Always Use Jack Stands When Working Under A Car! (Jack Stand Lessons)

5 Oct

Safety should be priority number one for preppers. Is what you’re doing safe? Can I do something better to protect myself better? What happens if something goes wrong? Do I have adequate backups? Ask yourself these questions with any high risk situation.

In the news, a car buff was killed when his scissors jack failed. This is Autoshop 101: Never work under a car only supported by a jack of any kind. Jacks fail. Professionals have lifts. Those of us working out of home garages will have a floor jack and jack stands. Hydraulic jacks fail. Screw jacks fail and aren’t sufficiently stable for anything more than raising a wheel to change a tire.

I prefer jack stands with pins to ratcheting stands. Ratcheting are acceptable though. For car owners, I recommend the Sears Craftsman Professional 4 ton ratcheting jack stands. They’re only about $35. They’re made in China, but appear well enough made. They have a wider and more stable base than the more common 3 ton jack stands.

For larger vehicles, Harbor Freight Sells ratcheting jackstands in 6 ton and 12 ton capacity. While Harbor Freight gets a rap for producing cheap Chinese crap, these jacks appear well made. Find a coupon to get the 6 ton stands for $40.

I reviewed the 3 ton Torin “double locking” stands on Amazon and wasn’t too impressed. The pins were poorly positioned. The welds looked like crap. I shared some photos there to show what I mean.

I gave some hints for inspecting new ratcheting jackstands in that review. One thing you can do is purchase two sets of stands, inspect them all. Mix and match and return any parts that are unacceptable. Is the pawl straight or crooked? Are any of the welds poor?

Jackstands shouldn’t have much rust on them. Maintain them. While at it, be darn certain the jack points on your vehicle are solid and not rusted. Rusted jack points collapse. You should know where all jack points are on your vehicle and where you can place stands. The metal the suspension support is attached to is solid.

I haven’t seen it myself, but I’m told some newer high-end cars don’t have jack points for floor jacks! They’re meant to be serviced on a professional lift. The same point for lifting and supporting. How’s that for really screwing the DIYer? I’ve ranted before about how the automakers want us dependent on dealer repair. This is one more example of that.

Jack stands fail too. One issue is that many of the bars are cast metal and cast metal can crack.  This is why I love backups. Get two pairs of stands and place a second set as a backup. It takes a bit of time but gives you much better safety.

This is a mathematical fact: If one stand has a 1 in a thousand chance of failing, the chances of two failing at the same time is one in a million. Most stands are far safer than 1 in a thousand. The chances two stands will both fail on you is about the same as winning a huge lottery. It won’t happen.

One more thing. Chock the wheels so the vehicle can’t roll. For $7 Harbor Freight makes great wheel chocks of solid rubber. Back them up with sandbags. Jack stands can physically break. Much more common though is a car isn’t solidly placed on the stands and it slips off. The stands must sit on solid concrete. Not soft ground.

When you use ratcheting type stands, the lower the bar the better and more stable. Do lift the bar so the pawl engages the first notch. The stands aren’t designed to sit just on the top of the stand.

In the book I recommend 12,000 pound rhino ramps. It’s really just 3,000 pounds per ramp. 12,000 pounds per vehicle. The design has changed. The new ramps are stackable. They take less storage space. This is a great example of dumb engineering. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. For a bit of convenience, we’re asked to give up a solid structure under the ramp. I no longer recommend the new ramps.

Blitz the company making the older style ramps went belly up because of lawsuits. Not because of ramp failures! Blitz makes gas cans. The old school gas cans. They had a snout and you poured the gas out.

The problem was some people poured their gas onto open flames. They spilled gas and left the cans near water heaters or other sources of flames. The flame worked its way into the gas can. New gas cans have devices to prevent flames from burning back into the can. For most of my life we used the old style can with complete confidence. Common sense and caution in your own behavior is always your first and best line of defense.

The vanishing of Blitz USA-made old school rhino ramps illustrates another principle I harped on in the book. Just because something is available today is no reason to assume it will be available in the future. If you purchase something you really like and rely on and if you can afford it, purchase a backup.

Prepper lesson: Have backups. Allow for failure. Be safe.

One Response to “Always Use Jack Stands When Working Under A Car! (Jack Stand Lessons)”

  1. thoughtfullyprepping October 10, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    A few years ago a person got “squished” near us whilst doing an repair under a car.
    They were using an airbag as a support.
    It wasn’t that the airbag failed by itself so much as the acetylene torch being used RIGHT ALONGSIDE IT.
    The interesting bit about it was the man had put his spare tire under his car sill “just in case” something happened.
    Well it did and it seems he forgot that a persons chest is often deeper than the rim of a tire.

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