one third of all tasks that you need to perform on your car require it to be raised off of
the ground. Simple enough for the experienced mechanic, the procedure of lifting a
3000-lbs BMW can be a bit unnerving for the amateur. In this technical article, I'll show
you the best places to jack your car up, and support it while you're working on it.
First, let's talk a bit about safety.
Haphazard use of a floor jack can result in some pretty significant and expensive damage
to you or your car. Before you begin raising the car, make sure that you have the wheels
of the car blocked so that it cant roll. Its also wise to have your parking
brake on as well, and the car placed in first gear. You should always use jack stands in
pairs to support the car not simply the floor jack. Even if you are only lifting
the car up for a few minutes, make sure that you place a jack stand loosely underneath the
transmission or the motor, just in case the floor jack fails.
Before you attempt to begin
jacking up the car, make sure that all four wheels are carefully chocked, and that the car
is on a level surface. Keep in mind that if you back up the rear of the car, the
emergency brake no longer works (it works only on the two rearmost wheels of the car).
If you place the car in park, it will only lock the rear wheels as well.
Place a few 2x4 pieces of wood under each of the wheels to make sure that the car will not
roll anywhere when you lift it up off of the ground.
My preferred method of raising
the car is to use a BMW jack pad. This special tool is available from the
Parts Online Catalog. This handy tool is placed in the factory jack holes on
each side of the car. The car can be raised in small increments by jacking up one side of
the car, supporting it, and then moving to the other side. The ideal place for rear
support is right inside these jack pad inserts. I don't recommended that you place
the jack stands underneath the engine or transmission, as this can lead to instability.
Begin by removing the jack pad
insert covers, shown in
Figure 1 and
A flat-blade screwdriver is all you need. After the small plastic cover is
removed, you can see into the jack pad socket (Figure 3).
Now, turn your attention to the underside of the car. There you will see a round
plastic cover that is used as a locator for shop lifts (Figure 4).
It's quite possible that these have been removed and lost before, so your car may
or may not have them in place. Using a flat-blade screwdriver, pry out the plastic
guide from underneath the car (Figure 5). The remaining hole
and reinforced plate is the area where you want to mount your jack stands. You have
removed the plastic locator because the jack stand would be unstable if you simply placed
it under the plastic locator and lowered the car.
If you don't have a jack pad,
then you can use this reinforced area to place your floor jack (Figure
7). Fit a rolled up newspaper in-between the jack and the car to avoid damage to
the undercarriage of your car. The downside to this is that you will have difficulty
placing your jack stands, because you will be occupying the reinforced area with your
floor jack. The solution is to use the jack pad to lift up the car (Figure 8). Center the pad surface in the jack lifting plate and
raise your jack as high as it can go. It's perfectly okay if the car tilts while the
wheels on the opposite side are still on the ground.
shows the car lifted all the way up in the air using the jack pad. Place the jack
stand securely under the reinforced plate, and slowly lower the car. I like to place a
little bit of newspaper between the jack stand and the car to avoid scratching or scraping
the underside of the chassis.
Figure 10 shows the jack stand properly
If you are lifting the front of
the car, then place a jack stand under the front reinforced plate, lower the car onto the
jack stand, and then repeat for the opposite side of the car. If you are lifting the
whole car up off of the ground, then place a jack stand under both the front and rear
points, lower the car, and then repeat for the other side. Likewise, if you are
jacking up just the rear, place the jack stand under the rearmost reinforced point.
If you would like to raise just
the rear of the car, there are a few methods that you can use. The most common one is to
lift the entire car by the bottom of the rear differential. This will not damage the
differential as it is very strong at this point. An advantage to this is that you raise
both sides of the car at the same time. Thus, you are only doing half the work. Place the
jack under the rear differential and place a rolled up newspaper under the lifting pad of
the jack. Proceed to lift the car up by the rear differential until you can place jack
stands under the support points described in the previous paragraph.
11 shows the process of lifting the car by the differential.
Safety is of paramount
importance here. Never work under the car with it suspended simply by the jack -
always use jack stands. Always use a backup jack stand wherever you place your
primary jack stands. These parts are made in China - do you want to trust your life
to steel parts that are made in China? One flaw in the casting process can lead to
these breaking, and the car falling on top of you. Hundreds die from this happening
Once you have the car up in the
air and supported on the jack stands, push on the car and see if it is unstable on the
jack stands. If the car moves at all, you do not have it properly supported. It is far
better for the car to fall off the jack stands while you are pushing on it, then when you
are underneath it. Set the floor jack underneath the engine or transmission as yet another
redundant support. Again, it's a wise idea to set up a spare jack stand or two as a
precautionary measure against one of them failing.
When you are ready to lower the
car, be aware of where you are placing your floor jack. Sometimes you will not be able to
easily remove the jack when the car is lowered, or the jack handle may crush or damage an
oil line or tube on the way down. Proceed very slowly and also be aware that some floor
jacks release very quickly. Also be careful to place the car in gear, or to pull the
parking brake before you lower it. The car may have a tendency to roll away right after
its put back on the ground.
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