The 10 Commandments of Putting a Car on Jack Stands

mechanic working under car supported by jack stands
The Only Safe Way to Work Under a Car - Jack Stands. http://www.gettyimages.com/license/539484082

Any time we think about doing any maintenance to our cars, chances are good it will need to be off the ground. To remove a wheel, the tire needs to be at least a couple inches off the ground. To change the oil, depending on the car, you’ll need to lift the car at least a foot. Lifting a car is one thing, but that’s not enough for a safe DIY job – NEVER (we can’t stress this enough) ever put any part of your body under a vehicle supported only by a jack! If you’re going to do anything under a lifted vehicle, it must be supported by jack stands. Otherwise, the results could be disastrous.

Thus, we have consulted Holy Writ and compiled “The Ten Commandments of Lifting Thy Chariot,” which translates in the modern tongue, “How to lift and support your car safely.”

01
of 10

Work With a Friend

two men and a dog repairing a car
Working With a Buddy is Safer and More Fun and Fido-Approved. http://mountpleasantgranary.net/blog/images/MIx-confirms-job-has-been-done.jpg

While maintaining or repairing your car, work with a friend if at all possible. His or her having automotive knowledge is good, but not necessary. If you have to bribe them something canned, bottled, or corked, it’s a worthwhile investment, as they can encourage you, keep you company, or hand you tools. If there is an emergency, your friend can call 911 and possibly save your life!

02
of 10

Park on Level Ground

Jacks and jack stands only function vertically, and the same gravity that keeps your car firmly planted on the pavement will just as easily pull your car off a jack or jack stand on a slope. Always park your car on level ground.

03
of 10

Read the Manual

a couple pages from a car owner's manual
Always Read the Manual to Confirm Safe Lift Points. https://justgivemethedamnmanual.com/toyota/2016-toyota-corolla-owners-manual/

Read the manuals for both your car and your lifting and supporting equipment. Every vehicle has suggested jack points, also solid suspension and frame points. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, seriously, buy one or Google it – you might be able to download it for free. Similarly, read and obey jack and jack stand capacity limits and safety instructions. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use a jack and jack stands with a capacity of at least 50% the weight of your car.

04
of 10

Assemble Your Gear

Depending on the job at hand, you might need to lift just one wheel, the front end or back end, or the entire car. Assemble your lifting and supporting gear. Lift your car with a quality jack. If lifting just one end of your car, you’ll need two jack stands. If you’re lifting the entire car, use four jack stands. On soft earth, such as asphalt or grass, thick plywood can prevent them from sinking.

05
of 10

Chock the Wheels

Put the transmission in gear or in park, and chock the wheel opposite where you are lifting. Use two wheel chocks, in front and behind the wheel, to keep the car from moving forward or backward. Plastic, metal, rubber, or wooden chocks are all good choices. Rocks, block, and bricks are not such good choices, as they may crumble or slide. 

06
of 10

Lift Your Car

using a hydraulic trolley jack to lift a car
Always Use a Safe Lifting Point to Jack Up the Car. http://www.gettyimages.com/license/695075296

Jack up the vehicle using a solid jacking point, leaving enough room for the jack stand to support the car. If lifting just one wheel, lifting just that corner of the vehicle is a good idea. If lifting the entire front or rear, choose a jack point in the center of the front or rear suspension or frame.

07
of 10

Support Your Car

multiple jack stands holding up the rear of a car
There is No Such Thing as Too Many Jack Stands. https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3597/3674527719_bace6d9d14_b.jpg

Support the vehicle with jack stands. If supporting one corner of the vehicle, place the jack stand under the jacking point and adjust the height, locking it in place with the pin or pawl, as applicable. If supporting the whole front or rear of the vehicle, use jack stands in pairs, preferably set and locked to equal height. Do not use wood blocks to gain more height, as a wood block may slip or split – buy taller jack stands. Lower the jack slowly until the full weight of the car rests on the jack stands.

If lifting the whole car, lift and support the front first, to the maximum height capable of your jack and jack stands. Then lift and support the rear of the vehicle, using a second pair of jack stands.

08
of 10

Check Each Jack Stand

floor jack and jack stand holding car
Always Check that the Jack Stands are Supporting the Weight of the Car. http://www.gettyimages.com/license/486854829

Check that each jack stand is supporting the vehicle – it shouldn’t move if you wiggle it. If there is movement, jack up that corner again and move the jack stand up a notch. Double-check that all jack stand locks are set properly.

09
of 10

Shake Your Car

Gently shake the vehicle to confirm it is secure. Check that all jack stands are planted flat on the ground and that they don’t move when you shake the car. A tilted jack stand may collapse, as it is not designed to hold a load at an angle. Once your car passes the shake test, it is safe to work on your car.

10
of 10

Get to Work

mechanic removing drain plug to do an oil change
Only Start Maintenance or Repairs with the Car Safely Supported on Jack Stands. http://www.gettyimages.com/license/91209181

Mechanics, enthusiasts, DIYers, and people in a hurry have damaged vehicles, even injured or killed themselves or other people, for skipping this critical safety step! No matter how experienced you are or how quick the job will be, never forget to support your vehicle properly, every time you need to lift your car.

As Wisdom puts it:

“Thou shalt not lodge thy corse at the m’rcy of chance ‘r gravity, deprived the protection of jack stands, lest so most wondrous a heaviness as thy chariot smiteth thee in thine ign’rance of the decrees of physics, namely, yond thy flesh and thy bones art f’rsooth weak’r than thy chariot.”