Even if you are the world’s most reluctant auto mechanic, there is one thing you cannot afford: a missing car jack or one that is so lightweight as to be incapable for the job you need it to perform. You need to know where your car jack is, that you have all the parts you need, how to use the car jack, and whether you need a replacement car jack ASAP.
If you think lifting a thousand or two pounds of car, truck, or SUV is an easy job for a jack and that a lightweight car jack will do, think again. It can be one of the most dangerous jobs around a vehicle, especially for anyone within range of the vehicle if the jack slips.
First, check your vehicle and locate your car jack. Some of these units are very cleverly hidden, sometimes below the compartment in your trunk. Check your vehicle’s owner manual if you have trouble locating your car jack. On one of my Toyotas, I could not find the darned thing until I pulled up the snap mat at the base of the trunk and found some of the parts attached to a thick piece of cardboard.
I saw some, because the jack was incomplete. On a car that I bought brand new and had yet to have occasion to use the jack, part of the blasted equipment was missing in action. The spare tire was there and so was the jack handle and a few other parts, but the jack stand itself – an indispensable component – was not. The jack stand is rather important: this is what bears the weight of the vehicle; the rest of the parts are simply small tools to assist you.
In my case, it took an argument first with the dealer and then with a regional service office to get the jack stand, a situation that remained unresolved for months. In the interim, I either had to hope that I never had a flat or buy or borrow a complete car jack that I could use in case I needed one.
Whenever you get a new vehicle, always check for your car jack. The same holds true if you buy a vehicle used because the car jack is not an optional piece of equipment. Some are tailor made for the vehicle they are to be used upon, so you can’t always rely on the ability to borrow a jack from a passing motorist or a neighbor when you need to use one.
This brings us to another key point: what do you do if you do not have a car jack? Also, what should you do if your car jack is either broken or so lightweight it does not seem to be of great use?
The good news is that you can usually buy a car jack in any major auto parts or even a general merchandise department store that sells automotive supplies. Buy a very cheap car jack, however, and you may get what you pay for, which is not always a good thing. While you will usually pay less to purchase a car jack from a third party than you will to order the official version for your make and model through a major car manufacturer, you may want a more sturdy unit than the one your little import or economy model supplies. Spend just half the difference between the cheapest in-store car jack and the pricy brand car jack offered by the manufacturer and you can probably get something quite a bit better.
Those who want to do more of their own automotive repairs and maintenance do well with the purchase of a heavier duty car jack that distributes the weight of the vehicle better. Such car jacks usually provide more stability to boot.
Yet you still need to be sure that any car jack you get will work well with your vehicle. Your best bet for this is through a very good auto parts store. The service people there are often willing to go out to the parking lot, look over your vehicle, and then help you get the car jack that will match the weight and design of your car, truck, or SUV. If the person behind the counter seems clueless, ask to speak with a more experienced sales associate. Such stores often have at least a few smart, savvy people who are the next best thing to having a great mechanic for a best – and very helpful – friend.