jump to example.com
Posts by: Lex Dodson

Loctite calls this goop 30534 liquid thread sealant with PTFE/Teflon. The sheer amount of oxygen required to say that could keep several people alive for a month, so I’ll take a page from Smitty’s book (the oldest mechanic I ever worked with) and call it “pipe dope.”

Essentially, PTFE thread sealant is an improved, liquid (but very viscous) version of Teflon tape with a few noteworthy advantages. It’s not direction-sensitive, so the new guy won’t wrap pipe threads backwards, and it provides a better seal thanks to its anaerobic hardening properties (much like regular Loctite). You don’t need to keep different thicknesses around for different pipe thread sizes, either. The only major disadvantage is that Teflon tape has no set time, whereas this needs to be left alone for a few hours before use. This can be inconvenient, since an awful lot of repairs are done on pipe threads.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

At some point, every one of us has heard this yarn: take a torch and a block of ice, heat a dented piece of bodywork, then apply ice to the center. Supposedly it pops the dent right out, but I’ve never met anyone who claims they pulled it off. I’m contemplating filling a dented motorcycle fuel tank with water and chucking it in the snowbank, but that’s an entirely different principle, and it might be roughly as sane as trekking through the lion pen in flank-steak briefs. Can the contraction from slapping an ice pack on a hot fender straighten it out? Or is it just a way to wind up with a burnt headliner and nothing to cool your beer?

Tagged with:
 

High-voltage gloves are normally reserved for linesmen, ballsy sons-of-guns who service powerful electrical systems. They’re designed to prevent all but the highest voltages from causing any trouble, usually insulating up to 10kV. With high-power electronics creeping closer every day (hybrid vehicles, anyone?), mechanics will likely find themselves faced with a dangerous system at some point. Salisbury (manufactured by Honeywell) is the gold standard, manufacturing gloves in many sizes for five different voltage levels.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

If you ever need work done on your brakes, it’s best to avoid brake shops for a variety of reasons — not the least of which is that they’ll often use a Jesus wrench (the biggest Channel Locks in their box) to compress the pistons, a procedure capable of cracking cheap calipers, and almost guaranteed to mar the piston. The right way is a brake caliper compressor, a sort of high-powered caulk gun designed to slip into the pad recess. Lisle’s model 25750 is a perfect example, and pretty inexpensive at just over $32 before shipping from Amazon.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

I’m one of those horribly old-fashioned types who prefers using cash over plastic money, but here’s one bit of processed petrochemical I wouldn’t object to carrying. The Swisscard Lite has the same footprint as a credit card, and is about as thick as four of them — it doesn’t take a Nobel laureate to note that it’s perfect for wallet carry.

The surprising part is the number of functions Victorinox packs into the Swisscard. Knife, scissors, tweezers, a pin, a pen, light, and a small mirror, which is pretty much a list of things I don’t remember until twenty minutes into the morning commute. Okay, maybe not the mirror.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

The biggest tire I ever had to change came from a Massey-Harris 44 and was just a few inches under five and a half feet tall. Let’s just say that the experience left me with a healthy respect for heavy-equipment mechanics. Something like Ken Tool’s Serpent might have been a saving grace. Designed for mounting and de-mounting tubeless truck tires, it’s a simple but elegant twist on the usual flat pry bar, as shown by a Ken Tool product demonstration that found its way to YouTube.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

In some cases, it’s easier to remove the alternator to release serpentine belt tension than to get a wrench or ratchet on the belt tensioner. Ignoring the lamentable decision-making process that spawns such folly, there is a workaround. I first saw very low-profile bars like these at a Tuffy where I worked, and everyone in the shop borrowed it almost every time they had to release a serpentine belt on a transverse-mounted engine. The owner probably wasn’t too happy with us, but the photo above shows why the pseudo-thefts were necessary.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

Let’s get the negatives out of the way: “pulley puller” sounds like a character from a kid’s cartoon, and the hefty $200+ price tags units like these carry makes them a less-than-intelligent purchase for most of us. Only garage mechanics or tuners with supercharged engines are ever likely to need one of these. But they are the only way to go if you need to remove a supercharger pulley. I rebuilt an Eaton M90 a few months ago, didn’t use one of these, and wound up needing a new pulley.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

I’m going to break two of my normal tool tendencies with this one. This is a crow’s foot (which I normally think is a pretty pointless invention), and it’s from Harbor Freight (who I have trouble trusting). But I make these exceptions because this tool, especially at Harbor Freight’s admittedly excellent prices, will save you a contortionist’s act whenever you need to install or remove an oxygen (air-fuel ratio) sensor.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
 

One of my uncles loves to tell the tale of how he acquired much of his impressive collection of fine Snap-On tools and the four-foot-wide roll cab they came in. As he tells it, back in the sixties he purchased the full cab from a dealer who was going out of business, and had somehow wound up with the full chest, no key, and apparently no idea about the value of its contents. Price? $200. He bought the cab, dragged it home, popped it open with one of the few tools he owned (a lock pick set from working with a towing company), and was the proud owner of a fully stocked dealership tool set at about a 97% discount.

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but he does use a pick set to open his tool box, claiming he’s nostalgic and never saw the point of getting it re-keyed. Picks are useful little devices, if you can get a set that isn’t from a shady dealer. Look for stainless steel pieces with good metal handles, which should cost around $30, and you usually won’t go wrong. Johnny Law may frown upon owners, but in the right circumstances, they can save some serious headaches. Practitioners claim that lock picking is as much an art as welding, so maybe it’ll morph into a hobby as well as a practical skill.

LAB 11-piece Mini Pick Set [Lock Picks by Brockhage]
Clear Practice Locks [Lock Picks by Brockhage]
Professional Picking Tools [Lock Pick Shop]

Tagged with: