At first, it seemed like a national pastime was dying. Less and less UK drivers were learning how to maintain their own vehicles, creating a generational gap in knowledge and a booming market for professional service garages. But the Covid-19 pandemic changed something, and a tradition once lost began to return: sales of Haynes manuals increased, and the so too did the number of people working on their own vehicles.
Nonetheless, fixing your own car can be a terrifying prospect, and potentially dangerous – especially if you’re intending to work on its undercarriage. As such, here is a simple guide to safely working under your car.
Work on Level Ground
Firstly, you will want to make sure that the ground you will be working on is solid, and level; gravel can pos issues if your car ‘settles’ while at height and can be uncomfortable for you to work with.
More importantly, the ground needs to be level in that it cannot slope one way or another. Sloped ground increases the risk of your car teetering off its supports, and either trapping you underneath or even running you over as it travels downslope.
Engage the Brakes
Even on level ground, your car can move with the slightest of touches or motions. As such, you should make sure that your handbrake is engaged before you make any moves to lift any part of your car off the ground. Consider also investing in tyre chocks, to prevent any wheels remaining on the ground from shifting while you work.
Use a Trolley Jack
Investing in a good trolley jack can make lifting your car not only safe, but easy; hydraulic jacks enable you to lift your car with minimal effort and are usually rated for several tons of weight – making it difficult to exceed the weight allowance and cause your jack to fail.
Trolley jacks are more reliable than the smaller, lighter scissor jacks on the market, and easily moved for access to different parts of your car’s underbelly – making it especially useful for getting your car up onto axle stands.
Consult Your Vehicle’s Manual
Before you lift your car, be sure to take a look at the driver’s manual for your specific vehicle. Your car will have several designated jacking points on its chassis, reinforced metal sheets welded to the frame which give you a safe and sturdy surface to lift the car with; your manual will detail exactly where these jacking points are, saving you the trouble of scrabbling around to find them before your car is off the ground.
Use Jack Stands
Even though a trolley jack is a reliable way to get your car off the ground, you can be even safer in the deployment of jack stands. Lift your car up one wheel at a time, placing a jack stand under the raised axle each time. This way you can take all the wheels off the ground, and remove the risk of jack failure while you work beneath.
Simply rock the car before you go under to check its stability. You are now free and clear to begin your maintenance work.