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Article: Left Handed Socket - - - Understand what you're doing, before you understand you don't...

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LeftHanded Socket


Understand what you're doing, before you understand you don't know what you're doing.




I'm sure a lot of us know a guy who thinks he's a mechanic, who talks like he knows what he's doing, can rattle off obscure facts and figures about long ago car information that has no relevance to today's cars… but sure sounds impressive. Some of the stuff I think they make it up, or they put some facts and fiction together and come up with their own conclusions.


I've got one of those types of guys; he comes by my shop from time to time. He's harmless so to speak, hardly ever spends a dime with me, but he'll stop by to ask a question or two. Sometimes it's just to borrow a tool. Of course, his way of asking a question involves telling me something about the auto industry that really has no general purpose other than to fill his head up with a bunch of useless facts. But, he feels it is important enough of a useless fact that I should know about it. Never fails, he shows up for something and before he leaves he will enlighten me with his latest automotive words of wisdom. I guess it's his way of keeping his title as the "All knowing of useless facts and fiction of the autoworld".


"You know what year the first truck came out with a driveshaft?"


"No, I don't," I answered. (Does it matter right now? Today or any other day whether or not I know what year the first truck came out with a driveshaft? I can't recall anyone ever asking me that question, but just in case it does come up I might as well find out.)


"When did the first truck come out with a driveshaft?"


"1914," he said, "Yep… before that they were all chain driven. That's a fact."


Super, now I know what year, was the first year, of a driveshaft driven truck. Ya never know, I might be working on a crossword puzzle later today and that exact question might be on there. It's a good thing he mentioned it… why, I might have spent hours searching for the answer. I should tell him "Thanx"… but just to be on the safe side, I'll wait 'til after I've checked the crossword puzzle myself.




The other day he stopped by and told me he was working on the brakes of his sons GM truck. One of the long caliper bolts was stuck.


"Ya got one of those "cheater"bars?"


"I do, but I think it would be wiser to spray some bolt release spray on it, something that would break the rust free."


"Sure, sure, where's your bar?"


I handed him a piece of pipe large enough to get around the ratchet or wrench, or whatever it is he was using. He headed out of the shop and went back towork on the caliper.


I thought I was done with him when he suddenly appeared over my shoulder while I was working under the hood of a car.


"Ya got a drill bit that's big enough to drill out that hex head?"


I had to ask, "Did you strip it out?"


"Oh they make those things out of such soft material, you know."


"Right," I said sarcastically.


"You know they came out with those left handed sockets a long time ago,"he tells me, "I've got a few of them still in my toolbox. I was trying to take this bolt out with one of them, shouldn't ever use one of those except on lefthanded bolts and nuts."


This is one of those times that I'm not going to even ask what the heck he'stalking about… I'm just going to find the drill bit for him, and send him backdown the road. I've got things to do… can't be wasting time on this.


A few minutes later he was back… "Ya got a center punch?"


"Top right-hand drawer."


Off he went again. Now I'm wondering…how long do I let this go on before I offer to help him? Oh, I forgot… its Mr. Know-it-all… he can handle it. He's got the answers to all the known problems of the universe. Perhaps he'll even find another use for his left handed sockets while he's working on the truck. I wonder if he has the ratchet to go with them?


A few hours later he was back. Now what does he need?


"Got a tap that will fit?"


I should have known. I should have anticipated he would need that next. While I was digging around for the right size tap I knew I was in for some more of his words of wisdom. It's been a long day already; a little break from reality wouldn't hurt. Ok, what ya got… come on you always have some useless automotive knowledge you want to lay on me any time you stop by… What's it this time.


"Did ya know, the fastest time for removing a car engine, and replacing it is 42 seconds on a Ford Escort, back in 1985."


"No I didn't know that. Here's the tap for that caliper bolt." (Don't ask for details… he'll never leave… just hand him the tap and move on… reality is calling and staying in the twilight zone too long is way too dangerous. You'll get sucked up into the vortex of useless information and be swept away before ya know it.)


The things I learn from this guy. Important stuff you know. One of these days I'll find a need for it all. As for what purpose it will all serve, I haven't a clue, but I should be keeping notes. I might need some of this information the next time Alex Tribek comes knocking.


The next day he showed up at the shop with the piece of pipe, the drill bit, center punch, and the tap all neatly wrapped in a towel.


"Here ya go, got it done. I gotta ask ya, what do you do when one of those get stuck like that?"


I'm shocked, he's asking me? This is a new chapter in his approach to auto repair. I'm going to have to sound real professional here for a moment. This is my big chance… here goes…


"I generally soak the bolt and threads with penetrating oil and leave it sit for a few minutes. Then drive the socket in tight with a few taps of a hammer. Then with a bit of pressure I'll try to turn the bolt with a quick jerk. It comes loose that way every time."


He stood there visualizing in his head what I had just told him… and then he answered.


"Well why didn't I just ask you how to do it in the first place?"


Funny ain't it… how some people learn from others and others learning by example. Then there are some who think they know it all… but really don't know much at all. Then there are guys like this, the kind of guy who usually will find things out the only way they ever find anything out.


The hard way.



Thanks for keeping up with my column. I enjoy writing the stories and I especially enjoy your comments. Your comments help decide what I send onto the editors. Not all of the stories go into print... (they decide not me...) but in time... they might all make it sooner or later.


Thanx again.






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I had one of those type of do it yourselfers in the shop last week. He knew everything. He had us replacing a fuel filter to get rid of a gasoline smell he was getting in the car. Now figure that one out??????????? His whole problem was the car was missing, running rich, CEL was on, and he was smelling the unburnt fuel coming through the exhaust. I told him before we ever started that this was not a fix for his problem but did he listen? Nah! :P

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Your story reminded me of an old customer.


Back in the 80’s I had this customer who insisted on bringing his shop manual with him and reviewing the work on his car before I worked on it, just to make sure I was doing the job right. I was a lot younger then and had a lot more patience. He would leave me the manual, just in case I had any issues. Imagine that! Also, he would tell me that if I got stuck, just call him. He will run right over to give me a hand.


Why I put up with that back then I can’t answer you. Now, I just laugh about it.

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I toss the manuals in the back seat... and the ones that want to show me the page I just laugh at them. I guess they figure I must be a complete idiot. Why else would I be fixing cars for a living? I guess I'm too stupid to know what I'm doing and they've got to help me out. My under-my-breath comment to them, "Hey, dipstick... you're the one that needs help... you've got the book and STILL don't have a clue what to do...! ! " I guess that's why I write about the things people do... it's common all over the country-----------Stupidity that is. LOL Thanx for the comments guys.

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