February 5, 2013 by quirkyuncle
Jack stands are an inexpensive investment that make it safe to work under your car. You can get jack stands at any auto parts store, many general merchandise stores, or online. Jack stands are normally sold in pairs, for as little as $30 for two. It is a small price to pay for being safe.
You must never go beneath an elevated car unless it is securely supported by quality jack stands. Lift jacks, from the one that came with your car for changing a flat tire to the expensive hydraulic models found in auto shops, are unstable and prone to failure. A jack stand might be all that keeps you from getting squashed under your car while making repairs.
In addition to the heavier duty jack stand shown at the beginning of this posting, lighter models are also available.
When purchasing jack stands, the biggest consideration is their rated weight capacity. In the USA, Capacities are given in tons (1 ton = 2000 pounds). This is the amount each stand can carry. If your car weighs 4000 pounds, each jack stand would need to support 1000 pounds (1/2 ton), if the car was being fully supported by four jack stands, one at each corner.
The 1-1/2 ton jack stand is a common size for home use. A set of jack stands this size should be adequate for use with a typical car; considering that a car is not perfectly balanced, front to back and side to side. Having extra capacity allows for variations of car weight, place to place, while providing an extra margin of safety. Before purchasing jack stands, check to see how much your car weighs to make sure that they are strong enough. Your vehicle weight is the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) listed in your owners manual or on a label on your driver side door frame (near the label that lists recommended tire pressures, as we discussed in DIY – Checking and adjusting tire pressure). The gross axle weight rating (GAWR) shows weights at the front and rear axles.
Jack stands come in a variety of lift heights, adjustment mechanisms, and saddle types (the part that comes in contact with the car). You do generally get what you pay for, but a less expensive jack stand of adequate rating is far better than no jack stand at all.
Using a jack stand
- Set your parking (emergency) brake, leave the car in gear (stick shift) or in park (automatic), and block the tire opposite the corner of the car you are lifting.
- Place your lift jack in a lift position indicated in your owners manual or beneath a solid part of the suspension or frame; then, raise the car high enough to clear the height of the jack stand.
- Place your jack stand in position beneath a solid part of the suspension or frame. Adjust height, as needed.
- Lower the car until it is resting securely on the jack stand. Make sure that the jack stand does not shift position when it starts to bear weight and that it is fully stable before moving the lift jack.
- Lift and position jack stands at other areas of the car, as dictated by the task you are performing. Make sure that stands you have already placed do not shift and remain stable when raising other parts of the car.
- After all jack stands have been placed, position your lift jack under a solid part of the suspension or frame near where you will be working and raise it until it contacts the bottom of the car. This uses the lift jack as a safety mechanism, in case a problem occurs with a jack stand. It is always best to work safe.
When you are done working under the car, use the lift jack to remove the jack stands one at a time.