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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.

Why I Hate Modern Cars

18 Aug

I’m a big fan of technology when it’s useful. What I don’t like is technology used to make things more complex when I don’t see a need for the complexity. Take modern cars.

1. Older cars (1990s) had far less computer code. New cars have millions of lines of computer code and the computer systems interact with all sorts of operations. An example would be computer controlled power windows.

Why do they do this? I think they want sensors to stop closing the window if a kid gets his head caught. I’d prefer a hand-cranked lever to open the window to computer control. If my window doesn’t work, I don’t want to reprogram a computer or take the car in for service. I don’t want to purchase expensive electronics to service this crap.

In the old hand-cranked window days, a kid had to be pretty dumb to close his head in a car window or have a mean brother. As a society we survived power windows. Technology can’t replace common sense. If we need a computer to protect us from opening a car window by ourselves, society is doomed.

Computer controlled acceleration is another thing I see no use for. Drive by wire, die in a fire.

2. New cars have “modules.” If you’ve driven a lot you’ve had a flasher or blinker go out on you. That’s the thing that blinks your turn signals. You can purchase them for a few bucks and easily replace them yourself…unless… you have a newer car which integrates the flasher into a control module.

Flasher = $2. Module = A lot more $.

Car makers do this so you need to go to them to get replacement parts. The problem is that the parts are far more expensive than aftermarket parts. If you drive your car for many years (15+), you’ll find there aren’t new dealer parts for it. Yes, you can purchase wheel cylinders and the like, but forget specialized control modules. Nobody makes them.

Car makers don’t care about serviceability of older cars. They want you to buy new. As a society we must tolerate this BS because people just aren’t do-it-yourselfers anymore. They don’t know how to fix things. They don’t realize they’re being jacked for added repair costs.

3. Extra comforts aren’t worth the added mechanical problems. Heated seats bug me. I live in a cold state. Waking up in a cold morning and sitting on a cold car seat wakes you up. It’s part of the natural order of things. If you’re not ready to be woken up by your cold car seat, you should have stayed in bed.

How long will cars made in 2014 continue to function and what will be the repair costs for those of us who drive cars into the ground? We just don’t know. Older cars could keep going until they rusted out or the engine was totally shot. You could purchase blinkers. You could fix a power window unit that failed.

If you’re a hard core do-it-yourself auto mechanic and you purchase a newer car, I recommend you visit junk yards and pick up a few of the key modules for your new car. Those parts won’t be available in the future at reasonable rates. If you sell your car you likely can sell the modules on ebay and get your money back.

What Wrenches Should You Carry In Your Vehicle?

13 Apr

If you purchased the Craftsman tools and tool sets I recommended in my book back in 2012, you made out like a bandit. Many of those sets are no longer made in the USA. The Chinese wrenches are called “lobster claws” by reviewers. They don’t have the elegance of the older USA made Craftsman tools.

Purchasing the recommended tools may have cost you $300-$400. The same USA sets on eBay indicate a total price now of $1,000 to $1,200 plus. At those prices, look into getting SK branded tools if you want USA. If China is OK, go for Gearwrench. The older Gearwench were Taiwan and better. You can search eBay for the USA Armstrong brand. Those are very much like the older Craftsman.

A few of the tools that are gone include the full polish deep offset wrench set. Deep offset wrenches can save your bacon in many situations. To install shock absorbers, for many vehicles, you need to reach a nut sitting in a well while at the same time holding the shock spindle above it. Sockets don’t work. You can purchase special tools to do the job. A pass-through socket set would work. OR you could rely on the handy deep offset wrench.

What kind of specialty wrenches are handy? The deep offset wrenches are invaluable. Stubby wrenches can reach in where longer wrenches can’t fit. Line wrenches or flare nut wrenches prevent rounding off soft line fittings. The USA line wrench sets from Sears are gone.

What wrenches should you carry in your vehicle? The answer: The wrenches you need! If you’re stuck today paying high prices and insist on USA tools, you can save money by purchasing only the wrenches you need. This is bad value if you work on a lot of different vehicles, but is something to consider if you only drive one brand of vehicle.

All makers use a few key sizes. Most GM vehicles use 8mm, 10mm, 13 mm, and 15 mm for most of the bolts you’re likely to encounter. Why carry a full wrench set in your vehicle when you only need a few sizes?

Carrying the sizes you really need gives you the option of adding more wrenches in the useful sizes. Learn what wrench sizes you need for your vehicle and carry those. The same is true of sockets. Carry fewer sizes. Add swivel sockets in the key sizes.

Carrying a lot of stuff isn’t the answer to anything. Carrying the right stuff is.


Is horsemanship a needed survival skill like swimming? Do you agree with the comment “True prepping is homesteading knowledge” ?

A sad story. A kid cut in front of a vehicle and was accidentally hit. The driver stopped to help and was attacked by a mob of hooligans.

A great article about false economy on Apartment Prepper

Is a 38 Snubby adequate today? What’s the key to using one?

A few other things to add to your vehicle:

– Extra Radiator hoses
– Jug of coolant
– Pliers
– Flat and Philips Screwdrivers
-Vice Grips
-Duct tape and bailing wire
– Mechanics gloves
– Clean rags