Going by the book while driving and repairing fine vintage automobiles usually means running into the point where the manual says use Special Service Tool X-5745 to remove a bearing, or SST set 09612-10091 and a block of wood to overhaul the steering gear. Many of these tools have long since been tossed into the dumpster of discontinued parts. Lack of availability can result in fabrication of customized sockets or creatively bent wrenches. This would especially be true if you drive a 1959 Fiat 600, but not in this case. Dan Lennon is not only the proud owner of a Concours’ d’Lemons winning Fiat 600, but also the special service tool devised in Italy solely to tighten the otherwise impossible to reach cylinder head bolt behind thermostat housing. Dan carries this tool and torque wrench with the Fiat. Not all of us are lucky enough to locate these most purposeful of tools. Somewhere in the Clunkbucket Arsenal of Tools is a box end wrench bent into a 90-degree angle with open end hacked off in case of small block Mopar distributor adjustment.
Archive for the ‘Tool of the Week’ Category
In a time before nuts and bolts were packaged into useless plastic bags in never correct quantities, gathering fasteners was as easy as heading down to your auto parts or hardware store and just asking for a dozen M8 45 millimeter exhaust studs with a 1.25 thread pitch and matching copper pinch nuts. While there are some auto parts joints and fastener suppliers that still operate this way, many more have gone down the dark path of plastic bags and blister packs. As knowing is half the battle when it comes to finding the right fastener, the nut and bolt measuring gauge or screw checker is an indispensable item to have in the garage or pocket. The nut and bolt gauge also comes in handy when aluminum treads unscrew right along with the with the stud or bolt. After swearing up a storm and peeling away the aluminum, knowing exactly which Heli-Coil® or screw thread insert to get is foolproof thanks to the nut and bolt gauge. The good news is that some of the places that will still give you a brown paper lunch bag full of nuts and bolts will usually supply a gratis nut and bolt gauge with purchase. Measure it twice. Fasten it once. Or at least until it breaks again.
Dividing the number of times a tool is used into its own utility makes the battery charger one of the best long-term investments for the absent minded and forward thinker alike. Since the basic design and chemistry of a lead-acid automobile battery haven’t changed all that much since the days of Charles F. Kettering, the old battery charger is a tool that is often used for many years before getting passed onto the next generation. The official Clunkbucket battery charger was picked up over three cars and four motorcycles ago, and has never failed in in its ongoing task putting the juice back into the cells.
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From the back to nature desk of our renewable resource and sustainability division comes one of the more versatile and useful items in the Clunkbucket Arsenal of Tools. Wood. Countless blocks, lengths, or chunks of wood make it onto the tool carts and work benches of the world as proof that necessity is the mother of invention. Can’t get the car high enough with the floor jack? Block of wood on top of the jack. No parking brake? No problem! Wooden wheel chock. Firewood works especially well in this case for those so equipped. Seal driver kit not equipped with a big enough round to seat the rear main seal on a Mitsubishi Astron engine? Precision cut wood, with hammer. Battery hold down corroded to nothing? Wood wins again as an economical and corrosion free substitute. Sticky starter? A few well-placed raps with a cut-down wooden broomstick and away you go. The block of wood can be used in combination with any number of hammers for non-marring blows or convincing of fancy-finish parts into the right place. Wood used to keep Revolution four-spoke wheels from rolling into the neighbor’s expensive land yachts during cleaning, prevents unwanted litigation, and pays for itself a million times over. Any worthwhile tool cart or box carries wood of varying shapes and sizes collected from the light bulb moments of mechanical genius. As we’re certain there are myriad uses for wood not mentioned here, additional applications of wood for automotive repairs and/or parts are welcomed in the comments.
As we approach the beginning of Mitsubishi Astron engine rebuilding season, it is time for the first in a series of tools that can help get the job done. A quality step in transforming a salvaged engine block into a working short block is checking the deck for flatness. One might think they could lay any old reasonably straight thing across the deck and mark it good, but unblown head gaskets on boosted engines depend on a perfectly flat deck. Measuring this kind of flat requires not just any straight edge, but a super straight edge – machined super straight. There is little room for error. The standard value of deck flatness on the G54B Astron turbocharged engine is 0.0020 inches, with a limit of 0.0039 inches, or one tenth of one millimeter. Checking for flatness requires a super straight edge and the right thickness of feeler gauge. Run the super straight edge across the deck in as many X and H patterns as possible, and see if the feeler gauge goes under the edge at any point. Looking close for any cracks at this time is also a good idea. The super straight edge is also useful for measuring flatness of intake and exhaust manifold surfaces, oil pump gear clearances, and countless other things where flat must be wicked flat. While you might be able to get away with using a belt sander and a vice to get that old Alfa Romeo exhaust manifold surface flat, this same method is not advised for engine block decks. Support your local machine shop to fix warped decks. Listening to SS Decontrol or Minor Threat and using the super straight edge is OK, but using that old McMetrics conversion ruler you picked up from the McDonalds in 1973 as a super straight edge is not.
From the atmospheric pressure and faulty carburetor adjustment division of Tool of the Week comes the large dial vacuum gauge. As the Starlet was going through its bi-annual carburetor meltdown, the time was right to bust out the vacuum gauge to see what was going on. Spark was there for sure. There was plenty of air. That left fuel and fuel delivery as suspects. This particular vacuum gauge also checks for fuel pressure. Bonus! With a few extra lengths of hose and a t-connector, we first determined that the fuel pressure was in the correct range. A hose hooked up to a vacuum source below the carburetor base revealed that the engine was doing OK too. That left only one thing that could be wrong, and what we knew was wrong all along. Wacky float. The forward thinking bunch that designed this particular Aisin carburetor made it so the only way to adjust the float is to remove the air horn – or top, of the carburetor. Off came the carburetor for yet another fun-filled carburetor rebuild and float drop reset. With the carburetor and everything else bolted back into the Starlet, the vacuum gauge went back under the hood along along with a timing light to set the idle air-fuel mixture into the highest vacuum point sweet spot. And now for an official announcement. The next time this carburetor comes off the Starlet, it will not get rebuilt, or get bolted back on.
Find this very Fuel Pump and Vacuum Tester gauge here, or similar versions at other fine retailers.
From the turbocharged G54B-4G54 Astron engine department of Tool of the Week comes the digital scale, shown here in the process of measuring more Astron connecting rods than we have engine blocks to put them in. As yet another Mitsubishi engine buildup is in the near future, a small investment in an inexpensive digital scale seemed a good way to figure out was going on with two sets of connecting rods. One set of rods appeared to have been worked and balanced, and was also bushed for floating piston pins that held on a set of beat forged pistons. The other set of rods was stock except for being resized in preparation for a rebuild. Both sets of rods were fitted with ARP rod bolts. The digital scale was used to get a general idea of mass, and produced surprisingly repeatable results despite its low price. Actual connecting balancing requires a fixture that measures the mass at one end or the other, and is either made or sold separately. What the digital scale revealed was that the worked and bushed set of rods were all within one gram of each other, scaling in at around 805 grams each. Bonus! The factory connecting rods were as far as 18 grams apart, with the heaviest one scaling in at 843 grams. Quick math made for a 128 gram total weight difference between the two sets of rods. For under 20 bucks, the digital scale helped determine which set of connecting rods to haul into the machine shop, along with a crankshaft and yet another engine block.
From the Large Hadron Collider department of Tool of the Week comes the Telescoping Magnet, or magnetic pickup tool. Regardless of automobile make or model, there is always at least one fastener in a difficult if not ridiculous location. Getting to that bugger often requires ingenuity in action. After putting a box end wrench into a vice and using a sledge hammer to bend it into a crows foot, pegging the swear-o-meter, twisting a screwdriver into a 73-degree angle with a set of vice-grips, and cursing whoever or whatever company was responsible for putting the fastener in such a ludicrous location, you finally crack that nut or bolt loose.
Celebrating in this moment triumph and victory, you forget that as hard as it was to get to the fastener, it will be equally if not nearly impossible to fish the damn thing back out of there. This realization is particularly sinking after dropping the nut or bolt. Enter the miracle of the Telescoping Magnet pickup tool! The telescoping section of this Tool of the Week is much like the telescoping antenna on old radios, or the fully electronic telescoping antenna on the Starion. The difference is a small and powerful magnet is affixed the end of the telescoping section instead of the usual Jack-in-the-Box or Mooneyes antenna ball. Just set the tool to the right length, and go fishing. The bonus useful warning of the week is that no matter how supergenius of an idea it seems at first, never use the Telescoping Magnet pickup tool to fish a smart phone out of an unreachable place or anywhere near a computer. Powerful magnets do all sorts of undesirable things to data stored on magnetic media.