Home » These Wrenching Tricks Can Save You Some Time And Your Sanity: COTD

These Wrenching Tricks Can Save You Some Time And Your Sanity: COTD

Wrenchingranger
ADVERTISEMENT

Wrenching on car or motorcycle can be a cathartic and very gratifying activity. Sometimes, when things just aren’t going well, I like to go outside and tinker with my fleet. Other times, I like to see if I can improve my vehicle’s design in some way. Do you know what sucks? When you start a wrenching session and things just don’t work out well. Here are a couple of ways to make your wrenching life a little better.

My favorite personal tip can help you replace hard power steering and brake lines. Back in 2020, I traded a Mercedes-Benz 240D with a blown differential for a Ford Ranger that slid into a curb. The truck’s damage included the left radius arm and a power steering “leak.” I put leak in quotes because it wasn’t a leak, but practically the Old Faithful of power steering leaks. It spit out an entire bottle of power steering fluid in literally seconds.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

20dc0e9c47e9cfdb9c46df8a9488e969

I discovered that the problem with the power steering system was with the hard line, which had rusted to the point of creating a sizable hole. Now, if you look up the process of changing a power steering line, it looks pretty easy. The job on the Ranger called for a crowfoot wrench around both ends of the line. Just loosen the bolts holding it on, easy, right? Well, wrenching in the rusty Midwest always complicates jobs. What should have been an easy 1-hour job turned into a whole-day ordeal. My crowfoot wrenches just couldn’t get a grip and worse, I slowly began rounding out the fittings. Crap!

Well, I ended up staring at the thing for, I don’t know, but it felt like hours. The woman who is now my wife remembered her days living on a farm and came up with an idea. What if we just cut the line off with a steak knife? Then I could just use a regular 6-point socket. I thought that was silly! It’s a metal line, there’s no way that was going to work.

ADVERTISEMENT

C08bd8ad5bfcfa49118629bf576f6d48

 

Well, my wife’s idea was brilliant because it worked without issue. Now, I carry a steak knife in my toolbox. It’s amazing how handy it’s been. Broken serpentine belt is jammed all up around your engine? A steak knife will cut it. Need to cut a seatbelt? Not ideal, but a steak knife can handle it. Of course, there are far better knives for these jobs, but chances are, you already have at least one steak knife laying around.

[Sheryl’s note: I’ve used steak knives to cut PVC pipe, to open twine on haybales, to cut wiring, to mark cutting spots on boards, and as a makeshift screwdriver. Steak knives can also sometimes cut enough of a groove into a fastener so that you could use the knife as a wrench. I’ve even used a steak knife as a hammer! Prior to steak knives, I used horse hoof picks for this stuff.]

Do you have problems with getting both fasteners and your tools into tough spots? Well, COTD winner 3WiperB has such a simple solution that I’m surprised I haven’t even tried before:

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s simple, but I keep blue painters tape or masking tape around to tape fasteners onto sockets and screwdrivers when trying to get something into an odd space. Electrical tape works too if you need something a bit more sticky, but I find the painters tape is easier to yank off with the socket after you get the fastener in most of the way.

Also, get some flex head ratcheting wrenches. They can really help in tight spaces. https://www.harborfreight.com/flex-head-metric-ratcheting-combination-wrench-set-5-piece-60592.html

Also, I waited too long in life to buy a proper rolling toolbox and organize it so that everything has it’s place. Now I actually put things away and know where my tools are. I wish I had done it 20 years ago.

This reader has a slew of good tips in one comment. Maybe I’d stop losing tools if I had them organized in a neat toolbox.

Another thing I love to do is carry a jump pack and some basic tools everywhere I go, even if it’s a reliable car. I’ve often run into stranded people in my travels and a surprising number of those people had simple issues like dead batteries. A jump pack makes me feel like a superhero and gets those people home.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
47 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Is Travis
Is Travis
11 months ago

If your car has ignition coils, make sure to lube that business end up with dialectic grease unless you like fishing chunks of ignition coil boot out of an engine block hole for the better part of a few days while you collect longer, stronger, and more imposing surgical instruments in your attempts to free the offending foam from the top of the bastard spark plug.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
11 months ago
Reply to  Is Travis

A shop vac would make faster work of that problem, no?

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
11 months ago

Quality flare nut wrenches save a lot of aggravation when dealing with fittings, my old S-K set doesn’t see a lot of use but it’s there when I need it. Also be willing to buy small special tools. My little dingus for hooking Bosch CIS injectors is worth the $20 for making a tug of war into a simple hook and pry

Brian Souhan
Brian Souhan
11 months ago

Yes! Didn’t use a steak knife, but had similar issue getting my wrangler front brake hardline from the connector…ended up cutting it and using a socket, worked like a champ!

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
11 months ago

The concept is good but instead of a steak knife I carry bolt cutters. The are heavy, but a medium size pair of bolt cutters can take care of hydraulic lines, small brackets, wiring etc.

AC2DE
AC2DE
11 months ago
Reply to  Rapgomi

It’s important to have a selection of bolt cutters, too. Small problems can be solved with the misdemeanor-size cutters, but some jobs demand the felony-grade bolt cutters.

(Okay, okay, this was just a thin excuse to share my size descriptions for bolt cutter sizes.)

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  AC2DE

Take your upvote and go directly to jail/do not pass Go!

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
11 months ago

Ref your rounding off the fittings, you need a hydraulic line wrench https://www.amazon.com/ARUCMIN-Wrench-12-Piece-Vanadium-Organizer/dp/B08NZJWML7/ref=sr_1_6?crid=36JPHAV7KK3DW&keywords=hydraulic+line+wrench&qid=1685645673&sprefix=hydraulic+line+wrench%2Caps%2C153&sr=8-6

These wrenches are specfically designed for this exact situation. I imagine HF has them cheaper but their “search” engine couldn’t find them.

Ref your steak knife tip, it’s a hell of a lot easier and far more practical to carry a simple swiss army knife with at least one blade kept sharp. I’ve carried one for over 60 years and have never regretted it. Cheap and simple version: https://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Swiss-Tinker-Pocket-Knife/dp/B00004YVB4/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2DBJIVJRM50BB&keywords=swiss+army+knives&qid=1685646249&sprefix=swiss%2Caps%2C340&sr=8-3

And yes, anything that keeps your tools organized and close at hand is a great idea.

Last edited 11 months ago by Opa Carriker
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
11 months ago

For over 50 years the best way to deal with fixing or working on cars is to do an early morning “wake and bake.” The only downside is spending 45 minutes looking for that 10mm socket. Which it seems was ALREADY on the ratchet. Good times.

Black Peter
Black Peter
11 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

That’s good but doesn’t beat the 35 minutes I spent looking for an 8mm socket with my flashlight, while the whole time it was stuck to the magnet of my.. flashlight..

Sklooner
Sklooner
11 months ago
Reply to  Black Peter

I think I have that same flashlight

Gubbin
Gubbin
11 months ago

Hoof pick

Horse girls. Say no more. I have the feeling my spouse could repair a busted radiator hose with 4 feet of baling twine.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
11 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Welp, as we say down south, “If you cain’t fix it with duck tape, JB Weld, nor balin’ wire, it’s broke for shore.”

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
11 months ago

Interesting. I’ve also adapted to using the painters tape trick. What I do though is line the socket with a little tape so it makes the bolt fit snug in the socket. I did this last week with some hard to get throttle body bolts while doing a valve cover gasket.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
11 months ago

You totally want some of those socket strips for your sockets. You can tell that your 10mm is missing and you’re never picking through a pile of similar sockets looking for that 7mm you need, either. HF sells them and they’re dirt cheap. If you’re compulsive, screw them all to a little board and have a Palette O’ Sockets for every occasion.

David Hudson
David Hudson
11 months ago

Why not use something that is meant to cut metal? Like a broken piece of hacksaw blade. Hold it with vice grips. A steak knife?

David Hudson
David Hudson
11 months ago
Reply to  David Hudson

Invest in actual tools.

Gubbin
Gubbin
11 months ago
Reply to  David Hudson

Useful >>> correct.

David Hudson
David Hudson
11 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

In this case, the correct tool is actually more useful and just as cheap as the kitchen implement being referred to.

I can’t believe this site actually telling people they should use a “steak knife” under the hood of their car when most everyone has a broken hacksaw blade (or a whole one) and EVERYONE has a ViseGrip, at least a knock-off one.

Or buy a cheap plastic hacksaw blade holder that secures one end of the blade. $10 on Amazon. Why anyone should be using something meant to carve up a sirloin is completely beyond me. Do you have readers who don’t have access to an AutoZone. Or Amazon.com, for Christ’s sake.

David Hudson
David Hudson
11 months ago
Reply to  David Hudson

I will say that the steak knife suggestion is very typical of the farmers for whom my dad did mechanic work for 30+ years in Nebraska. It might work, but is it an example you’d want to emulate? The answer is No. Not when there are equally cheap (and smarter) options.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
11 months ago
Reply to  David Hudson

A hacksaw blade, broken or otherwise, is not very good at helping you cut up your steak, on the other hand.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
11 months ago
Reply to  David Hudson

There’s an actual tool that does that. It’s a hollow plastic handle with a clamp that holds a hacksaw blade, half in the handle and half out front

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

Top Tip: Never buy any car with enough rust to endanger a vital component or make wrenching a living hell. Now forget all those “how to deal with rust” tips and have a cold brew because your job finished on time and with much less cursing.

What me?
What me?
11 months ago

I saw the thumbnail quickly on my phone and thought what did you do to those poor tires/axles, it looked like a 45 degree stance attempt

Millermatic
Millermatic
11 months ago

My tip? Beer.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
11 months ago

While this is a good example of being efficiently creative by looking at the problem from a different angle, the term “steak knife” is extremely vague. Is it serrated? (I assume so.) Not every kitchen knife is safe for utility use, as they can snap suddenly, with stainless properties and soft cutting being the design standard. Perhaps a useful-shaped utility knife is a better fit for a tool box?

This is a great story, though.

3WiperB
3WiperB
11 months ago

Thanks… there were so many great tips in that thread that I was surprised mine was COTD. I love the threads where we share our tips and tricks. I always learn a few new ones or get a new useful tool idea.

Is Travis
Is Travis
11 months ago

Follow the book. It is either a Haynes, a Chiltons, or a Bentley if we are getting into the fancy stuff. The repair manual will walk you through everything, and supplimented with youtube vids to help in the instances where it feels like a step got skipped or was shown as simple but ended up asspain, you will conquer anything.
Just don’t fuck something else up in the process.

Millermatic
Millermatic
11 months ago
Reply to  Is Travis

I’ve tried Haynes for an Impreza and a 944. The former was mediocre at best. The latter was best used for helping start a barbeque. It was absolute garbage. Better to try to find a pdf of the factory repair manual on line.

The print quality is so poor the pictures are downright illegible. I’ve never tried Chiltons or Bentley… but I will never buy another Haynes manual.

R Rr
R Rr
11 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

+1 for the OEM repair manuals

On top of the illegible black& white pics, some of those ‘aftermarket’ repair manuals are also full of gems like “Step1: remove engine; Step2: remove gearbox” which are as helpful as telling you to just go f*ck yourself 🙂

Last edited 11 months ago by R Rr
Is Travis
Is Travis
11 months ago
Reply to  R Rr

I haven’t used one, but the f30bimmerpost forums have a pinned thread to request the PDF and someone will DM it to you within a day or two.

Is Travis
Is Travis
11 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

The Bentley is for my BMW, it was over 100$ but is really excellent. It not only gives a basic run down of all the systems and their function or design/engineering, but it also has 3d renders of things that weren’t photographable for example in the step layouts. You still want to watch video walkthroughs, but it is essential on something where everything is torqued to spec and almost every major bolt or nut is replaced every time you touch them.

We thought the Haynes manual was yanking our chain when we tried to do the oil pump on my first gen Montero, “pop the engine mounts and lift the engine and transmission INTO the firewall to get clearance for the dipstick? Surely you can just…..”
-two hours later
So you definitely have to take the motor mounts off, got it!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Is Travis

Yeah, the Bentleys are amazing. Mine for my new-to-me 911 is the most expensive book I own, but the pictures are outstanding & the prose is extremely clear. I have Haynes manuals for everything else, and they’re okay most of the time, but usually only when supplemented by videos I find.

I annotate all of mine with what I learn, what worked/didn’t, even what size sockets I used and OEM part numbers where appropriate.

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
11 months ago
Reply to  Is Travis

FYI, some public libraries have subscriptions to Chiltons Online. I have used them several times, you just print out the pages you need for a project! If you live in California, you can get access through the Los Angeles Public Library by signing up for a card: https://www.lapl.org/chilton

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
11 months ago

And I’ll toss out the easy way to bleed brake lines -solo-. I used to be the worlds worst brake bleeder until I used engineering principles to sort it all out. Here we go.
Attach the drain line to the brake wheel bleeder screw, but run it UP and over the tire and then down into the waste container. Bubbles that come out of the bleed line go UP and away from the cylinder when the brake pedal is pressed. The return of the pedal may draw some fluid back into the cylnder, but if you wait just a little bit, no bubbles. The only tricky bit is finding the right position for the bleed screw to allow fluid out, but no bubbles in, but that is the same for any bleeding. In my F350 I have to position the brake wrench -just so- to let this happen.

Another tool to MAKE is a 6-point bleed screw wrench. Take the proper size wrench and grind/cut out a just-large enough opening for the brake line. Store-bought brake wrenches usually have too large of an opening. The homemade one places more surface onto the bleed screw head to break loose stuck ones. I also have a 12-point version for one screw size to provide better access to a challenging brake bleed screw head location.

Is Travis
Is Travis
11 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Motive pressure bleeder is like 60 bucks.

3WiperB
3WiperB
11 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

I ordered a Gunson Eezibled for my MG, because the clutch is particularly difficult to bleed. It uses pressure from a spare tire to bleed the brakes. It works great.

JumboG
JumboG
11 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Let me help you complete that task. Make sure the end of the hose is submerged in the waste container. Boom – air won’t come back up the line, and you can see when the bubbles stop. You can use water to get the level in the waste container high enough to submerge the hose.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
11 months ago
Reply to  JumboG

Since the drain line goes -up- it automatically removes bubblesas they rise away from the valve, there is no need to submerge the line in the waste container. The fluid being sucked back into the cylinder is just the short bit immediately after the valve, which is bubble free since they went up and away from the valve.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
11 months ago

If you’ve always been a city dweller or suburbanite like me, you owe it to yourself to go get a friend that grew up on a farm. You have no idea how often they might come in handy.
But you have to be really, really nice to them. Because it’s hard to return the favor when there’s nothing they can’t do themselves.

Gee See
Gee See
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I trade my downtown parking space and an occassional freebie game ticket from work for use of my friend’s truck.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I’m heading to Southern Utah for the weekend. Can you look after my hens?
All the eggs you can eat.

Gee See
Gee See
11 months ago

With David’s spaghetti, Sheryl and Mercedes steak knife hacks.. Autopian can go into the food business, with some luck open a university and run for POTUS. I am sure oil / lubricant industries will be lining up the support the PACs.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago

3WB nailed it for sure, but I’ll add here that Ginsu steak knives (yes, those) work amazingly well for that sort of non-steak-related cutting.

They’re shockingly durable for something that used to be pitched on tv. And in their defense, they literally did tell us you could cut a tin can with ’em.

Gee See
Gee See
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I would add get a cheapo ultrasonic cleaner.. those things can clean off gunk off those steak knives clean enough to return without anyone noticing they were gone. Just like Denzel returning the hammer after his use in the first Equalizer.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Gee See

You get your upvote for that reference alone.

I like that there are two simultaneous versions of The Equalizer right now with completely different actors. I’m old enough to have watched the original show back in the ’80s. It was quite dark, and usually topped the list of shows that self-appointed culture guardians would harass the networks about.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I like Denzel Washington, but for me there’s only one Equalizer — the original with British actor Edward Woodward. The show was “dark” primarily because it often went for the psychological aspect, before “Profiler” and others picked up the concept. And it was set in 1980’s drug- and organized crime- riddled New York, which was a good deal darker and grittier IRL than it is today…

Anyway, I’ll add another useful tool — a rotary tool, like a Dremel, equipped with a flexible shaft and a cutting disk. Sometimes able to get into tight areas better than a small hacksaw (or steak knife) and great for making short work of cutting off frozen/rusted bolts and nuts.

47
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x