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Tool and Material Checklist:

  • Battery pack-type light or droplight 
  • Service manual  
  • wheel ramps
  • Safety glasses or goggles 
  • Jacks
  • Cap 
  • Jack stands
  • Wheel chocks 
  • Lift
  • Creeper

Many auto repair and maintenance jobs cannot be performed without first raising the vehicle off the ground. This booklet explains the various methods of raising and supporting your car safely. Because safety is such an important consideration, keep in mind that you should never attempt to raise all four wheels off the ground simultaneously unless you have access to a hydraulic lift.


Before getting your car off the ground, there are a few things you can do to make your job a little easier and a lot safer:

Adequate lighting is essential to underbody work. Because both hands must be free, an ordinary flashlight just won't do the job. A battery pack-type light works well; it points the light where you want it and it stays put. The best choice is a droplight with a long extension cord and wire cage covering the bulb. This protects the bulb from breakage while protecting you from burns.

No matter what you're using to do the raising, always park the car on level ground.

Always wear safety glasses or goggles and a cap when working under a car to protect your eyes and hair.

Buy or rent yourself a creeper (a small board on casters or swivel wheels); it will make your underbody work much more comfortable.

Finally, a set of wheel chocks is invaluable when raising a vehicle. Many people use bricks or heavy blocks of wood, but you can make an excellent set easily and inexpensively using the following procedures:

1. Start with two 2'-long pieces of 3 x 4 lumber.

2. Cut each piece in half diagonally, at approximately a 300 angle, for a total of four chocks.

3. Attach a 26-long piece of sash chain to each chock using along roofing nail.

4. Block the front and rear of a wheel with one set of chocks. When they're not being used, hang the chocks from a hook by their chains to store them.


For safety purposes, wheels should be blocked whenever a car is jacked up or put on ramps. And don't think that just because you set the parking brake that wheel chocks aren't necessary; on the contrary, the parking brake might not hold when one end of the car is raised. For maximum safety, always use both. When jacking the rear wheels, place the chocks in front of the front wheels. When jacking the front wheels, place the chocks in back of the rear wheels. Although many people improvise when it comes to wheel chocks-using items as common as bricks or large stones-a good set of homemade wheel chocks works best.


The bumper jack that comes with your car is intended for one purpose only: to lift one corner of the car high enough to service one wheel, such as when changing a tire. Conventional jacks are not strong or stable enough to raise a car safely If you have to get underneath to work; the car can easily slip off. Many people have been killed or injured working under improperly supported vehicles.

WARNING: Never get under a car that is supported only by a bumper jack.

Keep the following points in mind when using a bumper jack:

Consult your owner's manual or the decal on the inside of the trunk lid for specific instructions.

Position the jack with its saddle firmly engaged under the bumper or bumper bracket.

Operate the jack handle with smooth, steady strokes, taking it from its lowest point to its highest on each stroke; this will cut down on the labor involved.

Occasionally you might use other, more sophisticated jacks, depending on your needs. All of the following jacks are commonly found in service stations, auto body shops, and tool rental centers; whichever one you use, make sure that it is the correct rated tonnage for the job required. 

Service-Four-wheeled jacks with a pump handle, often called floor jacks, easily rolled under the vehicle to lift a section, rather than the entire structure.

Hand and bottle-Tubular jacks that are not specialized; handy when a service jack is too much.

End lift-Adheres to the front or rear bumper; cannot be used to lift the sides of a vehicle.


Either jack stands or wheel ramps are absolutely necessary whenever a car is raised off its wheels. Jack stands can be used with scissor jacks, single piston hydraulic jacks, or hydraulic floor jacks; simply use the jack to raise one wheel at a time high enough to get the stand underneath and in place. The capacity (in tons) is usually stamped on the jack stand.

Wheel ramps are generally more expensive than jack stands. Use them as follows:

1. It someone else is available, station them in a safe position to help guide you onto the ramps.

2. Position the ramps directly in front of the car's front wheels. If the ramps are not in perfect alignment with the wheels, the car can fall off as it is being driven onto them.

3. With the car in first gear, slowly drive it onto the ramps.

4. Secure the car by putting it in PARK, setting the parking brake, and blocking the rear wheels. If the car has a standard transmission, turn off the ignition and put the transmission in gear.


A small hydraulic jack, with a 1-1/2-ton lifting capacity, will safely raise one wheel ata time. It is used, in conjunction with jack stands, as follows:

1. Place the jack under the lower control arm on one side of the front of the car; position It as close to the ball joint as possible.

2. Raise the wheel high enough to get a jack stand under the chassis. Lower the car onto the stand and remove the jack.

3. Repeat the operation on the opposite side.

4. Rock the front of the car gently from side to side to make sure it is firmly on the stands.

5. Jack up the rear end by placing the jack directly under the center of the spring support pad or the rear axle housing on one side.

6. Raise the wheel high enough to get a jack stand under the rear axle housing or frame. Lower the car onto the stand and remove the jack.

7. Repeat the operation on the opposite side. Rock the car again to make sure everything is secure before getting under it.

8. Always lower the front end of the car first for better stability. Jack up the car off the stands, remove the stands and slowly lower the car to the ground. Lower the rear in the same manner.


Scissor jacks are operated by turning a crank handle to raise or lower the diamond-shaped frame. The procedure for raising and supporting a vehicle with a scissor jack is exactly the same as for the single-piston hydraulic jack.


It cannot be stressed enough that you should never get under a vehicle that is supported only by jacks. This practice is even more dangerous when working with a hydraulic jack; not only can the car slip off, but there is the added possibility of a leak in the hydraulic cylinder that could cause the jack to suddenly fail. To raise a car using a hydraulic floor jack, use the following procedure:

1. Position the jack under the rear of the car so that the saddle is directly below the rear end housing.

2. Raise the car high enough to slide two jack stands under the rear axle housing or chassis, one on each side.

NOTE: If your car is front-wheel drive and thus has no axle, the stands must be placed under the frame. (The frame consists of the square-shaped steel beams running along the bottom of the car inside the wheels.)

3. If positioning the stands under the rear axle housing, make sure each stand is as close as possible to the inside of its respective wheel.

4. Slowly lower the car onto the stands and remove the jack. Gently rock the car from side to side to make sure it cannot be knocked off the stands by someone leaning against it.

5. Before raising the front of the car! locate the front suspension cross member on the frame; this is the best and safest lifting point. If your car doesn't have this, look for the lift pads. These are flat pieces of metal welded under the car that are also ideal lifting points.

6. Position the jack under the lifting point, making sure the saddle does not contact the radiator, oil pan, or steering linkage.

7. Raise the car high enough to slide the jack stands in position under the frame.

8. Slowly lower the car onto the stands and remove the jack. Rock the car again to make sure it is secure before getting under it.

9. Always lower the front end of the car first. Jack up the car off the stands, remove the stands, and slowly lower the car to the ground. Lower the rear in the same manner.


A hydraulic lift is the easiest and safest way to raise your car. If there is a garage in your area that makes its lifts available for rental, take advantage of the opportunity. Of the various hydraulic lifts now in use, the two and four-post above-ground types are best because they allow total movement under the vehicle. Side hoists limit access to a side of the vehicle, and the old center post hoists can make some areas under the car hard to get at.

WARNING: Hydraulic lifts are specialized pieces of equipment. Before attempting to operate any lift, read the owner's manual carefully and understand all of the operating Instructions.

When raising a vehicle on a lift, special care must be taken. For instance, drive-on lifts are fairly safe, but you must make sure that vehicles with a catalytic converter have enough clearance between the hoist and the exhaust system components before driving the vehicle onto the ramps. On twin post and rail type lifts, the adapters and hoist plates must be positioned correctly to prevent damage to the catalytic converter, tie-rod, or shock absorbers.

Keep in mind that there are specific lifting points to use, depending on whether the vehicle is unibody or conventional frame. The correct lifting points for your car are found in your service manual. The illustrations in this booklet are provided for example only; always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for specifics. The following points should also be considered when using a lift:

Never overload a lift; the rated capacity can be found on the nameplate.

The operating controls are designed to close when released. Do not block or override them.

Before driving a vehicle over a lift, position the arms and supports to provide unobstructed clearance.

Make sure all adapters or axle supports are in contact with the vehicle before raising it to the desired height. Unsecured loads are dangerous.

After lifting a vehicle to the desired height, lower the unit onto mechanical safeties.

Never raise a vehicle with passengers inside.

On some vehicles, the removal or installation of components can cause a shift, resulting in vehicle instability. Refer to your service manual for instructions in this area.


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