Let us learn How to Use Jack Stands. While you can replace a tire just using a car jack, you should use jack stands when doing any work underneath your vehicle. Jack stands provide a sturdier base and support the weight of your vehicle easily. When using jack stands, make sure to place them at your vehicle’s pinch points or on its frame to keep them from slipping. Once you’re finished with your work, lift your vehicle up and slide the stands out from underneath, and you’re set to drive!
The most important tools in your garage are not socket wrenches, screwdrivers, or pliers, they are the ones that keep you safe. It wouldn’t be so simple to wrench on your 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS if you lost your hands, legs, or eyesight. One of the stars of the safety show is the jack stand, and it’s crucial you have at least four of these.
The jack stand is the life partner of the jack, and they should be used every time you jack up your car. For tire rotations, brake service, suspension work, everything. If this is foreign to you, it’s important to learn about these devices and how to use them, and The Drive’s guide will show you everything you should know.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is a Jack Stand?
A jack stand is a metal height-adjustable mechanical device that is used to support the weight of a lifted vehicle. Most commonly, they are placed underneath the car as a safety net to protect against a vehicle falling on a body part.
Anatomy of a Jack Stand
Most jack stands use these basic parts to function.
The jack stand is typically planted to the ground with a four-leg base frame. It’s shaped like a pyramid, or four As connected at their sides. The support bar slides up and down through a center opening in the base. A different design uses a flat platform with a tube at the center.
The support bar is the contact point between the stand and the car. This bar is typically ratcheted, so it stays in place at the positioned height when lifted up, and it usually has a U-shaped catch at the top.
In addition to the ratcheting device that keeps the support bar in place, most jack stands feature their own failsafe/backup plans. This most often comes in the form of some type of pin that goes through the support bar or is positioned against the bar’s ratchet teeth.
The release is most commonly a handle that releases the support bar’s ratcheting mechanism and allows the bar to lower.
Common Types of Jack Stands
Different jack stands use different locking mechanisms. These are the most common types.
As mentioned above, ratcheting is one of the most commonly used types of jack stands. A ratcheting device is built into the support bar, so it automatically locks into place when lifted. It is usually released with a handle.
Most ratcheting jack stands use pins for added security, but some jack stands rely entirely on pins. On these stands, the pin is placed through one of the numerous available holes to adjust the height.
You’re much less likely to see a screw-type jack stand, but they do exist. With these types of stands, the support beam is a giant screw in the middle of an upright cylinder. The jack stand’s catch height is adjusted by screwing the beam in or out.
Lifting Your Vehicle using a Jack Stand
- Find a flat, level surface to park your vehicle. Work on a clean, paved area so your vehicle is on even ground. Avoid jacking your vehicle in a place that’s bumpy, near heavy traffic, or covered in gravel. Make sure each side of your vehicle is level so the jack or jack stands can’t slip out from underneath it.
- Working in a garage or a flat driveway is the best place to lift your vehicle.
- Activate your vehicle’s parking brake. Find the lever in your vehicle that controls your parking brake and pull it until it’s activated. The parking brake will ensure your vehicle doesn’t lurch forwards or backwards while you jack it.
- Place chocks, or tire wedges, around each of your wheels if you’re lifting up the back end of your car. If you don’t have tire wedges, you can use 2 in × 4 in (5.1 cm × 10.2 cm) boards in front of and behind your wheels.
- Locate an area underneath your vehicle to place your floor jack. Use hydraulic floor jack for the safest way to lift your vehicle. Slide the floor jack underneath your vehicle so the arm is underneath the frame of your vehicle or at a lift point.
- Raise your vehicle so the tires are 2–3 in (5.1–7.6 cm) off the ground. Crank the handle up and down to lift your vehicle off of the ground. Continue lifting your vehicle until the tire or tires closest to your jack are completely off the ground.
- Don’t lift your car higher than you need or else it could be unstable on the jack.
Placing the Jack Stands
- Set the jack stand underneath the pinch points of your vehicle. The pinch points are located on the sides of your vehicle behind your front tires or in front of your rear tires. Slide your jack stand in from the side of your vehicle. Line up the divot on your jack stand with the part of the pinch point that extends down.
- Adjust the height of the jack stand if you need to. If you have an adjustable jack stand, lift the top of the jack stand up until it’s touching the pinch point on your vehicle. Once you’ve changed the height of the stand, put the safety pin attached to the stand through the hole at the base to secure it place. That way, it won’t fall down when the weight of your vehicle is placed on it.
- Always place the safety pin in your jack stand, or else the vehicle could fall on top of you while you’re underneath it.
- Some jack stands cannot be adjusted. If yours doesn’t change height, you can skip this step.
- Lower your vehicle slowly onto the jack stand. Slowly turn the lever on your floor jack counterclockwise to drop your vehicle back down. The jack stand will support the weight on the side of your vehicle so you can safely work underneath it. Pull the jack out from underneath your vehicle.
- If you have room underneath your vehicle, keep the jack in place for additional security.
- Push your vehicle slightly to make sure it’s sturdy. Give your vehicle a small nudge to see if it moves around or shifts its weight. The jack stand and your vehicle shouldn’t move when you push it. If it does, avoid going underneath the vehicle and try to place the jack stand in a new area
- Place additional jack stands to lift your vehicle completely off the ground. Continue jacking up your vehicle on each side and sliding jack stands underneath the pinch points. Make sure the stands on opposite sides are straight across from one another so your vehicle is sturdy. Once you’ve placed the jack stands you need, you can start working underneath your vehicle.
- Make sure any adjustable jack stands are the same height so your vehicle doesn’t sit crooked.
Removing the Jack Stand
- Raise your vehicle 1 in (2.5 cm) above your jack stand. When you’re finished working, roll your floor jack back underneath your vehicle so it’s in line with the lift point you used. Crank the lever up and down to lift the vehicle up so you can pull out the jack stand easily
- Pull the jack stand out from the side of your vehicle. Reach underneath your vehicle from the side and slide your jack stand out. Don’t crawl underneath the front or back of your vehicle while removing jack stands since it’s only being supported by the jack.
- Don’t adjust the height of your jack stand until it’s out from under your vehicle.
- Lower the jack until your vehicle is back on the ground. Turn the lever on your floor jack counterclockwise to slowly lower your vehicle. Once your tires are back on the ground, roll your jack out from under your vehicle.
- Hold the lever on your floor jack low to the ground so the bottom of your vehicle doesn’t bump into it.
- Continue to lift your vehicle and remove the stands until you’ve got them all. Place your jack underneath the lift points and raise your vehicle on each side if you need to remove additional jack stands. If you jacked your vehicle completely off the ground, remove both of the jack stands from the front before removing the ones in back.
Jack Stand Safety
We don’t know what job you’re doing, but if you’re lifting your car and using jack stands, it’s at least somewhat involved. For any job in and around the underside of your vehicle, we recommend always using the precautionary equipment below:
- Safety glasses
- Mechanic gloves
WARNING #1: Do Not Use Harbor Freight Jack Stands
In mid-2020, Harbor Freight announced a recall for defective jack stands in the 3-ton and 6-ton variety. Then, the replacements for the recalled items were also found to be defective and recalled. That’s enough evidence for us to stay away from them forever.
WARNING #2: Check Your Jack and Jack Stand Capacities
Your jacks and jack stands are built, designed, and rated only to handle specific amounts of weight. Consult your owner’s manual to find out the weight of your vehicle and use the appropriate jack stands.
WARNING #3: Always Work on a Smooth and Flat Surface
When you’re lifting 2,000-7,000 pounds up into the air, you need ultimate stability and security. Working on slanted surfaces or surfaces with a lot of gravel, sand, or dirt could result in the car moving or rolling.
FAQs About Jack Stands
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. Can You Put Jack Stands On The Axle?
A. We do not recommend using jack stands on parts of the car that are not designed to hold the entire weight of the vehicle. Consult your manuals and use the directed jack points.
Q. Where Do You Put The Jack Stand Under a Car?
A. Seriously, consult your owner’s manual or service manual and locate the specified jack points on your vehicle. You can damage your car or get injured if you put them in the wrong place. Be smart.
Q. Can I Leave My Car On a Jack Stand Overnight?
A. You can, but try to make sure the vehicle is sitting as evenly balanced as possible. When leaving them on the stands for long periods of time, it can’t hurt to use additional stands or extra wood, just in case.
Q. Do I Need To Jack Up My Car For An Oil Change?
A. It all depends on how big you are, what car you have, and where the oil pan and oil filter are located on your vehicle. On my 2003 Acura RSX, the job is far easier when the car is lifted up.