Jack stands are tools that have no substitute. When you need one, any alternative won't be as safe or dependable. Jack stands are different than car jacks, floor jacks, or bottle jacks. However, they're part of the process to safely raise a vehicle.
Car jacks are not stands. Always use a jack stand to support a lifted vehicle, and never depend on a jack alone to do that job. After the car is lifted, the stands hold the weight of it. Not all jack stands for vehicles fit every job, so pick the one that suits your needs.
Types of Jack Stands: You have three types of jack stands to choose from: pin-lock, rachet lock, and screw lock. A pin-lock stand has a retaining pin that goes into a hole to set the stand's height. A rachet lock has a bar that fits into different channels to adjust the height. A threaded rod on a screw lock jack stand gives you room to customize the height perfectly.
Weight: Find a jack stand that will support the weight of the vehicle. There's no need to guess, as it'll be printed in your driver's manual or on the inside of the door frame. Aim for a jack stand that can support at least half of your car's weight. Jack stands can support weight ranging from under 1 ton to over 20 tons. Use a 2-ton jack stand for small cars, 3-ton stands or 4-ton stands for large cars and small SUVs, and 5 to 6-ton stands for full-size trucks and SUVs. For reference, a ton is 2,000 lbs.
Height: The height of the jack stand allows you room to maneuver. The higher the stand, the more space you have to work. Also, larger vehicles, like SUVs, may need to be lifted higher than compact cars.
Stability: Placing jack stands on a stable and even surface is of the utmost importance. A soft surface, like a muddy shoulder on the side of the road, won't give you the stability you need to safely use a jack and jack stand. Keep a few squares of plywood with your roadside kit. When you place them beneath a jack and jack stand, you'll have the purchase necessary to raise the vehicle safely. Of course, concrete or flat asphalt is an ideal surface, but you may not always be on a paved surface when you need to use a jack.
Always lower the car slowly onto the jack stands, which should be placed at the lift points marked on the undercarriage of your car or noted in the manual. Four jack stands will hold a vehicle, but you might only need two if you're lifting part of it, or one stand for a corner.
Now that you know the basics of jack stands, you can upgrade your roadside emergency kit or mechanical maintenance toolbox accordingly. Find the right height and type of jack stand for each vehicle in your household. You can rest easy knowing you're prepared when it's time for car repair – expected or unexpected.
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