By Durand Durga, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.March 25, 2013
Saturday was my day for making repairs on my car, and I'd been having problems with my old, rusty brake rotors. Every time I'd hit the brakes, the steering wheel would vibrate. I wanted to put an end to that, so I bought some good slotted and drilled replacement rotors. I gathered all the tools I needed - including a jack, wrenches, sockets and screwdrivers - and went to my garage to get started. I'd changed rotors on several cars in the past, so I basically knew how to do it.
The first thing I did was loosen the lug nuts on the wheel and raise the car with the new hydraulic jack I'd bought. Then, I took off the wheel and placed it beside the car so I could begin removing the brake caliper. After I got it off, the phone rang inside the house and I got up to answer it. After talking on the phone for about five minutes, I went back out to the garage and was surprised by what I saw. The jack had failed and one side of the car was sitting on the floor! I could see where hydraulic fluid had leaked out of the jack. Luckily, the car was resting on the jack's body so nothing was damaged.
I was shocked. When I got over my surprise, I used a different jack to raise the car again and finished replacing the rotors. As soon as I finished, I bought a couple of jack stands and a new hydraulic jack.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. I'd realized that safety isn't just for when you're on the road; it also applies when you're doing repairs. Since then, whenever I work on my car, I use the jack stands as fail-safes and, for extra measure, place a wheel beneath the car.
Thinking back on that day, I could only imagine what would've happened had I been under the car. Had the jack failed then, I would've been injured or possibly even killed. I'd always heard stories about how dangerous it could be to work on your vehicle, but I'd never thought something like this could happen to me. After all, my hydraulic jack was new. I'd trusted it - but it failed.
I now take all the proper safety precautions to protect myself and others when I work on my vehicles. I would encourage anyone else who does their own auto repairs to plan for safety in the process. After all, should your jack suddenly "get the drop on you," the last place you want to be is underneath 3,000 pounds of car.
By The Numbers -
If you think what happened to the author is a rare event, you're wrong. Since 2007, there have been several reported off-duty and on-duty accidents where jacks and jack stands were either used improperly or failed. The off-duty accidents injured four Soldiers and killed a fifth when his vehicle fell off a jack and landed on top of him. The on-duty accidents included a Soldier performing maintenance on the front brake caliper of an M1114. The Soldier, who was reportedly using "bottle jacks," was pinned beneath the vehicle and killed when it fell on him.