Not to sound overly dramatic, but I could have died last week (or been seriously injured). I was working under the vehicle adjusting the suspension to make it more stable and changing out brake pads and disks. A slight miscalculation and the entire vehicle dropped off the supports while I was underneath.
To save my pride and before I get lectured, I did my best to make sure the vehicle was properly supported. As I was buying parts for the project I also purchased 2 nice 6-ton jack stands, which the vehicle was on before I started working.
So what happened? (You can skip this paragraph if the technical details will bore you. Basically I made an unforeseen mistake.). I was having trouble getting the axel to drop far enough (over $150 for a poor quality floor jack did not seem like a good investment at the time), so I used spring compressors to squeeze the springs and remove the spacers that were lifting the car too high. I was having a hard time reseating the spring while trying to release the spring compressors with the spacers removed, so I decided to use the car’s jack to lift the axel up until the springs were seated. The problem was that when I released the spring compressors, this lifted the body of the car above the one stand. It had rained earlier and with the soft ground, the jack and far side jack stand tilted and the car went over while I was still releasing the tension on the spring underneath the car.
This has always been a fear of mine when working under the car. I have lived through this fear and I never want to do it again. My feet were sticking out the left side of the car and my upper body was completely underneath behind the rear axle.The whole car shifted to the left as the 2 remaining supports sank into the soft ground. One minute I was working, the next I was sitting in stunned amazement.
Everything happened so quickly that it took a few moments to take it all in. I was still alive and waiting for the pain of crushed bones, but in fact I felt fine. My toes and fingers still worked and nothing hurt. I quickly realized that I was stuck though.
Trying to remain calm, I yelled for Abby who was inside the house. She watched the car go over and was already sprinting outside. Knowing she would be panicking, I did my best to calmly assure her that I was fine (I do not think she believed me at first).
All the yelling left me short of breath, and I realized why I could not move. The fuel tank was pinned against my stomach. I could not take a full breath of air. Luckily, years of SCUBA diving has taught me how to control my breathing and not to panic when I cannot get air. Honestly, I think I would have felt more at ease if I was a hundred feet under the ocean and my tank ran out of air because I know the surface is just a swim away (I have had a mini SCUBA tank run out on me so I know what it is like).
I had no clue how long I would be under the car. In between trying to control my breathing, I am trying to instruct Abby and Rachel on how to get me out while trying to convince Abby that I am okay so she doesn’t go into premature labor. The jack was wedged under the axle, so I tried to explain to Abby how to find the socket to remove the farm jack mounted to our roof rack. We weren’t getting anywhere, so I refocused on yanking the car’s jack from under the axle.
Later, Abby told me that she was not going for the socket because she was trying to ask me how to remove the lock that I had forgotten was there. I guess she was trying to tell me that the whole time. I am going to accept that having a 2+ ton vehicle on top of me compressing my diaphragm is a reasonable excuse for not listening to my wife.
By the time I yanked the jack loose, a couple of the guards and at least one teacher had arrived at the scene and together they lifted the corner of the car as I scrambled out from underneath.
After examining the scene, I am certain that God was watching out for me. I still can’t figure out how I got my head out far enough so it was not pinned under the gas tank too. My right leg ended up in the wheel well, but did not got caught under the axle. The car shifted just far enough to catch the corner on the tire laying on the ground which kept the corner up just enough. My left leg was far enough over not get caught between the tire and the car. If the car had shifted about an inch less, it would have landed on my ribs instead of the soft part of my stomach. I am certain this would have broken them and imagine my breathing situation with the weight of the car directly on my lungs.
As I regained my breath, everything felt perfect except for my hand/wrist. It was not until I was free and the adrenaline went down that I realized how bad my right hand hurt. Rachel grabbed ice for me and we all sat down for Wednesday night prayer meeting. It was hard to lead with my mind still processing how the car even fell, but I was thankful for the time to relax and thank God for His protection with other believers.
I took pain killers and slept on the couch so I would not roll around. The next morning we went to the doctor to get an x-ray. It ended up being mostly soft tissue damage and the pain and swelling has disappeared rather quickly. Most importantly, I have still never broken a bone in spite of all the foolish things I have done.
Wish I had more pictures. I told Abby and Rachel that next time something like this happens, they should take pictures before rushing to help me.I was stuck under the other side, but you can see the jack stand that flipped, and if you look at the marks in the grass, you can see how far the car shifted. The last picture gives you a pretty good idea of what I looked like 🙂 (compliments of the Wizard of Oz)