The guerrilla mechanic

Make a fuel injector out of a BIC ballpoint.
Date:31 December 2009 Tags:,

20 outside-the-toolbox tips for gonzo repairs

Floating feeling
Disintegrated float in the carburettor of your dune buggy? Make a fuel injector out of a BIC ballpoint. Gut the pen, leaving the plug in the top. Disconnect the fuel line from the carb, and push it over the BIC’s pointy end. Strap the pen – vent hole facing down – over the carb throat with a rubber band or a piece of wire. The fuel squirts out the vent hole. The engine will run pretty well at half throttle. It won’t idle, and will run lean at full throttle, but at least you’ll be able to drive back to civilisation.

Clean the clipper
Free your lawnmower deck of dried grass by idling it for 5 minutes or so while spraying water under the blade. No more putty-knife scraping.

Charge attack
Deeply discharged car batteries can take days to charge with a conventional charger, because their internal resistance is high. MythBuster (and PM contributing editor) Jamie Hyneman suggests using a DC stick welder for a few minutes to wake the battery up. Use the lowest amp setting, stand back, and, if the battery starts to get hot, cease immediately.

Mechanical advantage
Got a bunch of fenceposts to remove? You can dig ’em up with a shovel, huff, puff. Better yet, get a big pipe wrench and clamp it to the base of the post about 20 cm above the ground. Now use a floor jack or just a scissors jack under the head of the wrench to lift the posts – even if they’re anchored in concrete.

The running of the wires
There are times when a length of conduit outstretches the fish tape. Then what? Tie some monofilament fishing line around a small sponge ball or a wadded-up plastic bag, then stuff it into one end of the conduit. Attach a vacuum cleaner to the other end and flick the switch. Within seconds, the sponge or bag is drawn through the conduit and into the vacuum. Now use the fishing line to pull the wires.

Baker’s secret
Have you ever struggled to fill a transmission on a transfer case or other hard-to-reach reservoir? Since space is so tight, funnels are useless. Try this: fill a 1-litre Zip-loc freezer bag with lube, and cut half a centimetre off one corner. You’ve just made the automotive equivalent of a pastry bag, used for decorating cakes. Now you can squeeze lube up or over into the fill hole from almost any angle.

Stuck wheel
Kicked and hammered the wheel of your car, but it still won’t pop off the hub? Run the lugs back on and leave them two threads shy of tight, then lower your ride to the ground. Drive the car around the block while you simultaneously stab the brakes and shake the steering wheel. The wheel and tyre assembly will pop loose. Next, wire-brush the hub/wheel mating surface to clean up any corrosion; use antiseize compound to prevent a recurrence.

Dusting for oil leaks
Matt Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft, came up with this: “Chase oil leaks by cleaning the engine, and spraying a generous coating of foot powder in the area of the leak. Run the engine for a minute or two, and any fresh oil will soak into the white powder, leaving a noticeable stain.”

5 uses for aerosol carb cleaner

Try anything once
It’s not just for cleaning carburettors anymore. It makes a perfect solvent for almost anything around the shop. Spray some on a sticky gasket or on gasket sealer residue to make scraping a lot easier.

Mounting issues
Trying to mount a tubeless tyre, but can’t quite get the bead to seat so you can inflate it? A 2-second shot of carb cleaner, followed by a flick of your lighter, literally blows the beads onto the rim, allowing you to air up normally. Warning: we’re not responsible for singed eyebrows or pinched fingers.

Coming unglued
Got some leftover gooey adhesive from a sticker on your new used car? Carb cleaner dissolves it and won’t damage the paint, unless your car is coated with old-fashioned lacquer instead of modern enamel.

That sucking sensation
Is a vacuum leak somewhere underbonnet causing that idle misfire? Use carb cleaner to find it: spray a quick shot around the intake manifold. As the cleaner is sucked into the leak, the lean mixture is enriched, momentarily raising the idle speed. Short puffs narrow the search.

Get me outta here
Door locks gummed up by years of pocket lint, especially if someone’s been lubing with 3-In-One oil (which traps dirt)? Blast carb cleaner into the key slot to remove the glop, then lube with non-sticky graphite.

Rules of thumb
Need a Shim?

The thicknesses of some common items:
* Post-it note 0,1 millimetres
* Credit card 0,8 millimetres

Lost the feeler gauge?
* Beverage-can lid 0,36 millimetres (typical ignition-point gap)
* Jumbo paper clip 1 millimetre

No scale handy?
* 1 litre of water = 1 kilogram
* 1 litre of petrol = 0,74 kilograms
* 1 gallon of diesel = 0,86 kilograms

No ruler?
* Credit card = 86 mm x 54 mm
* 25 mm ring spanner roughly 30 cm long

Can’t find the measuring cup?
* 340 ml can = 1 1/3 cups
* Oil container cap holds about 30 ml
* Spray-paint cap = 125 ml