According to a AAA study, 1 in 5 drivers doesn't know how to change a flat tire. The first step of jacking up the vehicle when changing a flat can be the most intimidating because using a jack incorrectly can cause damage to the vehicle or become a safety hazard. Jacking up a vehicle safely should be a skill every driver has mastered, whether they do regular work on their car or they need to change a flat tire in an emergency. We'll simplify the process by breaking it up into 3 steps you can follow to keep yourself and your vehicle safe. New cars typically come with a basic jack and wrench, but if your vehicle is missing a jack or if you're looking for one that's more heavy-duty, we'll suggest 3 excellent options.
3 Steps for Jacking Up Your Car
Step 1: Prepare to Use your Car Jack
The first step is to make sure you are in a safe location away from dangerous traffic, and that you secure your vehicle properly. Make sure your vehicle is on level and solid ground, put your vehicle in Park or first gear and enable the parking brake. You should also secure your wheels with wheel wedges, or you can improvise with bricks or large rocks. The wedges should go under the tire on the opposite corner of the vehicle from the corner that you're jacking up. When your car is secured safely, locate your jack and the jacking points of your vehicle. The jacking points are typically reinforced metal ribs and there are usually four found on your vehicle. Make sure to check your car manual for the exact location of the jacking points.
Step 2: Place Jack Under the Vehicle and Raise
If you're changing a flat tire, the car jack will go beneath the vehicle frame on the same side as the flat. You'll likely find plastic on the bottom with an area of exposed metal that indicates where the jack should go. Make sure you're familiar with the proper positioning found in your owner's manual before you begin. Most car jacks have a slot at the top that fits into the rib of the jack point. Once you have the jack in the proper position, turn the handle clockwise slowly, making sure the jack isn't leaning as you lift the vehicle. To keep the jack balanced, you can place a small cut of wood under it before raising the car, and if you're jacking up the car to change a flat, raise it to about 6 inches off the ground.
Step 3: Lower the Vehicle
The last step follows the simple rule of "what goes up, must come down". Lower your car by turning the jack handle in the opposite direction as you did to lift (counterclockwise) until the vehicle is firmly on the ground. Then remove the jack, store it away and remember to remove the wheel wedges before getting on your way.
This 3-minute DIY video from O'Reilly Auto Parts shows you the basic steps of using a floor jack.
Best Car Jacks
Having the right jack can make the entire process faster and more convenient. If your car is missing a jack or if you're looking for one that's more substantial than what came with the car, there are many options you can choose from. The two main types of car jacks include mechanical and hydraulic. A basic scissor jack is an example of a mechanical option, while a hydraulic bottle jack offers more versatility since you can use it on construction projects in addition to cars. The following three options offer durability and ease of use on sedans, trucks, or SUVs.
1. Torin Big Red Car Jack
The Torin Big Red ($25) is a rugged scissor jack that provides a solid replacement for a missing or flimsy car jack. Made from alloyed steel construction with a heavy-duty steel frame and saddle, it has a lift range of 4-1/8" to 15-1/8" and a weight capacity of 1-1/2 tons or 3,000 pounds. An oversized 4-1/2" base width offers extra support and stability to give you confidence when changing that flat.
2. Rogtz Car Floor Jack Kit
What if you could jack up your car with just a press of a button? An electric jack like the Rogtz Car Floor Jack Kit ($75 for the jack only) lets you jack up your car with no risk of breaking a sweat. It comes in several kit options so you can purchase the exact items you need. You can purchase the jack only, go with a jack/wrench combo or a jack/wrench/tire inflator pump kit. This jack has a weight capacity of 3 tons (6,000 pounds) and can be used on most cars and SUVs.
3. Powerbuilt Black Alltrade Bottle Jack
If you're looking for a heavy-duty jack for your truck or rugged SUV, the Powerbuilt Black Alltrade All-in-One Bottle Jack ($61) is a great choice. This hydraulic car jack has a weight capacity of 6,000 pounds for larger vehicles and a lift range of 11" to 21". The wide base increases stability and prevents the jack from sinking on softer surfaces. A strong safety bar is an additional precaution that keeps the jack from lowering after it is raised.
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