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Buying a Car Jack and Jack Stands

Make sure car stands are solid and safe.

car jackFamily Handyman
Buy the semi-pro quality jack and jack stands for strength, safety and easy operation. They're well worth the small extra investment.

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Buy semi-pro quality jacks

A good quality jack

Check out the 22-in. lift height on this floor jack. Notice the long pump handle and the wide wheelbase.

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, heavy-duty wheels, 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.

Buy a four-leg car stand

Four-leg car stands

Notice the ratcheting teeth on this jack stand. Simply put it in place and pull up on the cradle to automatically lock it into place. Lift the lever to unlock.

Car 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 more stability.

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.

Make sure you’ve got an emergency car kit in your vehicle, too.