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How to Jack up a Car the Correct Way

03/30/2022

Anyone who wishes to perform their own maintenance on their car will, at some point, need to jack it up to access the important vehicle systems under the body. For both your own safety and the safety of your vehicle, it is crucial that you understand how to properly jack up the vehicle. Using the wrong jacking method or placing it in the incorrect position could result in some significant vehicle damage or catastrophic injury.

Here’s a quick look at the processes you should follow when jacking up your vehicle!

Park on a stable surface

Never attempt to jack up a car on unstable ground! Instead, make sure you’re on a hard, flat surface, away from potential hazards or moving vehicles. Use a concrete driveway or garage floor. Do not jack up your vehicle on the road.

Chock the wheels

Race Ramps Rubber Wheel Chocks with Extra Grip - Set of Two
Race Ramps Rubber Wheel Chocks with Extra Grip - Set of Two
This pair of Race Ramps Rubber Wheel Chocks keep tires secure while your car is up

Use wheel chocks in front of each wheel opposite from the end of the car you will be lifting. If you do not have chocks you can substitute with wooden wedges or bricks.

Put the car in “park"

Before going any farther, make sure you’ve got the car in “park.” If you have a manual transmission, keep the car in lowest gear.

Locate the jack point on the vehicle

There are several spots on the vehicle body where the vehicle can be jacked up safely. If you lift anywhere outside of those locations, the car might experience damage to the frame, or slip off the jack. Your owner’s manual should give you the location of jack points. Usually there’s one on each side behind the front wheels and in front of the back wheels, close to the rocker panels. There may be central jack points located behind the bumpers (front and rear). Jack points will be flat metal areas, often with notches that are in the shape of the top of the jack. You might also notice a cutout in the plastic that exposes metal, or even the word “jack” labeled on the undercarriage.

Place the jack

Slide the jack right below the jack point. Make sure it’s properly positioned with the correct side facing up.

Raise the jack

Raising Jack under car

The exact process of raising the jack can vary depending on the kind of jack you have. But regardless of the type of jack, you can make some final adjustments to the position of the jack as you raise it so it lines up properly with the jack point.

Lift the car

Once the jack contacts the underside of the vehicle it will become difficult to raise. Continue to work the jack up until the corner of the car starts to leave the ground. When the car has enough clearance for you to get underneath and work, you can stop. Listen for any sounds or movement while shifting the car, and if you hear anything out of the ordinary check to make sur ethe vehicle is still in position on the jack. Never put any part of your body under the vehicle while lifting the vehicle.

Use jack stands or wheel cribs

Extra safety measures are taken by using a hydraulic jack and jack stand to lift up a vehicle.
Extra safety measures are taken by using a hydraulic jack and jack stand to lift up a vehicle.

If your intent is to work underneath the vehicle, use jack stands or wheel cribs to support the weight of the vehicle. There are countless horror stories out there of clueless wrenchers who relied on jacks alone, or unsuitable supports like a concrete block or stack of wood, and it cost them. Cars weigh a lot, and are a lot stronger than your head.

Jack stands are generally affordable and readily available at most auto stores. Their two biggest advantages are their compact size, and the fact that they leave the wheel well free for doing brake or shock work. Always follow the proper usage guidelines and never use a jack stand that shows any evidence of damage or excessive wear.

Yellow Corvette with rear wheels up on Race Ramps Wheel Cribs
Race Ramps Wheel Cribs make it safer to perform underbody work

Wheel cribs are our #1 choice for vehicle support, particularly if you need to work on the underbody. Not only are they 100% solid, they are designed to follow the natural curve of tires to ensure maximum contact and stability when the vehicle is on them.

Read more about How to Choose a Wheel Crib, and learn why they might be a better choice for your garage or shop.

Lower the vehicle when done

When you’ve completed the work you need to perform under the vehicle, you can lower the car gradually and then remove the jack. Make sure you remove the jack stands first before lowering the jack.

Follow these steps and you will not have to worry about any safety issues when working on your classic car! Be safe and enjoy your garage time!

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