Getting Down and Getting Under

by Gary Anderson


The Healey always looks racy because it sits so low to the ground. However, when your problem is somewhere under the car, that three inches of clearance can make life difficult. And, like so many other things British, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about getting under the blooming thing. Here is the recommended approach.


First, if you've got the original jack, sell it to one of the concours fanatics - it's worthless for mechanical work. A scissors jack from the auto supply store should be in the boot for road emergencies and the best thing for your garage is a standard floor jack. While you're at the discount store buying that, get four good quality jack stands, and if you want to treat yourself, a cheap mechanic's creeper. This is the best forty dollars or so you'll spend on maintenance, even if you just expect to change the oil and clean the fender wells once in awhile.


Now, get two pieces of 2X4 or wider and a piece of 1X4 about 18" long. Drive the front wheels on the 2X4s. (If the car isn't driving raise the wheels and put the boards under them.) Trust me. Block the wheels in front. Then take that 1X4 and put it between the jacking face on the jack and the rear frame cross member, with the jacking face in the center of the cross member. That frame member isn't too solid and if your ear is like mine, it is dented from being raised too many times without this protection. Now you can raise the rear end.


Place two of the jack stands under the frame rails a few inches forward of the rear cross member. (My jack stands have a neat little depression on their heads into which the ridge on the frame rail rests.) Let the car down slowly onto the jack stands.

Around in the front you can do the same thing. You may note that the floor jack just barely goes under the cross member - that's why we raised the car a few inches with the boards before raising the rear end. Again, place the jack stands under the frame rails just aft of the cross member and lower the car onto them.


Now you can safely get under the car with some peace of mind. A caution: At this stage you may observe Murphy's paradox which states that the one wrench you need will be the one you left on the workbench. With the creeper, getting out from under will be much easier. Another hint: a pair of safety glasses is also a good investment. They are always wise when you're working around moving parts, but the great thing about them is that they will keep the oil and dirt under the car from falling in your eyes.


When your job is done, take a few minutes to check out the rest of the undercarriage. With the car up, it is a great time to check for loose nuts on the shocks and U-bolts, wear on the universal joints, and integrity of the wiring. Catching any problems now can save a mess of trouble some rainy evening when you don't have your floor jack, jack stands, and so forth.


To lower the car, reverse the process. Just make sure to move the blocks from in front of to behind the front wheels before lowering the rear end. If unblocked, the car will roll forward when being raised and backward when being lowered.

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