Never Enough Tools
Ah, tools… one of my favorite things. Tools are what separate us from the rest of the planet’s occupants. You know, we’ve all seen some primate on a nature show use a stick to get at some food, or otters use a rock to break open an abalone shell. Chances are you might have even seen a bird that has figured out how to use a small stone to break into an egg. But, none of them can match the ability of man and his far reaching capabilities to mold his environment with his creative mind and opposable thumbs.
In a mechanic’s world tools are everything. From the roll around floor jack to the high tech scanners we use. Tools are everywhere, and most mechanics have more than a passing interest in them. There’s hardly a mechanic I know who doesn’t like taking a little break from all the grease and grime for a browse through the tool trucks. At times, just to get a glimpse of some of those shiny new wrenches in their little boxes is enough for some tool connoisseurs, while others want to collect them all. There’s a tool for every conceivable job, and as a mechanic you’ll more than likely use most of them at some point in time. Sure, once in a while you’ll lose a socket or manage to break something. All that means is another trip to the tool truck to find a replacement, and an even better chance to gaze at all the other tools you’ve just got to have.
It doesn’t take long before the investment into tools and tool storage units becomes astronomical. I know my collection has far surpassed my meager tool box. I’ve ended up with several separate tool boxes just to keep everything in order. There are things I just don’t have room for in a tool box anymore, I keep the scanners in one area, and there are shelves for all the ball joint tools, radiator pressure tools, A/C refrigerant identifiers, leak tester, compression gauges, strut removing clamps, axle bearing pullers, and the countless other specialty items I use from time to time.
Although it might seem like I’ve got every tool I’ll ever need, (the wife thinks I do) hardly so; there’s still gadgets that I don’t have… or can’t bear to spend the cash on some of those super expensive tools that you just don’t use but once in a while. So what do I do? The same thing most everyone else does in the business… you fabricate your own. I’ve got some rather creative homemade tools stashed away in a few drawers myself. Some I’ve used several times, while others were made for just one special job. One particular tool is the door alignment tool for GM trucks. The tool is really expensive, and it’s not something I need every day, but when the need arises it’s nice to be able to realign a sagging door for a customer. I made one out of a small diameter axle shaft, and with a little welding and bending, I made an exact copy of one. It works just as well as if I had bought it off of the tool truck. (Looks just like the real deal too.)
While some homemade tools were created to save a few bucks, other homemade tools just seem to work easier or better for me than a store bought tool. Like the heater hose release tool for Ford products. I’m not sure what they were thinking when they put those blasted connectors so close to the firewall and then give you this little piece of plastic to wedge in there to release the retaining spring. I wonder if those engineers have ever tried to stretch across the top of the engine with their feet dangling in midair, while wrestling with that confounded contraption. I took a piece electrical conduit about the same size as the heater hose lines and cut it lengthwise, then welded the two pieces onto small swivels which I then welded to an old pair of brake spring pliers. Now I can simply lean over the fender slip it over the heater hose, clamp down on it lightly, and with a little push and shove, off comes the hose. Works better than that @?#A$! piece of plastic!
Of course there are those cut down sockets, bent wrenches, ground down screwdrivers and countless other wacky things you have to come up with to get a certain job done. The only problem I have now is that I look into the drawer full of this stuff and I’ve forgotten what some of them are for. It doesn’t matter, chances are they will get re-bent, re-ground, and re-welded into some other useful tool. Needless to say, I hardly ever throw any tool out… broken or not, you never know what you might need next.
When it comes to electronic tools, well… that’s a whole different scenario. Kinda hard to repurpose some of those, but I’ve managed to give a few obsolete tools a second life. I had an old (very early) Bosch injector tester that was missing most of the special cords and manuals. It sat in a dusty corner for years. Then one day when I had nothing else to do I tore it apart and used the large volt meter out of it as a wall mounted meter behind a work bench. Handy for sure, and it’s large enough to read from across the table. (It’s still there by the way.)
I know I’m not the only one out there who tries to make do with whatever you have on hand rather than buying every conceivable tool there is. An old friend of mine who owned a VW repair shop was like that. This guy had the knack of creating some of the goofiest looking tools I’ve ever seen. If you didn’t know any better you’d think some of his creations were just a piece of junk with a couple of screws welded onto it. But you’d be wrong. He had a hand made tool for just about any situation you could encounter on those old bugs. To me… it was pure genius at work, a real marvel of mechanical aptitude and homegrown savvy. If he had an idea that might make a job easier, that was more than enough incentive for him to create some new gizmo for the task.
Tools… … … the right tool, for the right job, it’s a never ending quest for the professional mechanic. You’re always seeking something that will make the next job easier; whether you buy it or make it yourself, there’s one thing for sure… you never have enough tools.