Whether you are a semi-DIYer or a regular home mechanic, at one time or another, you may find that you need to lift your car off the ground.
Let’s face it, a few jobs are just easier when you aren’t lying on your back for a few hours or hunched over the front grille trying to find enough space to do the job.
Then there are jobs like rotating tires, changing from summer to winter tires, or bleeding the brakes.
There are several options when it comes to lifting your car at home, and it all depends on what works best for you.
The Best and Easiest Ways to Lift Your Car at Home
If you don’t need to remove the wheels, a set of car ramps is the most obvious choice. These often cost less than $50 and will hold the typical car, SUV, or ½ ton truck.
While storing them can sometimes be a pain if you are tight on space, they are easy to move and easy to use. Simply put the ramps under the front wheels and drive forward slightly until you reach the top.
It helps to have someone tell you when to stop so you don’t drive off the ramps, but even a beginner should have truly little trouble using these.
These work whether you need to lift the front or rear wheels, so you only need one set.
If you need to remove the tires, however, this option won’t work for you.
2. Car Jack and Stands
This is perhaps the easiest and the most common way you can lift all 4 wheels off the ground securely and for very little cash.
Important Note: Not all jack stands are created equal! Some are only designed to hold the weight of a small car. This means that using a very lightweight jack stand on your 1-ton truck could cause the jack stand to collapse and if you are underneath the truck, it could injury or even kill you.
ALWAYS check the weight capacity of the car jack and the jack stands before using.
It’s a good idea to check the wheels that are still touching the ground to ensure that they don’t roll forward or backward and roll your car right off those jack stands.
How to Get your Car Lifted Using Jacks
- Put the car in park (or in gear) and place one jack stand next to each wheel. If you are going to start by lifting the front wheels, put chocks under the back wheels. Reverse this if you plan on lifting the rear wheels first.
- Using a floor jack, put it underneath the frame. Most cars have specific places to put a floor jack but if you don’t see them, check your owner’s manual.
- Slowly raise the jack to meet the jack stand height. Take it slow and check that the head on the floor jack hasn’t shifted to slid off the frame.
- Never work under a vehicle that is supported only by a floor jack!
- If the floor jack seems steady and is holding the car in place, move the jack stand to the frame or subframe. The frame is the most secure point so use that if you can.
- Release the floor jack and give the car a bit of a push to be sure that the jack stand is firmly in place.
- Repeat with the other 3 wheels.
If you don’t have a floor jack, a scissor jack will work but it isn’t as secure as a floor jack. If that’s what you have, be extra careful when placing the jack stand under the vehicle to ensure that the scissor jack doesn’t suddenly release pressure.
Bottle jacks can also work but these often won’t give you the clearance you need to place a jack stand underneath the vehicle.
Once all four wheels are off the ground and supported by jack stands, give the car another couple of pushes both side to side and up and down. This will ensure that the car is securely sitting on the stands and if something is out of place or not secure, it’s better that you know now, not after you are underneath.
If the car should wobble or tilt up or down, put the floor jack back underneath the vehicle and pick up the problem side again. Reposition the jack stand and then try again.
If you are going to remove the wheels, loosen the lug nuts a bit while the wheels are still touching the ground. This prevents the wheels from turning while you try to remove the lug nuts.
If you have any doubts about where to place the floor jack or jack stands, consult your owner’s manual. Many owner’s manuals are also online or there are instructions for your model about where to safely place the floor jack and jack stands.
With a small investment in the proper tools, you can lift your car easily at home just as safe as any garage can.