DIYer Safety

Details are sketchy, but apparently former baseball pitcher Mark Fidrych died as a result of a truck that he was working under falling on him. This sad and tragic story I think is an important reminder to us DIYers to:

NEVER work under a vehicle that is on a jack alone.

ONLY work under a vehicle that is safely and securely up on jackstands with emergency brake on and wheels chocked.

No body parts go under that car until you are absolutely positiviely 100% sure that car is not going anywhere.

If you have any doubt about your ability to complete a job safely, take the car to a shop and pay 'em the money. Saving a few bucks on a repair isn’t worth it if you end up severaly injured or your children orphaned.

Please folks, be safe.

I was changing the brakes on my 4runner a week ago…And I jacked it up…and before I could put the stand under it…I heard a bang…I turned around and didn’t see anything wrong…but as I looked closer I noticed that the jack had slipped and was now just holding the truck up by the last 1/8" of a bolt. I quickly lowered the jack and moved it to a safer spot and re-raised the truck and put the stand under it. ACCIDENTS HAPPEN.

When I was 21, during my first year working in a dealership, an oldtimer came in to get his car repaired. His face was severely deformed. As I was working on his car, he offered to explain his deformations.

He was working on a car up on concrete blocks years earlier. The concrete blocks suddenly crumbled while he was under it. He very much wanted me, as a young mechanic, to learn from his mistakes. I’ll never forget that lesson.

In my many years of experience from airplanes, cars, electronics and everything else, I came to realize long ago that there is no such things as accidents. Somebody crewed up somewhere, and that is the consequence.

Always a good recommendation. That kind of tragic thing has happened in this area several times with the last one about 10 years ago if I remember correctly. A father of two killed all because of an oil change of all things when an unsupported car fell off of the jack.

I even saw a vehicle fall of a lift in a dealership shop one time. The tech used a double post life and the rear one had a tendency now and then to suddenly drop a couple of inches. He had complained about this for months and they would not fix it.
While about 15 feet away, I heard a yell as both he and the service manager jumped out of the way of the car which now appeared to be falling in slow motion off to the side when the rear post suddenly lurched down a few inches.

The car (a Pontiac) was declared a total by the insurance company and both the tech and service manager barely escaped being crushed by the falling car.
Even a hydraulic shop lift is not 100% safe.

One month ago. Used car lot tech using a hyraulic floor jack, the four wheeled kind with a lift arm toward the front and the long handle to operate.
Gradually, over the course of fifteen minutes, the jack came down and he was trapped for hours and suffocated to death.

I was using a small floor jack on my 1995 Dodge Dakota pickup. I put a piece of wood between the jack and the frame rail for a little extra lift. As I was sliding the jack stand under the rail, the truck started to slide off slowly off the wooden block. No harm done, but I bought a high lift floor jack and threw out the other one. These days, I use ramps instead of jack stands, unless the wheels are coming off.

Ed B.

Along the same vein sort of, my son has purchased 2 floor jacks over the last year or so from Sears. Both are aluminum; one a 2-ton and the other a 3-ton.

Both of these jacks are absolute junk and an accident waiting to happen. These jacks have 2 flaws.
One is that the aluminum sideplates flex too much and this allows the saddle to rock back and forth sideways. On more than one occassion the jack has rolled over on its side and became wedged under the vehicle. This requires another jack to remove the now wedged in place jack.

The other flaw is that they do not have wheels on the outside of the sideplates. Instead they have a single roller in the middle and this also allows the jack to rock sideways. Think of tightrope walking. Even the 3-ton is dangerously shaky when a lightweight car is raised with it.

Just a word of warning about these jacks and I probably should have posted something about them long ago.
If you must have an aluminum jack then at least get one with outer wheels and not a center roller.

Hmmmm…Just a guess–Were those floor jacks made in China?

Those Jack stands always look a little scary to me, there is not that much to them and seeing the side supports thinking are these rated for the load if it is your driveway that is not flat?

I use ramps too. I also put jack stands under the car even if it is on ramps just for extra insurance. When the car is up on jack stands I use the ramps as insurance by fitting them under the car body. If I only have ramps or only jack stands, I feel kind of naked. Call me paranoid, but I really don’t want to die under a car.

was the lift fixed/replaced after that?

To answer a few questions.
First, in regards to the shop lift that dropped the Pontiac and totalled it out. Yes, the lift was repaired a couple of days later along with every other lift problem in the shop. The bad part was that the dealer fired the tech (a great guy and a great tech to boot) about 10 minutes after the car hit the floor. The fact he he had been saying for months this was going to happen mattered not.

As to those crummy floor jacks, they’re branded Sears Craftsman and I do believe they’re made in China. Along with about everything else in the civlized world anymore it seems.

Yes, the garage floor is level and these jacks apparently do not have the ability to hold a car steady even when one wheel is lifted.
When I first saw those jacks I told my son it looked like to me they were going to be unsteady and sure enough, they’re teeter-totters.

OK. You do realize those aluminum floor jacks are called Racing Jacks? They’re made from aluminum for the light weight so the jackman on a racing team can whip that jack around while the tires are replaced on the race car. These are not service jacks and shouldn’t be used as one. Watch a NASCAR race. You see the aluminum jacks in the pits, but in the garages they use a steel floor jack.


Not a bad idea at all, I’ll keep that in mind for the next time.


Ed B.

Son bought them on his own; my only involvement was making a critical comment about the design when I saw them. He was told they were going to be tipsy and tipsy they are.
Sears is selling them as floor jacks and no pit person in their right mind should risk lifting a car, race car or regular one, with one of these things.

Here’s the 2 ton he bought. The 3 ton is the same but not shown on the site. Maybe discontinued?

Note the center roller? No stability on the outside. Even if the jack were titanium it has a narrow footprint and would wobble.
If an aluminum 3 ton can’t safely raise one wheel of a little Mitsubishi long enough to throw a jack stand under it then it should not be trusted to raise both wheels of a heavier race car is the way I look at it.

On the next trip to the aircraft salvage I’m going to pick up a piece of round aluminum stock and whittle some outside wheels out on the metal lathe. The center roller will become a spacer and with a wide track stance the wobbling should stop.

The first thing I noticed is there’s no 90 degree bend on the side plates. Hell! I won’t purchase a steel floor jack unless the side plates have a 90 degree bends in them! Aluminum and no reinfocement. That’s good combination! But again, they want to keep the weight down.


Years ago I was lifting a car with a floor jack under the center of the rear axle. The car was on an asphalt alley. It was a pretty hot day, and with the car about halfway up the wheels on one side of the jack sunk into the asphalt and tilted the jack over so far it droppped the car. It was still going up, so I hadn’t had the chance to get a jackstand under it yet.

As for the crumbling concrete blocks, I’ve heard of that several times. I’m told that the key is to use them with the holes facing vertically. If you have the holes horizontal the car’s weight is supported by an inch and a half or so of concrete, which will fail under the weight. Personally, I just use blocks made of 2 x 10 lumber bolted together. They’re NEVER going to crumble.

Would like to hear recommendation(s) for specific floor jack(s) that would be safe and affordable for the DIYer.

Ok, so I have a crappy hydraulic floor jack. I use it to raise the car and then put jack stands under. I leave the jack just a tad lower for back-up. Also use the spare tire jack as back up for the other side. I use the e brake and shifter is in park. I don’t do much of work under the car, other than occasional ATF change or some inspections. Should I be doing more?