It doesn’t matter if your tools fell off the Snap-On truck or were purchased with a Harbor Freight coupon: They all eventually succumb to the forces of evil and torque. Over time, your tool box, and hopefully not the trash can, will fill with detritus: loose ratchets that slip every time, extensions that twisted into two, and a slew of other broken bits—all of which can be utilized for other purposes. Let me offer an example.
My latest tool improvisation occurred over the weekend while I was wrapping up a mild suspension rebuild on my ’96 Chevrolet Suburban K2500, which has its adjustment slots for the upper control arm locked from the factory with these knock-out tabs. Sometimes they ping off the fender well after a few taps, but in my case, they were not leaving the control arm mounts without a fight. I needed a larger punch than the tools I had on hand, most of which were suited only for knocking out skinny roll pins and the like.
Down at the bottom of the tool box I found some twisted extensions, perfect candidates to become punches themselves. Their forged steel holds up well to hammer hits so, with a grinder, I shaped the tip of these DIY punches and tailored them to my particular project.
Here’s another example: Everyone has one or two leftover ratchets that have stripped their gear teeth and no longer work. The core of the mechanism, which holds the socket drive, can still live on as a socket tool; the extra grip of the knurling can help spin bolts into place in tight spots.
Instead of tossing everything, keep a special drawer for bent and broken tools. There will come a day when a project’s needs exceed the capabilities of your tool box, and a little creativity will go a long way.