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Supporting A Car

The subject pops up now and then about working on a car and the proper means of support. I think many agree that heavy jackstands and even leaving a jack or two in place as insurance is by far the safest thing to do other than using heavy steel ramps with concrete blocks or homemade wooden stands not being recommended.

Failure to do this hit kind of close to home today. The local paper here this evening had a story about someone being killed almost instantly when a car fell on them. Digging into the story I discover that the deceased is the wife of a long time friend of mine. I’ve known him since the late 60s in high school and his wife since the early 70s.

Apparently out on his little horse acreage his wife (who tinkers a bit) had her near 50 year old Thunderbird up on a couple of heavy wooden “cribs” as they were referred to. Around 8 last night his wife decided to get under the car and check something out or change the oil, etc. The cribs collapsed and the car crushed her. The police showed up quickly and one of the cops got on a small tractor they had there and lifted the car up but she was DOA at the hospital.

If someone in the future mentions car supports on this forum feel free to steer them to this post. It could reinforce any suggestions that one can never be too careful when several tons of iron are hanging over your head. :frowning:

I also lost a friend who used cinder blocks to support a vehicle to remove a transmission. He had no problem removing the transmission. But as the vehicle sat on the cinder blocks for a week as the transmission was being rebuilt, the cinder blocks became weakened from the static force that was being applied to them. Then as he was reinstalling the transmission, and of course there’s going to be some wiggling and jockying to get the transmission to line up with the engine, this dynamic action caused the cinder blocks to shatter. The vehicle came crashing down and the transmission landed on his chest crushing him. The coroner said he probably lived thru that hell for two minutes before he expired.

Tester

Even experienced mechanics and tinkerers are not immune to accidents. One important consideration also regarding safety when working on a car is solid ground. I cheated death and serious injury many times as a teenager working on cars because my parents’ house had no paved surface to work on. You worked under the jack or not at all because the jack’s base was wide enough to not sink into the grass or gravel driveway. I did have some cars fall, but not onto me. I know now how dangerous that was and am now spoiled by my concrete floored workshop and asphalt driveway. It is much more comfortable working under something that is firmly supported and never having to scramble out from underneath something because the jack starts sinking into the ground (I can use jack stands now!).

Somebody on here has mentioned building stair-stepped ramps out of 2X10 (or so) planks to park on top of to work underneath the car. I am thinking of trying that out some time soon for my sister’s Grand Am. That car is so low slung it’s a challenge to even get a jack underneath it.

“The coroner said he probably lived thru that hell for two minutes before he expired.”

A little off subject, but I had a friend who was working on a potato farm who died from an accident on the job. He needed to tell his boss something that was apparently urgent to him at the time. His boss was driving a tractor through a field, he ran up and tried to jump up onto the staircase leading to the cab of the tractor while it was still moving. He lost his footing and was run over from his feet to his sternum, which is how far the tractor moved before his boss was able to stop it. He died before the paramedics got him into the ambulance, but it took them twenty minutes to arrive. I would not want to live twenty minutes with such extensive injuries and the indescribable pain that must accompany them. He did manage to ask his boss to tell his mother that he loved her before he died, though. He was only 19 years old.

The coroner determined how long he struggled by the marks that were left on the driveway from the heels of his boots.

Tester

Sad stories; now having been under my van last night trying to get this stupid tensioner bolt off (3.3 Caravan; was not able to), kept wondering I read that the jack stand ratings are not all that accurate. Maybe when if says 2 ton, they could mean one ton or half a ton for each stand. Anybody have any info on this? I am using 2 ton stands from Kragen. As all know I try to either keep the wheels on the car or put them under the car, also keep the jack just 1/8 inch lowered on the side I am working, but still feel carried away at times yanking at stuff.

While on the topic also want to remind all to wear eye protection at all times.

Amen!

I forgot to add. Look if the jackstands meet ANSI standards. If you don’t know what this is, look it up.

Tester

A local fireman was crushed by a truck he was working on when it fell off the jack. Why a professional mechanic would rely only on a jack is beyond me.

When I jack things up, I use stands AND I slide something like a removed wheel under the frame or something solid so if it does fall, it doesn’t go all the way to the ground.

Hey, OK - I’m really sorry to hear about your friend. This kind of thing is just terrible.

I tend to be really paranoid about getting under a car and always use proper stuff (ramps/stands) plus redundancies. But thanks for keeping me on the paranoid side since everyone can always become a little lax when things get too routine.

Regarding cinder blocks - recent Car and Driver had an article on bleeding brakes - guess what they showed as a way to hold up the car - CINDER BLOCKS! Even worse, they showed them being used in the worst possible way, with the car resting on the center of a block on its end, just about the weakest possible way to use it.

A friend looked at my sideways, perplexed and confused when I instructed him to go get two big rocks as his job assignment…
while the others of us played ‘‘pit crew’’ having hit something in the road that flattened a tire. When I pulled to the roadside I said to the three of them "ok guys, pit crew time " and told each one something to do.
The jack and lugwrench in the left quater panel compartment.
The jack & spare lowering handle under the hood.
One of us retrieving items.
One of us lowering the spare.
One of us breakin loose lug nuts
…and the other one getting two rocks !

It finally hit him how greatly important they were to supporting the truck as I explained that , even in park, we would have a rear tire off the ground then very little else to keep the truck steady except those rocks under the front tire on the opposite side.

I’ve used plastic ramps on cars with low clearance in the front. I feel they are as safe as the heavy metal ramps for small passenger cars, but like you suggested, I also place jack stands under the car for insurance, whether the ramps are metal or plastic.

It’s also important to put it in park (or if it has a manual transmission, put it in gear), apply the parking brake, and chock the wheels that are still on the ground.

Even though my dad always warned me to support a car before working under it, I learned the significance of proper support under a vehicle back in the '70’s as a teenager, my dad and I were changing a tire on my '75 LTD using an old bumper jack that just fit into a slot in the bumper. We had finished removing the wheel and was in the process of putting the spare on, the tab that fit into the slot of the bumper broke and dropped the car. If I’m working on something where the wheels don’t have to come off I work with the wheels pulled onto ramps, if I’m doing something that requires removing the wheels, I place the car on jack stands and leave the floor jack in place for additional support and often place the wheel under the car for even more security.