And with this, we kick off a series dedicated to enabling the ownership of your crappy hoopty. We’re certainly not experts, but we’ve busted enough knuckles and stripped enough bolts to learn a few tricks along the way. We freely admit most of the knowledge you’ll see here is stolen in one way or another; after all, it’s not like we were all born knowing which vacuum port to hook the advance to. We’re just passing it along for your benefit.
Fitting with the title, we’re starting off with a rundown of some cheap ways to keep your wrenches from growing legs.
Easily the single-best way to organize box-end wrenches, a $1 ‘biner from Harbor Freightor the checkout aisle at Lowes gives you a zero-extra-space solution for keeping your SAE and metric apart and in order. They transport easily, making it easier to just grab the whole set as you walk out to the car. Itty-bitty key chain sized ones will work for your tiny wrenches, and big ones work for the big ones. You might even notice your Crescent wrenches have a hole in the handle that fits as well. Why anyone would pay (or bother to keep) the plastic tray-style wrench holders is beyond me.
If you’re spinning wrenches regularly and haven’t treated yourself to a magnetic tray, you’re blowing it. It’s worth drawing a distinction between a magnetic bowl and a magnetic tray. Trays are rectangular and will actually hold a wrench. Bowls are great for fasteners and the occasional socket, but lean towards uselessness when it comes to wrenches or screwdrivers. A magnetic tray plus a towel equals a fancy fender cover, as well. Just be careful when you go for that post-fix test drive. On more than one occasion I’ve left the tray in the engine bay or upside down on the frame rail with predictable results. They usually run about $10 at the cheap end to $20-25 at Sears or the like.
Hobos know what’s up. In all seriousness, hang on to the box your new carb just came in. Car parts in particular tend to come in sturdy, well-engineered boxes on account of their weight and sharp edges. If you’re working in a dirt or gravel driveway (or field or whatever), it doesn’t hurt to grab a box just to throw stuff in to keep your ratchets’ mechanisms from filling with crud. You’ll have to forgive the lack of actual photographic evidence of wrenches in a box, as when things get hectic enough to resort to employing cardboard, I’m not likely to have a camera lying around. Anyway, having any old box to throw stuff in as you wrap up and head back to the garage is so much better than picking up each socket individually. Can’t argue with the price, either.
So concludes the first installment of Hooniverse Wrenching Tips. Not exactly mind-blowing, but that’s not the point. The goal here is to get rid of your excuses for not picking up a project car or taking a hand to the one you already have. We’ll probably bounce around between specific car tech topics (like the aforementioned vacuum advance), “Grandpa Wisdom” type tricks and advice for being a gearhead in Our Modern Age.