Ask any professional automotive technician and they will tell you that whether or not he has the correct tools determines his proficiency. Sure, skill and experience must be taken into account, but without sufficient tools to accomplish the task, skill and experience can only go so far. Whether you are planning a home car restoration project or just some routine maintenance, you will need to put some thought into purchasing the tools which you will need — before you actually need them.
A good quality floor jack will be your best friend in the garage for the next two or three decades. The minimum capacity jack that you will need is two-and-a-half-tons. A low-profile design jack will better suit your needs; it is wider and less likely to “fold” or roll. It is also easier to position under low hanging differentials and control arms; thinner, more upright jacks can be frustrating because you cannot position them where they are needed. A good floor jack, kept properly maintained, will last a lifetime. Keep this in mind when considering cost. A floor jack is a necessity for tire rotation or repair and brake jobs, not to mention a million other tasks, but use it carefully. Keep safety in mind and always “scotch” the wheels which are to remain on the ground, prior to lifting the vehicle with the jack.
Speaking of safety; never place your “limbs” or “trunk” underneath a vehicle while it is jacked-up, unless the vehicle is securely supported with jack stands. Jack stands, which are sold in matching sets of two, will also last a lifetime. When purchasing jack stands, look for heavy metal construction as opposed to thin metal stands. Jack stands are sold in different sizes, typically a two-and-a-quarter-ton set will be sufficient, unless you are working with large trucks. Fortunately, jack stands are economical enough that you may own multiple sets. Consider the types of vehicles that you will need to support and purchase jack stands accordingly. Remember safety first, always position jack stands securely underneath the vehicle and gently rock the vehicle to make sure that it is stable before getting underneath it. If the vehicle falls, it can be repaired — you may not be as lucky.
These things are sold in sets of two and are great for changing oil, servicing transmissions, and any repair that does not require that the wheels be removed from the vehicle. They are much faster and easier to use than a floor jack and jack stands, but they do demand some skill to utilize. You simply place the lowest part of the ramp where the most forward point of the front tire contacts the pavement and drive the vehicle onto the ramps. When you purchase a set of ramps, look for non-slip coatings and “tread-plate” surfaces because they provide more traction. Aluminum ramps are great for most cars and light trucks, but steel ramps should be used for heavier vehicles. Aluminum ramps are light and easy to position, not to mention they resist corrosion and rust. Always set the emergency brake and scotch the rear wheels when using drive-on ramps.