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Thread: Six unusual but essential tools

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Six unusual but essential tools

    A basic socket set and pair of screwdrivers will get you through most basic backyard jobs - oil and plug changes, replacing a headlight. But if you go deeper - or work on cars long enough - you'll encounter a situation where the basic stuff's not enough. Or makes the job a lot harder and more time-consuming that it needs to be.

    Here are some specialty tools I keep in my toolbox that have made life a lot easier for me over the years. They could do the same for you, too!

    * "Wobble" extension bars -

    Most socket sets come with a a couple of extender bars to let you get a socket onto a recessed bolt/fastener that would otherwise be difficult to access. But sometimes, the path to the fastener you need to reach is not quite straight. For instance, there may be a brake line partially blocking your path; or the frame rail is in the way. That, in turn, puts the socket on the fastener unevenly - if you can get it on at all. And even if you can, getting it back on becomes a challenge because you're trying to thread it back on at an angle instead of dead on. Stripped threads and even broken studs can happen this way.

    The wobble extender has a tapered head that allows the socket to well, wobble, slightly - correcting for misalignments that would otherwise make trouble for you as you work to remove and re-install bolts in hard to reach places.

    Sears and other major tool suppliers sell them individually or in sets for both 1/2 inch and 3/8 drive sockets. If available, buy a set with a knurled shaft rather than smooth/polished chrome. The knurling provides more grip and makes it easier to manipulate the bars by touch if you need to.

    Sears/Craftsman sells a six piece set for $34.99; item number 00934904000; see http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_1...seBVCookie=Yes for more info.

    * Stubby combination wrenches -

    Sometimes, a normal sized combination wrench won't fit. It's either too long - or doesn't leave enough room once it's on to let you move the handle back and forth to apply sufficient force to remove the bolt you're struggling with.

    A set of Stubbies can be some of your very best tool-time friends.

    These combination wrenches are just like regular combination wrenches; three-point open ended on one end, 12 point closed end on the other. But they are about half the overall length of standard combination wrenches. You can buy them individually but it's more economical to buy a complete set - even if you currently only have one situation where a specific size stubby wrench might be helpful. Eventually, you'll need another - larger or smaller size. I have a set that ranges from 9/16 size to 5/16, standard. But you may want to get metric sizes if you work mostly on newer/import stuff.

    Northern Tool sells a nice 7-piece set for $49.99; item number 15235; see http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/w...&ci_sku=152535 online for more info.

    * "Crow foot" flare nut wrenches -

    These things are really clever. Let's say you need to loosen a fitting for a hydraulic hose, such as a power steering line. You can't get a socket on it (because of the hose) and you can't apply sufficient force to a standard open-end wrench because of the tight surroundings. Ordinarily, you'd be stuck. But not if you have some crow foot wrenches.

    These are hybrids tools that combine the form of an open-end wrench and the function of a socket. There's the "head" of an open-end wrench - with a four-point hole for an extender bar, so the wrench can be turned via a socket driver. The range of motion becomes 90 degrees - and vertical rather than horizontal - allowing you to apply a lot of force to the wrench in places where it would otherwise be super hard to even get a wrench on the fastener, let alone get any torque on it.

    The head of the tool is also unique. It is four-point, with "jaws" near the open end to secure the tool onto the bolt. This helps keep the tool from rounding off the shoulders of the bolt you're trying to remove.

    Snap-on tools sells a comprehensive 10-piece set for $163.50 in both metric and standard sizes. Item number 210FRHMA; see http://buy1.snapon.com/catalog/item....7&group_ID=266 online for more details.

    * Hemostat -

    No need to attend medical school to make use of handy tools originally designed for doctors.A hemostat looks like a pair of scissors, except that the blades have been replaced with locking clamps. Surgeons use hemostats to stop bleeding arteries - but you can use them to temporarily clamp a disconnected fuel or brake hose - or just hold something in place while you fiddle with your now-free hands. They are especially handy for fine/detailed work - places and jobs where fingers are too big and clumsy.

    Hemostats come with both curved and straight ends, in a variety of lengths and sizes. They're also pretty cheap; about $5-$10 per pair or so, depending on where you buy.

    Many auto parts stores will have hemostats for sale up near the counter; or check out suppliers such as Harbor Freight Tools, which sells as 12 inch model for only $3.99. Item number 94952-0VGA; see http://ww2.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=94952 online for more info.

    * Lead pipe -

    It's not really a tool, per se - but it's still every mechanic's friend. A two or even three foot section of sturdy pipe (PVC works, too) can be used to apply extra leverage to a ratchet in order to free a seized up or super tight bolt. Just slip the pipe over the handle of the ratchet and turn. You'll be amazed at this practical demonstration of a principle that go back to the ancient Greeks and before.

    So save that piece of PVC from your bathroom remodel - or just buy a length of pipe at the hardware store next time you're there. Someday, it could save the day for you.

    * The Grabber -

    This tool is sold under a variety of brand names (and the style varies slightly from brand to brand) but the essence of it is the same. It's a length of flexible hollow tubing with a T-style handle at one end and, at the business end, a set of prongs that extends and retracts as you pull up and down on the T handle.

    This tool picks things you've dropped and can't get to - even if they are not metallic (in which case a magnet won't work). With so many small plastic fasteners in use today, the Grabber can be a godsend. It can also be used to manipulate a wire or screw or fitting into an area where your hands can't reach - or fish out something you can't even see. For example, I recently helped a friend recover a door jamb striker wire that had fallen deep into a crevass inside an inaccessible part of the car's wheelhouse.

    Like bacon in the fridge, every house should a Grabber in the garage.

    The one I've got looks like this: http://toolmonger.com/2006/07/29/flexible-grabber-tool/

    END

  2. #2
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    Good idea, but...

    Remember to use the lead pipe just for loosening. If you use it for tightening you will soon find youself familiar with some drill bits and another tool called an EazyOut.


  3. #3
    MikeHalloran
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    Actual lead pipe is soft enough to bend in your bare hands; it's not at all suitable for use as a wrench extension.

    Steel pipe is the way to go; it's strong and cheap. If rust bothers you, buy galvanized steel, or stainless steel.


  4. #4
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools




    One handy dandy little tool I use a lot, but rarely for what it's designed for, is a distributor clamp wrench. Great for getting to 1/2 and 9/16 bolts out of the way. Especially handy for working on the thermostat on a Chrysler big block with a/c.
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  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    Quote Originally Posted by grouch



    One handy dandy little tool I use a lot, but rarely for what it's designed for, is a distributor clamp wrench. Great for getting to 1/2 and 9/16 bolts out of the way. Especially handy for working on the thermostat on a Chrysler big block with a/c.
    I have a set of thos also - and you're right, they do come in handy for jobs their designers probably never intended! I have found that as I have accumulated tools, a certain "critical mass" has been achieved such that I can usually find a way to get to/deal with virtually any weird job that comes up in the process of fixing something...

    "There is no such thing as having too many tools"

  6. #6
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    I'd never use a pipe to give extra leverage. If the fastener you're trying to undo suddenly lets go there's a chance that the pipe will slip off - when this happens, your hand will almost invariably hit something very solid very hard! If you must, in an emergency, use extra leverage, do it with a solid T-bar, not a ratchet, as the extra torque you're applying may exceed the torque capacity of the ratchet.

    Far better to invest in a breaker bar - if a 2ft breaker bar won't shift it, it ain't gonna move!

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand
    I'd never use a pipe to give extra leverage. If the fastener you're trying to undo suddenly lets go there's a chance that the pipe will slip off - when this happens, your hand will almost invariably hit something very solid very hard! If you must, in an emergency, use extra leverage, do it with a solid T-bar, not a ratchet, as the extra torque you're applying may exceed the torque capacity of the ratchet.

    Far better to invest in a breaker bar - if a 2ft breaker bar won't shift it, it ain't gonna move!
    I've got a two-foot breaker bar and on a few occasions it wasn't enough. Using a hollow pipe to extend the length (and leverage) of the bar has done the job. As far as "letting go" - understand what you're saying but haven't experienced that; I apply force enought o get it going and can usually tell by feel that it's beginning to free - at which point I use the regular breaker bar or wrench or whatever...


  8. #8
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I've got a two-foot breaker bar and on a few occasions it wasn't enough. Using a hollow pipe to extend the length (and leverage) of the bar has done the job. As far as "letting go" - understand what you're saying but haven't experienced that; I apply force enought o get it going and can usually tell by feel that it's beginning to free - at which point I use the regular breaker bar or wrench or whatever...
    I remember, back in the days when I ran a very lucrative car servicing business as a sideline, trying to shift an axle nut on a VW. A six foot scaffold pole on my largest breaker bar wouldn't budge it. In the end I took it to my local, friendly, VW garage. When I collected the car I asked them how they undid it, the service manager said 'The same as we always do when they stick, we burn it off with an Oxy Acetylene torch then replace the stub axle.' At least that explained the cost!

    Ken.
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  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I've got a two-foot breaker bar and on a few occasions it wasn't enough. Using a hollow pipe to extend the length (and leverage) of the bar has done the job. As far as "letting go" - understand what you're saying but haven't experienced that; I apply force enought o get it going and can usually tell by feel that it's beginning to free - at which point I use the regular breaker bar or wrench or whatever...
    I remember, back in the days when I ran a very lucrative car servicing business as a sideline, trying to shift an axle nut on a VW. A six foot scaffold pole on my largest breaker bar wouldn't budge it. In the end I took it to my local, friendly, VW garage. When I collected the car I asked them how they undid it, the service manager said 'The same as we always do when they stick, we burn it off with an Oxy Acetylene torch then replace the stub axle.' At least that explained the cost!

    Ken.
    Hilarious!

    ...but also practical. A torch can solve countless problems!

  10. #10
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    This article has been posted on the main site:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...6&Itemid=10856


  11. #11
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand
    I'd never use a pipe to give extra leverage. If the fastener you're trying to undo suddenly lets go there's a chance that the pipe will slip off - when this happens, your hand will almost invariably hit something very solid very hard! If you must, in an emergency, use extra leverage, do it with a solid T-bar, not a ratchet, as the extra torque you're applying may exceed the torque capacity of the ratchet.

    Far better to invest in a breaker bar - if a 2ft breaker bar won't shift it, it ain't gonna move!

    When I ran a salvage yard, I ran into some lug nuts that just flat wouldn't come off. They were on a 1947 Ford truck so running down to the parts store wouldn't have yielded what we would have destroyed with a torch. I used a driveshaft about 7 feet long and was hanging on it with all my weight. That wasn't enough. I got the owner (I was the manager) and he got on there with me. 2, 250 pound men bouncing up and down on a 7 foot cheater pipe finally broke it loose. We had to do all the lug nuts that way. It seems someone had tried that before but hadn't noticed the big letter "L" on each stud.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Six unusual but essential tools

    And when using a pipe or a breaker bar, 6-point sockets are a must!

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