Jack placement is a critical detail whenever you work on your vehicle. No matter how big or small your vehicle is, putting a jack in the wrong place can put your life in danger. With big and heavy Chevy Silverados, it’s something that you should seriously consider before heading into the garage.
The best place to put a jack is somewhere on the frame rails. These rails are specifically designed to handle a lot of force, they’re flat, and you can find rails all around your truck. There’s a rail on either side running along your truck, one in the front near the oil pan, and one in the rear. Otherwise, you can lift your Silverado from the rear axle near the rear diff and driveshaft, or the control arms at the front of your truck.
In this guide, I’ll show you a few key areas where you can put your jack on your Silverado. I’ll also talk about some other considerations to make during the process, and some tips to keep you safe.
Why the Jack Location Matters
When you lift your truck, there is some dangerous physics at play. If your truck is lifted off the ground, then the full weight of the truck is supported by your jack. This is the equivalent of punching your truck with 5,000 pounds of force right where you’re putting the jack.
To put it simply, you need to make sure the truck can take the hit. To make sure of this, you should strategically place the jack.
Simply putting it on the first flat spot you see could be a huge problem.
This could lead to cracking your oil pan, separating your exhaust system, bending bodywork, and crushing different components on the undercarriage.
This all translates to money and time that you need to waste to fix the problem. Or, you can put the jack in the right spot the first time and avoid all of these headaches.
If you put the jack on a spot that’s sloped or curved, there might not be enough grip for the jack to hold the truck. After a few minutes, the truck could slide on the jack, kick the jack out, and drop the truck on you.
You’ll need to grab a spot that’s flat enough for a jack, strong enough for the weight, and accessible enough for you to get to it.
Don’t Forget the Jack Stands
Whenever you lift your vehicle, you need to use jack stands. Jack stands are stationary, thick pieces of metal that offer backup protection in case the jack fails or slips.
Most jacks are on wheels, and less expensive ones are incredibly unreliable. I’ve personally dropped a few vehicles in my life by bumping into the stand or using a bargain jack.
If you drop a car and you’re under it, you’re going to be trapped and crushed. To avoid a potentially fatal accident, experts suggest that you use jack stands.
The idea is that you use the jack to lift up your truck, then position the jack stands right under sturdy pieces of metal along the undercarriage. From there, you can either lower the jack until the truck is resting on the jack stands or leave the jack there and treat the jack stands as backup plans.
In either case, I would never go under a Silverado unless you have at least one jack stand nearby. Don’t forget to bring the arm of the jack stand all the way up so it’s either touching or barely below the framework of your truck.
Where Should You Place Jacks on A Silverado?
The good news is that Silverados have a lot of jack points along the undercarriage. Here are a few options to consider. For reference, I’m talking about where you should physically jack from.
Regardless of where you jack from, it’s a good idea to include some jack stands nearby.
Side Frame Rails
If you look along either side of your Silverado, you’ll notice a big piece of metal. These are your side frame rails, and they’re designed to support a ton of weight.
They’re also flat, and can typically fit within the mouth of your jack. Make sure the frame rails are securely on your jack before you start lifting your truck.
When you jack from the side frame rails, you can put a jack stand on the frame rails as well, or along the rear axle or front framework (depending on which end you’re lifting).
If you’re working on the rear of the truck, my personal favorite spot is to use the rear axle. You can position it right in front of the rear diff, but I wouldn’t suggest using the rear diff itself (more on this later). Right in front is a large flat area for your jack to grab between the driveshaft and rear diff.
I would also use a jack stand on either end of the rear axle to keep yourself safe.
The control arms are thick pieces of metal that lead directly into your wheels. It’s part of your suspension system, and it’s the official link between your wheels and the framework of your truck.
Since they’re tied right into the framework, they’re engineered to handle a lot of weight.
For most Silverado models, the control arms are very flat, wide, and thick right before going to the wheel. This translates to a great place to lift your truck from.
When you jack from the control arms, use a jack stand on the opposite control arm or the front framework. If you’re only lifting one tire, then throw a jack stand under the side frame rails, near the wheel.
The front framework is where Chevy suggests that you jack from if you’re lifting the front of your truck. The framework is a little tricky to find. If you can spot your oil pan, look nearby to see the front framework.
The frame rail in the front of newer Silverados is black and has a few holes through the rail. If you’re not sure, then look for the large flat pieces of metal along the exterior of your undercarriage and trace them to find the front rail of the framework.
When you jack from the front framework, use jack stands along the same rail: one on either end.
Avoid Lifting from the Rear Diff
In another guide, I discussed the problems associated with lifting from the rear diff. Mechanics do it all the time, and that gives DIYers the false sense of security to try it on their own.
If your jack isn’t strong enough or you’re not an expert with the jack, then you can run into some big issues. I had a buddy after high school who dropped his F150 when he tried lifting it from the rear diff.
The problem is that the rear diff is a weird shape and tough to get a good hold on. Personally, I would never jack a truck from the rear diff, and I could never recommend that someone else do it.
Another issue is that you can crimp the metal housing and start leaking lubricant. This is one of the most common issues I’ve heard when people try to jack from the rear diff.
Since there are so many other spots to lift from, I don’t see the need to risk it.
Alternatives to Jacking Your Silverado
In some cases, you can avoid jacking your Silverado and skip the hassle of finding the right place to jack from. Here are a few alternatives to consider.
Build Mini Truck Ramps
In another guide, I outlined how to build mini ramps. I think this option would work really well for a Silverado because it gives you the little lift you need. As long as you’re not doing work on the wheels, a ramp should work.
After building these ramps, you can get an extra 6” of ground clearance. This might be enough to squeeze under your truck and do the required maintenance.
The benefit of using a ramp instead of a jack is that it’s much safer. There’s no risk of a truck dropping on you, and you can’t do any damage to your truck by using a ramp over a jack. You simply drive up the ramp, chock the wheel, and get to work.
Can You Do the Work Without Lifting it?
It might seem obvious, but have you tried getting under your Silverado without lifting it? Growing up, I would work on my old truck without even using a jack half of the time. Truck owners have the luxury of so much extra ground clearance that it might be possible.
Use a Car Lift
If you’re someone who is always in the garage doing something, you might want to consider getting a professional car lift. You can get a smaller one for a few thousand bucks — which I know is a huge investment, but it can save you a lot of hassle if your weekly hobby is working on your vehicle.
You can also find a friend or coworker who has one and treat them to a six-pack every time you need to turn the wrench on your Silverado.
With your jack in the right place, you can get to work on your Silverado. The best part? You can do it safely without risking your life. Remember to stick to the rear axle, frame rails, or control arms if you want the best results — and don’t forget the jack stands.