FYI: Tools Explained
By Peter Egan
HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer
nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate expensive car parts not
far from the object we are trying to hit.
MECHANIC'S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the
contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works
particularly well on boxes containing convertible tops or tonneau covers.
ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning steel Pop
rivets in their holes until you die of old age, but it also works great for
drilling rollbar mounting holes in the floor of a sports car just above the
brake line that goes to the rear axle.
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads.
HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija
board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable
motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your
VISE-GRIPS: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else
is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the
palm of your hand.
OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting those
stale garage cigarettes you keep hidden in the back of the Whitworth socket
drawer (What wife would think to look in there?) because you can
never remember to buy lighter fluid for the Zippo lighter you got from the
PX at Fort Campbell.
ZIPPO LIGHTER: See oxyacetelene torch.
WHITWORTH SOCKETS: Once used for working on older British
cars and motorcycles, they are now used mainly for hiding six-month old
Salems from the sort of person who would throw them away for no good reason.
DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly
snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in
the chest and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against the
Rolling Stones poster over the bench grinder.
WIRE WHEEL: Cleans rust off old bolts and then throws them
somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes
fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar callouses in about the time it
takes you to say, "Django Reinhardt".
HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering a Mustang to the
ground after you have installed a set of Ford Motorsports lowered road
springs, trapping the jack handle firmly under the front air dam.
EIGHT-FOOT LONG DOUGLAS FIR 2X4: Used for levering a car
upward off a hydraulic jack.
TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood splinters.
PHONE: Tool for calling your neighbor Chris to see if he has
another hydraulic floor jack.
SNAP-ON GASKET SCRAPER: Theoretically useful as a sandwich
tool for spreading mayonnaise; used mainly for getting dog-doo off your boot.
E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool that snaps off in
bolt holes and is ten times harder than any known drill bit.
TIMING LIGHT: A stroboscopic instrument for illuminating
grease buildup on crankshaft pulleys.
TWO-TON HYDRAULIC ENGINE HOIST: A handy tool for testing
the tensile strength of ground straps and hydraulic clutch lines you may
have forgotten to disconnect.
CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 16-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A large motor mount
prying tool that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on
the end without the handle.
BATTERY ELECTROLYTE TESTER: A handy tool for transferring
sulfuric acid from a car battery to the inside of your toolbox after
determining that your battery is dead as a doornail, just as you thought.
AVIATION METAL SNIPS: See hacksaw.
TROUBLE LIGHT: The mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes
called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin",
which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, its
main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate that
105-mm howitzer shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of
the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat
PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the lids of
old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splash oil on your shirt; can also be
used, as the name implies, to round-out Phillips screw heads.
AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in
a coal-burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed
air that travels by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips
rusty suspension bolts last tightened 40 years ago by someone in Abingdon,
Oxfordshire, and rounds them off.