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Thread: Eight Random Home Mechanic Do's and Don'ts

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    Eight Random Home Mechanic Do's and Don'ts

    It's the small things that get use into trouble - or save our bacon - when we're messing with machinery. Here's a short list of Do's and Don'ts picked up from personal experience - both good and bad!

    * Don't forget to use threadlocker (when called for):

    Threadlocker is a compound used to prevent critical fasteners from coming loose and if you forget to dab your bolt with it before tightening it down, it just might come loose at a most inconvenient time. I once forgot to use the stuff on the three bolts securing a torque converter to a flywheel. First one came loose, then another. When the third let go, the torque converter was no longer connected to the engine - so no longer spinning - and the car therefore wasn't moving anymore. Luckily, I was home when it happened - and it was easy enough to re-install the bolts (with threadlocker this time). Also: Be sure you use the right kind of threadlocker; the blue stuff's fine for parts that sometimes need to come apart. Red is for stuff that rarely does. You may need an air gun to get it loose, if you do - so be sure you're using the right type (or have an air gun, just in case).

    * Do use a torque wrench:

    This tool is essential to avoid over-tightening a bolt (and potentially, ruining an expensive part such as an aluminum cylinder head or intake manifold). "Hand tight" or "by feel" doesn't cut it - and you're foolish to risk it in order to save the $50 or so a good quality torque wrench will set you back. Get one of the "click" models that does just that (it makes an audible click) as you reach the pre-set torque value, making it next to impossible to get it wrong.

    * Don't get impatient:

    Guys who've been fiddling with cars for more than a couple of years will tell you one of the easiest ways to make a mistake is to rush things - or allow frustration to cloud your judgment. Always allot plenty of time to do a job - even if that means the car is going to be on blocks for a couple of days until you get it sorted out. If you feel yourself beginning to get tired (or worse, angry) that's the signal to step away. Grab a beer from the fridge, have some coffee - whatever. Just so you leave it alone for long enough to get back in the right frame of mind.

    * Do ask for help when you're stuck:

    Few of us know how to do everything - so there's no shame in asking someone for help when you need it. It's better than breaking things, too. Over the years, I've found it's very helpful to begin any job by reading the procedure in the shop manual closely before lifting the hood - or touching a socket. If I get to something I can't fathom, I'll call a knowledgeable friend who might know the deal inside and out. It's sound policy and will make any project you undertake more fun than frustrating.

    * Don't use WD-40 in lieu of the proper lubricant:

    The "WD" stands for "water displacement" - not "oil" or "grease." The stuff's great for clearing moisture out of a distributor cap and electrical connections, but it's not a substitute for white lithium grease (for cables, door jam mechanisms, etc.) nor does it provide the lubrication that "3-in-1" penetrating oil does. Read the can (and your manual). Use only the specified lubricant for whatever it is you're fooling with.

    * Do use the right tool for the job:

    Yes, improvising can be satisfying - when it works out. But just as often, you'll end up messing something up - or just skinning your knuckles. Some tasks call for a task-specific tool - and while it may involve having to buy (or beg) a tool you'll only use once in a blue moon, the alternative (something expensive that's now ruined) is less appealing.

    * Don't use RTV/gasket maker where it's not necessary:

    A fairly common amateur home mechanic mistake is to use a bead of RTV in addition to the cork or rubber gasket - even when it's not called for. The most frequently RTV'd part that doesn't need RTV (unless it's warped) is a valve/cam cover. Provided the surfaces are clean and free of debris - and "true" - the cork/rubber gasket should be all that's necessary. Use of RTV will only create a mess as it oozes between the mating surfaces - and will be hell to deal with later on, if you ever have to remove the cam/valve cover again. Use of RTV where not needed can also lead to uneven torquing of the part - and leaks. If the manual says you don't need it, don't assume you do.

    * Do take notes (and digital pictures) as you work:

    Taking things apart is a lot easier than remembering how they go back together - especially if you lack a good shop manual with schematics and blow-ups. Use masking tape and a pen to label what wires/cables went where; Dixie cups are great for keeping track of loose bolts - and making notes as you go (or taking a picture with your digital camera) can be a godsend when you're trying to put it all back in one piece - with no "extra parts" left over when you're done.

    * Don't "rig" anything. Not ever.

    Ok, maybe if you're still in high school - or college. Being broke is at least an excuse for "fixing" something half-assed. The only good that can come of it is a good story years down the road - when you can laugh yourself silly by recounting how broke and desperate (or just plain dumb) you were way back when.

  2. #2

    Re: Eight Random Home Mechanic Do's and Don'ts

    [color=green] *Do use a torque wrench:

    This tool is essential to avoid over-tightening a bolt (and potentially, ruining an expensive part such as an aluminum cylinder head or intake manifold). "

    Wasn't possible with my RV. There was too much stuff in the way of most of the intake manifold bolts. What I did was to get the "feel" of one that was in the clear, and try to tighten the others to the same the best I could. And, of course, the MPFI is on an aluminum intake manifold.

    BTW, is there such a thing as a small open-end or box torque wrench yet? If not, somebody should invent one.


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