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50 Garage Tech Tips

Quick And Easy

Bob Ryder
Jul 1, 2011
Photographers: Bob Ryder
It is always interesting and helpful to discover unique tech tips when it comes to working on trucks. Over the years, we have accumulated many favorites to help you work smarter, not harder. This summer, tackle those tough jobs with the knowledge to do them easier and faster. If you have any tips for us, feel free to email them to us at
Photo 2/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips battery Disconnect
1. When doing any welding on your truck, always disconnect the battery. Welding with the battery connected will drain the battery or overload the battery, and it could explode. Welding on a connected battery can also harm electric computer systems and accessories. When disconnecting the battery, always remove the negative terminal first to prevent sparks. Likewise, always mount the positive terminal first when installing a battery.
Photo 3/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips welding Tip
2. If you have just recently rebuilt an engine or your engine has been sitting all winter without being run, you must pre-oil your engine’s internals. Take an old distributor and remove the lower gear by tapping out the pin from the distributor shaft. Slide the old distributor shaft into an electric drill motor chuck and tighten it. Insert the old distributor shaft into the distributor hole. Align the distributor shaft key into the oil pump. Place the high-speed electric drill into the distributor shaft and tighten the chuck. Run the drill motor in a clockwise direction for GM and counterclockwise for Fords, for a couple of minutes. This will pump new fresh oil into the oil galleys throughout the engine. Take off the valve covers and check the push rods and rockers. Eventually the oil will start pouring out and down into the camshaft. Remove the spark plugs and squirt some oil into the piston cylinder. Now you’re ready to fire it up!
Photo 4/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips sitting Engine Reoil Internals
3. To achieve straight body panels when block-sanding, always use the longest sanding block possible for large panels. It will eliminate wavy body panels, making them straight.
4. To remove dried wax buildup from beneath name badges, chrome trim, window moldings, and places where fingertips and cotton swabs can’t reach, get a new paintbrush and cut the bristles so that they are shorter and stiffer. To protect the painted surfaces from the metal surfaces of the paintbrush, wrap the surfaces with duct or painter’s tape to prevent scratches. This becomes the ideal tool for removing dried wax residue from underneath.
5. If you are going to be cutting a hole in a painted metal panel using a hole saw and you don’t want to scratch the paint, apply several strips of masking tape to the surface area to be cut. The tape will prevent scratches from metal chips and saw teeth while cutting and breaking through the tape and paint.
6. Those hard to get spark plug holes can become easier to insert and begin threading a spark plug using a piece of 3/8-inch rubber hose. By using a rubber hose, it will grip the end of the spark plug and is very flexible, allowing you to get to those hard to reach spark plug holes. This same method can be used to guide a bolt into a hard to reach hole.
Photo 5/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips rubber Hose Helper
7. Use an aerosol can cap to hold two pieces of wire that need to be soldered together. Place the aerosol can cap upside down on a flat surface. Use scissors, tin snips, or sheetmetal shears to cut two slits down each side of the cap from each other. After striping the two wire ends, then braid the ends together in parallel, place the connected wires into the two slots cut into the aerosol cap.
Photo 6/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips aerosol Cap Solder Holder
8. Use an automotive speaker to magnetize a screwdriver. Lay the screwdriver shaft across the speaker magnet, then stroke it in one direction a couple of times - instant magnetization.
Photo 7/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips magnetic Speaker Magnetize Screwdriver
9. Insert two pieces of wooden 2x4s between the jaws of a vise. The 2x4s can range from 6-12 inches. After scribing or marking the bend line on the sheetmetal, slide it between the two 2x4s. Tighten the vise, then simply bend the sheetmetal over the 2x4s to the desired angle.
10. Crossfire problems can occur when two plug wires come in contact with one another. Every time an ignition pulsation travels through a spark plug cable, the magnetic field it generates travels outward from the cable core. Whenever an adjacent cable is close enough or touching the cable and running parallel to the cable carrying the juice, the second cable may absorb enough induced voltage to fire both spark plugs simultaneously. The best answer to cure this problem is to separate the spark plug cables. Sometimes, the cables will come in contact with each other. If they do, never allow them to run parallel for more than an inch. When cables must cross, route them at an angle.
11. When painting a vehicle in a spray booth, static electricity can cause dust particles to cling to metal surfaces. To help eliminate the static cling, attach a length of metal chain to the vehicle’s frame and let it contact the floor. This will reduce the amount of particulate matter that settles on the metal during the painting process.
12. To protect freshly painted, polished, or plated nuts and bolts during final assembly and prevent nicks and scratches that will later turn to rust, simply apply masking tape to your wrench end. The tape covering the wrench opening will remain intact long enough to tighten several fasteners. We do recommend periodically checking the tape.
Photo 8/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips masking Tape Wrentches
13. If you have recently stripped a metal panel or body in preparation for paint and you know you will be storing it and don’t want it to rust, cover the unpainted surface with masking tape. If the surface is going to be stored for a long period of time, spray a couple of coats of primer over the masking tape. When the time does come to paint, simply remove the masking tape and wipe off the adhesive residue with enamel reducer.
14. To protect a chrome wheel fastener from marring or scratching your nice, shiny wheels, sandwich a heavy-duty plastic bag between the socket and nut or even wrap the socket in painter’s tape.
15. A simple way to distinguish a forged crankshaft from a nodular cast-iron one is to place a folded rag on the floor, then place the crankshaft on the rag. Using a small steel hammer, gently tap the counterweight of the crankshaft. If it rings clearly, it is a forged steel crankshaft. If the hammer impact makes a dull "thud," the crankshaft is probably a nodular iron crankshaft. Crankshaft identification can also be determined by checking the crankshaft parting line (which is located on the unmachined portion of the counterweight). This will provide the crankshafts metallurgic status. A thin line indicates a casting, whereas a thick line indicates a forging.
16. When inserting spark plugs into an aluminum cylinder head, always coat the threads with Anti-Seize lubricant. This will eliminate galling and corrosion of the threads. It will also make removing them easier.
Photo 9/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips anti Seize Spark Plugs Aluminum Head
17. To retrieve a non-magnetic part or item you have dropped into a none-retrievable space that can’t be reached by your fingers or pliers, breakout the ol’ shop vac, or household vacuum cleaner. Find an old pair of your wife’s or girlfriend’s nylons and place them over the vacuum hose opening. Grasp them tightly as to not allow them to be sucked up into the vacuum. Turn the machine on and using the vacuum hose with nylon stretched over the opening, reach down into the lost item area. The suction of the vacuum will attract the lost item and suck it up against the nylon material holding it until you can retrieve it and turn the vacuum off.
18. Very fine grade 0000 steel wool can be used on chrome, glass, stainless steel, and other delicate materials because it won’t scratch the surface. To clean and brighten stainless moldings and trim pieces, use some chrome polish with the ultra-fine 0000 steel wool and elbow grease will bring it to a high luster. The ultra-fine steel wool can also be used to remove overspray on glass.
Photo 10/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips steel Wood
19. Taking minor scratches out of your windshield and glass pieces can be done by using buffing compound and an abrasive window cleaner. Using an electric buffer or variable speed drill with a buffing pad, add some glass polishing compound to the pad and work the buffer in a circular motion (always keeping the glass surface wet). Wipe the glass dry with a soft cloth. If the scratches still remain, repeat the polishing again until the scratches disappear.
20. To eliminate scratching or marring your painted frame while using a floor jack, jackstands, or lift, cover the lifting pad or pads with a used, but clean, wool buffing pad or doubled-over shop rag.
Photo 11/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips wool Buffing Pad Scratch Preventor
21. There are two types of spark plug thread seats: tapered and a compression gasket ring. A tapered seat should be first snugged finger tight, then tightened with a socket and ratchet an 1/8-turn. A spark plug that has a compression gasket ring should be first snugged finger tight, then tightened with a shocket and ratchet a 1/4-turn.
22. When disassembling and cleaning a rearend axlehousing, use a toilet bowl scrubber. It is the perfect tool for cleaning the ends of an axlehousing. Spray some engine degreaser on the brush and inside the axlehousing, and then insert the toilet bush and start scrubbing using in and out and rotating motions. Repeat this action a couple of times. Then rinse out the axlehousing with a high-pressure washer or water nozzle to remove the grease and gunk.
23. Always check the spark plug gap after removing them from the box. The spark plug electrode gap can sometimes be incorrect from the manufacture due to shipping. A spark plug gap tool is a handy tool to have in your toolbox.
Photo 12/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips spark Plug Gap
24. When using Teflon tape, make sure you wrap it correctly. Nuts and bolts tighten clockwise unless it is a left-handed thread. Apply the Teflon tape in the opposite direction of the threads. As you view the end (the end of the thread that will first enter the hole), wrap the tape in a clockwise direction. This will prevent the tape from unwrapping as you thread the bolt into the hole.
25. After making an engine or pulley swap, it can be difficult to find the correct belt(s) for the new belt routing. To obtain an accurate measurement for the new belts or serpentine belt, set the adjusting brackets in the middle adjustment. Take a 3/8-inch diameter rope and place it around or route it through the pulleys. After routing the rope, tape the ends then release the adjusting brackets. Remove the rope from the pulleys. After removing the taped ends, lay the rope flat and use a tape measure to measure the rope. That will give you the correct length of your new belt.
26. Removing that GM frame coating can be a real pain, so try spraying some Easy Off oven cleaner and allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Then steam clean the frame. The frame coating will come right off.
27. Whenever disassembling parts of a truck, whatever it is, always store the small parts in a plastic bag. Make sure you label the bag with what parts are inside.
Photo 13/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips zip Lock Bags Labeling
28. Pulling wires through a firewall or under a dash can be frustrating. Use a coat hanger or welding TIG wire as a lead. Bend the ends of a wire wrap or tape the wire you want to thread to the coat hanger.
29. To prevent denting your rocker panels and roll pans when using a floor jack, slide about two-feet of pipe insulation foam over the handle.
Photo 14/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips floor Jack Foam Handle Pad
30. To help keep your windshield cleaner, pour a little white vinegar into your windshield washer tank. Just put it back in the kitchen.
Photo 15/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips vinegar In Windshield Wiper Tank
31. To eliminate drilling a hole too deep, insert the correct diameter dill bit into the chuck. Measure the correct depth of the hole desired from the drill bottom tip of the drill bit up to the flutes. Cut a piece of rubber hose to the measured length. Slide the correct cut hose over the drill bit and place it up against the chuck jaws. Remeasure to assure the exposed drill bit is the correct depth to be drilled. Begin drilling the hole, stop when the rubber hose makes contact with the surface. Voila!
Photo 16/20   |   31
32. Use newspaper for cleaning and drying your windows. It’s the best, and it’s cheap. Amazing, smear-free results are in your future.
33. Place the wheel face down on a flat surface. Lay a straight-edge across the back wheel lip and then place the tape measure end onto the wheel’s hub-mounting surface. Where the tape measure intersects with the straight edge is your backspacing measurement. The wheel offset is half of the wheels width minus the backspacing. If the backspace is less than the half the wheels width, the backspace is positive, meaning more than half of the wheel sticks out past the mounting surface.
Photo 17/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips wheel Offset Tips
34. Use a small amount of silicone along the cutting edge of diagonal cutters. It will keep small bits of wire or zip ties from being launched across the shop or into the paint of your truck.
35. Before applying your tire dressing, clean the rubber with some bleach. It will remove all of the brake dust, road grim, and whatever else has accumulated on your tires. Use rubber gloves when applying bleach to a sponge. We prefer the yellow with green scrub pad on the backside. Apply the bleach to the sponge, then wipe down the tire. Use the scrub pad if needed. Use clean water to rinse the bleach off the tires. You will be amazed at how much gunk is removed.
36. To apply tire dressing, use a wedge-shaped foam paint applicator with a handle. This allows you to get into those hard to get places like around the wheel lip and tire and keeps your hands clean. Also, use tire dressing on your window rubber trim using the same type of applicator.
37. To take the guesswork out of disconnecting and connecting electrical wires, it is always best to color-code stereo wires. Use colored heat shrink to identify the wires. After cutting the wire, slide a 1-inch piece of colored heat shrink over each of the two wire ends. Use a heat source (micro torch or lighter) to shrink the wrap around the wire casing. After all of the wires have been cut and color-coded by applying the heat shrink, the wire ends can be striped. Using a piece of black heat shrink, slide it over the wire end and then reconnect the wires using a soldering gun for absolute oxygen free connection. Use a heat source to shrink the wire wrap.
38. To remove anodizing from fittings use oven cleaner. Cut a plastic bottle and place the fitting into the bottle. Spray the oven cleaner into the bottle submerging the part. Allow 10-15 minutes of soaking before removing the part. Rinse the fitting clean with water. Scuff the fitting using a Scotch brite pad. Ready for paint.
39. To braid two wires, place them in the drill chuck, pull the wires snug against an anchored support, and turn on the drill. The wires will braid themselves together neatly.
Photo 18/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips wire Braiding
40. Speaker polarity test.Use a 9-volt battery to represent your power amp in your stereo system. To acquire the correct polarity of your speakers, connect the wire from the speaker to the positive and negative battery posts. If the speaker sucks in, the polarity is reversed. If the speaker pushes outward, the polarity is correct.
Photo 19/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips speaker Polarity Test
41. Wash your tires with soapy water and dry them thoroughly. Then wipe the tire down using cola, this will remove any dirt or road grime. Now you are ready to apply your tire dressing.

42. How to check for heavy "Bondo" or body filler, underneath paint. It’s as simple as using a magnet along the body surfaces. Place felt over the magnet before checking the metal surface so you don’t scratch the painted surface. Remember this technique will not work on fiberglass (Corvettes or body kits).
43. Use a tape measure to locate and mark your tape location for a two tone. Lay down the tape at the starting location, then unreel the tape, pull it snug, and hold it at the longest point. Now you’re ready to lay it down contacting the surface.
44. A Sawzall blade lubed with peanut butter sounds crazy, but it works when cutting frames or tough steel.
Photo 20/20   |   50 Garage Tech Tips peanut Butter Sawzall
45. Add fuel stabilizer into your gas tank to keep the fuel from foaming and gumming up. Place a box of baking soda inside your cab to eliminate any interior odors. Disconnect the battery, then hook it up to a trickle charger. Put the vehicle on jackstands to eliminate tires from flat spotting and unload the suspension.
46. When wrapping electrical tape onto a splice where space is tight, like under the dash, or anywhere a full roll of tape won’t fit, make several wraps around the shank of a small screwdriver. You’ll be able to reach into much smaller cramped spaces.
47. When de-badging emblems and trim molding on your truck, use fishing line. Pull both ends of the fishing line tight and slip it underneath between the sheetmetal and emblem or trim molding and drag it.
48. Carpet is easier to install inside your truck if it is laid out in the sun for a couple of hours. It will fit the contour of the floorboard surface and be more pliable.
49. Aluminum foil works excellent for masking odd shaped parts, especially under the hood. It conforms into contoured and convex surfaces tightly and won’t fall or blow off.
50. If a vacuum won’t pick up animal hairs or small fibers, use duct tape. Wrap the duct tape with the adhesive side out around you hand. Remove the hair or fibers by patting the surface it will stick to the duct tape.
51. When block-sanding your truck’s body surfaces like hood, roof, door, bed, and tailgate, always use a sandable primer. After spraying on a couple of primer coats, go back and apply a guide coat using a contrasting color laying down vertical and diagonal tiger stripes. When you block-sand these surfaces, the high spots will be sanded away leaving the low spots. Apply another couple of coats of sandable primer. Then repeat the tiger striping guide coat. Then block-sand again until the tiger strips are completely gone. This means your surface is completely straight.



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