Harbor Freight Jack Stand Recall and Safe Jacking Techniques
Update: According to the owner of a replacement kit for his recalled units, more apparent problems with Harbor Freight candles have been reported by The Drive. According to the owner, a jack support failed dramatically at the welded weld under the weight of a Volkswagen Golf (as seen in the Facebook photos below). Harbor Freight said The drive that the company investigate the problem. We will keep an eye on the situation and update this article if necessary. Be careful when working under your car. The original article continues below.
The terrifying Harbor Freight candle recall that could fail due to a manufacturing defect is in the news right now, and it’s as good as any time to review the procedures and equipment we use all to lift our cars. But first, let’s take a look at the issues facing these Harbor Freight candlesticks so that you understand why all of this is so troubling.
The Harbor Freight recall covers certain 3 and 6 ton “Pittsburgh” brand candles with item numbers 56371, 61196 and 61197. (For more details, see the PDF of the recall document here.) ratchet type jack stands, with a ratchet that engages with teeth on the jack arm lifting arm. A design flaw caused by old tools in the factory that built them could cause the ratchet to disengage, allowing the jack (and the vehicle above) to fall suddenly and unexpectedly.
This is illustrated dramatically by a few photos from a Reddit user, who shared it with us anonymously and we reprint it here with permission. They applied paint to the pawl of a unit in question and allowed it to transfer to the teeth of the jack, which gives an idea of how the pawl meshes with the teeth. See the mark on the ratchet below:
There is only a small piece of paint transferred to the tooth, a graphic illustration of how little holding power this particular set of recalled candles can muster. You can see the mark below:
Without knowing the recall, this type of fault would be incredibly difficult (if not impossible) for a user to notice – until the vehicle crashes, with potentially tragic consequences. For reference, the same user took a photo of an old Harbor Freight jack stand that is not involved in the recall, using the same technique. The larger paint mark means that the ratchet has gripped a lot more of the tooth. See below:
If you have Harbor Freight candles, please take a minute before reading to see if they are affected by the recall. It could save your life.
Working under a raised car is inherently extremely dangerous, and it’s easy to be a rider or to trust too much in equipment that doesn’t deserve it. Our guide below is not intended as a practical guide, as each car and truck is different, but rather as an overview of some of the best practices that will allow you to think critically about your methods.
As always, read the manual for your vehicle, floor jack and jack stands carefully before you begin. And if you have concerns about your situation or your equipment, do not get under the vehicle.
Check the nominal weight
Before you start, make sure you have the right equipment for the job. You will need a jack and at least two candles to work under your vehicle. First, make sure they are rated based on the weight of your vehicle. Depending on when it was made and the specific model, the candles may be weight evaluated individually or in pairs. Consult the manual or label of your specific jack to confirm the weight and make sure you have the right equipment to support your vehicle.
Also remember that candles are planned to be used in pairs, which partly explains the shared weighting. It is not recommended to use a single jack support to support part of the vehicle, or to use two sets to support both ends of the vehicle at the same time (although lifting both ends and lifting them supporting with jack supports is common, in practice). Refer to the owner’s manual if in doubt.
Which weighting to choose? Determine the curb weight of your vehicle (it is usually stated in the owner’s manual) and choose jack stands with a similar rating. Round rather than down. If your vehicle weighs 5,500 pounds, choose jack stands of 3 tonnes (or more) rather than 2 tonnes. Likewise, make sure your lifting device is up to par. Finally, check the lifting dimensions – will the jack lift enough to place the jack underneath? Is the jack long enough to lift the vehicle properly?
Should you use a socket holder?
If you have to lift both ends of the vehicle, there are other devices, such as the QuickJack hydraulic scissor lift (shown above), which are a safer (although more expensive) solution. Quality vehicle ramps are also a safe, robust and less expensive alternative to lifting two or four wheels off the ground for certain repairs, and are quick and convenient when used correctly. In many circumstances, these may be safer and faster alternatives to the floor jack and jack support method, provided that you are not working on projects that require the disassembly of the wheels.
Check the condition of your cylinder supports and your floor cylinder
No matter what you lift or support the vehicle with, check their condition. Make sure the jack is stable and in good working order. Examine your candles, whether ratchet, pin or screw type. If any of the equipment is bent, damaged, or appears questionable, do not use it. Try to use high quality equipment from a reputable manufacturer.
We do not recommend using the jack supplied with your vehicle, usually a scissor or bottle jack, for regular maintenance. These are emergency items for occasional use, such as changing a tire on the side of the road.
Jack from a flat, hard and level surface
Whenever possible, a flat, hard, level surface similar to a concrete garage floor is by far the best surface for lifting a vehicle. This is not always possible, especially for a tire change. Do what you can to level the vehicle and make sure the jack stands are on a hard surface. A soft surface could cause the jack stands to move, which could cause the vehicle to fall.
There are products called jack stabilizers that can be used to support a jack or jack holder. A solid piece of wood can also be used in a pinch. But the best option is a hard, level surface.
Before lifting, use shims
The chocks are simple wedge-shaped devices that prevent the vehicle from rolling. Place two behind the end wheels that you are not lifting. Strictly speaking, a solid block of wood or brick can be used, provided that it is sufficient to prevent the vehicle from rolling. Be sure to set the parking brake and put the vehicle in “park” or in gear to prevent it from rolling when you lift one end. But also remember that the parking brake usually only works on the rear axle. Make it a habit to use wedges no matter what end you lift.
Locate your lifting points and your candle points
Where you lift and where you place your jack stands under the vehicle will vary depending on the vehicle in question. Consult the owner’s manual to determine how to lift. Many vehicles have sturdy lifting points for this purpose, but make sure the shape and style of the lifting point matches your jack and jack stands. Some vehicles can be lifted by the axle or differential, but this could also damage other vehicles. Don’t make assumptions; consult the manual. If the outlet points are damaged or if you cannot locate one, do not lift the vehicle and consult your dealer or a trusted mechanic.
Make sure that, wherever you are, there is sufficient clearance at the support point of the cylinder support to obtain the cylinder support inside and squared under this point.
Start with the jack located on a lower setting. You can always increase them later. Make sure they are set at the same height on both sides. Raise the vehicle only as much as you want to do the job safely – a higher height means greater potential instability.
Make sure the candles are vertical and secure
Once the vehicle is stalled, the jack is placed safely and the vehicle is raised, it is time to place the jack at the points indicated. Make sure the jack stands are vertical and not resting on any debris. Make sure that nobody is under the vehicle and that it will not come into contact with anything going down. Place the jack stands and adjust the height as close as possible to the fulcrum. Slowly release the jack to install the vehicle on the jack stands.
When the vehicle stabilizes, make sure the jack stands remain vertical and make good contact with the lifting points. Watch carefully, as the vehicle may descend slightly, and you may need to move the stands slightly before the vehicle rests on them so that they are properly aligned. Once at the bottom, and before going below, recheck the stability of the vehicle. It should not tip over and the candles should not move. If it doesn’t seem solid and secure, recheck your configuration and maybe plug the car back in to reset everything.
Create an escape route and possibly a backup medium
Before descending, think about what could happen if a candlestick (or lifting point) breaks down or moves, causing the vehicle to fall. How will you protect yourself and how to get out from under the vehicle? It is not a bad idea to place a third jack stand, the floor jack or even a tire underneath in a convenient place to protect yourself if the worst happens. Make sure that this emergency device does not prevent your ability to get out quickly under the vehicle.
It is also not a bad idea to let someone know that you will be under the car or to have a phone handy. We have heard tragic cases where a person trapped by a vehicle would have survived if help had arrived on time.
It doesn’t take long to make sure you have an escape route or a lot of additional equipment to create rescue support, so there is no reason why you cannot integrate these potential rescuers in your usual vehicle lifting routine. .
If in doubt, go out
Do you have bad vibrations? Get out, or better yet, don’t get overwhelmed in the first place. Your life is not worth taking a shortcut or using questionable equipment. Stop and make sure you have the right tools for the job, and you know how to use them properly – or get the job done by a professional.
Working on your car or truck yourself is rewarding, fun, and can also save you a lot of money, so use safe lifting techniques, common sense, and have fun.