Buy semi-pro quality jacks
Think it's safe to crawl under your vehicle while it's
resting on a car jack? Think again. You don't have
to spend a fortune on the right equipment to protect
your life and make the job easier. But you do have to
know what to look for. We'll spell it all out for you.
Floor jacks for the do-it-yourselfer come in two price
ranges: economy ($30 to $40) and semipro ($65 to $99).
We don't recommend the economy jacks, even for occasional
use. They have a short wheelbase, a narrow
width, an extremely small “saddle” (the
part the car rests on), poor stability and a
low lifting capacity. Their short pump
handle forces you to crawl under the
vehicle just to place it in the right
position for jacking.
For about $35 more, you can
buy a 3-1/2-ton semipro jack
(photo). You'll get a
wider, more stable wheelbase,
a higher lift (22 in. vs. about 15 in. on the low-priced
models) and a nice, long pump handle. The long
pump handle allows you to place it under an
engine cradle or differential without crawling
under the vehicle. It'll take up more garage space,
but the additional features are worth it.
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Buy a four-leg jack stand
Jack stands also come in two styles: a pin lock
with three legs and a ratchet lock with four legs. The
ratchet style is much easier to use and usually supports
more weight, while the four-leg base provides
Check your owner's manual to locate the recommended
jack support locations. Don't crawl
under any car supported only by the floor jack.
Always use at least two jack stands and lower the
weight of the vehicle onto the stands.