How to Properly Jack Up a Car: A Step-by-Step Guide

Jacking up a car is a fundamental skill for vehicle maintenance and repair that every car owner should know.

Operating a car jack requires careful attention to detail and adherence to safety precautions to prevent accidents and ensure the procedure is completed smoothly.

Whether you’re changing a tire or embarking on a DIY repair project, the way you lift your car off the ground matters to prevent injury and damage.

A car on level ground, with a hydraulic jack positioned under the designated jacking point, and the vehicle lifted off the ground with the wheels securely chocked

Our focus is on educating car owners on the proper techniques of using a jack and understanding the importance of placement and stability.

We emphasize the responsibility that comes with this aspect of vehicle upkeep—recognizing the critical places under the car for the jack, and how to use jack stands to maintain the safety and integrity of both you and your vehicle while it’s suspended.

Safety must always come first, which is why we advocate familiarizing yourself with your car’s anatomy and the tools involved before beginning any lifting procedure.

Preparing to Jack Up Your Car

Before we begin to lift our car, it’s crucial to ensure that we’ve set the stage for a safe and effective job.

This involves choosing a stable surface, having all necessary tools on hand, and properly securing the car to prevent movement during the lift.

Selecting a Safe Location

Finding a level and firm surface is vital to maintain the stability of the jack.
Level ground prevents the car from shifting unexpectedly. We should avoid soft grounds and always aim to park in a safe location, away from heavy traffic.
Engaging the parking brake adds an extra layer of security.

Gathering Necessary Equipment

Gathering the right equipment before we begin is a step that cannot be overlooked.
Here’s what we should have within reach:
  • A quality car jack that fits our car’s specifications, which can be checked in the owner’s manual.
  • The tire iron or lug wrench, which may come in the car’s tire change kit.
  • Optional but recommended: gloves to protect our hands.

Positioning the Wheel Chocks

To safely chock the wheels:
  • Place wheel chocks or solid materials, like bricks, on the opposite side of the car that’s being lifted.
  • This should be done both in front and behind the wheel to prevent the car from rolling.

If we’re on the side of the road, we should ensure our hazard lights are on to signal to other drivers.

Using the Jack and Jack Stands

Before we raise our vehicle, it’s crucial to use the right equipment and follow a process that ensures our safety and the safety of our vehicle.

We’ll focus on the essential steps: identifying the correct jack points, lifting the vehicle safely, and securing it firmly on jack stands.

Identifying Jack Points

The first step is to locate the specific jacking points on your vehicle.

These are typically marked in the owner’s manual and are designed to support the vehicle’s weight during lifting. Common jacking points include the pinch welds and the reinforced parts of the frame or rocker panels.

Important: Always refer to the vehicle’s owner’s manual for the exact locations of the jack points.

Safely Raising the Vehicle

Once we’ve correctly identified the jack points, we ensure our vehicle is on a flat and level surface to prevent it from rolling or shifting.

Using a floor jack or scissor jack, align it with the jack point. Then, we lift the vehicle steadily, taking care not to exceed the jack’s capacity.

Securing the Vehicle with Jack Stands

After the vehicle is raised, we never rely solely on the jack to hold it up.

Instead, we place the jack stands under the designated support areas.

By carefully lowering the vehicle onto the stands and ensuring it’s stable, we create a secure environment to conduct our maintenance or repairs.
Note: Verify that the jack stands are on firm ground and are capable of supporting the vehicle’s weight before getting underneath.

Executing Maintenance and Emergency Repairs

When we’re faced with a punctured tire or need to inspect the undercarriage, knowing how to properly jack up our car is crucial.

Let’s go through the specific steps for changing a tire and performing undercarriage inspections and repairs, ensuring our safety and preventing damage to the vehicle.

Changing a Tire

First, ensure the vehicle is parked on a flat surface and engage the parking brake.

We’ll then retrieve the spare tire, jack, and lug wrench.

Before jacking up the car, we need to loosen the lug nuts slightly while the wheel is on the ground.

Looking under the vehicle, identify the right place to set up the jack—most cars have a clear indication on their frame or along the sill.

Here are the steps:
  • Loosen the lug nuts slightly (do not remove them completely).
  • Place the jack under the appropriate jacking point.
  • Raise the vehicle until the tire is off the ground.
  • Remove the lug nuts and replace the flat tire with the spare.
  • Tighten the lug nuts by hand.
  • Lower the vehicle and then tighten the lug nuts fully in a cross pattern.

After the car is safely back on the ground, tighten the lug nuts securely in a criss-cross pattern to ensure even pressure.

Performing Undercarriage Inspections and Repairs

With the car jacked up and resting securely on stands, it’s time to inspect critical components such as the oil pan, suspension parts, brake pads, and more.

Be sure to wear safety glasses and use proper lighting. Inspect for any signs of damage, leaks, or wear.

For undercarriage inspections, consider this checklist:
  • Examine the oil pan for leaks.
  • Inspect brake pads for wear.
  • Check suspension components for damage or wear.

Should we discover issues like a leaking oil pan or worn brake pads, replacing them is our top priority.

Always ensure our tools are suited for the vehicle’s weight and adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines when lifting and supporting the vehicle for any maintenance task.

Conclusion and Safety Tips

When we use a car jack, taking the right precautions is crucial to avoid dangerous situations.

Always handle your equipment with care, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely to ensure safety.

Below we’ve provided some essential tips to maintain safety while using different types of jacks:

General Precautions:

  • Choose a hard, level surface to prevent the jack from shifting. Concrete is preferable over asphalt, which can be soft under high pressure.
  • Secure the vehicle by applying the parking brake and placing the car in gear if it’s a manual, or in ‘park’ if it’s automatic.
  • Turn off the ignition and ensure all passengers are out of the vehicle before jacking it up.

When using scissor jacks, ensure they are placed correctly under the vehicle’s frame.
These jacks often come with your vehicle and are adequate for temporary use, such as changing a tire.

For hydraulic floor jack use, locating the vehicle’s specific lift points for stability is essential.

Gradually turn the handle clockwise to raise the jack and counterclockwise to lower it.

Before getting underneath the car, always secure it with sturdy ramps or jack stands to prevent the car from falling.

We must check the equipment regularly.

For hydraulic jacks, this includes inspecting the hydraulic fluid levels and the relief valve, which ensures proper function.

Avoid using jacks on an incline, as this poses a significant risk of the car rolling or the jack failing.

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