Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Todd asks: I’m 17 and just learning to work on cars and can’t figure out where to put the jack to raise my car (2001 RAV4). Can you help?
My reply: I’m glad you asked – before you jacked! It used to be pretty easy to know where to place the jack, back in the days when most cars had clearly identifiable frames (like most trucks still do). There was clear separation between the structural frame – which was capable of supporting the weight of the car – and the the floorpans, say.
Which were not capable of supporting the weight of the car.
But today, most cars are unitized – which means the structural part and the other parts are welded into a single piece. It’s pretty easy to put the jack underneath a non-structural part of the car and cause structural damage to the car by trying to jack it up there.
Most unibody cars have specific jacking points, often identifiable by a slot/cut-out that is sized to fit the factory tire-change jack. Check the owner’s manual to assure you have the right spot. Then jack up the car carefully – slowly – eyeballing as you go to watch for any signs of something bending.
In which case, stop – and release the pressure on the jack.
Speaking of that: Buy yourself a good floor jack. The tire-change jacks are generally flimsy and not very stable. Never get underneath a car raised by one of these – especially without having slipped a jackstand under some structural point, to act as a failsafe in case the jack slips.
The best advice I can give you applies generally to all car repairs: Be careful, take your time and do not proceed unless you are pretty sure you know what you’re doing and how to do it. If unsure, get advice/get help!
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Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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