Getting a flat tire is never convenient, but it can quickly become dangerous if your car falls off the jack while trying to swap out the wheel. This stressful situation can happen to even the most seasoned DIYer. This comprehensive guide covers what to do if your vehicle drops off the jack, how to avoid it, and tips for safely changing a tire without injuries or damage.
Table of Contents
- Responding If The Car Drops Off The Jack
- Preventing the Car From Sliding Off the Jack
- Must-Have Gear for Safe Tire Changes
- Safely Lifting Your Vehicle To Change A Tire
- What To Do After the Car Falls Off the Jack
Responding If The Car Drops Off The Jack
Seeing your thousands of pounds of vehicle crash down because the jack failed or slipped is scary. Staying calm and following some key steps can keep the situation from becoming worse:
- Check for injuries – Make sure you, passengers, and any bystanders are unhurt before assessing vehicle damage.
- Assess the underside – Look for any fluid leaks, damaged components, or parts dislodged by the drop. Be prepared to call a tow.
- Try repositioning jack – Sometimes the jack just slips and regaining lift is easy. But don’t risk injury forcing it.
- Get help if needed – If the car is resting on components, call for assistance from a professional to avoid compounding the damage.
- Check tire/wheel intactness – Inspect the tire and wheel for any cracks or separation that can make them unsafe.
- Drive slowly if moving it – If the vehicle seems drivable, creep carefully to a level spot before raising it again.
- Try a different jack point – The original jacking point may be compromised. Try another reinforced area.
- Use jack stands – Once raised, immediately place heavy duty jack stands under secure spots.
- Inspect undercarriage again – Look for any missed leaks, loose parts, or damage after lifting.
Having a game plan to follow takes the panic out of this tense situation. The goal is to lift the vehicle again safely or get professional help.
Preventing the Car From Sliding Off the Jack
While freak accidents can always occur, most cases of a car falling off the jack can be avoided by following some basic precautions:
- Use the designated jack points – Only lift from reinforced areas on the frame specified by the manufacturer.
- Check jack and jack stands – Inspect them for damage and test lift/ratchet functions prior to using.
- Chock the wheels – Place solid wheel chocks on the tires not being lifted to stabilize the car.
- Apply the parking brake – Set the brake even if the lifted wheel won’t contact the ground.
- Use a firm surface – Make sure the jack is on a solid, level area like pavement. Avoid soft ground.
- Mind the incline – Don’t change a tire if the car is parked on an incline, which shifts the weight and traction.
- Lift just enough – Raise the car only high enough to remove and replace the flat tire safely.
- Use jack stands – Always place jack stands under secure points after lifting as an extra precaution.
- Don’t get under the car – No matter how many precautions you take, never get underneath a vehicle lifted only with a jack.
Being attentive and cautious when jacking up your car will help prevent a safety mishap. Next, let’s look at some key equipment that enhances safety.
Must-Have Gear for Safe Tire Changes
Having quality equipment you can count on is essential for changing a tire without the car slipping off the jack. Here are some worthy investments:
1. High-Load Jack and Jack Stands
A lightweight jack that comes with a new car is meant only for occasional flat swaps, not regular use. Upgrading to a heavy duty floor or hydraulic jack with at least a 2-ton capacity ensures reliable lifts. Pair it with solid jack stands rated up to 6 tons for ample support when under the car.
2. Wheel Chocks
Chocks are wedge-shaped blocks placed snugly against the tires remaining on the ground. This keeps the vehicle from rolling and shifting. sturdy rubber models are best since they grip well and won’t slide.
3. Torque Wrench
Using a torque wrench ensures you tighten lug nuts to the proper spec. Under- or over-tightening can allow wheels to eventually loosen. A calibrated torque wrench prevents this.
4. Work Light
Being able to see under the car when working at night is critical. A rechargeable LED light will illuminate the area brightly without wires in the way.
5. Mat or Pad
Wet, muddy, or soft ground under the jack can lead to sinking and instability. A rubber mat provides a solid flat surface that won’t budge.
6. Wheel Wedges
These sturdy plastic wedges fit behind the wheel to prevent the car from rolling back when raised up. Especially useful on inclines or slippery terrain.
7. Tire Repair Kit
If you damaged the tire or wheel when the car fell, you’ll need a plug kit and inflator to make quick emergency repairs. Adding sealer can often get you to a tire shop.
Investing in quality gear tailored to tire changes will give you confidence that your car won’t slide off the jack again.
Safely Lifting Your Vehicle To Change A Tire
Here is a step-by-step process for safely jacking up your car to prevent a fall:
- Position the jack on a flat, solid area under the manufacturer’s lift point.
- Place chocks securely against the tires remaining on the ground.
- Set the parking brake firmly even if the wheel you’re lifting won’t reach the ground.
- Use the jack lever or power unit to slowly raise the vehicle just enough to swap the tire.
- Immediately place heavy duty jack stands under reinforced areas.
- Slightly lower the vehicle so the jack stands bear the load, not the jack.
- Give the car chassis a shake test to confirm it is stable on the stands.
- Keep the jack positioned near the lifting point as an extra precaution.
- Only handle tire removal and installation tasks – do not crawl under the car.
- When finished, carefully raise the vehicle to remove the jack stands and slowly lower.
These core steps form a process you can trust anytime you have to swap out a flat tire.
What To Do After the Car Falls Off the Jack
If you do experience the nightmare of having your vehicle fall while lifted, stay calm and take these next actions:
- Thoroughly inspect the undercarriage, suspension, drivetrain, fluid lines/tanks, and exhaust system for any damage or leaks.
- Check the tire and wheel for cracks, bent areas, or odd wear which indicate internal damage.
- Test drive the vehicle cautiously to listen and feel for anything unusual.
- Get it looked at by a mechanic to spot any issues you can’t see. A safety inspection is smart.
- Determine why the incident occurred so it can be prevented next time. Review the lifting process.
- Consider investing in a higher capacity jack and jack stands to be prepared for future tire swaps.
- Use your preferred insurer to have the vehicle damage appraised and repaired.
- Follow your doctor’s guidance if you suffered any injuries when the car fell.
Taking these steps afterward will restore safety and get your vehicle back in top shape after such a mishap.
In the unlikely event a tire change puts your vehicle in harm’s way, following jack company directions implicitly helps minimize damage. But staying calm and taking the appropriate post-incident actions gets your car back on the road. With caution and quality equipment, you can take comfort in knowing your car won’t slip off the jack.