Tool Hacks: Specialty and Not-So Specialty Car Tools
Whoever said that “necessity is the mother of invention” did not use car tools. Frustration brings about clever inventions and innovations, especially in garages and driveways around the world.
There are a lot of car tools out there, one for just about any situation. But a big, and obscure, collection of car tools can get expensive quickly. Not to mention eat up precious garage space.
Here are a few hacks for car tools using everyday household items that will save you time and money. And most certainly frustration.
If you’ve ever worked on older cars that had spring hinges that held the hood open, you’ve banged your head on the hood more than once. That’s because the springs get weak with age and don’t hold the hood open high enough.
Don’t spend $40 to buy a telescoping hood prop rod for that problem. Instead cut an old broomstick handle to the right length to hold your hood wide open.
Wire Coat Hangers
Congratulations, you now have the hood wide open and you are working on the engine. Now is when you start dropping parts and car tools.
Once they hit the ground, they always roll to the exact center of the car, just barely out of arm’s reach. Get an old wire coat hanger and fashion it into a long retrieval hook. Simple.
Wire coat hangers are also great for holding parts out of the way for you. Just twist them to convenient shaped hooks and move whatever is in your way aside.
One reason you drop nuts and bolts is that they fall out of sockets and wrenches. But don’t waste your money on magnetic sockets or magnetic socket inserts.
Place a small piece of tape over part of the socket wall, then insert the bolt or nut. Use just enough tape so you have to lightly press the bolt into the socket. Then after you have it threaded in place you can easily pull the socket off.
Use the money you saved by not buying magnetic socket inserts and instead buy a high-quality telescoping magnet pick-up tool. Use it to retrieve the parts you drop that you can’t grab hold of with your wire coat hangers.
Don’t buy a long springy tool with a magnet on the end. The magnet will go off course and stick to the nearest metal. Instead buy a stiff telescoping tool that has a strong magnet.
You need a good magnet to pick up heavier parts and wrenches that you drop. The tiny magnets don’t get the job done.
Sometimes you just can’t see what you are working on. Maybe that’s why we drop things. There is no direct line-of-sight.
When you buy your high-quality magnetic pick up tool, you can also buy a mirror that attaches to the end of it, magnetically. That’s good for seeing into small places.
Sometimes you need a bigger mirror. That’s why when you replace a cracked rear-view mirror on a car, you save the old one. They are great for seeing vast areas under your car or behind the engine.
Or you could go to the dollar store and buy a cheap cosmetic mirror for one dollar. Same principle applies, cheaper is better, free is best.
The metal equivalent of duct tape, paper clips do anything. If you are working on older cars that have carburetors, you need paper clips to bend into linkage-holding tools to reassemble the small linkage pieces after cleaning.
From the sewing kit, these small but extremely sharp tools are great for slicing through layers of electrical tape that you might find wrapped around wires. Electrical tape is not supposed to be used to wrap wires – tape that doesn’t have adhesive is made for that purpose – but many people don’t realize that.
No worries, the stitch remover makes quick work of getting all that tape off the bundles of wires that you need to access.
Telescoping Hood Prop Rod
The heater core is one of the most difficult things to access on a car. Typically, when you are replacing a heater core, you eventually have the entire dashboard partially disconnected from the firewall and pulled away to access to the HVAC system.
The broomstick handle you use to prop the hood open is too long to prop the dashboard out of the way. Now’s the time to spend $40 on a telescoping hood prop rod. Use it to hold your dash out of your way. Job done well.
36-inch 1/2-inch Drive Socket Extension
If you held a survey to see which bolts are traditionally the most difficult to get to on a car, the winner or close runner up would be bellhousing bolts, the ones that attach the transmission to the engine.
There are merely fractions of an inch clearance behind the bolts. Every wrench and socket you have will be just a smidgen too big or the wrong shape to work in that constricted area.
The easiest way to get those bolts out, if you could use the word easy, is to buy a three-foot-long socket extension and access the bolts from under the car, working from either side next to the transmission. The first time you do this you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of the idea sooner.
Cheap Bungee Cords
Sometimes you just can’t access parts without holding other parts out of the way. After all, you don’t want to completely disconnect and remove every part that gets in your way, or you’d end up with a huge pile of parts in your driveway.
Bungee cords are great. Get a few different lengths.
Not expensive dentist-recommended toothbrushes, but cheap ones from the dollar store will do fine. They have countless uses, like removing wax from body emblems or from around lights and moldings. They are great for cleaning small parts too.
Buy a handful of them, because you will find new uses for them all the time.
Cheap Aluminum Baking Trays
While you are buying the toothbrushes pick up some of the largest aluminum baking trays with lids the store has. Inexpensive ones. You need these to soak and clean parts, using, of course, your new toothbrushes.
Spray Aerosol Oven Cleaner
Not a tool, but great for getting baked-on gunk off of parts when cleaning them in, you guessed it, your new baking trays. Do the operation outside and don’t breathe the fumes.
Wear safety glasses, because the spray cleaner will want to splash into your eyes.
Heavy-Duty Binder Clips
Use these generously to hold your new timing belt onto the camshaft pulleys while you struggle to line up the timing marks. It’s even worse on cars with no room to work in the engine bay. Or spend big money on special car tools that do the same thing. Your choice.