An Ounce Of Prevention

Jack failure

Due to the front brakes of my fiancee’s Ford Flex wearing out prematurely (more on that in another article), I found myself replacing her pads and rotors this past weekend. A series of unfortunate events occurred with my jack, but it could have been a whole lot worse if I hadn’t taken a precaution that I rarely have before, but always will from now on.

After consulting with me, she ordered the Power Stop Z23 Brake Kit from Auto Anything. I’ll review this more thoroughly later, but for now I’ll say that it’s a good affordable replacement/upgrade for the stock brakes, and Auto Anything shipped them super fast. This was a good thing, since one of her brake pads was down to metal on metal, and the other side wasn’t far behind. As soon as they arrived, I went to install them. It was then that I discovered that my hydraulic floor jack had given up the ghost, as it refused to lift the Flex off the ground. So I used the jack that came with the car. Ordinarily I wouldn’t do this for anything but a quick wheel swap, but the brakes needed to be done, and the jack and spare tire were new, never even removed from the car before. I jacked it up, pulled the wheel, shoved it under the car just in case something went wonky with the jack, and pulled the old pads out.

While I was switching sockets to remove the caliper bracket, something went wonky with the jack. Despite having been included with the Flex, it twisted under the weight. The car moved backwards, and the driver’s side landed on top of the wheel I’d pushed under there on a whim.

The truth is, I rarely do this. I also normally use jack stands, but the stock jack didn’t lift the car high enough for me to fit one under there. Fortunately I was nowhere near the car when it dropped, so I was in no danger. But now, here I was, with a fallen Flex and no way to lift it. I had to go admit to my fiancee that what was supposed to be a quick job had gone horribly wrong.

She had a great attitude. She didn’t bite my head off for it, and helped me stop panicking about it. Instead we hopped in the Jeep and went to the local auto parts store to buy a new hydraulic jack. I’d intended to get a nicer one soon anyway, now that I have a garage, so this just bumped the timetable up to “immediately.” Once assembled I managed to lift the car and finish the job safely. The wheel the car fell on has a couple of new scratches, but the tire that the jack fell into didn’t puncture. Best of all, the Flex has new front brakes that work beautifully.

The moral of my misadventure is this: Don’t skimp on safety, like I did. This is only the second time I’ve ever had a car I was working on drop. Both times were due to jack failure, and both times I hadn’t taken every available safety precaution. From now on, I will always shove a wheel under the car, just in case. If I hadn’t done that, the Flex would’ve dropped onto its rotor. I’ll make sure the car can’t roll if something goes wrong. I’ll avoid stock jacks except for flat tire changes on the side of the road. The good 2.5 ton jack I got lets me easily lift a car high enough to place jack stands under it, which I’ll do unless it’s just a quick wheel swap. In fact, when I discovered my old hydraulic jack had died, I probably should’ve bought a new one before even attempting the brake job. Live and learn, I guess. Fortunately, in this case an ounce of prevention was worth 4,643lbs of cure.

  1. I’ve done a lot of work on cars with the stock jacks, or even jacks borrowed from other cars. I’m also pretty diligent about using jack stands, too, but if you can’t lift the car high enough for that, you do what you can. I’ve had jacks twist and fall like that, too, but only with jack stands under the car. Have you had experience with the bumper jacks GM used in the 70s? The ones that fit into a slot in the bumper? Those were SO convenient! But very unstable, too. 🙂

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