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Clips and Fasteners ---- Grrr... they can get the best of you


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Clips and Fasteners



Almost every procedure you run across on a car is going to include some sort of clip or fastener that needs to be disconnected. I sometimes wonder why the engineers design some of these unbelievable multi-clipping-overly-complicated fasteners. They'll take a simple project and turn it into a test of my patience and reasoning abilities. Sometimes I think they're only trying to find some way to make my tasks even more difficult than it needs to be. Maybe it's job security, and without making a few subtle changes to an already existing fastener they'd be out on the street with the rest of us. I'll bet in those "Towers of Powers" there's a group of engineers whose sole purpose for collecting a paycheck is to design some sort of new "Rube Goldberg" contraption to hold two pieces of wire, hose,or some body part together. Now, it's my job to figure out how to remove them.



You can actually date cars by the type of fasteners used during its production. The straight or slotted screw head came first, then around 1908 the Robertson screw (square headed fastener) was invented and was used widely on Ford's model T's. By 1930 the Phillips (named after its creator Henry Phillips) came into use on production cars. Let's not forget about the Allen head type fastener either, date unknown. (Oh, those are a whole lot of fun to deal with. Anyone who has ever taken the bolts out of an old VW CV shaft will know what I'm talking about.) The Allen head inventor is presumably an American named Gilbert Heublein, but no one knows for sure. Just as well, if I knew who it was, I'd probably want a few words with him; maybe even show him where he can put his inventive idea to better use.



Somebody had to invent the first wooden screws and pegs, and as with most inventions somebody always tries to improve on it. Soon, the industrial age brought the metal screws and various other fasteners as the standard. For a longtime, many years mind you, bolts, clamps, and other fasteners remained pretty much the same. Oh, there were the occasional engineering attempts of reverse threads and odd sizes, but for the most part connectors and fasteners were basically the same for many years. Then around 1967 the Camcar Textron Corporation introduced the "Torx" bit type fasteners. It wasn't long before they started showing up under the hood of a car. Now every mechanic had to rush out and purchase a whole new set of tools to remove them. Similar to the Allen head, but with more surface area (more or less like a star shape) they could be difficult to work with at times. I know I'm not the first one to see one of those Torx bits round off while trying to remove it, and I'm definitely not the first one who had more than a few "profound"comments about them. Especially after the head would rust shut or the size of the Torx bit was one size too small for the bolt but, you only found that out after it stripped the remaining head off the fastener.



These days clips and fasteners have even more variations than ever before. We've gone to using plastic. Plastic, plastic, plastic... big, small, colored, smooth, rough, tight fitting and loose fitting plastic fasteners. Old Rube Goldberg would be proud of these fiddly connections mechanics have to deal with these days. Some you push, some you pull, and some you do both at the same time. There are fasteners you push the center section in, and others you pull the center section out. Some you flip up a section and then push down another section… The variations are endless. I just don't get it, all this effort to make something stay in place. I understand the little CPA connector("connection position assurance"), I think of these little plastic holders like the safety pin on a grenade. The CPA holds the main connection in place, so the main connection can't be accidentally removed ...but...really... do ya have to make some of them so friggin' complicated?!?!? Some are easy,you just pop it up and off comes the main connector, others, well... not so easy. You might have to scratch your head a few times, and figure out how the darn thing comes off.



Read most R&R procedures for a fender trim, a fuel pump, a radio or for that matter just about any component,and you'll find it starts out with the basic instructions, "Remove connector"or "Remove CPA". Hey, wait a minute...how the heck do you that? I hardly ever see any of the instructions detail the exact method of undoing some of these wacky fasteners. If they do, the directions aren't always clear. I know I'll have to read it over and over again just so I understand what in the world they meant. I swear Rube Goldberg has influenced those engineers to design some of these diabolical connections.



Then there are those clips that you release with your thumb, and it slides almost completely off, and then hangs on for dear life. You tug and you pull, you push it back on all the way, and try it again, only to get it stuck in the exact same spot as the last time. After a bit of coarse vocabulary and another tug or two, it finally comes off. But, when you put it back on it falls off with the slightest twitch. Oh come on...enough already!! Try as you may, these new plastic connections can get the best of you. I'll never understand why they keep coming up with new and different fasteners when some of the older ones worked perfectly well.



Maybe I should send a box of Chinese finger traps to these engineers. Yea,see how they like it when they get stuck. They might be so busy trying to remove their fingers from these little torture devices that they'll take a break from creating new torture clips for me to deal with.



I guess it's all in a day's work for a mechanic, though. Every detail has to be figured out right down to the lonely plastic connector to get the job done. Frustrating at times and aggravating at others, it's just part of the job. The engineers design this stuff, the factories build it, and the mechanics fix it. Simple would be better, but that's not the Rube Goldberg School of Engineering way of doing things.


Idon't design em', I don't build em' … I just fix em'.


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Yea, those quirky safety clips (CPA's) and fasteners can really try my patience at times.

Forgot to mention some of the other popular connections and about ordering them...

I can always add or remove sections. As long as I stay within my word count for the editors I can do just about anything... well...almost... still have to figure out those darn CPA connections. LOL


Gonzo, you are right. Fasteners can be a lot of fun. Sometimes having to wait on the correct fastener that your ordered can really slow everything down.




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ROFL... TWICE!! Yup, been there. One of the bodyshops I work with has a huge cabinet full of hardware and body clips, and like ya said... half the time they can't find the correct ones.

Wires ties... the "duct tape" of fasteners. LOL

good one Joe... made my day


Oh boy, this can be frustrating. A few weeks back on a busy Friday afternoon I decided to help out and take care of customer who ran over a parking lot curb and ripped the bottom engine cover off. The splash shield had a number of those "fancy fasteners", missing. I got out my two draws of fasteners that I purchased from my hardware rep because he claimed, "With this kit you will have every fastener clip known to mankind". Well guess what? Yup, didn't have the right clip.


So, when all else fails I used the ultimate fastener, the wire tie!


(I had to call the dealer to order the right clips and get her back).

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my interpretation of those CPA clips : we developped a connector's design that we know it ain't adequate, so we spent more time and money "engineering" somekind of locking clip



and so true about those clips/retainers : even with a plethora of various reatainers, you never ever have the right size needed right now



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  • 3 years later...

Last week I had to take the entire headliner down in 07 Jeep Commander to change the sunroof out. Talk about clips and fasteners. Everything is designed for easy installation not removal. It seemed every plastic bit of trim I grabbed wanted to snap in pieces before the metal clips let go.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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