Tech Tips by the Dozen IV

  • When laying out holes to drill in a car body, don’t mark the holes directly on the sheet metal and start drilling. Instead, apply masking tape to the body, mark the holes on the tape then use the tape as a template (see photo below). This allows you to double-check measurements.
  • When drilling into stainless steel, operate the drill in short slow “bursts” rather than steady drilling. Steady drilling on the hard stainless steel will only ruin your drill bit; using short, slow bursts will allow the drill bit to “bite” into the stainless steel.
  • When replacing the plastic tacking strip on some late-model convertibles, you may run into a thick tacking strip (about ½ inch) that isn’t available from suppliers. An easy solution is to use two layers of ¼-inch strip stapled, tacked or glued together.
  • When replacing spark plugs, it can be very difficult to thread the new plugs into blind holes at just the right angle. Instead of a socket wrench, fit a thin piece of windshield wiper tubing tightly over the plug terminal. Twist the tubing to thread the plug in easily.
  • Problem: Loosening nut on back of dashboard that holds choke cable. Solution: Because there was no room to swing an open-end wrench, the alternative was to detach the other end of cable, run a deep socket up the cable and turn the socket with small vise grips.
  • Problem: Difficulty holding screw in place while trying to drive it in with a drill. Solution: Pass screw through strip of light cardboard. Hold the screw with cardboard while driving it with the drill. Before final tightening, remove cardboard and drive screw fully tight.
  • On early postwar cars, an annoying squeak often developed in the molding between the windshield and instrument panel. You can often eliminate it by loosening the screws that hold the molding and squirting a graphite lubricant on the screws and under the molding.
  • If some fender holes don’t line up with the body holes when a fender is being installed, try tapering the ends of the bolt by grinding or cutting a slot in the end with a hacksaw and “pinching” a taper. As the bolt is pulled tight, the taper forces the holes to line up.
  • Rub soap inside the hose ends when installing new radiator hoses. The soap makes the hoses slip onto the fittings much easier and eliminates pushing and twisting of the hose. Sandpaper the rust off the fittings and add new hose clamps.
  • Use magnetism to hold valve keepers in place during reassembly of a flathead engine after a valve job. Stroke the ends of the valve stems with a powerful alnico magnet before dropping the valves back in the block. The small keepers will “leap” to the stems.
  • Replacing a floor-mounted headlight dimmer switch? Tie string to the old switch, loosen attaching screws and lower it onto the string. Swap the electrical wires and the string to the new switch; then pull it to its proper position from inside the car and replace screws.
  • Worn windshield wipers can be “restored” by stropping the edges of the rubber blades on sandpaper until clean rubber shows over the entire length. Then hold the blade on edge and slide it lightly lengthwise on the sandpaper to square it up.

John “Gunner” Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.


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