Things I've learned from wrenching

Messages
169
Location
Kansas City
I've been working on cars since the early 1970's. My own and those of my family and friends. Repairs have run the spectrum from oil changes to head gaskets to pulling engines to replace internal components. In 40 odd years I've learned some things: *Keep organized. Make notes, take pictures, store bolts neatly. I try to thread bolts back into the holes they came out of as soon as the component is removed. That way, I don't have to sort a box of random bolts when reassembling. * Make sure all bolts are removed. Most items separate easily when all fasteners are out. The exception would be something like cylinder heads that can become "glued" in place. I've seen things ruined from pounding and prying only to find out that one bolt was overlooked. * Penetrating oil and heat are your friends when removing corroded fasteners. A heat gun works but so does a propane or Map gas torch. Be careful though. A torch can and does burn grease, rubber, and plastic. * Utilize your resources. A Haynes manual or FSM is invaluable. Internet searches can be a great help too. An older guy at a parts place can be a great source of information. * If you're frustrated or tired - STOP. Take a break, get lunch or quit for the day. Rest and a fresh perspective can do wonders for problem solving. * An engine needs fuel, air, compression, and correctly timed spark to run. Take any of those away and it doesn't. * Spend some time just looking at or listening to things. Cracked rubber (vacuum leaks), corroded connectors (electrical issues). Get a mechanic's stethascope (HF) - it will help you isolate noises, ticks, etc. * A good worklight is one of your best tools. So is a telescoping magnet pick up. * A small amount of copper antiseize on bolts subject to corrosion can make life easier for you next time things have to come apart. * Make a "don't forget" list for reassembly and hang it up where you can see it. Things like oil or ATF filled before startup. I once saw a guy ruin a freshly rebuilt engine because no one had filled it with oil. I'm sure there's a lot more. Experience is the best teacher. Anything else you'd care to add?
 
Messages
609
Location
New Jersey
Here are mine: Have someone around to shout at. Have a new, working car around that has minimal maintenance requirements in addition to what you are working on. PB Blaster. If you are shopping at Rock Auto, buy the most expensive or second most expensive part. Live close to at least one good parts store. If there is at least a one in one thousand chance that you will use a tool a second time, drive past Harbor Freight and go directly to Sears. Never, ever deviate from the factory oil weight/specification. Ever. If you are an amateur, take time to think things through and always consider the safety of your next action.
 
Messages
2,441
Location
snowblind in TX
You can think about killing service writers and managers. Think about it but don't do it. Get your brainwork/diagnoses done in the morning, stack your ROs, and slam parts in the afternoon. Brains sometimes don't work so well after lunch. Other techs play head games. Expect it, adapt and overcome. Don't borrow tools more then once, preferably NEVER. Inspect cars for hidden cameras before working on them. Gasoline in your armpit burns...seriously. A good parts counterman is your friend. Do not p... them off. Keep shortcuts to yourself. More to be lost than gained by sharing. Nothing worse than seeing reduced SLTS times because some idiot decided to write in and tell FoMoCo a quicker way to do a job. Enjoy that $50 reward when it costs you 20 times as much over the next year. Service writers are the "Used Car Salesmen" of the service department. With rare exceptions, customers are idiots. Not "idiot" in a bad way, just for the most part they are woefully ignorant of their vehicles, and assume for some reason they know more than me. When a customer knows his vehicle, and has at least a basic knowledge of it, I am on cloud 9. Most crooked/bad techs have short careers at dealerships. They are the reason toolboxes have wheels. The Snap-on, MAC, Matco, and Cornwell guys are really friendly......when you pay them on time.
 
Last edited:
Messages
11,849
Location
PA
Originally Posted By: chestand
*Keep organized. Make notes, take pictures, store bolts neatly. I try to thread bolts back into the holes they came out of as soon as the component is removed. That way, I don't have to sort a box of random bolts when reassembling. * Make sure all bolts are removed. Most items separate easily when all fasteners are out. The exception would be something like cylinder heads that can become "glued" in place. I've seen things ruined from pounding and prying only to find out that one bolt was overlooked. * Penetrating oil and heat are your friends when removing corroded fasteners. A heat gun works but so does a propane or Map gas torch. Be careful though. A torch can and does burn grease, rubber, and plastic. * Utilize your resources. A Haynes manual or FSM is invaluable. Internet searches can be a great help too. An older guy at a parts place can be a great source of information. * If you're frustrated or tired - STOP. Take a break, get lunch or quit for the day. Rest and a fresh perspective can do wonders for problem solving. * An engine needs fuel, air, compression, and correctly timed spark to run. Take any of those away and it doesn't. * Spend some time just looking at or listening to things. Cracked rubber (vacuum leaks), corroded connectors (electrical issues). Get a mechanic's stethascope (HF) - it will help you isolate noises, ticks, etc. * A good worklight is one of your best tools. So is a telescoping magnet pick up. * A small amount of copper antiseize on bolts subject to corrosion can make life easier for you next time things have to come apart. * Make a "don't forget" list for reassembly and hang it up where you can see it. Things like oil or ATF filled before startup. I once saw a guy ruin a freshly rebuilt engine because no one had filled it with oil.
Excellent advice, IMO. thumbsup
 
Messages
7,485
Location
S California
Clean threads to bare metal. Make sure threaded holes are clean right to the bottom. Disconnect the battery ground strap. Have a bucket of water, a blanket and a fire extinguisher at the ready. Make sure your work area is well ventilated. Don't leave dirty, oily or gasoline soaked rags laying around. Have good lighting, don't get incandescent bulbs near your work, wear safety glasses. Be careful when charging batteries even if you're an expert. Accidents are your fault.
 

chestand

Thread starter
Messages
169
Location
Kansas City
I knew I'd think of a few more: * If a buddy volunteers to help - great. It's also great if he leaves his tools at home or at least in his car/truck. I've experienced a day long repair where the last hour was separating out who's tools belonged to who. Not fun. * Jacks are for jacking. Jackstands are for supporting. Also, use wheel chocks. * Know your limitations. Nothing good will come from me tearing apart an automatic transmission, for example. If successful work on a component requires multiple special tools, farm it out to a specialist.
 

JOD

Messages
3,577
Location
PNW/WA
My one big cardinal rule, that I have to remind myself of frequently: when it doubt, take it out... If something is sorta in the way and you're wondering if you should remove it for better access--remove it! I often don't do this, and almost always regret it--or end up removing it anyway. Just spend the time in the beginning, as it normally ends up saving time and frustration in the long run.
 
Messages
778
Location
A Warm place to live in
Assume nothing till you've checked it out yourself. The right tool for the job. Using an improvised or incorrect tool can ruin a part. Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes you should think out of the box. Cheap parts and tools don't last long. Take your time - a good job can't be rushed. Above all else, safety first.
 
Messages
609
Location
New Jersey
Originally Posted By: JOD
My one big cardinal rule, that I have to remind myself of frequently: when it doubt, take it out... If something is sorta in the way and you're wondering if you should remove it for better access--remove it! I often don't do this, and almost always regret it--or end up removing it anyway. Just spend the time in the beginning, as it normally ends up saving time and frustration in the long run.
Truer words have ne'er been spoken.
 
Messages
522
Location
New York
Buy lots of Neosporin and bandages for all the scraped knuckles and miscellaneous cuts and snags. Lava soap is great at cleaning off grease and muck
 

JC1

Messages
6,114
Location
Oshawa, Ontario Canada
Lots of good advice. As others have said, don't rush the job especially if it's the first time you are doing tha repair for the first time. The other point I want to add, is if you make a mistake it's ok. Learn from it to become a better shade tree mechanic. Hopefully you don't blow an engine or tranny during that mistake. Regards, JC.
 
Messages
5,722
Location
Charlotte, NC
Something I've stumbled on to, ATF makes an excellent first pass hand cleaner. Used is better then new. DEX-II-III & +4. No experiance with others. Leaves my hands soft and grease free. Later, wash with mild hand soap, aggressive detergents strip your skin of natural oils. I've been using this for many years. Wayne
 
Messages
1,537
Location
texas
Originally Posted By: tdpark
Buy lots of Neosporin and bandages for all the scraped knuckles and miscellaneous cuts and snags.
A corollary is - put your mechanics gloves on before you scrape your knuckles, not after.
 
Messages
62
Location
NY
Some things I learned: High quality torque wrenches prevent a lot of frustration (especially in aluminum parts). Keep a good quality silicone grease within reach (3m, shin etsu) Magnetic trays are great at keeping fasteners from disappearing Keep any extra bolts, washers, shims, etc. left over from parts in a organizer. They will eventually be needed for future projects. On the other hand, keep any parts that were changed out in case they have to be reinstalled due to faulty replacement parts and/or warranty. Have an assortment of telescoping magnets for picking up dropped parts. Invest in a good quality plastic clip puller/remover. Telescoping mirrors are great for inspecting parts.
 
Messages
15,628
Location
Santa Barbara, CA
Originally Posted By: punisher
You can think about killing service writers and managers. Think about it but don't do it. Get your brainwork/diagnoses done in the morning, stack your ROs, and slam parts in the afternoon. Brains sometimes don't work so well after lunch. Other techs play head games. Expect it, adapt and overcome. Don't borrow tools more then once, preferably NEVER. Inspect cars for hidden cameras before working on them. Gasoline in your armpit burns...seriously. A good parts counterman is your friend. Do not p... them off. Keep shortcuts to yourself. More to be lost than gained by sharing. Nothing worse than seeing reduced SLTS times because some idiot decided to write in and tell FoMoCo a quicker way to do a job. Enjoy that $50 reward when it costs you 20 times as much over the next year. Service writers are the "Used Car Salesmen" of the service department. With rare exceptions, customers are idiots. Not "idiot" in a bad way, just for the most part they are woefully ignorant of their vehicles, and assume for some reason they know more than me. When a customer knows his vehicle, and has at least a basic knowledge of it, I am on cloud 9. Most crooked/bad techs have short careers at dealerships. They are the reason toolboxes have wheels. The Snap-on, MAC, Matco, and Cornwell guys are really friendly......when you pay them on time.
HAHAHAHA so true. And the part about not annoying the counter guy, could not be more true. It is amazing how some techs get their parts delivered to their stall as soon as they arrive while others are paged to come pick them up a couple hours after the part arrives. Not sure if you ever checked out the discussion board on FMCDealer, but anytime a tech comes up with a shortcut they all get jumped on. To add to the don't borrow tools, don't lend tools. They grow feet and run away.
 
Messages
36,528
Location
ME
Originally Posted By: Jaykim81
Keep any extra bolts, washers, shims, etc. left over from parts in a organizer. They will eventually be needed for future projects. On the other hand, keep any parts that were changed out in case they have to be reinstalled due to faulty replacement parts and/or warranty.
Have a junk drawer! These aren't airplanes you're working on, if you drop some nut down into some horrible crevice it's great to have a backup without mentioning to anyone. Sometimes I'd be paid to put in a tail light bulb and find the old one good, but making poor contact. Instant junk drawer material. A "charity case" will come along later.
 
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