How to raise a car off the ground isn’t something they generally teach you in school, alongside Pythagorean Theorem and how to dissect a frog. It’s still probably one of the most important car maintenance skills that you need to know as a driver though and it’s worth knowing how to do correctly.
For instance, for a lot of common car repairs, like fixing a flat tire, you’ll need to know how to use a car jack to take off the wheel and replace it with a spare, otherwise you’re going nowhere.
So, how do you actually jack up a car? Put your overalls on. I’m about to tell you.
What is a car jack?
A car jack is a tool that you use to raise a car off up of the ground. They’re really useful tools when it comes to allowing one person to effectively lift an entire car.
There are generally two types of jacks that are used for raising your car up off the ground– scissors jacks and hydraulic jacks:
These are smaller than hydraulic jacks and are more portable, easily fitting in a small boot. (I’ve got a Peugeot 106 and I’ve had no problems with fitting my scissor jack in the ridiculously small boot). To operate a scissor jack, you insert a special wrench into it and then crank it up.
These are generally much bigger than a scissor jack but are a lot easier to use and a hell of a lot less fiddly. You just put the handle into the right slot and pump it up.
Ideally, you need a pair of jack stands so that you can be sure your car won’t slip out from the jack and fall to the floor with potentially dangerous consequences – especially if you’re under it at the time. Bricks don’t really cut it in term of safety, I’m afraid. You can pick up a pair of jack stands for under £20 so you don’t have an excuse to not buy a pair.
How to use a car jack
Here’s how you jack a car:
1. Position your car in the right place underneath the car
You can’t just put a jack in any old place under a car – there are usually specific positions under the car that are designed for the jack to be used at. Using the jack anywhere else under your car could actually damage it.
Use your car’s manual to find out where the right location is and put it underneath. Then put the jack stands underneath the car in a similar location.
2. Jack up the car
If you’re using a scissor jack, crank it up so that the car begins to lift off the ground. It might seem tough to begin with, but stick at it! If you’re using a hydraulic jack, you’ll do the same but pump it up, using long, even strokes to make the process easier. You’re aiming to lift the car to a level just above the jack stands.
3. Lower the car on to the jack stands
Once the car is raised just above the jack stands, do one final check to make sure that they’re secured and won’t slip. When you’re sure they’re ready for the weight, use the jack to slowly lower the car on top of them.
4. Push the car gently to check its secure
After you’ve lowered and removed the jack, and the car is safely on the stands, gently push the car to see if it’s secured properly.
5. Put the jack back in place and lower the car
When you’ve finished the work that you were doing underneath the car, just put the jack back into place and raise it until it lifts the car off of the jack stands. Move these stands out of the way and then lower the jack until the car is safely on the floor. Job done!