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Wood cribbing block DIY for raising the car in addition to jack stands
Making wood blocks for raising the car in addition to jack stands
back to 1000q: tips for the mechanic
Disclaimer: the wood blocks shown here are not a substitute for commercially available jack stands. Wood blocks are for backup use in addition to jack stands and the safety of the plans shown here apply only to my car and my exact situation! Since wood blocks can only support the car on its wheels, these are not a replacement for jack stands on the body of the car. Damage to your property, injury, and death, or to a 3rd party, are possible consequences of not supporting your vehicle properly and/or securely. If you have any doubt about the safety of working on your car, follow all precautions as listed in the factory service manual and take it to a professional mechanic. (refer to the TOS for the full legal disclaimer)
Putting wood cribbing blocks under the wheels can spread out the weight over a larger surface compared to only using jack stands.
On my car and my exact situation, they raise the car about 7-8 inches higher than the tallest setting on my jack stands. These blocks are built in two sections so that you can use the first level by itself or raise the car to the higher level. Compared to using only jack stands, they won't dig into hot asphalt (putting jack stands on top of a secure and level piece of wood can help prevent digging) or scratch the undercarriage of the car. The reason they aren't a full replacement for jack stands is because they only support the car while it's resting on the wheels. Doing any kind of suspension, brake, or anything else that requires a wheel to be removed will still require you to use jack stands. If using jack stands with wood blocks, consider the wood blocks as backups only and make sure the car is level, balanced, and secure. They can be especially useful when tightening suspension pieces. Generally speaking, suspension bolts/nuts should be tightened when the suspension is in the normal resting position. Because jack stands let the wheels hang down, tightening a fully extended suspension will preload the various parts and wear them out. I built these to have room under the car while letting the car rest on the wheels to keep the suspension at rest.
Refer to the generation specific FAQ articles to see where the jack points are on some VW.
Never get under the car far enough to get injured if it's being supported by any hydraulic lift/support or scissor jack! Many people have been killed when a hydraulic jack suddenly let go or slipped! Hydraulic lifts or hydraulic floor jacks are designed to lift, not support! Never use cinder blocks to support a car since they cannot be easily inspected for weakness and could suddenly crumble. They also have a stronger and weaker orientation - do you want to bet your life that you know which is the strong orientation? Cinder blocks are for building walls, not for supporting cars. Scissor jacks are for emergency roadside wheel removal and in my opinion, are not secure enough to get under the car. At no time while changing a wheel on the side of the road should you get under the car far enough to be crushed because they can fail:
Many 6 ton jack stands are about 20-23" tall at full extension and will raise the car about the same height as the wood blocks I made.
A test measurement before assembly showing the general layout. Using this type of wood block support for a car isn't a new idea - cribbing blocks are commonly used to temporarily support heavy objects.
Here is a picture of someone else's wood blocks with black rhino ramps shown for comparison. They were made out of shipping pallets and are almost solid. The front blocks are rectangular in shape so it can be used on two sides depending on how it's laying. This is why it has the built-in wheel chocks on two sides.
As long as they are well built from solid materials and hard wood, and in good condition, wood blocks on a hard stable surface such as level, solid asphalt or concrete will be very stable and strong. Obviously, if they aren't properly designed for your car, damaged or rotted, not stable or secured together, the wood blocks will fail and the car will topple down.
In the plan for my car, just the center column of wood on 1 block could, in theory, (don't try this it in reality) support the entire weight of my car without failure. Weight is spread out amongst 24 sq in. of wood (middle 2 columns of about 12 sq in. each). Once you add the side columns, it's well within safe real world limits (for my car only), even after accounting for small defects or imperfect conditions. A well engineered product would make this design as light as possible while still meeting my needs but I decided to overbuild it for peace of mind. The biggest danger comes from the car tipping over so customize the dimensions and construction of the wood blocks for your car, otherwise it could result in damage to property, injury, or death! These plans are plans for my car only and are not specific to your car. Do not attempt to build these without customizing them to your needs and for each car that you'll use it on. Do not let any 3rd party use them without calculating if it's suitable for their uses and car. Always inspect the wood and the surface they will be used on for any rot, damage, or defects before use.
The main force the wood experiences in this design is compression through the center column. Many types of wood can take up to 300 psi of compression in the weak direction and over a thousand psi in the strong direction. Wood is strongest when stressed perpendicular to the grain and when oriented like a roof rafter. The top wide piece that the tire rests on experiences very little cross grain force since most of the compression is transferred through the middle column directly beneath the tire. The 2x4 directly beneath the top layer is also distributing that force to the side bars perpendicular to the grain. This design is plenty overbuilt for my car and my intended use. When used with jack stands, they are very safe and stable for my car but make sure to build them to suit your intended load and use. One of the most common reasons good, solid wood splits is because energy is focused at a spot with the grain. When used with a car wheel, the tire spreads out force across the tire contact patch.
If you want to test the strength of the wood blocks yourself, take a few 2x4 and crisscross them to form a stack of solid wood in the center. Then put the center section under a hydraulic press. Do not reuse the wood on your blocks once it's been weakened or damaged.
How to use wood as jack stand backups
After raising the car with a hydraulic floor jack by the jack points as specified in your factory service manual, put the first layer of blocks under all four tires. Once it's raised, use a high lift floor jack to fit the second layer under the tires. Always rest all four wheels on blocks before raising to the second level to keep the car level. If you try to lift the car while it's at a great angle it could slip and fall. Apply the parking brake, put the car in gear or park, and chock the wheels. Never get under the car while raising, lowering, or adjusting the car. Hydraulic jacks could blow a seal and collapse, get tipped over or slip, or have the jacking point slip, so don't get under the car unless it is completely secure!
For some tips on jacking up your VW TDI, see 1000q: mk4 Golf/Jetta factory jack points, 1000q: mk4 VW Passat jack points, or 1000q: mk5 Golf/Jetta factory jack points. Obviously, nothing on these pages can replace or supercede the information in your factory service manual.
My hydraulic floor jack
My personal hydraulic jack is the costco 3 ton "arcan" ALJ3T aluminum jack. Not every store may carry it, the price is about $145 after everything. It's about 58 lbs vs. 100 lbs for a comparable steel jack, has a lower padded bar to avoid scratching your car, and has a range of 3.7-19" so it will fit under most lowered cars but lift high too. It's not a racing "quick drop" jack so lowering it is safe and controlled - avoid racing jacks in general. It also has a quick lift feature. Another good one is the arcan "professional" XL35R. It has a lift of 3.5-21.4" and is rated at 3.5 tons but is steel and weighs 101 lbs. I've heard that it can be found at some costcos for $99 but after using a 100 lb jack, lugging it around gets old fast so I recommend the aluminum jack. My experience with Craftsman jacks is that many tend to leak and stop lifting after a while due to dirt clogging an internal valve. They can be cleaned and rebuilt but I avoid craftsman jacks now because of their current design.
Car ramp recommendations
The cost in materials was about $90 for 4, so if you just need to raise the front of the car a little bit for oil changes and such, a pair of commercially available ramps or would be cheaper and faster since you could buy cheap ramps as low as $50-70. However, rhino ramps only raise the car about 6.5", and race ramps (another brand similar to rhino ramps) only raise the car 10". The wood blocks I made raise the car 7" at the first level and 14" at the second level. This extra clearance is necessary when doing large jobs under the car such as dropping the transmission or subframe. They can also be used for keeping the car level when changing the transmission fluid or differential in rear/all wheel drive cars.
I don't like Rhino ramps because when driving up onto them with front wheel drive cars or backing up onto them with rear wheel drive cars, the ramps can slide. Any sliding is dangerous. They also have a 17o incline with only a 6.5" lift. Race ramps are much better because they have a 10o incline (much better for low bumpers and easier to drive up onto) and don't slide as easily across the floor. The Race ramp XT 2 piece also has a removable ramp so that it doesn't take up any extra space (the block stays under the wheel). They also have composite blocks to raise and support the rear wheels. They are much better than Rhino ramps but the 10" lift race ramps cost over $300.
Parts to build DIY wood cribbing blocks
Yields 4 blocks 14" tall, 16" wide, and 24" long each.
Disclaimer: The procedure shown were generic steps for my car only. You must measure your car to see if a 24" long or 16" wide plank is stable enough for your vehicle and load. You must customize these plans to fit your needs by calculating the strength of the wood you are using vs. the amount of weight it will support. Consult a qualified engineer before making your own design or copying these generic plans.
2x4 wood planks (2x4s are actually 1.5"x3.5", I don't know why, they just are)
24" long 2x4 = 40 pieces
16" long 2x4 = 44 pieces
2x16 wood plank, 24" long = 8 pieces
coarse deck screws, 3.5" long
coarse deck screws, 2" long
electric hand drill and various bits (preferred)
Many local hardware stores will cut the wood for free when you buy it. This makes for faster assembly and easier transport.
Test stack the first block and mark it with a pencil. The top layer's 2 pieces act as wheel chocks, you can leave these free moving or substitute 8 of the 16x2x4" wood pieces for wheel chocks.
Drill a pilot hole to help prevent the wood from splitting. Use deck screws to hold it together. If you want to make the overall height of the blocks taller, make sure to increase the width of the blocks to make it more stable!
The first 3 levels screwed together:
The bottom layer complete with end chocks screwed in. It's all one piece for easy moving and storage. This layer can be used by itself.
The bottom 3 sections of the top layer
Top and bottom layers finished. The middle supports are lined up with each other to support the weight of the car. Use wheel chocks on the top layer to hold the wheel in place. Total lift in this example is about 14". You can put large wood planks below the bottom layer to act as a base and raise it even higher. Make sure any additional wood plank underneath is wide/long enough to be stable and secure. Always make sure the car is safe and secure before getting under the car or raising it.
These lift higher than regular jack stands because they are lifting from the wheels instead of the frame. You could get 6+ ton jack stands but these don't take up as much space under the car and spread out the weight over more ground. Below left is the first level with a jack stand pictured for scale. The first level raises the car to about as high as jack stands. Below right is both levels (after taking the picture I applied wheel chocks to hold the wheels). Always raise all 4 corners to the first level before raising it to the second level or else the car can get dangerously tilted. This is high enough to drop the transmission on my car and have plenty of room for bigger jobs. To go this high you would otherwise need large jack stands. My personal opinion is that wood blocks can sometimes be more stable when you're lifting this high.
Before each use you must carefully inspect the wood and the floor surface for any cracks, rot, termite damage, or any other defects or damage. Do not use the blocks if they have any damage or defects.
After having used these exact blocks on a number of cars, I would have made the bottom block 1 layer taller and made the top block 1 layer shorter. This would give a taller lift of 1.5" for normal use while still keeping the same overall height for major work. Again, these plans are for my car and my use only - modify anything you make yourself for your own requirements.
Here is an example of the front raised to the second level and the rear raised to the first level. Warning: Do not raise one end to the second level without first raising and supporting the other end because the car could become dangerously tilted on your floor jack and slip off the jack pad. Raise one end at a time!