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There are some repairs and maintenance items that can only be done from underneath a vehicle. While your vehicle may be equipped with a jack, it was never designed to be used for anything but an emergency. We’ve put together this car jack and jack stands guide to help you understand the different options available for getting your vehicle off the ground.

Safety Is Paramount

This is a true story about my friend Ken. A mechanic by trade, Ken was wrenching on a personal vehicle in the driveway one weekend when he became a victim of a nightmarish scene. The flimsy factory jack he was using to keep the car off the ground failed, causing Ken to become trapped between a concrete driveway and a few thousand pounds of automotive steel. Ken yelled for help, but no one came to help him. He told me he mustered some previously unknown strength to lift a corner of the car off of himself and slide out from under it.

Ken suffered serious injury to his back, and it literally took him months to get back on his feet. Due to permanent injuries, he could no longer make a living working on cars. The unfortunate event changed his life.

The accident was totally preventable, though. Smart lifting practices are a must to ensure the safety of anyone working underneath a vehicle. High-quality jacks, jack stands or ramps can keep you safe whether you’re replacing a clutch or just sliding under a vehicle for a quick visual inspection. Our jack and jack stands buyer’s guide explains how to choose lifting equipment that’s right for your needs.

Jack and Lifting Basics

Jack stands: Jack stands may be the most overlooked safety equipment items in a DIY garage. Jack stands do not lift vehicles. Instead, they provide a safe, fixed support for a raised vehicle. Use a pair of jack stands every time you lift a vehicle and you will vastly decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim of a falling vehicle. Simply jack up the vehicle and lower it onto the jack stand or stands. When the time comes to remove them, raise the vehicle slightly with a jack, remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle. Always place wheel chocks before performing work on a raised vehicle.

Ramps: Ramps are a safe alternative to jacks and jack stands because they provide large, solid points of contact that are unlikely to fail. Ramps are not as versatile as jacks and jack stands, though. If you need to remove a wheel to replace brake pads, for example, a ramp does you no good. If your job is replacing a muffler, though, ramps are ideal.

Floor jacks: A jack that comes with a vehicle’s spare tire changing kit is not suitable for use in other applications. These jacks are typically designed to be small and lightweight, ideal for a minor roadside emergency but little else. For regular lifting around the shop or garage, a quality floor jack is an essential tool. Choose a floor jack with a lifting pad that’s at least two inches in diameter. This will give the vehicle’s jack point plenty of surface area on which to rest. Because a floor jack is on wheels, it will roll into a sturdy position as the car rises. Be sure to lower the car onto jack stands before starting your work.

Bottle jacks: Bottle jacks are more compact than floor jacks and are often rated for heavier weights than similarly priced floor jacks. Because bottle jacks usually have a smaller footprint than floor jacks, though, they may not be as stable. Be sure to use bottle jacks on a strong, flat surface like a garage floor to minimize the chance of movement. Use jack stands with a bottle jack just as you would with a floor jack.

Specialty lifting equipment: Special equipment helps DIYers and pros alike more safely and easily perform specific jobs. A transmission jack slides neatly under the transmission to safely drop it from a vehicle. An engine hoist or engine crane allows you to lift an entire engine out of its bay while minimizing risk to yourself or your vehicle. If you do a lot of heavy wrenching, a specialty lift is a great way to get the job done quickly and safely.

Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on buying the right jack and jack stands, chat with a knowledgeable expert at yourlocal NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

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