Ramp vs. Jack Stands: Which Should You Use?
Lifting your vehicle is an important first-step in many jobs. When it’s time to lift your vehicle, the question comes up: Should you use ramps or a jack and stands? Ultimately, the one that’s best for you will depend on your vehicle, your work environment, and exactly what you are doing on the vehicle. It will also depend on whether you need to remove the wheels. If you do, you can’t use ramps. In most cases, especially if you do your own oil changes, it’s good to have both on hand.
Ramps: Pros and Cons
For one, ramps are much quicker to set up. Just drop the ramps down in front of each tire, drive up, set your emergency brake, and you’re good to go. Ramps get you slightly higher elevation than a jack/jack stand will, but they are limited on exactly what you can do under the vehicle as it is resting under load. For example, you have no way to get the wheels/tires off without additionally jacking that side of the vehicle up and off the ground, which is dangerous.
That said, ramps are excellent for oil changes especially, and many people keep a set around just specifically for this, as the lack of set-up time makes doing oil changes much faster.
One drawback to ramps is vehicles that are lowered or low to the ground, especially ones with very low front noses. To avoid this, many people use “run up boards” like a piece of 2×10 wood laid directly on the ground, to achieve a small amount of lift before hitting the ramp. Sometimes this works effectively, and other times, it’s downright impossible for some lowered cars to use a ramp.
- Quick set up.
- Higher elevation than a jack / jack stands will achieve.
- No need for additional jack stands.
- Fantastic for oil changes / lube.
- Slightly nerve-wracking to drive on/off of. Takes practice.
- Best if used with a spotter, which requires another person.
- Cannot remove the wheels/tires which eliminates a lot of jobs.
- Bulky / need a dedicated space to store in the garage.
- Difficult to use with lowered / low profile vehicles.
Jack / Stands: Pros and Cons
The traditional jack and jack stand is a process that takes much more time to set up properly – find jack points, raise, set jack stand, release….repeat. Where the jack shines is now you have the ability to remove wheels/tires and simply jack up one side if needed.
- Can jack up single wheel or side of car.
- Can remove wheels / tires and perform all jobs.
- Requires purchase of both jack and jack stands.
- Can be dangerous if not jacked or set up properly.
- Time-consuming process to lift a vehicle correctly.
If you’re working on your car all by yourself, you might be better off with a jack and jack stands. That’s because driving up on ramps, unless you are a seasoned veteran, should always be done with a spotter. Otherwise, you run the risk of driving too far off the end of the ramp or not driving onto the ramp with your tires properly centered. Keep in mind, most ramps are engineered to cradle the tire and not allow roll-off once on top, but driving your vehicle up and onto ramps can be a bit nerve-wracking for a beginner.
The truth is that it’s always a good idea to have someone around to help you working on a car, as they can potentially spot dangerous situations before anything dangerous occurs whether you lift your car with ramps, or with a jack and stands. In either situation you are lifting a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds, meaning there is a risk of serious injury or death if you don’t take appropriate precautions. To that end make sure you know the appropriate safety precautions for your specific equipment.
Check the Weight Rating
No matter how good of quality your equipment is, it won’t work if you try to lift a vehicle that exceeds the weight rating. Jacks, jack stands, and ramps are all built with specific weight ratings, which indicate the limit of how much weight they can safely lift.
For example, a Ford F-350 Super Duty Diesel might weigh upwards of 7700lbs. Many jacks are rated for 2 tons, and these 2 ton jacks would not be sufficient for such a large pickup truck. Jack stands are rated in pairs, so if you have jack stands rated for 2 tons, each one will only hold 1 ton on it’s own.
Make sure to completely understand your vehicles and their weights vs the equipment you plan on using.
In addition to specs like the weight rating, it’s important to consider other aspects, like the width of the tires in comparison to the width of the ramps. A lot of modern sports cars and off-road vehicles have very wide tires, which could make them too wide for a narrow, old-fashioned ramp.
Consider the Material
Ramps can be built with steel, but most today are made from a polymer. Both materials need to be properly cared for if they are to work right. Steel ramps can rust, which can decrease their structural integrity. Poly ramps can crack and be affected by chemicals or the weather if they are left outside.
If you have any reason to question the integrity of a jack, jack stand, or ramp, don’t use it and get one that you can trust. It’s not worth risking it.
If you’re still undecided, talk the parts professionals at AutoZone. We have all the jacks, stands, and ramps to do the jobs necessary on your vehicles.