One of the best things we can do as gearheads is pass along little tips and tricks to other grease monkeys. Just as the advice you got when you were a kid was meant to keep you alive (e.g. "Don't stick a knife in the toaster"), these tips are meant to make you a better mechanic. Over the years, ingenious readers have figured out a better way to do something, and they let us know about it. Some of the tips come from us here at the magazine-yeah, sometimes we actually know stuff. Plus, we had to come up with something for our model, Kodye, to do for the day. So sit back and enjoy our tech-tips blowout.
1. What's Your Handle?
If you ever do a lot of repairs, such as valve jobs or resealing intake manifolds, you can use a "handle" for lifting those awkward parts. An easy-to-make, low-cost handle can be made from old piston wrist pins when you weld various-size bolts to them. These make great T-handles to use in any standard or metric application. Just spin them in place and lift the part away easily.
New England, ND
2. Control the Spill
It's inevitable: No matter how careful you are, some oil is bound to get spilled. Instead of wasting rags mopping up the liquid, try using kitty litter. We keep a small bag of the absorbent material in the Sport Truck shop at all times just in case some of the slick stuff gets on the ground. You can also use this stuff to get out minor oil stains on concrete by grinding it in with your shoe and letting it sit overnight.
By The Sport Truck Staff
3. Hands Off The Tail
To deter tailgate theft, I installed small bolts with nuts and washers in the large part of the hole in both tailgate-retaining cables on my '98 GMC Sonoma Sportside. The gate still opens and closes just fine, but it can't be taken off unless these two bolts are removed.
Steve Newman Alamo, CA
4. Spicy Quick Fix
If you get a small radiator leak, pour approximately one tablespoon of pepper into the radiator. This will give you a cheap quick fix that will plug the leak until you can have it fixed properly.
5. Color Caps
When detailing engine compartments, one usually thinks chrome, polished aluminum, and monochromatic painted parts. Well, how about vacuum caps? You can usually buy these in an assortment of sizes and colors. They make great covers for exposed screw tips, bolt threads, and bolt heads, creating a really sano look to complement other cosmetic engine mods.
6. Can You Hear Me Now?
For those times when you're trying to hunt down an exhaust leak, you can use a length of hose as a makeshift stethoscope. With this, you'll be able to pinpoint where that annoying ticking noise is coming from and fix it. Try to use new hose. If you don't, you might end up with one dirty ear.
By The Sport Truck Staff
7. Torque Is Cheap
You can create an instant cheater handle by sliding a socket and long extension over the end of a ratchet handle. Use a deep socket that's just a bit larger than the diameter of the ratchet's handle.
Justen Cupples Pinson, TN
8. Dry And Fly
It never fails. You finish detailing your truck and you drive off only to find that trapped water has run out and left streaks and spots. If you have a shop vacuum, you can head these spots off at the pass by using the vacuum to suck the water from the mirrors, handles, and wheels. Just be careful not to scratch anything with the end of the vac.
E.L. Thornhill IV
Need to remove the bed of your truck but don't have help? Here's how I did it: I screwed four large eyehooks into the ceiling of my garage and hooked tie-down straps to each hook. Then I backed my truck into the garage and hooked the tie-straps to each corner of the bed. By pulling on each tie-down and working my way around in a circle, I was able to lift the bed high enough to pull the truck out. Putting the bed back on was just as easy, and I did that alone too.
Jay Kopycinski, San Antonio, TX
10. Clear Vision
As we all know, you should wear eye protection when drilling or grinding. The glasses keep your eyes safe, but they get beat up in the process. To keep them nice and clear, use the plastic polish from your detailing cabinet. With a little bit of rubbing, the glasses will be as good as new and ready to save your eyeballs.
By The Sport Truck Staff
11. Tonneau Edge Savers
Due to space limitations, hard tonneau covers tend to be stored on one end and leaned up against a wall, which often scratches the edges. To solve this dilemma, cut a few lengths of heater hose, slit them down the middle on one side, and slide them over the edges of the tonneau cover.
Michael Bauermeister, Columbus, OH
12. Know When to Stop
If you're like me and park too far up in the garage, here's a fix. Drill a hole in a tennis or racquet ball and hang it with string from the ceiling of the garage. Make sure to park your truck properly before setting up the ball. Once set up, all you have to do is pull in until the ball kisses the windshield and you're parked. This little tip is a lot less expensive than painting your front bumper every couple of months or fixing that hole in your garage wall.
Aaron Melichar, Tabor, SD
13. To The Last Drop
This idea helps you get the most out of any product in tube packages while still being able to run smooth, continuous lines even when the tube runs low. Take a cotter pin and put it around the end of the tube. As the product is used, slide the pin forward.
14. A Little Touch-Up
If you need to touch up the paint on your engine block but don't want the freeze plugs painted, try this: Take an empty paper-towel or toilet-paper tube and use it as a quick masking device. Just slip it in the plug and paint away.
Dennis Albertson, Fredericksburg, IA
15. Dangerous Curves
An excellent sanding block for inside curves can be made from a section of old radiator hose. A piece 6 inches long with smooth outside walls is just about the right size. A block like this will prevent the grooves caused by sanding with just your bare hands. By squeezing or smashing the hose as needed, it will conform to differences in curve radius. Small pieces of heater hose and old paint rollers can also be used.
Lee Hartman, Payette, ID
16. Make It Flush
If you are repairing rust damage or filling a hole, you want the patch as flush with the existing body panel as possible. You can accomplish this by tack-welding several washers on the backside of the body panel so they're halfway exposed. Set the patch panel against the washers and tack away.
Greg Seibel, Susanville, CA
17. A Penny for Your Tires
If you want to know when your tires need to be changed, here's a simple tip: Take a penny and insert the top of it into the tread channel, making sure Lincoln's head is toward the tire. If the tread covers the top of Lincoln's head, that's good; if not, you should replace the tires soon.
George Hills, Buzzards Bay, MA
18. Don't Go Too Deep
To create a makeshift drill stop, wrap tape around the drill bit. Now you can drill holes all day long without the worry of going too deep or slamming the spinning chuck against your paint.
By The Sport Truck Staff
19. Fishy Emblem Removal
To remove emblems or molding attached with double-sided tape, tie a piece of fishing line to two sticks or screwdriver handles and slide the fishing line between the truck's surface and the emblem. Slowly glide the fishing line along the surface, and the emblem should come right off without damaging the paint or the emblem.
Dat Dinh, New Orleans, LA
20. All Strung Out
If you have ever been cut when trying to remove a windshield with piano or guitar string, this tip is for you. Get a hood-release cable, cut it to about 16 inches long, and leave the handle end on it. Grab the other end with locking pliers, pull it back and forth, and you'll have no problem taking out the window.
Robert Martinez, Santa Cruz, CA
21. Food-Bag Files
If you're disassembling a component or system on your truck (such as the carb or a door) and you know it will be a few days or weeks before you can finish the job, use food-storage baggies to keep track of the parts. They come in a variety of sizes and are easily marked with a felt pen. You can also use those disposable containers for leftovers, which stack and store very nicely. When you finally go back to reassemble your stuff, everything will be sorted and easy to find.
C.A. Foster, Warren, IL
22. Drain It Awl Out
Changing oil can be very messy, but you can make it much neater by using an awl to poke a hole in the bottom of the filter and let the oil drain out. Then when you loosen the filter, you won't have oil spilling everywhere.
Dick Coffee, West Seneca, NY
23. That's Protection, Jack!
I have found when using a floor jack to lift my custom truck that I would sometimes accidentally hit the body with the jack handle and chip the paint. To prevent this, I wrapped the handle with an old towel lifted from my wife's closet and secured it with tape. You can also use water pipe insulation-either one will save you paint.
Lyle Herder, Humboldt, KS
24. Wheel Protector
Here's a tip to avoid getting tire dressing all over your rims. Cut a piece of cardboard the diameter of your rims and make two holes the size of your fingers to hold it. Then, spray or wipe around the cardboard.
Bob Klotz, Coopersburg, PA
25. Clean As A Whistle
A common place for dirt buildup on trucks is the space between the cab and bed. It's a hard-to-reach place, but all you need to clean that area is a broom handle, a wash mitt, and some tape. Slip the wash mitt on the end of the broom handle and tape it securely. Now you can rest assured that your truck is completely clean from top to bottom to in between.
Jerry Sellers, Rienzi, MS