When you’re working on your own car, safety gear is just as important as the right ratchet set or air driver. Performing your own automobile maintenance can be rewarding, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your safety. Fortunately, all it takes to stay healthy and happy as a shade tree mechanic is a dose of common sense and a few crucial pieces of very affordable safety gear. Here are a few of the basics to help get you started.
Jack Stands Save Lives
The cardinal rule of automotive maintenance is to never, ever work under a car that is supported only by a jack. Hydraulic jacks, which are the most common, can fail without warning, trapping you beneath an automobile and possibly causing serious injury. A set of jack stands are a necessary component of any garage safety gear tool kit that will keep your car supported and stable.
Safety Glasses Save Eyes
Next on the list of necessary automotive safety equipment is the humble set of safety glasses. Available for well under $20, these oversized plastic-lens glasses are big enough to fit over normal eyeglasses and will protect your peepers from sprays of liquids, like oil and gas, and metal and paint chips that can be thrown from grinders, sanders and other rotary tools. Safety glasses are a small investment that protect one of your most vital organs.
Fire Extinguishers Are Mandatory
It’s pretty common knowledge that combustion engines use a flammable liquid known as gasoline. Any time you’re working on your engine, fuel lines or fuel tank, there’s always the possibility of sparking a fire, especially if the motor or exhaust are still hot. Automotive electrical systems are also capable of bursting into flames if a short circuit develops. A fire extinguisher is a key piece of safety gear that should be within arm’s reach in any garage, and you’ll want to make sure it has a B and a C rating to tackle both gasoline and electrical fires.
The most important piece of safety gear in your possession is knowledge. If you’re hesitant about your car repair abilities, it’s smart to have a knowledgeable friend or family member on hand to help. If something goes wrong while you’re working on your car, don’t panic. Stay calm, assess the situation and take the necessary steps to keep yourself and others around you protected from harm.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.