Ramps for a Low Car





Introduction: Ramps for a Low Car

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

My car is too low for steel auto ramps.  The cowling under the bumper touches the ramps before the wheels do.  I made my own ramps from 2 x 8 lumber.

Step 1: Determine the Dimensions

I needed to know the angle of the ramps' incline and the length of the incline.  I used a block and a piece of 1 x 6 lumber.  The 1 x 6 clears the cowling under the front bumper with a little to spare.  My old ramps were 8 1/4 inches high where the wheel rested.  I would like to duplicate that on these ramps.  The base of the incline needs to be about 30 inches long (yellow tape measure).

Step 2: Materials

I bought two 2 x 8 boards twelve feet long and cut them to make four boards six feet long each.  I also bought an eight foot board (2 x 8).  I cut it to six feet in length.  Clamp the boards so the rings are set opposite one another.  I also used two smaller pieces of 3/4 inch stock and some long drywall screws (2 1/2 to 3 inches).  The high-tech version of these ramps uses a circuit activated by the pressure of the car's wheel to light a small lamp.  This tells the driver when the wheel is in the proper position on the ramp.

Step 3: Mark the Line for the Incline

I measured 15 inches in from each end and marked a straight line between the blue arrows.  This marks the incline on the two ramps and gives an incline the proper length according to step 1.  Turn the clamped assembly over and make an identical line on the other side.  Make certain the lines are parallel to one another and do not cross each other to form an "X".

Step 4: Screw Together

Mark the five boards to know their order in the stack.  Begin screwing them together with long drywall screws.  The line for the incline is between the two blue arrows.  The assembly will be sawed apart later.  Place the screws so none cross the incline line.  You do not want to saw through screws later.

Step 5: Begin Sawing

The assembled boards are 7 1/2 inches high.  My saw cuts only a bit over two inches in depth.  Begin by cutting as deeply as possible on the incline line from both sides.  (This will leave almost 3 inches between the two cuts you cannot reach.  There is more about this later.)  Begin sawing on the broad flat area in the middle and saw out toward both ends.  Follow the line by your eye.  That is sufficient.

Step 6: Electric Chainsaw

I used an electric chainsaw to finish separating the two ramps.  It is crude, but it works fine for this application.  Do your best to keep the blade guide at a right angle to the top surface. 

Step 7: Add 3/4 Inch in Height

Five boards stacked gives about 7 1/2 inches in height.  I added a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to reach the desired 8 1/4 inches in height.  It did not need to be six feet long, but only needed to cover the area where the wheel will rest on each ramp.

Step 8: Cut the End to Fit the Incline

I wanted to extend the incline's plane through the 3/4 inch top piece.  I used a rotary planer attachment on my radial arm saw.  The rotary planer attachment has three carbide tipped cutters.  The cut is a little rough, but would smooth nicely with a little sanding, if a finished surface were needed.  The angle of the incline is about 12 degrees.  Light cuts are best to control pulling of the work by the planer attachment.  Cuts can be adjusted by sliding the work toward the cutters or by lowering the radial arm saw's arm.

When finished, use shorter drywall screws to attach the 3/4 inch piece to the rest of the ramp.

Step 9: Judging When to Stop

Driving a car onto a set of ramps without an assistant to serve as a spotter can make a person nervous.  If you overshoot, you can do serious damage to the sheet metal on your car.  I decided to go high-tech and use an electric bulb turned on by the pressure of the wheel when it is in its proper place.

I settled on building a cage and actuating lever for a momentary contact switch I already had.  The switch (A) is normally "open" until depressed.  The cage for the switch is welded from 3/4 inch square steel tubing.  The actuating lever (B) is hinged (C).  The spring in the switch is enough to lift the actuating lever.  I did not want the small switch to bear the weight of the front wheel, so I added a steel stop (D).  There was a little fitting to make everything work properly.  This switch cage will be buried in a recess cut into one of the ramps.

Step 10: Inlet for the Switch Cage

I used a bandsaw to cut an opening for the switch cage in the 3/4 inch plywood top for one of the ramps.  I needed to remove some material in the top piece of two inch lumber for a proper fit. 

Then I drilled down into the ramp about one inch so the hole is under the terminals on the momentary contact switch.  I drilled in from the side of the ramp so I could feed two wires to the switch.

Step 11: The Circuit

The circuit is a simple series circuit for a bulb, a switch, and a power supply.  The power supply is a car charger for a cell phone we no longer have.  It plugs into the cigarette lighter and gives 5 volts at around 1/2 amp.  I found a flashlight bulb rated at 4.75 volts and 0.5 amp, which is perfect.

Step 12: Using the Bulb System

I have about fifteen feet of two stranded wire coming from the switch embedded in the ramp on the driver's side of the car.  It is enough to come through the window on the car door.  The phone charger plugs into the cigarette lighter.  When the wheel presses on the switch cage, the bulb on my lap lights and I know to stop.

The phone charger (A) is plugged into the cigarette lighter.  The bulb (B) is lighted.  When the bulb lights and the wheel is in its proper place, pull the charger from the lighter and the circuit is "off."  Check to be certain the bulb will light before driving onto the ramps.  There is also a different feel when the wheel moves from the incline to the flat part of the ramps. 

Another way to judge when to stop would be to measure from the center of the front wheel back to the car's door handle.  Measure this distance from the center of the area where the wheel will rest on the ramp back toward where you will sit when driving the car onto the ramps.  Place an upright thin pole at that point.  When the pole is even with the car's door handle, stop. 

I had some extra two inch stock.  I cut two pieces and screwed them vertically to the ends of the ramps to give myself just a little more space for the wheel to rest. 



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    I like it. I needed ramps in a hurry, and had no steel handy, so I made them from short planks and fixed over a 6x4 at the top end, which was angle-cut to suit. These were then fixed to two more 6x4s which had a shorter bit of plank over and extending onto the ramped part and fixed together with drop in pins. At the other end I made axle stands with 2x4 sections layed flat and about 14 inches apart; slightly shorter bits layed on top at 90 degrees; more the other way on top again until I reached the height I needed. This looks like a tapered pyramid made as children make similar things with small wooded blocks. These are very strong and stable, and yet quite light compared with the ramps.I admit to copying something I saw my Dad make about sixty years back.

    Not beyond the realm of possibility to duplicate in these ramp the "dip" at the top of the retail steel ramps. In regards to switches I think an light beam switch would be %1000 better than any mechanical switch. Whatever sort of switch I'd use, I'd consider using an audible alarm. I was predicting to myself that Philbie was going to use the arm power saw to connect the cuts made with the skil saw, but he drags out this electric chainsaw instead. I'm taking my crystal ball back for refund. Good project, and instructable Phil.

    On a stop block, I don't trust myself, even though I've never driven off the end of a set of ramps. So I do install stop blocks. Mine mount on top and are glued and screwed in place. I could have just run a 2x up the back and with glue and deck screws it would be pretty strong, but it will never be as strong as a piece laid on the top and secured with glue.

    By the way, thanks for sharing

    I was just getting ready to make a set of ramps because the ones I have will not support my six ton Grumman, or my neighbor's Dodge Ram Crew Cab. At the same time, my little Honda's air foil probably doesn't much care for the step angle of the existing ramps.

    To reduce weight on my version, which would appear to be the image of yours, I drilled holes in the center pieces. The size of the holes significantly reduced weight without compromising strength.

    To address the height issue for the Honda, I merely add another board in front, which has a bevel cut to match the ramp and one which rests on the ramp bevel cut.

    It doesn't take much to tie the "small ramp" to the big one. You can drill holes in the large ramp for pins (installed on the little ramp) to go through that can be locked in place by slipping a nail through holes drilled in the pins. You can use Velcro or some other imaginative means, like eye hooks on the sides and small bungie cords, and so forth.

    Ive made a couple sets of ramps over the years, mainly because Im 2 cheap to pay for the metal ones and building sites have plenty of useful material. While I like your light idea I would still like a block across the front.

     This is a well thought out and executed 'ible", use them in safety

    2 replies

    Thank you.  I have seen some steel ramps that were only stamped  with no bracing.  I would be nervous using those.  The wooden version here is solid and will not collapse.  I may well modify my ramps to include a block across the front.

    oh oh ithe oned i have dont have bracing better go tot he scrap yard and grt some square stock and get welding i guess i can build these but i completely suck at woodworklol

    .  You come up with some of the most useful projects! The position switch/light would be invaluable when working alone.

    10 replies

    Thank you.  I am thinking about ways to modify it so I can adjust it for the best response and to make a fail-safe protector of some kind in case the light failed due to a broken wire, burned out bulb, or a failed switch.  I do not think anyone has ever been with me when I was putting a car up on ramps.  I expect it is the same for you.

    .  Use a Normally-Closed switch. The light is on (and verified) until you reach the proper position. Just don't leave it plugged in. ;)
    .  Probably be a good idea to install a stop at the end of the ramp. It won't prevent from driving off the end if you want to, but should provide enough resistance to let you know you are at the end (if you are paying attention). Or does the switch stick up far enough to handle that job?

    I just fine tuned my switch cage assembly a little by grinding a 4 or 5 light passes with a stone in a Dremel tool across the top of "D" in step 9.  The switch is more responsive now and I can stop the car in just the right place very easily.  Now I need an excuse to crawl under my car! ;-)

    .  Great!
    .  I think you need to install some EL wire under your car. :)

    Thank you....(uh)....I think. ;-)

    A normally-closed switch is a good idea.  The switch would not provide enough physical strength to stop the car from rolling too far, unless it were made from "I" beams.  ;-)  A normally-closed switch and circuit could be powered down easily if supplied by a converter in the cigarette lighter, like I used here.  I mentioned adding a vertical piece of 2 inch stock at the end of the ramps.  I angled the cut end upwards a little, but have not tested it yet. 

    Thanks for the comment.

    .  I didn't mean a stop actually tall and stout enough to prevent you from running off the end, just a hump to provide a little extra resistance. Which some 2" pieces would do very well - I just didn't fully understand what you meant at the end of step 12. ;)
    .  Since you seem to be open to suggestions, I'd mount a "MicroswitchTM" or some other type of limit switch on the side of the ramp and use a welding rod or equiv to sense the tire. Should be able to mount that to the side of the ramp with screws and avoid any welding (and it doesn't have to be so rugged).

    Good ideas.  I am thinking of using two systems simultaneously for judging when to stop.  One would be the switch and light.  The other would be measuring from the center of the front left wheel to the door handle, then transferring this measurement to a marker by means of a thin pole or a mark on the wall.  As I mentioned, there is also a different feel when the wheel comes up on the flattened top of the ramp.

    One idea I had, but have not tried, involves a light framework that hooks over the open crack between the fender and the engine hood.  It would also attach to the fender with old speaker magnets.  It would be like a lateral pyramid with an adjustable mirror at the point on the pyramid.  The idea would be to view the tire position in the mirror while driving up the ramps.  The mirror would have to be "big enough."

    .  I like the mark on the wall idea, but using a pole would just give me something else to lose. heehee
    .  The mirror idea sounds like it would work very well, but it also sounds like something where the alignment would have to be tweaked every time you used it. Not easy for one person to do.
    .  IMNSHO, unless you plan on selling this to the general public, the switch/light is enough, especially if you go with a "fail-safe" arrangement as per previous comment. YMMV

    We have moved several times during our married life.  Several times I have lost fixtures, jigs, and tools.  I know what you mean. 

    In regard to the general public, H L Mencken said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

    This is a very useful implement. I once improvised something like this using planks and bricks, and always thought of making one "definitive". I especially liked the idea of stop indicator.