The Comprehensive Guide To Car Ramps

The Comprehensive Guide To Car Ramps

As one of the biggest investments most of us will ever make, and something that we rely on each day to be running in perfect shape, our cars deserve a lot more care than we tend to give them.

Although we gladly send them to the mechanics or workshop when something goes horribly wrong, there’s no reason we can’t do general repairs and maintenance for ourselves at home to keep them running their best and increasing their performance over the years.

Whether you’re mechanically minded or have just started learning, being able to do maintenance and repairs on your car is such a valuable skill to have. In order to be able to do it properly and safely, though, there are some pieces of equipment that you just can’t be without.

Red car on a car ramp.

One of the most important accessories is a car ramp, giving you a whole new view of your car you didn’t have before.

Car ramps are about as simple as they sound, providing you a ramp at an angle that allows you to drive the car up on so that you’re able to look at its undercarriage.

They are reported to be one of the safest ways to elevate your car, and for any home mechanic or car owner, they’re such a simple way to save yourself time and money, as well as build on your automotive repair skills.

Although they might sound simple enough, there’s quite a bit of thought that goes into designing these ramps, all with the ultimate goal of making your life easier. This extensive guide will answer any question you might have about the value of investing in a car ramp and what exactly you can use them for at home.

The Options For Getting Under Your Car

As easy as it would be to be able to do all of car maintenance and repairs under the hood of your car, the fact is there’s quite a lot that has to happen underneath. For this reason, there have been many inventions over the years that intended to make it easier to lift your car up and give you access underneath, although some haven’t been as popular as others.

  • Floor jacks - These devices work just like other jacks and help to get underneath your car and push it upwards so that you’re able to work underneath. These usually come rated with a certain weight level and can be quite finicky to operate.
  • Axle stands - The axle stand is used in conjunction with a floor jack usually, as they provide extra backup should the jack fail and the car fall. An axle stand uses its wide base to bear the weight of the car in case the jack should fall or come loose, and they don’t actually do any of the lifting themselves, they are merely added after the floor jack has been applied.
  • Car Ramps - This is a much more simple approach to getting your car off the ground and features a ramp that is placed on the floor that the car then drives onto in order to elevate it. They are made from different materials including wood and metal, and they come in varying weight capacities.
  • Pits - The car pit is commonly seen in a professional garage and refers to literal pit in the ground that allows you to get lower than ground level. Digging a pit in your home garage can take quite a lot of work and also be unsafe, so these are generally only recommended for professionally built garages.
  • Car Lifts - A car lift is another way to elevate the car in a professional garage and this system uses heavy machinery and hydraulics in order to do so. The car lift is capable of lifting your car quite high above the ground so it can not only help to check the undercarriage but do other jobs like change tires.

Why Car Ramps Are The Better Option

When you’re selecting an option that works in a home garage, the clear choice would have to be a car ramp. Although there are some that offer their own benefits, these are usually recommended for professional settings where they can be safely built and monitored.

Car ramp, side view.

Here are a few ways which a car ramp stands out from the rest.

  • Safety - Because a car ramp requires no special skills to use, you only have to drive your car carefully onto it apply the brake, they’re very hard to use dangerously. A car ramp won’t suddenly break or fall like a jack might, and they’re quite durable with a wide base that makes them sturdy.
  • Weight limits - When compared to some of the other methods for elevating your car, the car ramp is capable of holding quite a lot of weight. These ramps will have a clear figure of how much weight capacity they have so there’s no need to second guess whether it will be up to the task. 
  • Price - The price for a set of two or four car ramps is quite low when looking at the other options, and within this style of elevation there are many different products to choose from. Ramps can cost as little as $30 all the way up to a few hundred, so it all depends on your budget and how much durability you’re looking for.
  • Versatility in materials - When you purchase an axle or jack, you’re really only able to get one type. The car ramp can be made from a variety of materials including wood, plastic, and steel, so you get extra benefits when you select the one that’s right for your needs. 
  • Ease of use - Using car ramps couldn’t be easier and they’re ideal for beginner mechanics to those who have been working on their car for years. They’re hard to get wrong as long as you’re slow and steady when setting them up, and there are no complicated parts or bolts to maneuver. 
  • Portability - If you’ve ever tried to pick up a car jack or dig a pit when you’re on the move, you know that it takes a lot of work. Car ramps are incredibly lightweight and portable, with many even having transportation straps that mean they can be stacked up easily and carried in the trunk of your car.

With so many benefits you might assume that car ramps can be quite costly, but the opposite is actually true. There are a number of varying factors to decide from including weight capacity and materials that will determine the overall cost and function, so it’s a matter of doing your research.

The Different Options For Car Ramp Materials

Once you’ve decided that the car ramp is the only way to go with your vehicle, you’ll then need to make the biggest deciding factor – what material it’s made out of. You might assume that ramps are only made of metal, but there are actually quite a few options with their own pros and cons to consider before you make a final choice.

Wood

For anyone trying to make their own car ramps, it’s likely you’ve tried to create a set out of wood before. These are more commonly seen in home DIY jobs because it’s fairly easy to get scrap wood, however, the strength after some time just doesn’t hold up.

Wooden car ramp.

Metal

Metal car ramps were the very first style to hit the market, and although they proved durable enough, the cost to manufacture them meant that more and more brands moved away from it. The clear advantage that metal has is its strength, as you’d rarely hear about them cracking or breaking, however, this is a material susceptible to corrosion.

As a way to prevent it, some makers have applied coating which helps add some time to its life, but overall they’re not ideal for long-term products.

Plastic

These are the most common type of car ramps seen today, and although it might not seem like it when you think about this material at first, plastic is extremely durable and strong when it comes to holding up cars.

Plastic has the unique ability to be able to have its surface adjusted so it can be nonslip or traction depending on your needs. However, the cost for a standard set of plastic ramps is well above what you would expect to pay for other materials.

What Are Hydraulic Ramps?

In the world of car tools and equipment, it always seems that someone is trying to find a product and make it better, and that’s what happened when the hydraulic ramp was invented.

These are quite a bit more expensive than a standard ramp and commonly seen in professional garages rather than home ones, as they provide the ability to lift your car even further than a ramp alone could.

A hydraulic ramp is usually made of metal or steel, and once you drive your car up onto the platform you then use the pump to do the lifting. This means you don’t have to physically drive the car up the ramp on your own as the pump will do the work for you, but of course, it comes with some of its own downfalls, too.

Hydraulic Ramps.

Besides being a lot more expensive than a quality set of car ramps, you also remove a lot of the safety factor that people look for when choosing ramps. Because you’re relying on this hydraulic pump controlled ramp to stay up and locked into place, you add a whole other level of safety concerns to it.

Another issue is that some cars might find it hard to actually get enough clearance to drive onto the platform in order to be elevated. Those with lower access like sports cars would be advised not to try this unless they had planks or another ramp to get onto them, seemingly defeating the purpose of how little work they were meant to offer.

How To Stabilize Your Car On The Ramp

Once you have your ramp ready to go at home, you’re probably wondering how to get the best use out of it. Stabilizing your car on the ramp so that it’s safely in place is the most important part of the whole process, so you need to ensure you’re doing it correctly from the very first time. These are the steps to take to use your car ramp:

  • Check the load capacity: although you might have done this when you bought them or have taken a guess that they will work, you should never attempt to drive your car on the ramps without confirming that it matches the load capacity.
  • Check for a stop: many car ramps come with a rubber stop on the bottom or base that has been designed to keep them from sliding up as you drive up on it. If there’s none there, you might want to consider using a cinder block or other heavy item to keep them secured.
  • Position the ramps: ensure the wheels of your car and facing straight and not turned, and move them if they are. Push the ramps towards your car and ensure that the lower level of it is in line perfectly with the center of the wheel.
  • Drive up the ramp: get in your car and drive slowly so that you’re moving the wheel exactly in the center of the car. Apply your parking brake, push the car back and forward to see that it’s stable, and then check to see the wheels are in the exact center of the ramp.
  • Use wheel chocks: many home mechanics have a set of wheel chocks handy, so it’s advised to put these in place as well and give yourself even more protection and stability.

If at any point during the use of the car ramps you feel that the car isn’t stable or your hear sounds like cracking coming from the ramps, get out immediately from underneath the car and remove it from there. Do a thorough inspection of the ramps every time you intend to use them as even the slightest crack or break can have a huge impact.

Making A DIY Car Ramp At Home

Many home mechanics start out with their own homemade car ramps and then upgrade to something more serious, and this is due to how easy it is to create a pair for yourself. Keep in mind, though, that making your own car ramps comes with a whole range of dangers and when you’re underneath a car you don’t want to take any risks that you’re using an inferior product.

Before you get started making the ramps, you’ll need to do measurements of your vehicle and what level of incline you’ll need to make it work. Some low clearance cars will need the angle to be quite minimal in order to get up, so take time measuring.

DIY car ramp.

Next, you’ll have to choose wood that’s going to be tough enough to handle the weight of your vehicle. Look for something like pine for strength and try not to go too cheap.

Make three separate measurements for the width of your tires, the center line of the wheel to the jacking point, and the ground to the underside of the bumper.

Cut the three separate points using a 45 degree cut with your circular saw. Lay the pieces out side by side and see that they go together. Fix the bottom and middle sections together with wood glue, and then fix the top sections to it.

If you want a stop you can use this from an offcut of the wood and simply attach it to the end. Once the pieces have dried you are now ready to give it a go.

Test your car ramps out regularly, especially as wood is known to adjust to different climates. Look for cracks and splinters that could indicate weakened wood and never use a ramp that seems to have damage.

Checking Your Car’s Compatibility With A Ramp

If you make the decision to buy a professionally made ramp, you’ll need to be sure that it’s going to work with your car. Too many car owners purchase a car ramp because it looked good or was low in price and get it home to find that it can’t even get their car off the ground. Here are some things you consider when shopping for the right ramp:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight – this will sometimes be listed as GVW and refers to how many pounds the ramp is capable of holding. The more the better, however, there’s no need to go too much heavier than what your own car is as long as it’s sufficiently covered.
  • Country of origin – If you’re buying ramps that were made outside of the European Union or the United States you’ll want to check their safety standards. Although there are many reputable manufacturers, you don’t want to risk buying one that was made with lowered standards as it probably won’t be safe enough.
  • Clearance level – All cars come with different clearance levels, and models like sports cars and high-performance vehicles will be lower than most. To check, take a yardstick and push it up against the inside edge of your front tire. Raise the other end until it reaches your car and then check the measurement.
  • Reviews – one of the simplest ways to check whether a ramp is compatible with your car is to read the online reviews. You’ll likely find someone with the same car as you has tried to use them and will know the result, and thankfully car owners like to share their experience and knowledge with others in order to help out the community.
  • Angle – similar to the clearance level, some ramps will list what angle they are able to lift your car up to. This can range from around 10 degrees to 17 degrees, so think about the type of work you’ll be doing with your ramps before you decide if it’s adequate.

Choosing The Best Ramp For Your Pride And Joy

Regardless of the type of vehicle you own or where you like to work on it, there’s nothing more satisfying than taking care of it yourself. Although there are some things that professional mechanics just have to be called for, when it comes to general repairs and maintenance there isn’t much that you can’t do with just a bit of practice and patience.

Chevy Corvette on a car ramp.

Having a quality set of car ramps at home is the easiest way to get your car in position to work on it, and with this one accessory, you can do everything from repairs to changing the oil. There’s no need to struggle with dangerous jacks or confusing parts and pieces just to get your car at an angle, and the car ramp has proven that.

As each car is unique and so too is their owner, there’s never going to be just one set of car ramps that works in every situation. That’s why we’ve created a comprehensive buying guide that can help you choose the perfect fit for your pride and joy, and hopefully without breaking the bank.

Car ownership is something that should be taken seriously, and when you take the time and effort to work on your car and take care of it, there’s nothing more satisfying. Just a simple set of car ramps can be all you need to begin your home garage journey, so check out our buying guide to see what features are a must-have for you.

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