by Doris Donnerman
(last updated February 21, 2009)
When using a car jack, it is best to only do so when the car is situated on level, firm ground. This does not mean that you should jack up the car while it is still in the traffic lane; that could be disastrous. You should get the car fully out of the way of traffic, and still keep it on as level and firm of a surface as possible.
If you must jack up the car while it is on sloped ground, search about for some large rocks that you can place behind the wheels on the portion of the car that faces downhill. These are necessary to stop the car from rolling while it is being jacked up, which could result in the car falling off the jack or the jack being damaged by the car itself.
If the car isn't located on firm ground (perhaps it is raining or the ground is still wet from an earlier soaking), you need to find something you can place the jack upon. Perhaps you could use a hubcap or find a solid piece of wood. Understand that the weight of the car, focused on the jack, will ruin the hubcap, but it will allow you to raise the car.
If you anticipate that you may need to jack up your car on some future road trip, you might want to consider carrying a couple of thin boards with you that you can use as a base for your jack. A couple of 1 x 4 boards, about a foot long, should do the trick. You can find them at a lumber yard, often in the discard pile. You might even ask them for a couple of short (six inches long) timbers, about 4 x 4 or 6 x 6. These can make great wheel chocks instead of the rocks mentioned earlier.
When you finally get your jack seated firmly and you are starting to jack up the car, make sure that the jack is securely and firmly in contact with the frame of the car. As you raise the jack, watch for signs of slippage or "jumps" in the behavior of the jack; these can be very unsafe. You'll want to raise the car until the wheel you need to change is about an inch off the ground. This will give you room to easily remove the wheel and hopefully get the new one installed.
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