Jacking up a car can be a very intimidating process for any newbie mechanic or car enthusiast. In reality, it’s a simple task, but there are certain things that can go wrong.
Unfortunately, it’s a necessary procedure for a lot of common repairs and modifications. Whether you’re trying to change a tire, replace a wheel, remove and refit body parts or change the breaks, you’re probably going to have to lift the car in the air.
In this article, I’m going to tell you how to jack up a car while lifting all 4 wheels in a safe manner.
Ideally, you’d have a ramp, but very few can afford it.
What You’ll Need To Lift A Car
You don’t need much to lift a car, as a result it’s fairly inexpensive.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Axle Stands
- Trolley Jack
- Wheel Chocks
If you’re on a budget, here are the best floor jacks under $100.
Personally, I’d invest in good quality equipment that will stay with you for the rest of your life, but if you need to get a car up in the air on a budget, you can definitely do that.
At the end of the day, it depends on how much you’re going to be using the equipment as to how much money you will want to spend.
Safety Checks Before Jacking Up A Car
Since you’re lifting up a heavy vehicle and working under it, jacking it up incorrectly could be a matter of life and death.
Assuming you don’t want to die, here’s a list of precautions you should take before jacking up a car:
- Work on a flat surface. Never left a car on a gradient.
- Check that the jack and axle stands work as they should
- Ensure that the jack is under a safe jacking point
- Only lift vehicles within the safe working load
- Use axle stands to support the vehicle
- If the equipment doesn’t work correctly, don’t try to repair it yourself.
I cannot emphasize this enough. This is a matter of life and death. If something is sketchy or you’re not sure, don’t do it.
How To Jack Up A Car Using A Trolley Jack
For the most part, the process of jacking up a car is going to be the same. The only thing variations will be the lifting equipment that you use or the jacking points.
In this example, I’m going to assume you’re using a trolley jack and are lifting a car that has the traditional jacking points.
Park On Level Ground
The first thing that you want to do is find a flat space to work in.
If you’re lifting the car on an uneven surface, it’s very unsafe. You’ll find that as you lift the car, the jack moves and may even roll while you’re under the car.
The obvious solution to this problem is to find a flat space. Be it renting a garage, using a friends space or finding an abandoned car park where you can perform a minor repair.
Put The Car In Park, Chalk The Wheels,
Another thing that you’ll need to do to make sure that the vehicle doesn’t move is apply the handbrake and chock the wheels that aren’t going to be lifted.
If you plan on lifting all 4 wheels, you can chock the back while you work lift the front and vice versa, just to be safe.
This is just so that the car doesn’t move while it’s in the air. Many people don’t use chocks, it’s barely ever seen in most garages, but you can never be too safe.
Lifting The Car
Now for the juicy part… actually putting the car in the air. As long as you follow these steps, you’ll be able to lift any car you want, without worrying about your safety or damaging the car.
- Locate The Jacking Point – Normally, there are many different jacking points on each car. The type of jacking point will also vary between makes.
Jacking points are specified in your cars service manual and you may be able to find them online with a quick google search.
Most cars have a pinch weld that runs along each side that’s specifically designed for jacking up the car. You can use this to lift the car but depending on the car, these can be weak and crumble.
Other cars such as Mercedes & BMW have rubber blocks that are made for jacking the car. Teslas also have different jacking points, they’re circular and a little harder to find.
Just do your research beforehand and make sure that you’re using the right spot for your car and the task that you’re performing.
For example, you don’t want to be jacking a car on the front subframe if you’re changing the subframe or wishbones.
If you hear strange noises such as cracking or breaking when you go to lift the car, stop and think again.
- Place Your Trolley Jack Under The Jacking Point – Once you’ve placed the jack under the loading point, turn the handle clockwise until it stops. This will “lock” the jack and allow you to start lifting the car.
To lift a car safely and quickly, without causing any damage, pump the jack up using nice and controlled strokes. Moving the jack handle from its lowest point to the highest.
- Never work under a jack – It’s tempting to be lazy and go straight to work after lifting the car with a jack.
The truth is, this is the last thing you want to do. Even the best hydraulic jacks can fail. To make sure you’re safe while working under a car, you should make use of jack stands.
How To Put A Car On 4 Jack Stands
There aren’t many reasons to put your car on 4 jack stands.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re changing the exhaust, wheels, or performing any other regular repair, you can almost always get it done by lifting just the front or the back.
That said, if you’re servicing the transmission or just fancy lifting your car completely off the ground, it is safe to have your car lifted on 4 jack stands as long as you’re in a cool area with solid ground.
The process is very similar to jacking up one point on the car. You just have to put a jack stand underneath and repeat it 4 times.
Where you put the jack stands completely depends on the type of work that you’re doing. I like to put the jack stands on flat areas of the subframe, but if you’re working on the subframe, you may want to use the pinch welds.
Always try to refer to the service manual for safe jacking and jack stand points. This way you can be sure that you’re not going to cause any damage to the car, or yourself.
As long as the weight is evenly distributed and the car doesn’t move when you put pressure on it, you should be good to go.
If you have any uncertainty, don’t get under the car! Maybe get a professional to do the work instead…
How To Jack Up A Rusted Car
If you’ve ever looked at older cars, specifically older ford models, you’ll find that more often than not, the sills are completely rusted.
Obviously, the last thing that you want to do is lift a car using a rusted jacking point. This will result in damaging the car and it may even fall on you when you’re working underneath it.
The safest way to jack up a rusted car is to avoid any jacking points that are rusted.
Even on the worst rust buckets, there will be safe jacking points such as:
Lower Control Arm
& Many other suspension mount points.
Simply take a look under your car and find another jacking point that’s not rusted or use a part of the sill that’s not covered in rust.