the weight of a vehicle. 
  • Use low-clearance ramps for smaller cars with low ground clearance. These will keep the undercarriage from scraping.
  • Make sure the ramp has rubber stops or use a grip pad underneath. Extra traction is important to keep the ramps from sliding out as you drive up.
  • Use some wheel chocks on the opposite end when using the ramps. These will work with the parking brake to keep your vehicle from rolling off.

Things You'll Need

  • Car ramps: You will need two ramps for the front or rear wheels. Something with heavy-duty plastic or made with solid steel is preferable.
  • Wheel chocks: These plastic stops will go behind the wheels still touching the ground.

Preparation

Proper positioning is key to getting a vehicle up the ramps without any issue. This is where you'll want to be overly cautious. It's like the PSAs always say: Anal retentiveness saves lives.

  • Position the vehicle into a flat, open spot (ideally a garage or flat parking lot). There should be some space in front to drive forward.
  • Make sure the wheels are pointing straight.
  • Place the ramps in front of the front wheels. Slide them until they are touching the wheels.

Using Car Ramps

The main process of getting a car positioned on the ramps involves keeping everything properly aligned. You won't need a laser sight to measure proper alignment, but a close eye on the wheel-to-ramp positioning will decrease the risk of any unfortunate accidents.

Driving onto the Ramps

If you want to access the undercarriage of your vehicle, it's time to get that hunk of metal up into the air. 

  1. Double-check the ramp alignment with each wheel. They should be centered as much as possible with the ramps. If they're off, the ramp will likely crack, or the vehicle may fall off.
  2. Slowly drive up the ramp. Keep the speed low and the wheels straight. You may feel the raised edges of each ramp if you get off-center.
    • Have a friend spot for you to keep the vehicle straight, if necessary.
    • If you feel the ramps slide, speed up just a little. You can also place a long board between the ramps and a wall to keep them from moving forward.
  3. Stop the car at the top of the ramps. Each wheel should be resting fully on the top, flat portion of the ramp.
  4. Engage the parking brake
  5. Double-check the vehicle's position. Everything should still be aligned so the ramps can support the vehicle's weight.
  6. Place the wheel chocks behind the opposite set of wheels. Slide them so they wedge into the tires. 

Driving off the Ramps

Much like climbing Mt. Everest, the most dangerous part of using car ramps can be on the way down. To get the vehicles off of the ramps, you'll need to let gravity do its job with a little bit of assistance from friction.

  1. Double-check the wheel alignment. The wheels shouldn't be turned when you start to drive off the ramps. Make sure they are aligned with the center of each ramp.
  2. Remove the wheel chocks from the opposite set of tires
  3. Disengage the parking brake. The vehicle should now be free to move.
  4. Gently apply a little gas. You should move the car in the opposite direction (usually in reverse). You shouldn't need too much gas to get the vehicle moving.
  5. Let the vehicle roll down the ramps. Keep your foot on the brake to control the descent. Keep the wheels straight.
  6. Park the vehicle and remove the car ramps

Tips

  • To get all four wheels up in the air, use some wheel risers. 
  • High-quality ramps are often a good investment since better materials can handle heavier loads and more abuse. 
  • Some ramps have a slight dip at the top to let you know when the wheels are resting safely in position.

FAQ

Q. Are car ramps better than jack stands?

A. Jack stands are best used to suspend your car when you need to remove the wheels or lift the entire frame. Otherwise, car ramps are more convenient, quicker to set up, and safer.

Q. Can I make my own car ramps?

A. While technically possible, it's better to buy a pair instead. Professional ramps use hard plastics and metals that can withstand weight and abuse better than typical DIY materials.

Q. Is it normal for the ramp to deform?

A. You may find a slight impression on the top of a car ramp after a couple of uses. Otherwise, major bends or cracks are a sign that you should replace the ramp.

Q. How do I store the ramps when not in use?

A. Most ramps have a stackable design. Find some space in the garage and stack them up. If the ramp has a flat back, you can also stand it up vertically to save more space.

Q. How long/steep should the ramps be?

A. This depends on your vehicle. The required height will influence the length and angle of the ramp. Larger vehicles require more height and a steeper angle.