BUILD A SET OF COMPACT CAR RAMPS FROM SCROUNGED WOOD!
I recently went from owning an SUV as my primary vehicle to owning a Corolla iM hatchback. This car gets amazing gas mileage but in order to do that, it sits very close to the ground. This lack of ground clearance is not unique to this vehicle. It seems a great many of these fuel efficient sporty compacts sit only a few inches off the ground.
The lack of ground clearance didn’t become so apparent until the day I had to change my oil. My old ramps won’t fit under the front air dam and getting a floor jack under it is awkward. Not to mention now I have to tote a floor jack, two jackstands, and a wheel chock if I want to safely get the car up high enough to change the oil. Ummm no!
I raided a local construction dumpster and scrounged up some 2x6 plank scraps and furring strip scrap. A rummage through the random screw drawer at home and some wood glue and wallah! Car ramps in 30 min!
No place to scrounge wood near you? No big deal. The wood needed to build this should cost you about $13 at the local mega hardware store. Don’t despair if you cant find the exact same stuff I used. 2x6 worked for me but you can use 2x8, 2x10, and even 2x12 as well. Sometimes scraps of suitable size are left behind in crawl spaces under homes that have had floor joists repaired. The construction site dumpster isn't your only source. The furring strip material can be substituted by numerous other wood materials if you have a saw. Scrap dog ear planks from a wood fence install can work nicely for example.
These ramps are intended to get your car up just enough to easily change your oil. Being made of solid wood planks, I personally trust them more than the cheap stamped steel ramps commonly sold at discount stores.
Tools and skills needed to complete this task.
Besides suitable wood, you’ll need a way to cut wood (circular saw, sabre saw, reciprocating saw, or even an old fashioned handsaw), wood glue, a measuring tape or yard stick, (8) 3”-3.25” wood screws, aprox (20) small finishing nails at least 1.25” long, a hammer or nail gun to drive them, and ideally a drill with proper bits to pre-drill the holes for the wood screws and run them down. The screws can be run down by hand but it is quite labor intensive.
My choice of power tools was a Ryobi 18+ cordless circular saw, drill, and nailgun. Having the power tools made this a quick job.
As far as skills required, this is an entry level project. Precision is not needed. If you can safely operate a circular saw, drill, and nailgun you are ok. The nailgun can be skipped and just do it the old fashioned way with a hammer.
Don't forget the safety glasses!! You only get to poke your eye out twice in this lifetime!
Step 2: Get Your Wood! Cut Your Wood!
The weight of the vehicle will be supported by a solid mass of wood. There isn't much engineering here. Solid slabs of wood will be laid out like steps. Anything you can scrounge that is not rotted or damaged and meets the size requirements is fine.
Please keep in mind that a 2x6 doesn't really measure 2" by 6". It actually measures 1.75" x 5.5" in real life. When lumber is dried and prepped for construction use it actually shrinks. This happens with all dimensional lumber. 2x6 sufficed for my needs but there's no reason you can't use something wider. Wider wood will actually give you more stability and make it easier to get the car lined up on the ramps.
You will need 12 linear feet of wood beam. Chances are you will not find a nice 12' piece of lumber in the dumpster so you are looking to make...
(2) 1' pieces
(2) 2' pieces
(2) 3' pieces
Why are the pieces so long? The airdam on many new vehicles sits low to the ground. The gradual rise keeps the thing from hitting the ramp on its way up.
The furring strip material is used to stairstep the transition up the ramp. This will make it easier to get the car up the ramp and lessen the need to lay into the gas pedal which can result in you overshooting the ramp. At the top of the ramp is a stop made from stacked furring strip material. This can be substituted by a 2x4 block if needed. Can't find furring strip material? Plywood or wood fence scrap can be sawed and improvised.
If you are using 2x6 like I did, your furring strips will be cut to 5.25" pieces (pic 5). If you end up using a different width of wood you will need to adjust this measurement so the piece fits across the planks without overhang.
Step 3: The Importance of Wood Glue
Unless you have done woodworking, you may not be aware how strong a wood glue bond is. Two properly glued pieces of wood will form a bond stronger than the wood itself. When stressed to the point of breakage, the wood will break around the glue bond. The Glue will not break unless it has been compromised. Chemicals and moisture can weaken the glue bond so keep your finished ramps in a dry place when completed.
What glue to use? Any name brand wood glue will suffice. Be sure to apply a enough glue so that a small amount does squeeze out when the pieces are joined. The wood screws and nails we will use serve primarily to clamp things together as the glue dries. The strength will come from the glue bond. Wipe off any drips with a shop rag before it dries.
Step 4: Assemble the Three Planks
Assemble the three planks for each ramp as pictured.
Apply glue to the 2' plank and lay it down with one end flush with the end of the 3' plank. Screw it down with 2 wood screws. Apply glue to 1' plank and lay it down flush with same end you lined up 2' plank with. Fasten it down with 2 wood screws. Wipe excess glue that has squeezed out.
You should have something that looks like my pic. Set it aside and assemble 2nd ramp in same manner.
Step 5: Glue and Nail Down the Furring Strip Half Steps
Using the furring strip material, glue and nail down two strips per step as pictured in pic 1. If you are using some other material to make the half steps you want them to be aprox 3" wide, 0.75" tall, and go to the edges of the heavy wood plank. This is merely to make it easier for the car tire to climb up the ramp. Measurements aren't critical and can be "eyeballed" if you have woodworking experience.
You should have something that in purpose resembles pic 2 when done.
Step 6: The Bump Stop at the End of the Ramp
This bump stop serves as a precaution but should by no means by depended upon as a failsafe to keep you from driving up and over the ramp!
The bumpstop is made from 3 furring strips glued and nailed together. The strength comes from the glue bond. A piece of 2x4 cut into a small block can also serve this purpose.
Step 7: Bevel Cut the Leading Edge
The final step in assembling your ramps is to put a bevel cut on the leading edge to make it easier to get the car up onto the ramps (pic 1).
This can be done with a handsaw but requires a bit of skill. The best way to do this is using a circular saw with the baseplate tilted at a 45deg angle as pictured in pic 2. With the saw set to cut at a 45, use the 1" mark on the base of the saw (pic 3) and run a cut across the plank. The will leave you with a nice beveled edge.
Step 8: Use and Care of Your New Home Made Ramps
These ramps will support an incredible amount of weight when set on level and firm ground. It's extremely important that the car's tires be centered and lined up on the ramps as you drive up. Until you get the hang of it, a spotter is a good idea when using them (a fellow car hobbyist is ideal). You don't need to have the front tires all the way up against the bumpstop. You only need to have the front tires sitting completely on the top plank and centered.
.There's a technique to using car ramps. It requires you to get a feel for how much power you need to get up the ramps without going up and over the other side. This is only learned by experience so be extra careful when first using them. Light on the gas and smooth with the brakes.
These ramps are made of wood so dont store them in humid places. Humidity can adversely affect the glue bond holding all it's parts together. A coat of outdoor paint or water seal such as Thompson's is a good idea. Some municipalities have places for people to drop off unused chemicals and paints. This is a great place to score a can of paint or water sealer for free.
Allow at least 24hrs for the wood glue to dry before use or painting these ramps.
Enjoy your new ramps!