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.
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.
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.
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.
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.