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Warning: Bad DIY car repairs are causing deaths

Most deaths occurred when people worked beneath cars. (Photo: Getty)

The consumer watchdog is warning Australians to be extra careful with do-it-yourself car repair jobs, stating that around 120 Aussies have died from DIY car repair accidents, with hundreds more hospitalised from injuries.

“Tragically, many people, including some experienced mechanics, have been crushed and killed while working under their car,” said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Mick Keogh.

What are the most common fatalities?

Most deaths happen when victims – many of whom were men, aged 40 to 49 – are working under a vehicle and using equipment the wrong way, with a large share of the fatalities involving the use of vehicle jacks, according to the ACCC.

“We want to get the message out that people should never get under a vehicle supported only by a jack, they should always use support stands or ramps, and chocks,” said Keogh.

Many other high-risk DIY activities also included the use of fuel tanks, fuel lines and the use of power tools.

These are the most common unsafe DIY practices that can result in accidents, according to the ACCC:

  • Performing vehicle maintenance on unsteady ground, sand or a sloped surface

  • Using makeshift support stands such as wood or bricks

  • Not applying the handbrake and not putting the vehicle in gear or in park

  • Failing to “chock” the wheels on a raised vehicle

  • Incorrectly using a vehicle jack or using a jack with a known fault

And if you think you’ve got safeguards in place such as applying the handbrake, the work being done under the car can disengage the handbrake and lead to accidents.

“This is why it’s so important to have multiple levels of safety controls in place.”

DIY vehicle repair safety tips

According to the ACCC, here are some DIY car repair sins you should never commit:

  • Never get under a car that is only supported by a jack.

  • When working under your car, use a trolley jack to lift the car before lowering it onto vehicle support stands. Use vehicle support stands on a hard surface before working under your car.

  • Never place any part of your body under a vehicle unless it is sitting securely on support stands or ramps.

  • Never allow a person or pet to remain in the vehicle while it is being jacked.

  • Never exceed the weight capacity of the jack.

  • Always perform vehicle maintenance on steady ground, not on sand or a sloped surface.

  • Never use makeshift support stands such as blocks of wood or bricks.

  • Apply the handbrake in accordance with safety instructions.

  • Always 'chock' the wheels on a raised vehicle.

  • Follow product instructions and report faulty products.

The ACCC has created a number of videos, available on their website, to help people understand and avoid common DIY car repair mistakes to reduce the likelihood of an accident.

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