When it comes to using a floor jack, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers and pitfalls so you know what to avoid in order to keep both yourself and your car safe! It goes without saying that failure to properly use a floor jack can have dire consequences; improper use can cause significant injury or even death. In order to help protect you from making these mistakes, we have detailed out the most common ones that we see. Common sense goes a long way, but it goes even farther when paired with awareness, so we encourage our readers to give this list a quick read and share it with friends that wrench just so you can brush up on your knowledge!
Mistake #1: Failing To Support The Car With Jack Stands Once Lifted
Perhaps the most common safety mistake when using a floor jack is failing to support the vehicle with jack stands once it is up in the air. Floor jacks are great lifting devices, but should never be relied on to support a vehicle. All it takes is a leaky seal on the hydraulic ram, a valve that wasn’t fully closed before you started lifting, or a slight misplacement of the jack and your car could come down on top of you.
To avoid this mistake, simply support your car with jack stands once it is up in the air, and don’t rely on the floor jack to support your vehicle.
Mistake #2: Using A Floor Jack On An Non-Level Surface
While this one should seem obvious, we’ve heard some pretty obnoxious stories about jack failures due to use on an incline. We get it, not everyone lives in the desert where the topography is flat. Some of us live on the hilly streets of San Francisco where an available flat section of road is hard to come by. However, convenience is absolutely no excuse to endanger yourself. Using a jack on a surface that isn’t level creates a potential tipping hazard which could bring your vehicle down. This hazard is still present even if your car is on jack stands.
To avoid this mistake, simply make sure the ground is level before you start to work on your car.
Mistake #3: Not Lifting Vehicle Using Designated Jack Points
Another issue that we hear horror stories about is failure to use the proper jack points on the car. The manufacturer of your car thoughtfully reinforced certain areas on your chassis to allow you to use your floor jack in these locations safely. If you choose to deviate from using these locations, you risk damaging your vehicle. Using a jack where the vehicle structure it too weak can potentially perforate the sheet metal on your vehicle, which can not only cost you more money in repairs, but could also bring your vehicle down. Similarly, your jack may be more likely to slip which would create another safety hazard.
To avoid this mistake, open up your car’s user manual and read to find out where you jack points are. If you do not have your user manual, these can be found online. Forums specific to your vehicle can also be another good resource. Once you have identified the locations of your car’s jack points, use them exclusively!
Mistake #4: Not Maintaining Your Jack
This is a big one! Most hand tools don’t require much maintenance. Just clean them off and throw them in your tool chest. A floor jack is different, and the implications could be catastrophic if you don’t pay attention to maintenance. It is extremely important to inspect your jack before each use to make sure there are no leaks or structural cracks. If you notice either of these things, don’t use your jack! It’s time to replace it! In either case, ignoring these warning signs means your jack could fail and cause a safety concern.
To avoid this mistake, routinely inspect your jack before each use and don’t use it if you notice leaks or cracks.
Mistake #5: Using A Jack With A Lifting Capacity That Is Too Low
This is a pretty easy one to avoid, but one we hear about very occasionally. Using a jack with a capacity that is too low for the vehicle you are trying to lift can overstress the jack, causing it to fail. While most floor jacks have a rated capacity that is higher than the weight of most passenger vehicles, it is imperative that you double check your vehicle weight relative to the rated capacity on the jack. If the vehicle weight exceeds the capacity of the jack, get a higher capacity floor jack.
To avoid this mistake, make sure you verify that the vehicle weight is less than the capacity for the jack before you use it.
Mistake #6: Attempting To Improvise A Jack Extension For Tall Vehicles
We have heard stories and seen pictures of some people who attempt to improvise a jack extension so that they can use a floor jack with a low maximum height on a vehicle with high ground clearance, such as an SUV or pickup truck. It doesn’t matter whether you attempt to use a 2×4, a brick, or any other piece of material, any improvised extension is downright unsafe. The unsupported nature of a makeshift extension creates serious potential for tipping as your raise your vehicle, which makes it possible for your car to fall. The solution is to get a jack specifically designed for use on tall vehicles.
To avoid this mistake, don’t try to improvise any lifting device or extension. Devices like floor jacks undergo rigorous engineering and testing to ensure their safety. Your makeshift extension does not. Make sure you use the right jack for the job and you won’t need an extension at all.
If you made it this far, let us just say that we appreciate you giving this article a read! While we know most of our readers rely on common sense when working on their cars, it never hurts to give yourself a quick refresher to make sure you haven’t developed any bad habits, especially habits that could potentially result in a falling vehicle.
If you want more information on floor jacks, we suggest that you take a minute to give our floor jack buyer’s guide a read to see our recommendations for the best floor jacks on the market. Be safe and happy wrenching!