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.
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 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.