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Posts by: Lex Dodson

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Specialty tools for a given engine family drive me nuts. Is it really that difficult to design something which works with thousands of preexisting tools? Unfortunately, General Motors didn’t do that with their Ecotec engines’ oil filter caps, which are so common that nearly every mechanic is going to run into one at some point. Ecotecs have an unusual cartridge-style filter design. Instead of a paper filter element contained in a disposable metal casing, there’s an aluminum housing cast into the block which accepts a standalone paper filter, and it’s covered by a plastic cap with unusual artillery-pattern threads and a 32mm male hex on top.

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This is definitely in the don’t-try-this-at-home category, but this guy pulls off a neat trick. He uses a large screwdriver to change what I believe is the water pump drive belt on an old VW Bug engine while it’s running. The video’s only 33 seconds long, and the guy doesn’t even use that entire time to pull off the change. I can’t imagine when you’d need to change a belt that fast, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Try this with a modern serpentine system, and you’d find yourself in the ER with a five-rib belt wrapped around your neck, a few broken fingers, and a running engine busy seizing itself in the workshop.

The video is on YouTube, located through Streetfire.
Fastest Belt Change Ever [YouTube]

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A bit of a scare with a careless student at one of the university labs has gotten me looking for a flammables cabinet for my colossal collection of caustics and combustible consumables. At the moment, they’re in a tall bottom drawer of my roll cabinet. It’s fine for easy access, but poor protection from heat.

I was pretty surprised at how inexpensive small cabinets can be. The larger ones run north of a grand, but a 12-gallon unit retails for $270 from (and manufactured by) Global Industrial. Twelve gallons is certainly enough for home use, but even if $270 is less than expected, it’s still a nice chunk of change. There’s no doubt that they’re a sensible idea, but is the extra degree of safety worth the entry cost?

If you think so, Global Industrial and Amazon sell an identical cabinet at the same price. Shipping costs will probably be murder given the weight and bulk of these things, but they might keep your house up.

12-Gallon Flammables Cabinet Via Amazon [What’s This?]
12-Gallon Flammables Cabinet [Global Industrial]

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I have to admit, I’m┬ánot entirely sure how these work, but they look like something from the end of Inspector Gadget’s forearm. They’re for precisely torquing large bolts in tight spaces, apparently mounting on the end of a long handle and accepting hydraulic feed and return lines. Unless I miss my guess, an internal pressure regulator determines how much torque is exerted.

If anyone’s ever used one of these, what are they like? The baddest torque tool I’ve ever used was a 3/4″-drive impact wrench, which is probably a pushover compared to these suckers.

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Most online automotive service databases require an expensive yearly subscription, and the price, excepting , is usually out of shadetree mechanics’ reaches. But free is always affordable. Chilton’s, long-time aftermarket service manual supplier, maintains an electronic database which Michigan residents can access free through the Michigan e-Library.

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Benjamen’s recent post about swivel connectors for compressed air lines brought to mind a little sanity saver. This Dynabrade swivel connector has a similar mission but adds a degree of freedom. It can rotate about the male 1/4 in. NPT connection, and the two composite sections can twist relative to one another. When I used this it was with a very light self-coiling hose, and even that was enough to pull the connector straight downwards. When you’re working above something, that can be a problem, but getting the hose out of the way is a simple matter of throwing it over your shoulder. In nearly every other situation, leaving the hose free to rotate is a boon.

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Conveniently located in the Toolmonger Flickr pool, this image shows the coarse, deep ridges found on Vixen files. Like Bridgeports, they’re named for the most common (though apparently now-defunct) manufacturer. Vixen files are ideal for soft metals, and they do their job better than the usual bastard file. While most files are designed for material removal from hard metals, Vixens use relatively dull, widely-spaced teeth which deburr soft metals beautifully and can manage oddball materials like fiberglass. The teeth are wide enough to make clogging nearly impossible.

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Strange things can make a Toolmonger’s heart beat faster, and one of them is high-quality aluminum work: fine metal carefully sheared, bent, and welded with the precision of a Swiss watch. One of the most common places you’ll find such work is on custom radiators, which require some really superb work from skilled fabricators. Beaders like the one above are one of their tools of the trade, used to put a raised bump a short distance in from the edge of a tube to aid hose retention. With some cooling and induction systems running pressures upwards of 30psi, this bead is a critical feature, preventing hose clamps from sliding right off even if they’re properly tensioned.

If you’re working on a garage project that uses fluid-carrying aluminum tube frequently, you can probably justify the rather steep $150 price tag Graham Tool, Inc. slaps onto their beader. Fabricators and professionals should have an easier time with the sticker.

Large Tube Beading Tool [Graham Tool, Inc.]

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A reader in the comment stream from my post about Longacre Racing Products’ toe gauge asked about tools for setting the other two most commonly-referenced suspension characteristics: caster and camber. Caster is non-adjustable on the vast majority of vehicles. Unless you have a full-race car or some serious modifications, it’s never something you’ll need to worry about, since it’s built right into the suspension components. Camber adjustments aren’t exactly commonplace, but a few vehicles (like the famous Dodge Neon ACR) have factory-adjustable suspensions that allow camber tweaks, and you can buy aftermarket camber adjustment plates which permit slight shifts in a car’s suspension mounting points. For the amateur racer, more or less is generally all you need to know, but if you’re looking to repeat or record settings, you’ll need something like Longacre’s camber gauge.

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It’s amazing how flimsy the best builder’s work can become under the right circumstances. The video above contains some examples of components you’d think of as extremely rigid, like the carbon fiber bodywork of a MotoGP race bike, turning into a floppy mess at speed. Components are designed to be just as strong as necessary with very low safety margins, and some of the flexion you can see in these clips is enough to make one nervous about the engineer’s grasp of mathematics.

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