Stupid mistakes with the car jack can ruin your car or risk your life, here's how to avoid them
Arif · May 8, 2021 10:38 AM
With auto assistance being easier to reach through mobile apps, there’s no surprise if some modern car owners have never had to change a flat tire in their entire lifetime. Some of us don't even know how to jack up a car properly, but it remains an important skill to have in the event of emergencies.
Who knows, one fine day, help might not be so easily available.
So, how do you do it properly? Let's begin.
1. Park the car at a safe location with a solid & level surface
Stop your car at a safe location. If possible, limp to a lay-by or an empty street before attempting to fix your car.
Stopping on the emergency lane of a highway is risky as the oncoming traffic is fast-moving and drivers might not be able to see you.
Also, find a level/flat surface. Why? Because your car will be in a tipped position when jacked, and you don’t want it to lose its balance.
A solid surface is also important so that the jack and jack stand do not sink into the ground.
A soft ground could risk you getting stuck under the car or getting your arm trapped under the weight of the car. Dangerous stuff.
With the right tools, every job becomes easier. To change a flat tyre, you will need the following:
Jack (cars are usually equipped with a scissor jacks)
Jack stand (usually not provided)
Your car’s basic tool kit will have these things with exception for the jack stand. Worry not as the spare tyre is a good enough substitute to act as a fail-safe in case the jack fails.
Of course, make sure you have a working and properly inflated spare tyre too so you can carry on with your journey.
If you don’t have the correct tools, just call for help.
4. Locate the jack points
Your car will have obvious jack points labelled on the underside of your car. There’s usually an arrow pointing at the correct location. If you have trouble finding this, remember that you can always consult the owner’s manual for this information.
Jacking up your car at the wrong point can cause serious damage to the mechanicals or chassis. Newer cars have varying thickness of the frame to reduce overall weight. Be careful where you place the jack.
Oh, and if you have an older car, it is a good idea to use a rubber padding or wooden block to preserve the condition of the body.
Some cars (like an old BMW E30) have jack points that are prone to rust, especially if in direct contact with floor jacks.
You’ve probably learnt this in driving school, and here we are to remind you once again. Just loosen the lug nuts a little before you jack up the car. Why? Because it’s easier to loosen it before lifting.
You don't want to have the car rocking about when a quarter of its weight is sitting on a skinny metal contraption.
Also keep in mind that some cars have plastic covers on the lug nuts. Remove them first.
6. Lift the car, and use the spare wheel as a fail-safe
This is going to take a while if you only have a scissor jack. Be patient and be careful not to scratch your car while doing this. If you have a hydraulic floor jack, lucky you.
Place the spare wheel underneath the car’s body (near the jack) to support the weight of your car in case the jack fails.
7. Replace the wheel
With your car lifted and the nuts loosened, continue to unscrew the lug nuts and replace the flat with the spare tire. Removing the wheel might require a little bit of force as the hub can sometimes seize.
Put the spare tyre on, and tighten the lug nuts with the wrench (the strength of your adult arms is enough. Do not step on the wrench as you may over-torque it).
8. Lower your car, pack the tools, and you’re good to go
With the spare wheel fitted, you can now lower your car. Give the lug nuts a little bit more tightening (again use the wrench with your arms, and do not step on the wrench).
Make sure there is nothing underneath the car's body and again, be patient with the scissor jack. remember not to get create any scratches on the car's paint. Once all the weight is transferred to the newly-fitted spare tire, you're done.
Pack your tools and you’re pretty much ready to drive off. Take it slow and pay attention sounds or abnormalities while you’re driving. Drive safely and get your flat tire fixed at a workshop you trust.
Previously an engineer in an automotive manufacturing company and a highway concessionaire. A part-time research student on biofuels and diesel engines. Obsessed with vehicle electrification and the future of transportation.