Working on your car is one of the best ways to learn more about your vehicle, but it comes with a level of danger, especially if what you’re working on requires you to go underneath your car.
We asked expert mechanics about some essential safety tips for people attempting to go underneath their vehicles to fix stuff in the undercarriage. Here’s what they said:
Keep It on Level Ground
This step should come as a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people attempt to go under their vehicle using stands and lifts that are situated on uneven ground. That is probably one of the most unsafe things you can do, and while it should be common sense, it bears repeating: NEVER attempt to lift your car if the ground isn’t level.
Check the level of your garage floor with, well, a level and make sure that it’s completely stable, slick-free, and able to withstand the weight of your car. If your garage floor fails any of those requirements, don’t risk it. Just go to a professional mechanic.
Use Lifts, Not Jacks
Some people might think that using a floor jack is enough to get the car off the ground with enough clearance for you to slide under. While technically correct, if you used more than a couple of jacks to get it off the ground, it’s not exactly the safest or the most practical.
Consider getting an alignment car lift instead. Yes, it costs money, but it’s going to cost much less than if one of the rubber seals on the floor jack’s slave fails and dumps its pressure faster than you can react. And trust us, it’s happened before, and the results were not pretty!
You Can’t Have Too Much Safety
We can’t stress enough the value of keeping your car as stable as possible once it’s been lifted, and you’re working underneath it. Anything you can use to stabilize it and provide extra vertical support, use it.
Make sure that all flammable materials or materials that might release hazardous vapors are kept far and away from where you’re working, and make sure that you have plenty of ventilation in your garage.
While we’re at it, never attempt to work on your car if you’re not wearing complete safety gear: gloves, protective eyewear, overalls, steel-toed boots. Is it overkill? No, it’s not, and real mechanics shouldn’t be worried about looking like a safety goof: you can’t work on an engine with only nine fingers, as they say.
Call an Expert
Listen, we get it: working on your car on your own is fun, exciting, and gives you a great sense of pride and accomplishment, but if you encounter a problem that’s too complex, too challenging, or requiring specialized equipment, call a mechanic.
There’s zero shame in admitting you need help a small block Chevy firing order or fixing the piston of a V12. Let’s stop this notion that “real” men don’t need help: yes, they do, and honestly, any mechanic worth their salt won’t hesitate to give it. All you have to do is ask!