How To Safely Use Jack Stands
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The most important tools in your garage are not socket wrenches, screwdrivers, or pliers, they are the ones that keep you safe. It wouldn’t be so simple to wrench on your 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS if you lost your hands, legs, or eyesight. One of the stars of the safety show is the jack stand, and it’s crucial you have at least four of these.
The jack stand is the life partner of the jack, and they should be used every time you jack up your car. For tire rotations, brake service, suspension work, everything. If this is foreign to you, it’s important to learn about these devices and how to use them, and The Drive’s guide will show you everything you should know.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is a Jack Stand?
A jack stand is a metal height-adjustable mechanical device that is used to support the weight of a lifted vehicle. Most commonly, they are placed underneath the car as a safety net to protect against a vehicle falling on a body part.
Anatomy of a Jack Stand
Most jack stands use these basic parts to function.
The jack stand is typically planted to the ground with a four-leg base frame. It’s shaped like a pyramid, or four As connected at their sides. The support bar slides up and down through a center opening in the base. A different design uses a flat platform with a tube at the center.
The support bar is the contact point between the stand and the car. This bar is typically ratcheted, so it stays in place at the positioned height when lifted up, and it usually has a U-shaped catch at the top.
In addition to the ratcheting device that keeps the support bar in place, most jack stands feature their own failsafe/backup plans. This most often comes in the form of some type of pin that goes through the support bar or is positioned against the bar’s ratchet teeth.
The release is most commonly a handle that releases the support bar’s ratcheting mechanism and allows the bar to lower.
Common Types of Jack Stands
Different jack stands use different locking mechanisms. These are the most common types.
As mentioned above, ratcheting is one of the most commonly used types of jack stands. A ratcheting device is built into the support bar, so it automatically locks into place when lifted. It is usually released with a handle.
Most ratcheting jack stands use pins for added security, but some jack stands rely entirely on pins. On these stands, the pin is placed through one of the numerous available holes to adjust the height.
You’re much less likely to see a screw-type jack stand, but they do exist. With these types of stands, the support beam is a giant screw in the middle of an upright cylinder. The jack stand’s catch height is adjusted by screwing the beam in or out.
The Basics for Using Jack Stands
Estimated Time Needed: 5 Minutes
Skill Level: Beginner
Vehicle System: Frame
Jack Stand Safety
We don’t know what job you’re doing, but if you’re lifting your car and using jack stands, it’s at least somewhat involved. For any job in and around the underside of your vehicle, we recommend always using the precautionary equipment below:
WARNING 1: Do Not Use Harbor Freight Jack Stands
In mid-2020, Harbor Freight announced a recall for defective jack stands in the 3-ton and 6-ton variety. Then, the replacements for the recalled items were also found to be defective and recalled. That’s enough evidence for us to stay away from them forever.
WARNING 2: Check Your Jack and Jack Stand Capacities
Your jacks and jack stands are built, designed, and rated only to handle specific amounts of weight. Consult your owner’s manual to find out the weight of your vehicle and use the appropriate jack stands.
WARNING 3: Always Work on a Smooth and Flat Surface
When you’re lifting 2,000-7,000 pounds up into the air, you need ultimate stability and security. Working on slanted surfaces or surfaces with a lot of gravel, sand, or dirt could result in the car moving or rolling.
Everything You’ll Need To Use Your Jack Stands
To use a jack stand, you’ll first need a jack.
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.
Here’s How To Use Your Jack Stands
Let’s do this!
- Pull the parking brake.
- Put wheel chocks around the wheels that will remain on the ground.
- Locate your jack point and jack up the car.
- Place your jack stand underneath the car at the designated jack points.
- Lift or screw the support beam up as close to the contact point as possible.
- Make sure the jack stand is properly seated.
- Slowly release the jack and lower the car onto the stand.
- Give the car a sturdy-but-controlled shake to fully seat the car onto the standl and make sure it’s stable.
- Reapply weight onto the jack at an even height with the stand.
- Repeat for other sides.
- Jack the car up above the jack stand.
- Use the jack release to lower the support beam.
- Remove the jack stand.
- Lower the car.
- Remove the wheel chocks.
Sometimes You Need a Certified Mechanic
As much as The Drive loves to put the "you" in do-it-yourself, we know that not everyone has the proper tools, a safe workspace, the spare time, or the confidence to tackle major automotive repairs. Sometimes, you just need quality repair work performed by professionals you can trust like our partners, the certified mechanics at Goodyear Tire & Service.
FAQs About Jack Stands
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. Can You Put Jack Stands On The Axle?
A. We do not recommend using jack stands on parts of the car that are not designed to hold the entire weight of the vehicle. Consult your manuals and use the directed jack points.
Q. Where Do You Put The Jack Stand Under a Car?
A. Seriously, consult your owner’s manual or service manual and locate the specified jack points on your vehicle. You can damage your car or get injured if you put them in the wrong place. Be smart.
Q. Can I Leave My Car On a Jack Stand Overnight?
A. You can, but try to make sure the vehicle is sitting as evenly balanced as possible. When leaving them on the stands for long periods of time, it can’t hurt to use additional stands or extra wood, just in case.
Q. Do I Need To Jack Up My Car For An Oil Change?
A. It all depends on how big you are, what car you have, and where the oil pan and oil filter are located on your vehicle. On my 2003 Acura RSX, the job is far easier when the car is lifted up.
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