Safety in the Shop

Phil Krolick – Automotive

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Basic Shop Safety
LBCC Introduction to Brakes

When you drive a vehicle into the shop you are at risk of damaging the vehicle, and/or equipment in the shop, and/or hurting other persons in the shop area.  To minimize this damage or potential injury you should always drive very slowly.  You should be driving no faster than one or two miles an hour.  This is no faster than someone walking slowly through the shop!

Once you have the vehicle stopped, be sure to set the parking brake.  If it is an automatic transmission place the vehicle in Park.   If it is a manual transmission leave it in neutral.

All LBCC students must submit a copy of their valid drivers license and proof of liability insurance to drive any vehicle into, or out of the shop.

Please do not drive any vehicle with a manual transmission if you do not have previous experience driving with a clutch.

You should not drive any vehicle in this class if you are not licensed, insured, and confident in operating that vehicle.

Before you back any vehicle out of the shop you should walk around the entire vehicle.  Look under it to make sure tools or air lines, electrical cords, etc. will not be damaged.  

Always use a spotter or another person to guide you when backing up inside a shop.  The shop is often crowded and it is easy to not see an obstacle until after you hit it.  I was personally hit by a student backing a car in this shop a few years back!  

Always drive extra slow when backing, less than one mile an hour.  Fortunately the student that backed into me was following this DRIVE VERY SLOWLY rule.

Before you start up, or back up any vehicle be sure to step firmly on the brake pedal.  Any vehicle that has had brake work or inspection may need to have the disc brake calipers reset.  This is done by pressing firmly on the brake pedal.  If the brakes have not been re-set the brake pedal may go all the way to the floor.  If your brake pedal is low, try stepping on the brakes again.  If the brake pedal now operates normally then you have just reset the brake calipers.  If the brake pedal stays low, or is spongy, or does not feel normal there is a defect that must be corrected BEFORE driving.  

Before you raise any vehicle be sure you are certified to use the lift.  When you work in a shop that has a different style lift than what you are familiar with be sure to be shown how to safely operate it.  

All vehicles have designated lift points.  As you gain experience it becomes easy to identify the proper jacking and hoisting areas of the vehicle.  If you are not sure you should ask or look it up.  Placing a jack in the wrong place can cause very expensive damage to any vehicle.  

Any vehicle that is raised should be securely supported by jack stands, or the mechanical safety latches on the lift.  Hydraulics and lift cables can fail and the vehicle might come down slowly or all at once.   Many people have been badly injured or killed by having a vehicle fall on them.  Always use jackstands in pairs.  A single jack stand is unstable.

In the LBCC lab you will often work with a partner.  When raising and lowering a vehicle, the person operating the jack or hoist will also be the one to set the jack stands or lift arms.  DO NOT raise or lower any vehicle if another person is close to that vehicle.  After setting the lift arms of a vehicle lift, raise the vehicle until the wheel s are just off the ground and then shake the vehicle to ensure it is solid on the hoist.  Do not get under a vehicle supported by jack stands until you have also shaken the vehicle to ensure it is solidly supported.

Removing tires & wheels seems easy however it can lead to long term back injury.  Larger wheels used on full size cars and trucks are too heavy to carelessly lift.  If a tire seems a little heavy it is too heavy to remove from a vehicle that more than a few inches off the ground.  Get someone to help you with larger tires or try using a large pry bar to lever the wheel off.  Ask to be shown this trick as it really will save your back.

Back strain and injury is the #1 occupational hazard for automotive technicians.  Lifting objects that are heavy will rarely cause problems in the short term however over the years it will wear out your back and when you get to be really old, like 40 or 45 years old, you will very likely experience major back pain and loss of mobility.  If you think something is a little heavy I strongly encourage you to get help with the lifting, or find what tools and hoists are available to help with lifting.

Installing tires & wheels back on the vehicle can cause damage to the vehicle and potentially cause and accident.  If a wheel is installed to loosely it can come off while being driven.  This is not unusual to occur for an inexperienced technician, especially as they hurry to complete the job.  

Always pay close attention to how you tighten each wheel to the vehicle.  Always look up the wheel lug torque specification.  Ensure the lug-nuts and wheel studs have undamaged threads.  The lug-nut should spin on easily by hand.  Do not oil the threads, or use anti-seize on the threads.  You can use an air wrench to spin the lug nuts  on but only until they are snug.  Using a star pattern will help ensure the wheel properly seats on the wheel hub.  Lower the vehicle to the ground, or apply the brakes and use a torque wrench to bring each lug nut to the specified torque.  Use a steady and even pressure on the torque wrench.  You can use the proper  Torque Stick if using an impact to install lug nuts.

To remove the wheels from a vehicle you will use an impact wrench.  Always use impact sockets with impact wrenches.  They are generally black in color although all black sockets are not impact rated.  Be sure to check tool code if you are not sure.  Impact sockets are made of a different type of steel that is not likely to shatter.  They will often have a thicker wall and have six points.  Also, check with instructor (or supervisor) before using any power tool for the first time.  Impact wrenches can easily damage wheel studs and rotors.

It is important to not expose yourself to brake dust.   Brake dust is especially hazardous and can cause serious lung disease that will not develop for many years into the future. Avoid causing brake dust to become airborne when removing brake components, especially brake drums.  Brake drums catch and hold a lot of dust that will scatter if you hammer on the drum during removal, or allow the drum to dump dust after removal.

Always contain the dust with an approved brake vacuum or brake washing station.  Here at LBCC we have a water based cleaner that will wash the brake dust into a catch basin.  The dust is filtered out and handled as hazardous waste.  Be sure you get trained on how to properly contain the harmful brake dust.

Your hands will become quite covered in brake dust.  It is important to wash your hands frequently, especially before eating or taking a break of any kind.  An good idea is to wear disposable nitrile gloves.  

In general it is a good work practice to wear disposable nitrile gloves.  Your hands will stay much cleaner and be protected  from many of the solvents and oils that you will be in contact with.  Used motor oil has been shown to cause skin cancer.  Repeated contact with many types of solvent will cause dermatitis and dry out your skin which is then more able to absorb all kind of toxins and chemicals that your skin will be exposed to.  Wearing gloves, and keeping your hands clean is an important step to long term health protection.

Brake fluid safety is important to protect the vehicles you are working on.  Brake fluid will eat through just about any paint.  It will even take the finish off of our floor!  Be careful not to spill any fluid when disconnecting hydraulic brake components, or bleeding brakes.  When you do spill brake fluid, wash it up immediately.  Most types of brake fluid are readily absorbed in water and using soap and water will quickly eliminate all traces of fluid from whatever got spilled on.  Wiping up a brake fluid spill with a dry rag will force some of the brake fluid into closer contact with the paint you wish to protect and not prevent damage to the paint.  Brake fluid will not dissolve paint immediately but will continue to weaken and dissolve the paint over time.

Brake fluid is rated as DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5.  A few older British automobiles use HSMO brake fluid.  Be sure you add the proper type of brake fluid.  Most vehicles use DOT 3 however the proper type of fluid should be on the cover of the brake master cylinder.  If the specified fluid is not listed on the cover of the brake master cylinder be sure to look it up before adding fluid.  If you mix up the brake fluid it can affect the braking performance or damage the hydraulic seals inside the brake system. 

Any dirt or small gritty particles that get into an open brake line, or master cylinder can cause the hydraulic system to leak, or cause the ABS system to fail.  Always clean around the master cylinder cover and make sure no dirt can get into the brake fluid when hydraulic brake lines are open or being replaced.

The coefficient of friction between the brake linings and the drum or rotor is critical to proper brake operation.  A material that is too slippery will cause the brakes to stop poorly and the operator will need to step on the brake pedal with extra force.  In other words the brake pedal will feel hard.  If the friction surfaces are too sticky the brakes will grab.  If one brake is sticky and another is slippery the vehicle will pull to one side or the other when using the brakes.  You must always service brakes as axle pairs. In other words if you put new brake pads on the left front you must also put new brake pads on the right front.  If you turn the rotor on the left side you must also turn the rotor on the right side.

Do not allow grease or oil to get on any brake lining or friction material.  This includes the brake drums and rotors.  Even small spots of oil on a friction surface can cause the brakes to slip or grab or make noise.  Clean any residual oils on friction surfaces with brake cleaning solvent.  Brake cleaning solvent is designed to leave no residue behind after drying.

As you learn to become a competent automotive service technician you will use a wide variety of tools and equipment.  Even after years of experience you will need to learn how to use new tools.  Before using any new tool or piece of equipment you should:  Read the instructions and service procedures, try to have someone demonstrate the proper procedures and be sure to ask questions from your instructor or service manager or someone with more experience if you are not really sure how to work that tool.  

Please DO NOT use any piece of equipment in the automotive lab at Linn-Benton Community College until you have been checked out by an instructor.

All students will be required to wear safety glasses at all times when work is being performed in the shop area.  Visitors should also have safety glasses on and your instructor can get them some.    Contact lenses should not be worn when working in the shop.   If you wear contacts any solvents, chemicals, fuels and particles can be trapped between your contact and the lens of your eye.  This will increase your exposure and compound any damage or irritation to your eyes.  It is important to not wear contacts in the shop environment even if you are wearing safety glasses over them.  You could wear chemical splash goggles but they are not comfortable for most people.  I recommend investing in a pair of prescription safety glasses.  If your normal prescription glasses are large enough you can purchase side shields to use with them.  If your glasses are small, it is easy to wear safety glasses over them.

Long term exposure to loud noise will cause your hearing to deteriorate.  You may develop Tinnitus which is a constant ringing in your ears.  You can also become partially deaf.  This will not happen right away can develops as you become older.  Wear hearing protection any time loud noises are present in the shop.  This should be done any time you or another technician in the shop are using an air hammer, impact wrench or air ratchet.  We have many pairs of ear muff style hearing protectors although most technicians prefer to use soft foam ear plugs.  For really loud tools like an air hammer you should wear both ear plugs and ear muffs.

Even when you are careful you will likely have accidents. It is important to report all accidents and injuries to your instructor or supervisor, even if they seem minor.  Also report any situation, tool or piece of equipment that you feel is unsafe or potentially hazardous.


Other pages in this section: Brake Pedal Free-Play and Pedal Reserve | Classroom Presentations | Daily lesson outline | How to Remove a Disc Brake Caliper | Introduction to Braking Systems | Labs | Online Resouces | Storage | Syllabus for Introduction to Braking Systems | Written Assignments

Other sections in this website: Syllabi | Electrical Systems & Engine Performance | Applied Electrical | Mechanical Processes | HV3.297 Electrical & Electronic Systems | AU3.296 Steering Suspension & Brakes | Introduction to Engine Performance | AU3.316 Drive Train Service
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