More Safety Tips
Here are a few more safety tips to add to what has already been mentioned.
I'd first like to agree with another poster that you should have a fire extinguisher nearby when doing repairs. I also carry a small one in the car along with other emergency supplies.
1. If you are alone when working on your car, keep a cheap cell phone that you wouldn't mind damaging in your front pants pocket. This is just in case of an accident and you are hurt and need to call for help. You can also put a small loud whistle in a pocket to call out to your neighbors (not around your neck where it could get snagged).
2. Don't work in a locked or close garage if you are alone. At least leave the garage door unlocked and up a bit, so people can get to you if there is an accident.
3. The cylinders in Chinese floor jacks are not the best quality and can release quickly when lowered or even fail in either direction. When jacking or lowering the car, keep all your body parts out from under the car in case this happens. Stand in back of the jack and not on the side. If you can afford it, buy a good heavy-duty floor jack from Carquest or NAPA.
4. Redundant safety: It is possible for jack stands to fail or slip, especially cheap ones. You are putting a lot of faith in the guy that welded them. If they do fail, you can be severely injured or crushed to death. So I sometimes use two sets of stands. One set with flat pads takes the load on the frame where hydraulic lift pads would go (see Haynes and Chilton manuals) and I have another smaller back-up set. The smaller set has a notch in the saddle, and I put them just under where the stock scissors jack would fit on the vertical lower body edges just in front/back of the wheels per the owners manual. The same thing can be done as a backup when using ramps, however, this could cause damage if you forget they are there and drive off the ramps. (You can tape a note to the steering wheel.)
When using jack stands, I leave the wheels when I can if I am under the car, so I can also put some thick boards wrapped with duct tape just under the tires.
This way if the car drops, I've got a redundant back up to allow me some time to hopefully get out. If you must be under the car with the wheels off, you can still stack some more wrapped boards up just under the wheel drums or rotors (again not taking any load).
Obviously you want to always use a level hard concrete surface for raising the car, and firmly chock the wheels that are on the ground. Don't put jack stands on asphalt on a warm day or they will sink in.
5. Use a good, low creeper under the car in case you need to get out fast.
6. Always disconnect the negative cable on the battery when working to prevent you from shorting out the battery. I have a rotary battery cut-off switch mounted on the negative terminal for doing quick jobs. (Yes, I know this requires the transmission to "re-learn" and deletes your radio pre-sets, but a dead battery is more of a hassle.) Remove all jewelry - watches, rings, neck chains etc. to prevent any electrical contact or getting a finger or wrist snagged on something or the chain getting caught. Wrap up long hair.
7. Use mechanic's gloves to protect your hands. Use Nitrile gloves when working with chemicals . Use a good 3M or other brand particulate dust mask when working on brakes, not a cheap paper one. Use an organic vapor cannister mask when doing touch up spray painting. Always use safety glasses or even a face shield depending on what you are doing. You can easily damage your eyes or be blinded by a flying part or by auto chemicals.
8. As my old shop teacher said, don't pull any tool toward you when loosening parts, cutting, or scraping things. Always push it away in case it slips or a part breaks. Save yourself strain and use Liquid Wrench or other penetrating oil overnight to loosen parts. If you are very careful, moderate heating with a propane torch while tapping the part lightly with a hammer can also loosen rusted parts so they are much easier to break free without strain. (Obviously stay well away from the fuel lines and gas tank.)
9. Think twice about using manual spring compressors. They can be very dangerous. If they break or slip, the compressed spring can kill you. While I have used them, I have heard so many horror stories that I now think it is better to let a mechanic deal with high- compression springs. Most shops have very large heavy-duty spring compressors that are much safer.
10. Rust and bushing rot are your enemy and are unsafe. They can cause driving accidents when parts fail. When you or your mechanic are under the car, check for rust & deterioration in your brake lines, axle boots, fuel lines, steering/suspension/frame parts and bushings, engine & transmission mounts, and in the main frame members. On the Intrepid (per a TSB), you or your mechanic must periodically check the inner tie rod ends for wear and play in the steering. They are bolted to the center of the steering rack. If they are worn excessively, they can cause a dangerous loss of steering control.
If the car is still fairly rust free, you can use Rustoleum to paint the frame and suspension parts after cleaning and wire brushing. Lightly rusted parts can be primed with Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer and bare metal with their Clean Metal Primer. Armor-All can be used to coat the non-wear surface of bushings that are still in good shape after washing to prevent deterioration. But be aware that this is a very messy and tedious job.
Last edited by pt500; 11-25-2011 at 12:47 PM.