This week's Community Question is about the underdog. The underdog in your toolbox. The one you may not need on a regular basis, but WOW, does it ever come in handy when you are in a real pickle.
What is YOUR most underrated tool? Mine is probably the impact screwdriver, which really comes in handy with screws that are rusted, over-torqued and have damaged heads (from some knucklehead that stripped and overtorqued them in a previous repair).
The good old BFH.
A close second is the cell-phone camera during some disassembles.
Oh…and I love my impact screw driver too…those damnable retainer screws on brake rotors…or door hinge screws. But the “impact” part doesn’t happen without a suitable BFH. 😉
I am in lockstep with @Hagerty Fan and @Sajeev as far as the impact screwdriver and the digital camera to record "how things oughta look". The BFH is great of course, but my first response upon reading the question was Ball Peen Hammer. I have several sizes hanging over a bench (the one with the biggest vice on the corner) and I can't count how many times, grabbing the appropriate BPH has served me well. The peening side works so well on so many little tasks that I find myself using it where even some other tool would be more suitable, but I'd have to go find that tool.
My dad used to work in a shop where leather was installed and fastened with copper rivets (old tech for putting padding on braces for limbs and backs) and he left me a very nice BPH that I've used for shaping all sorts of metal parts and was most recently employed in destroying the hard drive from an old PC. A tool-of-all-trades!
Come to think of it though, JimR, one of my ball peens is 2.5 pounds, so that is a decent BFH after all. I'm gonna label it "BFBPH"! 😋
Wire Weaving with plastic or braided wrap
Have you had the pleasure of trying to put your electrical wires inside these plastic wire organizers?
Seems like a simple procedure until you have spent an hour and only have completed 10 inches. Years ago, I made a special tool out of thin aluminum that opens the conduit wide enough to lay the wires into the opening and then allowed the conduit to close right behind the weave. I lost that tool! Drats! Maybe some cruel diminished old mechanic thought it would be amusing to break into my garage and only steal that special tool.
Instead of spending a couple hours making a new tool. I discovered a ¼ wrench worked the best on the ½ inch split plastic wrap. I tried a pencil, screwdriver, a small piece of aluminum tubing and then this wrench that worked best. Put the wrench into the split gap sideways, then turn 90 degrees to open the gap. As you lay the wires into the gap, pull the wrench through, and follow along with your thumb to secure the wires inside. Darn thing worked better than my invention. Select the wrench size that fits best for the size of wrap you are using.
Dental pick is good but I really didn’t have to think about this- the $3 magnet on a telescopic tube to retrieve that nut bolt screw from the bowels of the engine compartment. Can’t convey how many times that simple tool saved a day of wrenching.
Angle grinder for me. Bought my first one mid 1990's. Use it every week. I got tired of changing wheels, so I bought a separate grinder for each wheel, disc or brush I use. I think it's better than the ol auto body cutoff tool for sheet metal cuts.
My name-brand 110V mig... my 'Harbor Freight' quality 110V plasma cutter... this Snap-on plier wrench (https://shop.snapon.com/product/Pliers-Wrenches/17%22-Quick-Adjust-Pliers-Wrench/PWZ2QA) which will loosen just about anything that can be loosened without fire and machining (and is reasonably priced)... Hemos... work better than needle noses in a lot of applications especially since they lock
My MAP gas torch, my drift and my WD40. I take apart a lot of rusty cars for resto and heat gets rusty nuts and bolts out….period.
Without my MAP gas torch, I’d go through more cutting and grinding discs than I care to think about.
Sometimes after the torch gets the rusty fasteners loose, I pound my chest and exclaim “I…have made fire!!!”
With a couple of standout exceptions I can’t really argue with any of the other post choices of others. But I was just in my shop yesterday and took stock of my collection of hammers… and I think I’ll double down on my earlier choice. From a 10 lb short-handled sledge, different sized ball-peens, dead-blows, a set of body hammers from my youth, a couple brass hammers, rubber mallet, even my grandfather’s home-forged Forge hammer… I bet I’ve used every one of them within the last year.
I really couldn’t get along without them. And I doubt I’m alone in that.
For many years, an essential "toolkit" contained: flat screwdriver, pliers, adjustable wrench, and a hammer. Throw in some baling wire, and you could set out cross-country in your hand-cranked touring car and feel like you were ready for anything.
@Hagerty Fan may have actually boiled things down to the lowest common denominator. After all, if you didn't have a hammer, how many other things have you used to "pound" something? Wrench? Screwdriver handle? Rock? Check, check and check. In fact, I'll bet I've used 90% of my tools to tap and/or knock on something. So if you loosely define anything you use to pound on something as "a hammer", JimR has hit the nail on the head (oh heck yes, that pun IS certainly intended)...
This is kind of off topic but: I've owned several small block chevys with the ram horns exhaust manifolds. Several of the spark plug holes are hard to see and it's difficult to get the spark plug aligned with the threaded hole. A six inch length of vacuum hose slipped over the plug tip allows you the flexibility to get the alignment right the first time. No more cross threaded plugs and one happy half-fast mechanic.
I don't think that's off topic at all - the topic is an underrated tool. As noted in the article an "underdog in your toolbox". I've used the flexible-hose-to-start-plugs-in-tight-spots trick myself. It surely works and I think it qualifies quite well for this list! 👍
Although I am a Huge fan of the BFH, only followed slightly by the RED Wrench ( It can't be stuck if it's liquid )
The newest and latest indispensable tool I find myself drawn to is a Power Probe, very useful for chasing electrical gremlins, checks ground, continuity and allows you to apply power to motors and relays.
My most useful tool of late.