“Flat-backing it” – working on your car while lying on your back underneath the vehicle – can be a miserable part of car maintenance. It’s no surprise that commercial garages or repair shops usually use hydraulic lifts to hoist the car into the air, facilitating any work that needs to be done from the underside; similarly, oil-and-lube shops typically have a pit, a basement level of the shop from which the technician can access the underside of the car via an opening in the floor.
For the do-it-yourself mechanic, hoists or pits are generally too expensive to install in a residential garage; the alternative is jacking a car with a two- or three-ton floor jack and setting up jack stands underneath the car. Most do-it-yourself mechanics then wriggle underneath the car on their backs; of course, this option is neither very comfortable nor very clean. For home mechanics who dislike the discomfort and filth of flat-backing it, a car creeper can make the task considerably easier.
A basic car creeper consists of a steel or aluminum frame, a metal or cushioned surface on which the mechanic lies, and a set of wheels to make it easy for the mechanic to maneuver. Car creeper cushions are usually covered in vinyl, which makes it easy to clean up spilled oil or other car-related grime. Car creepers often have cushioned headrests; on a more expensive car creeper, the headrest may be adjustable. Also, a more expensive model may have tool trays attached to the sides of the car creeper, so that the mechanic can keep all of his or her tools within easy reach.
To use a car creeper, first jack the car with a floor jack. Jack stands will need to be placed as a safety precaution, in case the jack collapses, so that the car doesn’t fall unexpectedly. Keep in mind that in order to fit underneath the car, you’ll need to jack the vehicle higher than you would normally, since the car creeper raises you several inches off the ground. Alongside the car, lie on your back with the car creeper supporting your head, back, and buttocks; this position leaves your legs free to push the car creeper along and navigate it to where you want to go. Simply roll your way under the car, and you’re ready to work!