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If you’re anything like us, then you like to tinker with your car or your truck. You might just like to work on the body, or maybe you want to try and soup up the engine, but no matter what you like, you’re eventually going to need to access the underside and chassis of your vehicle. The ideal setup is to use a hydraulic jack like you’d see at a professional mechanics. However, these are quite expensive and impractical for most home garage DIYers, so there are some alternatives to keep in mind.

There are many ways to lift a car safely without such a lift, and most of them just require a little know-how and a little common sense to navigate safely. Read on for some more alternatives to hydraulic lifts that you can use to safely work under your car or truck.

Jack Stands

Jack stands are a low cost and safe way to easily perform maintenance on the underside of your car. If used properly, they can be a simple way to easily access all parts of your car, but there are some simple tips that you’ll want to follow. For starters, always perform this type of work with someone else. Even if they’re not actually doing the work, you want someone else to be around if something should go wrong.

Next, make sure that the vehicle is on level ground. The jack stand is only meant to function on flat, horizontal ground, so make sure that you don’t skip this step. You’ll also want to chock the wheels once you’ve put the car into park (or into a gear). This ensures that the car or truck can’t slip around as you’re preparing the rest of the process. Place the jack stands under the jacking points and adjust them to the appropriate height and then lock them into place with the provided pin, and you should be ready to go.

Creepers

A mechanic’s creeper is one of those devices that you’ve likely seen on television or at auto shops. Basically, the person working on the car will lay down flat on their backs on the creeper and then wheel under the car or truck to perform whatever maintenance task is necessary. They’re simple devices, but they’re quite effective at providing easy and cheap access.

They come in a few different styles, starting with the traditional type that’s basically just a plank on wheels, sometimes with included padding. Next is a contoured style that makes it possible to work for longer, in comfort, thanks to well-placed padding and shapes.

A few of the benefits our Wheel Cribs provide to car enthusiasts
A few of the benefits our Wheel Cribs provide to car enthusiasts

Wheel Cribs

Wheel cribs are an appealing option because they represent a lower cost, but equally effective, alternative to jack stands. In fact, part of the reason that they can be so inexpensive is that a lot of them can be made as simple DIY projects at home. One of the most popular types of wheel cribs that people assemble at home just involves using some 2x4’s and basic power tools to create a crib that should work just fine for just about any car or truck on the road.

An extra 10” makes a big difference when you need room to move
An extra 10” makes a big difference when you need room to move.

That said, prefabricated options also exist that work just as well. These are most commonly made out of plastic or polystyrene, and function as a lightweight option for the amateur (or professional) car enthusiast. Some of them even as “adjustable,” so that an 8-inch wheel crib can instead become two 4-inch ones. This gives you the flexibility to use this simple tool in whatever way the situation calls for and enhances your ability to reach all areas of your vehicle.

Air Lifting Bag

This type of technology might be unfamiliar as far as using it to work on cars, but air jacks have existed for ages to move furniture. Basically, you place a flat, deflated bag under a tire and then pump it full of air. As it inflates and rises it brings the car up with it – it’s ingenious in its simplicity, and it can offer a great way to elevate a car for folks on a budget.

Elevating your car to tinker with it is one of the great pleasures of being a gearhead, but a hydraulic jack is simply impractical for most car enthusiasts. The options listed above represent some great starting points, but there are a number of choices out there that will help you safely raise your car so that you can help it reach its full potential.