Don't work under a vehicle unless it is supported by jack stands.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2004

Dear Tom and Ray:

I just read your recent article on jack capacity and feel you left out a very important safety issue, which I learned in auto mechanics in high school many years ago: DO NOT WORK UNDER A VEHICLE UNLESS IT IS SUPPORTED BY JACK STANDS. While using a jack of adequate capacity is the primary concern, there are other issues that can come into play. The hydraulics might have leaks and lose pressure; someone or something might bump the vehicle, causing it to become unbalanced and slip off the jack. Our auto-mechanics instructor taught us to use two jack stands under each end of the vehicle to give it a more solid footing and prevent it from swaying. For instance, say you have the front of your Suburban resting on a jack without jack stands and you are underneath it trying to get the oil plug out, and your buddy comes over and leans on the fender, causing the Suburban to lean and slip off the jack. Oops!! The underside of the Suburban is going to leave some nasty marks on your body. Just wanted to add important safety info to help keep some unsuspecting do-it-yourselfer from getting unnecessary cuts, scrapes, bruises or more serious or even fatal injuries. Enjoy "Car Talk" -- keep up the great work; you are very helpful and entertaining. -- Rich

RAY: Right you are, Rich. We didn't mention it in that particular column, but we should have.

TOM: Using two jack stands at each end is the correct approach. But in an emergency, a good-for-nothing brother-in-law under each wheel will also do the trick.

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