While using a floor jack and jack stands is the most common way to lift your car or truck, for some jobs, there’s a faster and easier way. Car ramps (not to be confused with car trailer ramps) are a safe alternative since they provide large, solid areas of contact which are highly unlikely to fail. While automotive ramps obviously won’t do you much good if you need to access the wheel or brake area, for things such as oil changes, belt changes, or rear exhaust work, a good set of tire ramps along with a couple wheel chocks is quick, easy, and safe.
The best car ramps will have enough ground clearance to allow you to comfortably work under your car and an incline that’s gradual enough where it poses no problems for low profile cars. You should also consider their weight capacity and maximum tire width allowed. Truck and SUV owners will want to consider heavy duty car ramps to be able to support the extra weight and possibly wider tires. Long and low profile ramps are often the only option for sports cars and lowered vehicles.
Note: ALWAYS use wheel chocks on the opposite axle tires to prevent any chance of your car rolling down the ramps.
RhinoRamps are the budget option of car service ramps but nonetheless, they’re very impressive. Manufactured out of a high strength polymer (plastic), they are both light (the set weighs only 16 pounds), sturdy, and nest together to take up less storage space. The ramps are rated to support up to 12,000 GVW (gross vehicle weight) and will allow for up to a 9-inch wide tire. They are a bit over 35 inches long and 6.5 inches high. With an incline of 17 degrees, most cars will have enough clearance not scrape their front bottom lip. If you have a low sports car or aftermarket lowered car, you’d probably be better of going with the Race Ramps below.
Be aware that if you plan on using these vehicle ramps on a slick concrete or epoxy coated garage floor, they may slide a bit (few inches) when you first step on the gas to drive on the ramps. While the manufacturer advertises them as having a non-skid base, it’s not perfect. Once your tires are at the top, there’s no sign of them wanting to slide and they feel completely secure. If you’re really concerned, go to Target or somewhere and get a couple cheap floor mats to put under the ramps.
There have been a few reports of these ramps failing but in every case, the users were attempting to use the ramps on gravel or uneven ground. These types of ramps are designed to evenly distribute the weight of a vehicle on a hard flat surface. Something gravel definitely isn’t. When you don’t follow the manufacturer’s directions on a safety product, bad things can happen. All in all, RhinoRamps are a great value and most people don’t need a higher priced set.
Let’s just get to the point. If it weren’t for their cost (over 3 times as much), Race Ramps would get our top spot. A favorite of auto and race enthusiasts, Race Ramps are made in the USA, and designed to fit under even the lowest profile cars. This particular model is 40” long which is fine for most, but also available are 56” and 67” versions if you’re extra tight on clearance. Height is 7 inches so there’s a good amount of room to work underneath whether doing an oil change or other type of car service or maintenance.
Two of the biggest annoyances of the RhinoRamps are non-existent in the Race Ramps. First of all, the bottom is truly non-skid with the manufacturer claiming they won’t move a bit on slick concrete garage floors or even ice (haven’t actually tested using them on ice but we wouldn’t doubt the claim). The other minor issue with the RhinoRamps above is the top lip at the end just doesn’t seem high enough. The Race Ramps have a much taller lip. The biggest downsides with Race Ramps is their price and the fact that they are not stackable.
If you have a truck, jeep, or SUV and not too concerned about having low profile car ramps, these metal car ramps (heavy gauge stamped steel) with powdercoat finish may not look particularly fancy but have two big benefits. First, they will raise your vehicle a full 8 inches off the ground which may not seem much different from the others but having an extra 1-2 inches to work under can actually be a big deal, especially if you’re a bigger guy or gal. Second, they can be easily stacked to take up a lot less room than even the RhinoRamps.
These heavy duty ramps are 35″ long and 11″ wide with 9″ between the side lips and able to support up to 2,000 lbs on each ramp (or up to a 6,500 pound vehicle). If you absolutely have to work on a gravel or dirt surface, metal or aluminum ramps are really only your only safe option.
Since these steel ramps have a steeper incline than the options above, they are great ramps for trucks but not so great for most cars or minivans (front lip of bumper will most likely not clear the ramp). Also, because these are solid metal, each ramp weighs about 15 pounds which is almost double what most plastic ramps weigh. We wish these ramps were a bit wider to accommodate some trucks with oversized, wide tires but then we’d be dealing with much heavier ramps with added structural integrity.
How to Use Car Ramps
- On a dry, smooth surface such as your garage floor or driveway, position a ramp against each front tire and push so the bottom of the ramp is right up against the tire. Make sure your wheels are pointed straight ahead and center the ramp to each tire making sure it’s perfectly in line with the tire.
- Get in your vehicle (it sometimes helps to keep the driver door open) and GENTLY give it gas to drive up the ramp. Ramps have a small lip at the front so you’ll know when you’ve reached the front edge and your tires are fully on the ramp. If the ramp starts sliding forward as you drive up, you’re either going too slow or too fast. Lay off the gas to go back down and try again (you may need to get out at re-align the ramps).
- Once on top of the ramps, engage the parking brake and get out of the vehicle to make sure your tires are centered on each ramp.
- Place wheel chocks at the back wheels. Most people will simply put a chock behind each rear tire but for extra safety, place a chock behind one rear tire and in front of the other wheel tire. This will prevent the car from rolling in either direction.
- It’s recommended to then place jack stands under the vehicle as well. Whenever working under a car, you want to have a backup safety device in case of the rare time the primary one fails.
- Get to work! Change your oil, transmission fluid, drive belt, etc.
- Enjoy a cold one.