Getting under your vehicle to change the oil is relatively painless – as long as you do it the right way. When vehicles are lifted, they can pose a danger if they are not supported properly. To keep you and your vehicle safe, here is a quick safety lesson on the proper use of hydraulic jacks.

When jacking up a vehicle, always do so on a solid surface. You will be putting a lot of weight on those jack stands, so you’ll want to make sure nothing will shift under that weight. Gravel, grass and dirt are always bad choices. Concrete is always bed. Place your vehicle in park and set the parking brake. You don’t want the vehicle going anywhere while you’re working on it.

Before placing the jack under the vehicle, you will want to make sure you have wheel chocks in place. (fig.1) These are – typically – angled blocks of wood of plastic which wedge behind a tire. If you’re jacking up the front of your vehicle, place the chocks behind your rear tires (and in front of the front tires if you’re jacking up the rear end). These will keep your vehicle from rolling away in the off-chance that your parking brake fails.

Place the jack under the vehicle at a safe jacking point: Safe jacking points are spots on the underside of the vehicle which can bear weight (these are typically found in the owner’s manual or a repair manual). (fig.2) Slowly raise the vehicle.

Once the vehicle is far enough away from the ground, place jack stands at safe jacking points. (fig.3) Again, refer to an owner’s or repair manual to find the safe jacking points on your vehicle. Once the jack stands are in place (and supports lifted to meet the support points on your vehicle), you can begin to lower your vehicle.

Lower the vehicle slowly. Once the vehicle is resting partially on the jack stands (still supported by the jack), stop lowering it. Place your hand on the vehicle and give it a little shake, just enough to test the stability and placement of the jack stands. Once you’ve made sure the vehicle won’t be going anywhere, finish lowering the jack.

Remember: Never rely on just the jack alone to keep your vehicle in the air. With a hydraulic jack, the only thing keeping the jack up is the pressure within the slave cylinder of the jack. If a seal fails or begins to leak, the jack will lower – that could cause your vehicle to come crashing down on top of you!