Axle Stands - Essential to Support a Load Safely 

Safety is paramount when using any type of vehicle jack - so investing in a set of axle stands is a must if you plan to keep a vehicle raised for a period of time to carry out work underneath.

There is always the risk of any type of jack failing, not matter how much it cost or how heavy duty it is. A jack is fine to get your vehicle raised but it's essential to have solid structural support in place as soon as possible.

Axle stands - also known as jack stands - should be used even if you are using a trolley jack just to change a tyre on your car - unlike mechanical jacks, hydraulic jacks are only meant to raise vehicles, not to bear a load.

Check out our range of axle stands and wheel chocks

Axle jacks are a must if you wish to carry out any other task such an oil change, disc page change or a general maintenance check below your car or other vehicle. Jacks are not meant to bear the weight of a vehicle for an extended period of time, but merely to get it raised.

It cannot be stressed enough how critical it is to use axle stands for safety. Vehicle jacks can and do fail. Trolley jacks can most certainly fail for a number of reasons.

They slowly and sometimes quickly lose height while supporting load. As mentioned, hydraulic jacks are meant for lifting not supporting loads - there have been many recorded incidents where they've been known to slowly, and sometimes quickly, lost height while supporting the weight of a vehicle.

This is one of the reasons why a new vehicle is likely to come with a mechanical jack and not a hydraulic one - mechanical jacks are suitable for using as structural support. 

However, mechanical jacks such as some bottle jacks and scissor jacks require more effort to use and tend to lean over when not used properly. 
When you lift any vehicle you should use jack stands to support it in the air while you carry out the task in hand - to do otherwise is tempting fate.

The first thing you consider when buying axle stands is how much weight the ones you are interested in are rated to lift. This is the most important factor to consider when buying any lifting equipment. 

Choose stands with the correct level rating to bear your vehicle's weight

Each auto jack stand has an SWL label which means the safe working load and is the maximum weight the stand will safely support. This rating is given each design after extensive tests done by a licensing or regulating authority.

Most cars will need a level above two - this information can be located in the owner's manual, along with instructions on where to place them. A higher-rated stand than that recommended in your manual is safe to use; a smaller - but a lower-rated unit should not be used.

As a general rule of thumb your jack stands should have a maximum lifting capacity equal to or greater than the maximum lift capacity of your trolley jack. This will be the weight of the vehicle or greater.

You also need to consider how many stands you actually need. These stands are usually sold in sets comprising two or four units. Using one stand is probably ample if you only ever plan to use a jack to change a tyre or carry out work in the area of one wheel. 

If, however, you wish to lifting the whole side or end of a vehicle you will want to use two, or even four axle stands. A simple rule to apply is that whatever you plan to do, you should always have four points of contact for support - each wheel you plan to lift off the ground will require an additional jack stand. 

You should never contemplate using one jack stand in the centre of your front or rear end of your vehicle, in an attempt to support an entire side. When using multiple stands it is vital to ensure they are raised to equal heights to avoid the risk of a vehicle tipping, rolling or sliding.

You will also need to take into consideration the lifting range of the various sets of axle stand available. Ranges average around 8 inches on the lower end of the scale, making them ideal for smaller cars, and rising to an average of around 26 inches on the upper end for larger vehicles.

Before investing in axle stand you should take into account your vehicle's ground clearance and how high the point of contact will be after you have used your jack to lift it up.

Axle stands come in various shapes an sizes and a set of two will normally cost around £15 to £30, depending on make and quality. There are methods by which they can be height-adjusted including a peg, wind-up or ratchet system.

The peg system has a pin or clip that is inserted to hold the stand in the correct position. The rachet type usually has a pawl and tooth design which is double locked for extra protection. The peg support version has clips to hold the stand in place and are cheaper to buy that those with the rachet system which offer more choices in height and are easier to use.

These stands may look basic but they are deceptively strong

A wide stand base offers more stability and rubber feet keep the unit from slipping on the surface - a solid base offers even more support. Auto jack stands are very safe and reliable once adjusted correctly in height below a vehicle. 

The design of these stands is simple, yet strong and dependable, and they contain very few moving parts that could fail. They really should be a key part of any DIY car repair enthusiast's tool kit - but worryingly they are often overlooked. 

These stands are usually made of welded steel, aluminium or cast iron. The aluminium variety are lighter in weight and easier to carry, whereas heavy-duty steel and iron stands are noticeably heavier. Specialised stands such a motorcycle jack stand and a high-position hoist stand cost considerably more than standard vehicle stands.

Reputable brand names for stands available to buy in the UK include Sealey, Unitec, Wolf, Hawk Tools, Draper and Silverline.

Axle Stand Features

Axle stands are essential devices in every mechanic’s toolkit. They provide you with the reassurance that the vehicle will be well supported, and enable you work in safety underneath it.

Here are the key features you should check for when it comes to buying axle stands:

Safe working load (SWL): This value indicates how much weight each individual axle stand is capable of holding. If you have a large vehicle such as a SUV, minibus or Range Rover, you will need to use a stand which can safely support 2 tonnes or more. This may not sound like a high enough rating, but it's worth remembering that each stand only needs to support one corner of a vehicle. 

Stand Height: The heavier the vehicle that is to be supported, the higher the axle stand that will be needed. You should look for stands that are around 300mm in height if you plan to jack up a car, and opt for higher axle stands of around 400mm if a larger vehicle, such as an SUV, is to be supported.

Axle Stand Feet: Look for stands with padded feet to prevent slipping on damp or greasy surfaces. Stands with large padded feet will provide additional safety and stability.

Axle Stand Saddle: You should opt for the type of stand that has a wide or Y-shaped saddle at the top to ensure there is no risk of a vehicle slipping. It's best to stay clear of stands that feature flat saddles. 

How to use Axle Stands

When you buy a set of axle stand you should ensure they are rated to bear a weight in excess of the total weight of your vehicle, not just the weight of the heaviest axle. Before attempting to jack up your vehicle, ensure it is positioned on level and solid ground.

You should never be tempted to use bricks or anything similar as a substitute for axle stands. This is foolhardy and poses a serious risk to your vehicle and yourself. Among other things there is a danger of bricks splitting shock energy passes to the bricks while you are working on your vehicle

Here are the basic guidelines for using a set of axle stands safely and effectively. 

  • Make sure your engine is turned off, apply the handbrake and put your vehicle into gear if it is a manual car, and auto if it is automatic. It's wise to put some wheel chocks in place, on the opposite end of the area which is being lifted by a jack, just in case your vehicle rolls when you jack it up. If you don't have any chocks, suitable pieces of wood should suffice.

  • First you will need to raise your vehicle off the ground with a trolley jack or other suitable jacking device. To do this you will need to locate the front and rear jack points by looking behind the wheel area - you should see a jacking point near to the wheel or around the axle. Consult your car manual if you are having trouble locating the jack points. 

  • Raise the front or rear of your vehicle to a suitable height using your jack. Never be tempted to work under a car that is only being held off the ground by a jack - you must put axle stands in place. With your vehicle raised you now need to carefully position an axle stand beneath the lifting point, closest to the jack, and on a secure part of the axle. The stand should be raised to just below the height of your vehicle and the attached safety pin or latch should be put in position.

  • Next you should use the jack to slowly and carefully lower the vehicle onto the axle stand. Now you should remove jack and move on to the next jacking point on your vehicle and repeat the process.
  • When you have all the stands in place you should rock the car slightly using your hands, to ensure it is safe and stable. It's obviously better to detect a potential risk as this stage rather than later when someone is under the vehicle!

  • After completing any maintenance or repair work below your vehicle, it is time to remove the axle stands and lower the vehicle. To do this, position the jack below the relevant jacking point and raise the jack and the vehicle to a height above the height of the axle stand, transferring the weight of your car back onto the jack. 

  • Next, remove the axle stand from beneath the vehicle, and finally, lower the vehicle and remove the jack. Repeat the procedure as necessary, returning all wheels on the vehicle to the ground. Don't forget to remove the wheel chocks if you used them. 

Which Axle Stands to Buy?

You should ensure that any axle stands you plant to buy meet the required safety recommendations and are manufactured to a high standard.

It's prudent to buy the best quality stands you can afford - an inferior product could result in damage to your vehicle and also potentially pose a risk to your safety.

By using top quality car axle stands you can feel confident that if your jack were to fail during use you will be protected from injured while working under your vehicle.

First you should ensure that the stands are a good quality build and manufactured by a reputable company. Check the general appearance of the stands to ensure there are no rough edges and the quality of the welds is sound. If you choose to buy used stands, you should check for any signs of rusting and wear. 

Make sure that the stands you are thinking of buying have padded stabilising feet on the base. If they do not they could prove to be a liability on some surfaces, and even prone to slipping.

You should give some consideration to the support mechanism of axle stands: There are two main types of support used - ratchets and pegs. A ratchet mechanism is regarded by many people better and safer option, since it allows precise control on the elevation of the raise. Some cheap safety pin or peg-based stands can be more awkward to use. If you do opt for peg or pin stands, make sure the pegs fit securely and have safety catches.

It is important to buy safe and reliable stands from a reputable store and avoid the temptation to purchase cheap inferior quality stands. Leading UK retailers who sell axle stands include Argos, Screwfix, Machine Mart, Halfords, Rapid Online, UK Tool Centre, Autosessive and B&Q. They are also available to buy at eBay, Gumtree and shopping giant Amazon.

Don’t Forget to Buy Some Chocks for Extra Safety

It's also worth buying a set of wheel chocks when working under a car, van or any other vehicle. These are very cheap and provide that extra stability needed to prevent any risk of movement when an area of your vehicle is raised off the ground.

Vehicles can’t go against the force of gravity so the sloped design of chocks ensures your wheels will stay in place while work is carried out. 

Installing a chock on each side of the wheel is great way to increase safety and give you peace of mind. The slope of the chock should curve around with the wheel almost perfectly. Push or kick the each chock into place until it is nice and snug, and then proceed to working on your vehicle safely. 

Once you have finished working on your vehicle, simply remove the chocks in the opposite direction from which you fitted them. Some models of chock have a pull handle to enable you to remove it with ease.

Chocks are normally made of heavy-duty plastic or rubber and cost around £10 a pair. Check out our range of vehicle axle stands and wheel chocks.