In the first iteration of the Toolshed Engineer column way back in the May 2012 issue of Speed News, I laid out how to build jack stand boards and keep them attached to the stands with plumber’s tape and screws. A simple and easy project that still works for my team exactly six years to the month later.

The first time Toolshed Engineer appeared in Speed News magazine was back in May of 2012 during the first year of the magazine. In that story, I explained a simple way of attaching wooden boards to the bottom of jack stands. Six years later I would like to go back to that little how-to story because I was negligent in failing to add one important part to the story. This is a part that took me six years to figure out myself.

These jack stands have seen a lot of action in the paddock at multiple tracks and over the pit wall during the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. They are holding up great, but there is one problem. It is easy for the stands not to be set at the same height, which could cause an unbalanced and dangerous situation with 2,500 pounds of car in the air.
The first step is the find the correct jack stand height. We chose a height that was easy to get the car up on, but also tall enough for my fat butt to crawl under the car and check CV boots, look for oil leaks, and clean the inside of the wheels between on track sessions. A quick mark with a Sharpie would get us started.

Wooden boards on the bottom of jack stands are a NASA requirement so that jack stand feet don’t gouge asphalt pavement in hot pits and paddocks at race tracks across the country. That part was easy to resolve: Cut out a board and use plumber’s tape and screws to affix the board to the jack stand. The part I failed to include in the story was that adjustable height jack stands give us racers options on how high we would like to have our car in the air. The problem arises when you have four jack stands and not all four are at the exact same height. I’ve made the mistake of dropping the jack and then seeing the car wobble on the stands because I had two corners on different sides of the car at different heights. It is always a scary moment watching the car rocking in the air. Going to the track is supposed to be fun, not a trip to the hospital because a 2,500-pound racecar fell on somebody.

Using some painters tape, we masked off a space on the jack stand where an easy-to-see stripe would be perfect for locating the correct adjustable jack stand height.
To make the stripes easy to see, we chose a bright red paint. I put on a few separate coats of paint as these stands will see heavy duty usage and I wanted to ensure the paint didn’t scratch off easily.

I’ve spent plenty of time counting the number of clicks a jack stand goes up and telling people on the other side of the car how many clicks I was using, hoping they counted the same. Inevitably there is confusion and we mess this process up. I knew there had to be an easier way. Finally, it came to me when I was staring at the car while it was sitting on the jack stands. Duh! Why don’t I just mark the exact height I want the stands to be? I considered tape, but I knew that would just get gummed up. I thought about just using a Sharpie but it would rub off too easy. I finally decided it would be worth it to take the time to properly paint a stripe on each jack stand. This way there would be no doubt, no counting clicks, and no situation where the stands were at a different, and thus dangerous, adjusted height.

Once the paint had some time to dry we removed the masking tape to see our work. What we ended up with was a clean line that would be easy to see when setting up the jack stands.
Now when our jack stands go up, no matter what side of the car you are on you will have the same height by lining up the red line at the top of the jack stand. Simple and easy.

Some masking tape and bright red spray paint fixed this problem. It was so simple and so obvious I was mad at myself for using the jack stands for six years without already figuring this out. The whole project set me back probably about $3 in paint and masking tape, which we had at the shop already. So, learn from my mistakes. When you build your set of matching four jack stands to be legal in NASA paddocks, take the time to mark the adjustable height you want.

Here is the finished product working as designed. The car is in the air, all the jack stands are at the same and safe height. The car is stable, and nobody had to count the number of clicks. The car just went up easy. I like easy.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that makes life in the paddock easier and safer. Good luck and remember: Always use jacks stands when working under your cars.

To read more from Rob Krider, or to contact him, go to www.robkrider.com.

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Image courtesy of Rob Krider