A good tool set for mechanics should always have one key component; a portable floor jack. Portable floor jacks can come in handy, least of all when you end up with a flat tire. However, do you know how to properly use one of these jacks? If used incorrectly you can unfortunately end up doing quite a bit of damage, either rto your car, or to yourself.
How To Properly Use A Portable Floor Jack
The best floor jacks will have significant lifting power, in addition to being easy to operate without undue strain. If you need help finding the best floor jack for your needs, don’t hesitate to speak with an automotive professional, they’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction. But once you have your jack, here are a few tips for proper usage.
Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning this handy extra level of protection. Once the car is lifted with the jack, a jack stand can be fitted under the solid part of the undercarriage. Once sturdily in place the jack can be removed without the car falling. This can add an extra layer of protection top ensure that the car can’t drop if you are underneath it, or in the middle of removing the tire. Anecdotally, I’ve had my car fall when attempting to change the tire with only the jack as support; it’s not an incident I’d ever wish to repeat. A jack stand is a well spent investment for the additional safety.
- Flat Surface. Always, and I mean always, make sure your vehicle is parked on a level piece of ground before you begin lifting it. This is what caused the jack to fail in my example above. If the car can roll, there is a good chance it will. This can cause severe injury, if not loss of life, in the worst case scenario. Once you are sure the ground is level and free of debris, pull the parking brake for extra security.
- Wheel Chocks. For extra security against rolling apply wheel chocks under the wheels opposite the side you are lifting. This helps keep the vehicle in place while the end is being jacked up. This is important if you are working on the back end, as the front wheels can roll since the parking brake doesn’t affect them. In this case apply the chocks just to be sure.
- Testing. Be sure to test the jack before you insert it. Make sure it can rise and hold without wavering. If you notice any defects or any signs of weakness it’s best to hold off until you can get a replacement jack. If it looks good to go, proceed to the next step.
- Jack Points. This is something I’ve seen many people get wrong, and it has led to damage. Find the factory implemented jack points under your vehicle. These points are designed to be strong enough to withstand the strain of the weight being lifted. If you’re jacking on another point it could cause damage to the vehicle, and to yourself if it gives way. If you are unsure, your owner’s manual should be able to tell you where your points are.
- Lift The Car. While hydraulic jacks are considered by many to be the best floor jacks, scissor jacks will work just as well in a pinch. Once inserted begin lifting the vehicle to the desired height for the repair job you’re trying to do. If applicable, insert the jack stand when it’s at the level you need.
- Remove the Jack. Once the stands are securely in place, carefully remove the jack and lightly nudge your car to ensure it is truly secured. If you notice any swaying, or unusual movement, replace the jack and make sure all the stands are secure.
Even the best floor jacks and machine shop supplies are useless if you don’t know how to properly use them. Follow these instructions to ensure a seamless, and safe repair job.