How to Use a Jack Stand Safely

VD November 11 2021

Jack stands are the perfect way to get your car up in the air for repairs, oil changes, or just checking the underside of the car. But before you start cranking away on that wrench, there are a few things you need to know about this essential automotive tool.

Jack stands come in two different varieties: steel and aluminum. Aluminum stands are lighter but cannot support as much weight as their steel counterparts. Steel stands typically range from 200 pounds (single-post)  to 800 pounds (four-post). The more posts there are under the stand, the more it can support; however, single-post steel stands do have their place in certain situations.

When your vehicle is supported by jack stands, it should be resting on a flat surface, such as a garage floor or driveway. Obstructions on the ground can cause the stands to move and damage your car.  Also, avoid parking on steep hills when using jack stands. Cars have a tendency to roll once they are up in the air, so keep that in mind before you crank away with that wrench!

After selecting a pair of jack stands and finding an appropriate place to rest your car, make sure to place them at least two feet apart for maximum stability (the distance between the inner faces of the two stands). Place one stand under each side of your vehicle; remember, if you use only one stand per side, it must be placed directly beneath where the frame meets the suspension system.

Now that you have them in the right place, it's time to raise your car off the ground. Crank up one side of the vehicle, then repeat for the other side. You should be able to crank all four corners with relative ease; if not, make sure your stands are placed correctly and try again. Place wheel chocks behind any wheels not resting on the ground, just to be safe.  

Are jack stands safe? This article will tell you everything you need to know about using jack stands safely. But before you use a jack stand, there are a few things you should prepare and consider.

Placing jack stands securely

To ensure that you can safely use a jack without leaving any damage, it is only allowed to be attached to the areas designated for it. As a rule, the manufacturer has marked these places clearly visible at the bottom of the vehicle so that you can find the exact point. Unfortunately, this marking has already disappeared or does not exist on older models. However, you will find the starting points in the manufacturer's manual. 

If you cannot find any information in the manual, it is best to select the bracing or the frame. However, it is important to be careful here and to check slowly first whether there is sufficient load-bearing capacity. If you find that the car is giving way and the jack is causing damage to the area, stop immediately and find a new starting point.

Tip: You must position your jack well under your car before it can be used. For this purpose, a location is chosen that cannot be damaged or broken by the load. It is always advantageous to attach the jack directly under a frame part. When you've placed the jack properly, attach a rod that allows pumping movements to be made.  

Lifting the car with a jack stand safely

Before lifting the vehicle, read the operating instructions and the manufacturer's instructions. The car and jack must be on a level surface. In addition, apply the handbrake, engage first gear (in automatic mode on P), and only then do you set out to raise the car with the jack. If the car is to be lifted from the front, place a wooden beam under the jack so that no damage can occur during operation.

Once you have positioned your jack well below your vehicle and attached it properly with a suitable lifting rod, you can start jacking up. Before starting to pump – always according to manufacturer's instructions – check to see whether you have sufficient load capacity before every single stroke. If this warning light or message arises on your device, stop immediately! You should then refer back to point 2, select a different starting point and refit it.  

Pump your jack up slowly (maximum 18mm per second) until the suspension is completely raised. Be careful that the vehicle does not slip sideways during this process; if necessary, place chocks against the wheels which are not resting on the ground or place wooden beams under the jacks.

When you have finished using your hydraulic jack stand, it is best to lower the vehicle again before removing the jack. Turn slowly counterclockwise until your car is completely lowered and fits exactly in its starting position. If you forget this, there is a danger that both suspension struts will be damaged or broken during its next start-up attempt. So make sure to check first whether the load capacity is sufficient for lowering!  

You should always loosen the wheel bolts before lifting your vehicle. Loosening the screws while the car is floating could result in damage to the car or an accident.

In addition, the surface should be non-slip and stable. The jack can easily slip away if you use it on smooth surfaces or on the lawn.

It is essential that you place the jack stand in the prescribed position. In the worst case, the device slips and is damaged as a result.

All drivers are strongly advised to take a very close look at the operating instructions for how to eliminate damage to the paintwork or underbody protection.  

The most important safety tip: Always secure the car when working with jack stands

The most important thing after positioning the jack stand at the correct point is that the car is secured in the raised position. For everything that goes beyond an emergency wheel change, additional support for the car is vital.

Scissor jacks, car jacks, in particular, tend to tip over, with the screwdriver being quickly buried under its own car. The specialist trade shops offer trestles for this purpose. These are available very cheaply today and belong in every workshop. Secured with trestles, the car can no longer slide off the jack stand.  

Don't ever use a jack stand without support. Never work with the car at only one point and only for a short time. As soon as you secure the vehicle in all four corners, stay in the workshop until it's on all four wheels again. If you feel any doubt about your abilities, call a specialist to help you out.