As of 2014, 46 Australians had been crushed and killed as a result of working under a motor vehicle, most of which were likely not supported properly and safely. In addition to this, there are approximately 160 reported injuries related to vehicle jacks each year. And that’s just lifting the vehicle!
Obviously, there are a few safety measures that need to be followed if you plan to work on your own vehicle, and this article will run through a few of the basics.
Raising the Vehicle
The two main methods of gaining clearance underneath a vehicle for the home handyman is via a trolley jack, or ramps. You will find that all the jacks and stands at Supercheap Auto meet the mandatory standards for safety. In accordance with these standards, the jack or ramp will be clearly marked with the weight they are rated to carry so that you can choose the product that suits the weight of your vehicle. It is worth noting also that vehicle jacks such as the Scissor Jack or Bottle Jack are not designed for lifting a vehicle for maintenance purposes, but are ideal for gaining enough clearance to change a wheel.
All of the tools listed need to be used on a solid, level surface; and the wheels which are not being lifted need to be chocked to prevent it running away. Depending on the job you are doing, always ensure that at least the handbrake is on, or the vehicle is in gear. If possible, do both. And if you are working with a trolley jack – always use axle stands rated to suit your vehicle; a trolley jack is not designed to hold weight for an extended period.
Personal Protective Equipment
Busted knuckles are a given if you work on your own vehicle enough, and they never become any more fun. I personally wear a good set of mechanics gloves most of the time. They are a better fit than your old gardening gloves, and have extra protection in the areas that are more likely to be bumped. Sometimes your job might be a little finicky, and gloves may be a hindrance; but it’s good practice to wear them when you can.
A pair of safety glasses is a good idea, especially when you are under the car and at risk of parts falling on your face; or when you’re working with fuel – petrol in the eyes is very painful! And while hearing protection might not be required for all jobs, have some ear muffs handy if you’re using any air tools, hammering away at something, or grinding. Jobs like this can reverberate through the entire body of the vehicle and get your ears ringing very quickly!
Keep the following rules and pointers in mind…
- Buy yourself a workshop manual and read the section relevant to your task before starting. Make sure you fully understand the procedure, have the correct tools and are capable of doing the work.
- Ensure that anybody not involved in the job stays clear of the vehicle
- Be certain to disconnect the battery if your job involves playing with plugs or wires
- DO NOT mess with diesel fuel systems. This is best left to a diesel professional as they are incredibly complex. Some diesel injection systems run at pressures in the tens of thousands of PSI, enough to shoot diesel fuel straight through your skin!
- Be very wary of sparks or flames when disconnecting any fuel lines
- Do not work on a vehicle with the engine running or even with keys in the ignition unless it is essential to your job.
- Avoid creating excessive dust, especially from components such as brakes where the dust can cause lung disease. Use Brake & Parts cleaner instead of blowing or dusting parts off
- Be mindful of hot parts, that pair of gloves might save you from some nasty burns. Be especially careful not to open a radiator cap when hot. The coolant is under pressure and can be heated up to 120 degrees in some cases.
With a safety mindset, a dose of common sense and these few tips under your belt; there’s no reason why you can’t pull off even some basic work on your vehicle, and live to boast about it to your mates!
Have a safety tip of your own? Comment below and let us know!