Everything you need to know about ramps:
When it comes to working on your vehicle, lifting the bonnet can only allow you to do a certain amount. At some point, you’re going to have to raise the car up off the ground. Being able to lift the vehicle off the ground can not only make life easier, but it can also allow for the completion of larger jobs that that may have otherwise required you to bring it to a garage. The type of equipment to use depends on the task at hand. To make life easier, we’ve created this handy guide to help you choose the best tools for the job.
Car ramps for driveways
Using car ramps can be more convenient and safer to use than a jack and axle stands if you have a sloped driveway (although we’d always recommend working on a flat surface). Lining the ramps up with your front or rear wheels is easy, and then it’s simply a case of slowly driving up onto them. One of the big advantages of ramps is their ease of use. Ramps are also that bit safer as you don’t run the risk of not picking the correct jacking point. That said, safety is still of paramount importance anytime you’re going to be working underneath a vehicle. We recommend leaving the car in gear, with the parking brake applied and using wheel chocks on the rear wheels to minimise any risk of the vehicle rolling. These measures might sound excessive, but when it comes to safety, it just isn’t worth cutting any corners. The cost of both ramps and the wheel chocks can still be less than a visit to the local garage, and these aren’t typically items that tend to wear out so they should last you a lifetime.
Car ramps for low clearance cars
If your pride and joy happens to sit low on the road, then you’re going to have to be careful about which ramps you choose to use. The key to this is the length.
Longer ramps will have a shallower angle and therefore will reduce the potential risk of damaging bumpers or bodywork when driving up onto them. If your vehicle has a lowered ride height, there’s a good chance that the original jack that came with it will no longer fit underneath, as well. It is possible to buy specialist low-profile jacks designed for lowered or modified vehicles, but make sure that you check the minimum height first before purchasing. When using jacks, only ever use the jacking point that is recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Specific points are designed for this reason and are not only stronger, but help to keep the vehicle balanced when being lifted. Failing to use the correct jacking points will not only put you at risk but could severely damage your vehicle, too. We stock ramp extensions for lowered cars that attach to your standard car ramps. Another option is to make your own set of ramps – check out our guide here.
Car ramps for oil changes
When it comes to changing the oil in your vehicle, choosing the right type of ramp can make the task so much easier. One important aspect to consider is height, as you want to be able to work underneath the car with enough space to move around. We recommend that you change your oil after the engine has run at normal temperature, but this means many of the parts, such as the exhaust, could still be hot, so having that extra bit of space will be welcome.
Having that added height is good, but you may also want to consider being able to raise the rear of the vehicle so that it is level and therefore all of the oil can drain properly from the sump. Using two more ramps on the back is one option. Alternatively, jacking up the car and placing it on axle stands is another, although this won’t be as simple as just using ramps. When using axle stands it is vital that you place them at the correct points in which to support the vehicle while ensuring that the safety locking pins are securely fixed in place. As with ramps and jacks, be careful to check that the axle stands you plan on using are sufficiently rated to support your vehicle’s full weight.
How much do car ramps cost?
Basic car ramps aren’t that expensive, but obviously this cost can vary depending on how high and to what weight the ramps are rated to carry. Given that these are items that, for the average motorist, won’t be used too frequently, a good set of ramps should last for years so look at them as an investment. We would also recommend including a set of wheel chocks with the purchase of any ramps as these are not only cheap to buy, but are invaluable from a safety and security perspective.
How to stop car ramps from sliding?
Using car ramps on a flat and suitable (ie hard) surface is important, not only ensure a safer working environment but also to make the job at hand that bit easier. Most ramps will have a special surface on their base to aid grip with the floor. Before driving the vehicle up on to them, check that both are just touching the front of each tyre. That way, the vehicle will rise onto them at the same rate. When you drive forward, do so slowly. The last thing you want to do is risk spinning your wheels (if it’s a front-wheel-drive car) on the ramp, or worse still, going off the end of them.
How to keep car ramps from sliding on concrete?
If you have a smooth concrete floor when you’re working on your vehicle, it may be harder to prevent the ramps from slipping forward as you begin to drive up onto them. There are a few simple solutions to prevent this from happening. Placing some old carpet or rubber carpet underlay sections underneath the ramps can be a cheap solution to giving them enough grip to not slide forward.
How to make car ramps out of wood?
We would recommend sticking to the use of properly designed ramps that have been engineered to support a vehicle. But, if for some reason you find yourself in the wild yonder and need to work underneath your car, or if you just fancy making your own ramps, this is the best way to do so. A longer ramp with a shallower angle can make getting your vehicle up onto them easier. Using a hardwood is best as this will cope better with the weight pressing down on it.
Starting with the base, this should be around 80cm long and wide enough to support the majority of the wheel’s width. A second piece going on top should be slightly shorter at around 65-70cm and positioned so that one end is in line with the base so as to help form a slope at the other end. Securely fix this to the bottom piece at both ends with wood glue and screws. Repeat this process two or three times more with shortening pieces of wood until you have a stepped profile at one end of the ramp. Shaving down the leading edge of the wood at the sloped end can make it easier to drive the vehicle up onto the ramp. At the opposite end, adding a stopper is recommended. Check out our DIY car ramp video:
How to use car ramps?
When used properly car ramps can be very convenient, but using them correctly is vital. First, check that your ramps are rated to carry more than the weight of your vehicle. Usually, this figure takes using two ramps into account. There should be more than enough margin to allow for the fact that you could be elevating the heavier end of the vehicle. Once the vehicle is on the ramp you’re going to want to make sure that it can’t roll away, so fully engage the handbrake and use a set of wheel chocks on the rear. If the surface is smooth, look at getting soft rubber chocks as these will be less likely to slide.
Place the ramps up against the front (or rear wheels depending on the task) and make sure the steering wheel is pointing straight. Then slowly drive the car forwards, trying not to apply too much throttle. You don’t want to drive over the end of them. If possible also leave the car in gear, to further minimise the risk of it moving. When driving up onto the ramps ideally you want a buddy to guide you up and tell you when to stop. Drive up carefully and steadily and try to get it done in one go rather than stopping and starting as it can be quite easy to burn out the clutch if you’re too tentative.
It should go without saying that when you’re using car ramps you can’t remove the wheels, so they’re only suitable for certain jobs
Are car ramps safe?
Providing that you take all of the recommended precautions when using them, car ramps should give you a very safe way of working underneath your vehicle. A key thing to ensure is that the ramp is wide enough to fully support the full width of the tyres so that there is no chance of it falling off the ramp. It is also important to check that the ramps you have are certified to sufficiently support the vehicle. If you are unsure of your vehicle’s weight, it can usually be found on the VIN plate just inside the driver’s door frame or listed in the owner’s manual. If you are in any doubt, then seek professional advice before using them.