Using a floor jack doesn’t really need you to be a rocket scientist, right? It’s just common sense. You just follow the manual instructions, and if that doesn’t work you can watch YouTube videos. How hard can it be?
You’d be amazed to find out that not everyone uses a floor jack properly. A lot of people make a lot of mistakes. Most of the time, they operate under false assumptions regarding what a floor jack really is for. Also, some people don’t want to take the time to do things properly, and that’s a mistake too.
Here are some of the most common mistakes people commit when they use floor jacks:
- They only use the stock aluminum jack that comes with their car. Yes, that should be good enough for occasional use, when you get a flat tire. But you’re better off with a floor jack made from heavy duty steel if you’re going to use it regularly to rotate your tires and to make repairs under your car.
- The rating of the floor jack isn’t suitable for the weight of the vehicle. Some people think that a floor jack rated for 3-ton lifting capacity is sufficient for an SUV that weighs a few pounds over 6,000 pounds.
After all, they will reason, there’s probably a safety margin for the floor jack. Also, they may even that it’s not a problem because they’re only raising one corner of the car. It’s not as if the floor jack is lifting the entire weight of the car.
You must understand that these excuses won’t fly. You must get a floor jack with a lift capacity the same or better yet greater than the weight of your car. This is absolutely crucial. The manufacturer of the floor jack isn’t saying that the 3-ton floor jack can actually support 3 tons in weight. What they mean is that the floor jack can lift a 3-ton vehicle at the lifting point.
- They didn’t read the reviews on the floor jacks they’re buying and using. Reviews are important, because you can’t always rely on manufacturers to be accurate in what they say in their advertisements. That means they can say their floor jacks have a 3.5-ton rating, but reviews may say otherwise. So check the reviews first.
- They think that heavy duty floor jacks are also good for roadside use. They’re floor jacks, and that means you need to use them on a concrete floor. They won’t work properly on softer surfaces, and that includes asphalt roads as well as dirt roads.
Also, these heavy duty floor jacks are heavy, as they weigh at least 70 pounds and often they can go past 80 pounds. Carrying it around in your car in case of a flat tire won’t help with your fuel mileage, and you may have trouble lifting it from the trunk.
- They don’t use wheel chocks. It’s true that we have technology on our cars so that when we park them they don’t roll down the street. We have parking brakes, and if you’re one of the few people these days using manual transmission you can also shift into 1st
But when you’re raising a car, even those things aren’t enough to really make sure your car won’t roll. So you need to put on wheel chocks on your other tires so the car doesn’t roll. You also need to wedge the wheel chocks on the front and rear of the wheel, so that they can’t roll forward and backward.
- They don’t bother to use the right lifting points. The lifting point is the area which makes contact with the saddle of the floor jack. It’s where you lift the car, in other words.
Now when you use the wrong lifting point, that area may not be designed to withstand the force of the weight of the car, so it may bend or get damaged. The right lifting point, on the other hand, is designed more robustly so that it won’t break when you apply the saddle of the floor jack to that spot.
You should check the car owner’s manual (which you need to keep handy) and find the right lifting point. Usually, it’s mentioned in the Emergency” section of the manual. If you don’t have your manual you can go online and download a digital copy of it (make sure you get the manual for the specific model and trim). Or you can also go online and ask the question in various online forums. Maybe even your car mechanic will know.
- They don’t use jack stands. This is not only a very common mistake, but it’s downright dangerous as well. Several reports have been made regarding injuries cause by not using jack stands.
The main problem here is that some people think that the floor jack is designed to support the weight of the car indefinitely. Others think that the floor jack should at least be able to support the car long enough to change the tires.
To be clear, this kind of thinking is just plain wrong. The floor jack is designed to lift the car up to a certain height. It’s not designed to keep carrying the car after that. That’s the job of the jock stands.
So you should raise the car to the height you want, then you place the jack stands right under the lifting points. Then you should gently lower the car until it rests firmly on the jack stands.
After that, you should give the car a firm shake. This will check to see if it’s really secure on the jack. It’s better to find out right away if the jack stand is doing its job while the 4 wheels are still attached.
You can just imagine the danger of using just the floor jack when you’re working under the car. That can really lead to a serious injury, or even the loss of life.
So take note of all these mistakes, please. The point of listing them all down is not to make fun of those who commit them. The real point is to make sure that you don’t commit any one of them ever again.