Tech Tips by the Dozen

  1. If you’re more interested in mechanical performance than concours judging, mark the bolt sizes right onto the fasteners on your engine or use certain colors to paint specific size bolts. Then you’ll know which wrench to use.
  2. Having trouble getting a spark plug into a hole with a blind spot or with slightly worn threads? Use a piece (several inches long) of windshield wiper hose as a tool. Slip the hose over the spark plug terminal and put the electrode into the hole. Twist the hose clockwise. The plug will usually go right in like magic.
  3. Some 1930s cars require an eccentric adjustment before service brakes can be adjusted. Many modern mechanics and restorers aren’t familiar with this procedure so be sure you follow steps in the shop manual carefully.
  4. Check national auto parts chains for availability of vintage-car suspension bits. A company in California is now reproducing many such items and supplying them to chain stores as a special-order item that can be shipped in a few days.
  5. Tire-shine sprays will stain asphalt driveways. Move the car on a dirt or gravel surface, or place old newspapers under the tires.
  6. Periodically check prongs on older wheel covers and, if necessary, re-bend to factory position. Wheel covers that fly off at speed can get lost or roll into the car and damage paint.
  7. When painting or undercoating wheel wells, drape a plastic garbage bag over your tire, wheel and hubcap to protect them from overspray.
  8. Black liquid shoe polish (aka “leather dye”) comes in handy for detailing items like convertible-top well covers, rubber parts and plastic under-hood components. Just wet the sponge applicator and dab it on for a like-new look.
  9. If you want to stay cleaner when working on cars, work with your arms extended as far out as possible. This helps keep the dirt and grease off your clothes.
  10. Keep a supply of different size corks (or rubber stoppers) in your shop to plug disconnected hoses and lines, thus preventing fluid or vacuum leaks.
  11. Try the newest screwdriver design with a hex collar on top of the shaft, just below the handle. This allows you to use a wrench to increase torque. Professional versions are expensive, but a chain-store design is cheaper and almost as good.
  12. The plastic tops used on large cake plates, sub or sandwich platters and other fast food items make great, throw-away oil pans. You can usually pick these up after parties catered by the sandwich shop. The party thrower will be glad to get rid of them so easily.

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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