If you are a home mechanic there may be times when you need to get under your car to make repairs and at those times you want to do it as safely as you can. A friend recently asked about the differences of Jack Stands and I thought I would share some of the advice I gave them.
The first things you want to do when considering jack stands or car ramps for your garage is understand how they are used and then how they are rated.
When you use Jack Stands they are made to support the vehicle in a way that is stable while you are working under it. In the best situation most people will suggest that you always jack up the vehicle evenly and that means using two sets of Jack Stands. One is placed at each corner of the vehicle to lift the vehicle evenly. Most people never do this. Even professionals often never lift all four corners of the vehicle but having learned about frame repair it is really preferred especially when you are working on a vehicle and pulling or pounding out a frame. In those conditions you jack up the vehicle an place the stands on frame points and then you tie the vehicle to the floor using a chain system with large anchors that have been poured into the concrete floor.
If you are replacing a tire then this might not be something you would do all the time but as always I am instructing you to refer to the manufacturer’s suggestions on how to use your jack stands.
At the very minimum you want to use a set of stands to support the front or back of the vehicle evenly. Never NEVER just jack up one side and use a single jack stand. NEVER. If you do you could have the stand fail or it might slip out depending on where you have it placed.
Next use the proper jacking points for your jack stands.. some people will just place them anywhere along the rocker panel and that is a really bad idea as it could and probably will fail while its in the air. Rocker Panels are frame points but not all areas of the rocker are the same. Additionally supporting the vehicle unevenly will throw off its balance. Where a Jack Stand placed in the right location may be very safe for even heavy work.. one placed just a few inches off could end in failure.
Jack Stand Weight Rating
Jack stands are rated to be used for a specific weight. To know what size stand you need you will need to find your vehicle’s gross weight and you need to add on any modifications you made that increased its weight.. Modified trucks it is very important to know what the approximate difference is from stock.
Most Jack Stands come in ton rating and will be 3, 6 and 12 ton rated.
Stands are sold in sets and will distribute the weight but remember the front of the vehicle with the engine and transmission is normally much heavier on all vehicle types.
I never suggest that anyone buy the stands that just meet the specs of their vehicle. Always go up one size. Bigger is always better with Jack Stands.
If you have a raised vehicle make sure you are not extending the jack stand farther than half of its adjusted height. Smaller stands will extend about 6 inches and larger ones ten or more inches but it is not as safe to have them fully extended as it is to not use the full range of adjustment.
Material Type Aluminum Vs Steel
Personally I like Steel because it is a more forgiving material. Aluminum Jack Stands can be rated at the same load capacity but aluminum may wear faster than Steel. This is not to say Steel Stands that are used for long periods of time shouldn’t be inspected and replaced when needed.
Steel also weighs more which will increase stability.
Personally I would always go with steel but it is up to you to research what is best for you and your application.
Jack Stands are a very important tool in any garage. They will allow you to safely support your vehicle but only if you are using them correctly and sizing them properly for your vehicle.
I always suggest that everyone upgrade to the next weight category when buying Jack Stands. The cost is not that much different and the safety and durability will pay off in the long run.
If you ever have any question about the condition of your jack stands you must replace them. Inspect the welds and material for any damage and wear every time you use them.
In addition to your Jack Stands I always recommend that at minimum if your tire comes off the vehicle you place it under the vehicle as a fall support if the jack stand fails.
Jack Stands are normally a better choice than ramps but there are times when car ramps may be a better choice.
Never rely on your floor jack or pump jack to support your vehicle. They are only meant for raising a vehicle to a height where a jack stand can be inserted.