Quantcast
Jump to content


Sign in to follow this  
Gonzo

Article: Ratchet With a Cause - My early years

Recommended Posts

Ratchet With a Cause

At home I tinkered around with hand-me down lawnmower engines which my brother and I turned into go-carts and other two wheeled death machines. As we got older it was car engines and rickety old thrown away car frames that we hobbled together into some sort of demonic fire breathing exhaust snarling farm vehicle. I guess you could say we were a bit rebellious and often got in trouble taking our latest creation down some of the dirt roads in the area. Spewing dirt and gravel at the nearby houses as we swung the machine sideways around the curves.

The neighbors would hear us zoom by and usually would be standing by the side of the road waiting for us when we made our return trip. It inevitably meant a good old fashion verbal chew out from the concerned neighbor, and of course the eventual encounter with dad later that day. Ya had to stop for them, because everybody knew everybody and if you didnt stop and apologies youd have hell to pay later. We were just kids horsing around, and I know they were just looking out for us. And, Ive got to admit, looking back on it now, its a wonder some of our contraptions didnt kill us both back then.

When I was in my teens there werent any electronics or computers to speak of. The big college down town had one, and on certain occasions we would take a field trip from school to go see it. It was huge, it filled several rooms with these enormous electronic tape to tape machines. I wasnt at all interested in computers; I was much more interested in sports and cars. Besides, you didnt need a computer to work on cars; all ya needed was a manual and a couple of wrenches. Working with tools was a natural thing for me. Its no wonder Im a professional mechanic these days. However, the road from slapping a couple of rusty parts onto an old dilapidated engine and welding some old broken frame back together is a long way from calling yourself a mechanic. A real mechanic that is.

Starting out like I did was no picnic either. My first real exposure to mechanics was at our small towns garage. It still had a dirt floor and only one lift but it was a great little place to learn a few things. I was more or less the shops walking grease gun. Anything that involved cleaning gunked up parts, or an engine that needed degreased, or greasy junked parts that needed to be carried off, I was the go to grease monkey. My first actual mechanic job that I was given was hand packing wheel bearings. (More grease of course.)

This old timer that had been there probably since the days of the horse and buggies called me over to his work bay. The first thing he did was hand me the grease bucket, (which I was very familiar with) and then told me to take a big scoop of it in one hand. Then he reached out and plopped a new bearing into that glob of grease. He cursed out, Now, squeeze the f&%()7 life out of her! Squish went the grease. I squeezed so hard that it oozed out between my fingers and landed on the floor. (Ill get that later.)

He had me drop the bearing into the bearing race that was already in the drum and I ran off to find a rag to wipe off my hands. (Nobody used rubber gloves back then, and to make things worse the type of grease they used stunk to high heaven too.) I didnt get far before he hollered more profanities at me and told me to get back over there. I was still trying to wipe this goo off when he reached out with another bearing. Get some more of the blankity blank grease in your hand there sonny!

He was a very knowledge mechanic but he had some weird ways of telling you things that were important, such as, You use the right tools for the right job. You gotta use the tool the right way. Screw drivers aint pry bars. You use a ratchet with a cause. I think he meant to say was that when you used a tool it had a purpose and the purpose was to use the tool correctly. Never forgot that to this day. Every time I had a chance Id lean over the hood and watch what he was doing. He was eager to show me a thing or two, and I was eager to learn.

Generators were still very common on the road in those days, and he taught me how to use a growler and how to adjust the voltage regulators along with a whole lot of other useful tips. I learned a lot from him, and I still use a lot of his quirky sayings of wisdom in understanding things in todays cars too. The old guy took his job serious, and he definitely made me aware of what it took to become a good mechanic. He eventually retired after 40 + years as a mechanic. Great guy, great teacher.

Thats the thing about this field, my career that is. Theres more to it than the cars. Its something that gets in ya, its something that inspires you to deal with all the changes, the new procedures, and of course those computers that I didnt want anything to do with back then. Im not sure whether its the problem solving side of this job or the mechanical side of it that is more intriguing to me. Maybe its both. Maybe its the people you meet, the things you encounter, or a combination of all of it. Even after three decades of repairing cars and solving problems I still dont get tired of it.

One of these days Ill retire too, Ill program my last PCM and change my last water pump knowing its my time to put my ratchets away. Ya cant do it forever you know, and when I do Ill probably lock my tool box up and look back at it all with a smile.

But, Im sure even then somebody will come to the door wanting me to work on their car, maybe even to pack some wheel bearings for them. Ill probably get a bucket of grease and tell them to reach in and pull a big glob of that stuff out while I toss a fresh bearing in their hand, and Ill probably retell the story of how I learned to pack them. And, just for good measure I might as well tell them why theres such a thing as a ratchet with a cause.

Click here to view the article

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Forum Topics

    • Joe Marconi Key Note Speaker Ratchet & Wrench Conference 2018

      If you are going to the Ratchet and Wrench Conference next week, I will be there to kick things off as the Key Note Speaker on the first day. I will also be making a presentation; Charging for Diagnostics on Friday, Sept 21.  If any member is attending the conference, please let me know and hopefully we can meet.  Here is the link to the conference: https://www.ratchetandwrench.com/articles/5651-ratchetwrench-announces-details-of-2018-management-conference Thank you, Joe Marconi   

      By Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Announcements

      • 0 replies
      • 108 views
    • Article: Zombie Cars - they're coming (updated older story)

      Zombie Cars   “Brains, Brains, we need Brains!”   Zombie cars?  What’s a zombie car?   Way back, when we used points and  condensers and later the basic  electronic ignition systems, cars didn’t  need brains (ECM – Electronic Control  Module), but that all changed in the  mid 70’s on some imports and pretty  much on everything else by the time  the 80’s came around.  Some of these  brains were only cursory, and didn’t  actually control the car, but merely  watched for emission issues, while others played a major role in the actual ignition spark or fuel delivery systems.     Most of the engines in those early years, still used the same basic type of distributor setups (with a few exceptions) as their earlier counterparts that used the old tried and true points and condenser type of ignition systems.  During those cross-over years it was rather easy to slap a different distributor in it, or change the existing points distributor over to electronic ignition (which worked quite well by the way).  These days...it’s not that easy.  These computer systems have become so entangled into the engine functions and nearly every other system that it’s impossible to bypass the fuel or ignition systems as we did years ago. However, there are still a lot of people out there that have hung onto some of the cars from that era.  Most likely they've been kept parked alongside the garage as a future project or hung onto for some sentimental reason.  Some (very few) are in great shape, others… well, they look like zombies already.     What makes them zombies?  The brain… the brain… they need brains!  Just this past week I had several of these faded paint monstrosities lined up in the parking lot. (They never come alone… always in a pack.) For starters an old dilapidated 1986 Dodge pickup with a slant six.  This old rusted, tilting to one side relic had been at another shop for a tune-up, but as the story was told to me by the owner, the other shop tried to start it when a fuel line ruptured and caught the old truck on fire. Luckily, they managed to get it out, but the damage was already done.  The main harness from the firewall to the distributor, coil, charging system, blower motor, oil sending unit, temp. sender, and the starter wiring were completely melted into an unrecognizable mass of plastic and copper.  It was my job to bring this dilapidated hulk back to life. However, the original spark control computer had melted as well, and was unusable. Worse yet, the brain was discontinued eons ago with no replacement parts anywhere to be found.  This zombie needs a brain, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get one. At this point the only solution was to do away with the electronic brain and try to refit the old slant six with a much simpler ignition system from a decade earlier if at all possible.  A lobotomy if you will. (Dr. Frankenstein would be envious.)   Then there was this 2002 Mustang that moaned and groaned while dragging one foot into the shop.  It needed a new BCM (Body Control Module).  Call the dealer, call the parts warehouse, call everybody!  Anybody!  Is there a brain for this car?  Nope, discontinued.  Seems this particular BCM was a rather rare brain out there in zombie land, and at the time, nobody was setup to rebuild them.  It seemed this car was destined to wander the city streets with the rest of the zombie mobiles. At the same time this was going on, in comes a 1982 Ford Bronco with the original Variable Venture carburetor still on it. Ok, not a brain, but just as bad.  It qualifies as a zombie for sure.  Trying to find a suitable replacement these days is a challenge. Ten or twenty years ago this would have been no problem to find a carb. kit (if you dared) or the Holley conversion kit for it, but not today.     This trend of bringing back the dead looks like it’s only going to turn into the next zombie apocalypses.  As these electronic systems get more and more complex the likely hood of your family truckster turning into a zombie is just a matter of time as each new model comes out.  In some ways, I believe the manufacturers have thought this out long before there was a potential of these cars becoming zombies.      In my youth it was nothing for me and a few friends to grab an old car out of a junk yard and raise it from the dead.  Ya just had to throw a few shots of gas down the carburetor, add a few wires and a fresh battery and fire it up.  The rust would fly, the engine would clatter, the smoke would billow out from under the hood,  as the exhaust roared out of every crack in the manifold.  Those days are long gone now.  They may have engineered a longer lasting engine, better paint, and for the part, the interior can hold up to the ravages of time, however, the electronics, are their weakness.      Although, these zombie mobiles seem to be coming out of hiding more often than ever before. Reviving some of these early electronic zombies may happen, but on the other hand, it may be a futile effort. The truth of the matter is… these resurrections are not as easy to do as it was so many years ago. There are countless problems that have to be overcome to bring some of these rusted heaps back among the living, especially if you’re in an area that requires emission testing.  Just trying to bypass some of those early electronic brains when a replacement part can’t be found can be a real challenge. The good news is that there are a lot of guys out there tearing these brains apart and rebuilding them.  But even then, there are some zombie cars that will never make it and eventually die from the lack of a brain, while others wander aimlessly from shop to shop still searching for their elusive electronic gray matter.    Even after you manage to find a brain for these living dead vehicles it’s likely something else is going to go wrong.  After all, being cast aside for so long, all the hoses, belts, and gaskets have dried up.  Something will more likely fall off just like you would expect from any other zombie wandering around.  And, you know, just as soon as the latest zombie joins the living something will undoubtedly come tumbling to the shop floor.  Whether it’s coolant, oil, a belt, or perhaps no#2 connecting rod,  something is not going to stay in place.  Just like in every zombie movie I’ve ever watched,.one of them will always have an arm or leg falling off.  It sure seems that these zombie cars follow right along with that same affliction.       It’s safe to say, these relics of the early electronic era of the automotive world are in some respects the car equivalent of a zombie: half dead, half alive…and in search of a brain they may never find.  So don’t be surprised if you’re at the next traffic light when an old faded-rusty-dented car with a shattered windshield, screeching brakes, with plumes of dense low hanging smoke creeping along with it, don't be alarmed, it’s just another car beginning its transformation into a "ZOMBIE CAR".    
      View full article

      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 5 replies
      • 129 views
    • Come See Me at the Ratchet + Wrench Conference!

      This is a reminder that I will be at the Ratchet and Wrench Conference.  This Monday, I will be making two presentations; "Beating Shop Owner Burnout" and "The True Cost of Comeback" If anyone is going, please stop by and say hello....and of course, please attend my presentations! Thank you. Joe https://rwconference.com/

      By Joe Marconi, in Joe’s Business Tips For Shop Owners

      • 0 replies
      • 359 views
    • Guess what I saw in this months Ratchet &Wrench?

      "The Net Result" "You have to check your numbers everyday. If you're not... you cannot be profitable." Nice to see a familiar name and shop in this months issue!!  Awesome average RO stat btw. Someone contacted me today actually from R&W for one of the "solutions" articles. 

      By Jay Huh, in General Automotive Discussion

      • 0 replies
      • 385 views
    • The Ratchet + Wrench Conference…Simply Amazing!

      I just returned from the Ratchet + Wrench Management Conference and I can tell you it was an amazing event. This is the publication’s first conference and they hit the ball over the fence and into the parking lot. It was large enough to get a ton of information and meet so many great people, but yet not too big as to feel overwhelmed. The sessions were informative and the vendors took the time with anyone who had questions or needed information on their products. I was also honored to be asked to make two presentations at the event.   I have to tip my hat to everyone at Ratchet + Wrench for making this event a huge success. They treated everyone everyone as royalty and you could tell that they truly appreciated the shop owners, vendors, sponsors and the speakers.   Perhaps the most impressive were the shop owners. I did not hear one negative experience from anyone. The shop owners were top tier, successful people from all different parts of the country with different business models. There were seasoned veterans with decades of experience and millennials with a just few years under their belts. But all carried themselves with such professionalism that it made me proud to be part of this great industry.   If you do not subscribe to Ratchet + Wrench, I urge you sign up today!   Can’t wait to do it all over again next year!   ​

      By Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Announcements

        
      • 4 replies
      • 656 views
  • AutoShopOwner Sponsors



×