Whether you're stranded on the side of the road or wrenching in the comfort of your garage, using the wrong thing to do the right job is not as bad as it sounds. You should never compromise safety under the excuse of ingenuity—there's no shortcut to a proper jack stand. However, in the right circumstances, a spontaneously repurposed "tool" can be the best way to get the job done. Here are six unlikely toolbox heroes that you might already own.
Read the full list over on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/6-odd-things-you-should-keep-in-your-toolbox/
I keep an aluminum water heater drain pan for messy breakdowns. When not assigned to a specific project, it hangs out under the Mustang's little transmission leak. For syringes and needles, I go to the veterinary supplies section at my farm supply store. Also, I finally bought a quality head-mounted flashlight with a gazillion lumens and it's changed how I work on cars. Huge amount of freedom!
I have two that are funny but hard to get unless you are a doc or know one. The first is a inferior vena cava filter device that was once used to place little wire basket vena cava filters in in vessels in the body to keep blood clots from passing as pulmonary emboli. It is great for reaching down into very inaccessible spaces and grappling things back out like a nut or washer, etc.. The second is a weighted speculum and it is also an old medical tool that has great uses in the old car tool box. I have been offered an old colonoscope but have politely declined that. Too bad as it has not only a camera but dual forceps on it and you could probably reach the bottom of the engine through the top to look around, retrieve etc..
I’ve had a silicone spark plug boot from an Accel harness kit in my tool box since 75. Use it whenever changing plugs to start them easily and without cross threading on everything from HiPo cars with snaking headers, motorcycles and lawn implements. May not use it on a newer car, but if you’re on Hagerty it’s because you got something older!
For a small subset of us, the flavor injector syringe has another purpose. I use one to add motor oil to the gas tank of my 1994 RX7 R2 when I fill up. While I've been told that this is unnecessary if the factory oil injection system is working, the previous owner did it religiously for 25 years (the original 13B rotary engine is at 54K miles, completely stock, without a rebuild) and I'm not going to mess with success.
For a good cheap parts washer (or small parts holder) take a one quart flat can - like the ones paint thinner comes in) - cut out one side leaving about 1/8 to 1/4" of the flat material in place all around. Thenjust use a hammer and flatten down all of the four sides to eliminate - as much as possible - sharp edges.
Really cheap to do this next time you get ready to toss that old can you finally emptyed.
I'd recommend returning the broken screwdriver (with proper humility) and while at the store, buying some pry bars so that you could go forth and sin no more. Also, instead of stealing hotel cards (and hopefully no chafing dishes) you can find all the various sizes and durometer rating samples of plastic you need at McMaster-Carr 😉
Great idea on the vet supplies. I got spoiled during my factory tech days with various epoxy syringes, needles, and such, that I forgot what it was like to not have discarded examples of them available. I can't recall all the various brands, I used Nordson a lot) , but mfrs. of adhesive & sealant robotic applicators offer many good EFD "sample/starter" kits.
A couple other things that come to mind are:
-6" long sections of Brass Bar stock ( 1/4" and 1/2" diameter) to use as a punches when you don't want any to damage the the thing your punching. They won't create sparks either.
- A small mirror, to help see around a corner in a tight engine compartment
- A piece of pipe, ~ 16" long that will slip over your ratchet handle, to give yourself some more leverage to help loosen a tight bolt or nut
Golf tee for plugging hoses. Old credit cards are great shims when needed. Q tips are perfect for cleaning tight spots. If too fat, give a squeeze with a pliers or vise.
Excellent article. I actually have 5 of those items in my shop. As well as the suede brush, a small hand (fingernail) brush does the same, but on a smaller scale. Old metal dental (tooth) picks work great for working on carbs. Also a variety of ready-rod (different sizes & lengths) with(out) nuts installed work awesome as punches for those hard to get places.
I bought a set of small fishing magnets off of Amazon. I use them for everything from holding patterns in place to lining up patch panels. I have two on a 4 ft led shop light that I can move anywhere inside my project car for great light. Even the smallest ones are rated at 100 lbs each.
Certainly. But one thing you need to remember, some of these hotel keys keep ALL your information. Therefore, TAKE THEM HOME. No need to take a chance on someone stealing your credit card information.
I use an old empty commercial Freon container to remove fluids from anything without a drain plug. Simply hook up a vacuum line to the container, from a intake manifold, start the engine to draw a vacuum in the container. Then feed the line into the fill plug hole on a rear or down the dipstick tube on a automatic and draw out the fluid. To empty the container put in a couple of pounds of air pressure in it from a compressor.
Piece of advice, don’t get caught removing a container from your wife’s kitchen to soak parts in. Even if you know she hasn’t used it in years, cos if she finds out you can bet that she was gonna use it today or tomorrow. Most wife’s don’t appreciate having kitchen utensils that have have an aroma of cleaning fluid. You will never hear the end of it. Believe me, cos I have been there.
Two things I find very helpful in my toolbox. A packet of dental floss and a bicycle spoke. The floss is handy for holding a gasket in place so that it can be bolted on. When the fasteners are tightened, the material is cut and excess removed. (I used to use thread, but floss works better). And a spoke is stiff steel and has a hook or head on one end that is helpful for fishing out dropped things or parts. Both are cheap and readily available. Used spokes can be had at your local bike shop...they are going in the trash.
Bamboo Skewers. 1001 uses...Great for getting into nooks & crannies when cleaning carbs, detailing around trim on your car or anything where you wouldn't want to score the metal, vinyl or painted surface with a metal object. Skewer points are great for touching up those small road paint chips by affording a lot more control over the amount of paint needed to just fill the chip hole.
Kyle---thank you for helping us to think beyond the box. Great ideas. I have collected several things in my garage and in my tool boxes. When I pass--I know that my heirs will puzzle over those oddities. Maybe they will chalk it up to --"I knew that Dad was a hoarder but, THIS?" Keep up the good work!
EVERYBODY knows about using a turkey baster to transfer battery water, etc. ALSO, a repurposed enema bag or c**k pump can transfer automotive fluids in a pinch... lol
Kyle, a great article with lots of excellent tips from the readers! But, what got my attention is in the picture of the chaffing pan. In the background I see you have cut PVC screwed it under your bench to store your power drivers. I have been leaving these laying around and they are always in the way, but not any more. Headed to the shop now to build my own. Thanks!
In the toolbox I keep in the car: a 3 x 5 " chunk of 1/4" steel plate, and a similar-sized piece of angle iron, also 1/4" thick. When away from your shop, they're great for use as a small anvil or stable surface for beating on, either individually or as a (very) small "table." In the shop, I have an 18" piece of mainline railroad rail, excellent as an anvil or to form curved surfaces using the curved surface atop the rail. And also a rectangular block of machined steel, about 3 x 4 x 6"--bought at a scrapyard, perfect for making sharp 90 degree bends in sheet metal--steel or aluminum, when forming small brackets etc.
Hey Kyle! all good suggestions. I especially like the key card tip. Incidentally: the parts cleaning vessel is known as a 2"half hotel pan...a chafing dish has a water bath and a heat source. Thanks for the suggestions.
I use metal holiday popcorn containers for temporary storage of oily rags until I dispose of them properly. Save the plastic bubbles from new printer cartridges for mixing small amounts of epoxy or paint. A cookie sheet makes a good soldering surface and also contains the small parts that can easily "get away" when disassembling a project. My parts bath has a tea strainer with a removable top for the really small parts.