Hydraulic Citroen Safety - also applies in part to other cars

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Citroën Tragic
Some years ago I was asked to write a standard safety warning for people working on hydraulically suspended Citroëns. This followed reports of people being injured or killed when working on Citroëns due to a lack of safety and knowledge on their part.

In the GAFC the post was lost and here it is in a new form. Please read it and take note for when you are working on a Citroën in particular, but also other vehicles.

Whenever undertaking work on a car, you should always ensure that you have proper safety measures in place before putting any part of your body under the vehicle while it is in a raised position. This is especially important when working on any hydraulically suspended Citroën.

NEVER EVER put any part of your body under a hydraulically suspended Citroën without proper safety measures in place.

When working on a hydraulically suspended Citroën - DS/ID, GS, CX, BX, Xantia, XM, C5 and even the rare Traction Avant Big 6H, you must be aware that the smallest movement of key components such as height correctors may have a large effect on the current height of the suspension. Movements of even 2 mm on a height corrector can have the car crashing to its bump stops in a second. If someone is under the vehicle at the time without proper safety equipment in place, it could be their last movement.

Proper safety equipment includes adequately rated

  • axle stands
  • ramps
  • wheel chocks
  • two post hoist with safety mechanism
  • four post hoist with safety mechanism
  • approved pit or similar
  • a firm, level and secure surface to work on such as concrete garage floors

Improper equipment includes

  • besser blocks - aka cinder blocks or breeze block - these have little strength and have been demonstrated to shatter without warning
  • bricks - again known to shatter - or if stacked, to topple
  • any loose or sloped surface. Stands and ramps will sink into grass or gravel and have also been known to topple.
Most importantly, jacks of any type are for lifting the vehicle and are not designed or rated to be a safety support. Lift the vehicle with a jack, lower it onto safety stands, check the stability and when you know it is correct, go to work.

Ensure you have used the correct points for locating stands under the vehicle you are working on. For example, a CX can easily overbalance if stands are placed under the jacking point.

When lifting a hydraulic Citroen, it is possible to use the vehicle's hydraulic system to lift it to full height and then lower the car onto safety stands. Beware that if for example you support the front end of a vehicle on stands and then lower the suspension, when you start the car and adjust the suspension to a height other than extreme low, the raising of the rear of the vehicle will pivot the front end of the vehicle. Therefore anything or body under the front end of the vehicle may suddenly find itself closer to the underneath of the engine than previously.

Bleeding brakes on some Citroëns will also rob the suspension of pressure, thereby dropping the suspension very rapidly. Trust me, even when the rear of a D is on ramps, the first time you bleed rear brakes it is a surprise!

When placing any car on a 2 post hoist ensure you know the correct locations to place the arms. Front wheel drive vehicles are by design, front heavy and serious consideration needs to be allowed for this to ensure the car does not nose dive from the hoist.

And remember that around the world there have been some unfortunate people who have not heeded warning about ensuring their car (whatever brand) is safe and secure above them before commencing work. One tonne or more of car usually beats 100kg of mechanic. Please do not join this special club.

If you have any doubts about the way you have raised your vehicle from the ground please ask for advice from someone in the know. Better to ask a question than be injured.

This is posted as general advice only and I take no responsibility for your actions or results of them.


Citroën Tragic
During a Facebook discussion recently my love of Citroens came up and a person in the USA commented as below. This supports the cause for extreme care when working under cars.

"One of my saddest memories of a co-worker involves a DS. He was a collector who had 2 or 3 of them, and did most of his own repairs. He needed a proportioning valve (I think?) for one of the cars in order to get it ready for a show. He planned to take the valve from another car that he had. He slid under the car and disconnected the hydraulic lines from the valve, forgetting to properly support the car beforehand. When the pressure was released, the car dropped and pressed on his chest, preventing him from breathing. His wife looked out the kitchen window and realized he hadn't moved since the last time she looked, probably 10 or 15 minutes earlier. He was dead when they got to him."


Citroën Tragic
Another post where someone ignored the safety guidelines. This copied from the CCC UK facebook page:

A few years ago I saw a Citroen BX in a pub car park with someone under it, a ambulance was parked next to it. I later found out the owner of the car had pulled into the car park and went under the car to check something . The car must of sunk down and trapped him . He was probably under there for several hours and died. Never go under a Citroen unless there is suitable axle stands supporting it.
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