For those of us who are still in the amateur or infant stage of our writing, there are those we look up to and savor the words they put to paper. For me, most of these “idols” are automotive journalists, and while some are new to the pages of the periodicals I subscribe to, there are others who rank as legends.
One of my absolute favorite automotive writers is Peter Egan, who in his retiring years still contributes a monthly column to Road & Track magazine called “Side Glances.” This column has been a long standing pillar of Road & Track and has spawned two compilation books by the same name. I make every effort to never miss a column by Mr. Egan because over the years he has penned more than a few gemstones.
His works are not only rich with automotive experience, but his ability to tell a captivating story laced with a humorous tone are skills that I hope to emulate someday.
What follows is one of his masterworks, a list of tools commonly found in the automotive garage followed by his unique definitions. I am proud to pay homage to one of my automotive writing inspirations by having his words grace the humble pages of my blog.
For anyone who has ever known the agony and ecstasy of backyard automotive repair, this list will truly strike home.
Read and enjoy!
Hammer: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate expensive car parts not far from the object we are trying to hit.
Mechanic’s Knife: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on boxes containing convertible tops or tonneau covers.
Electric Hand Drill: Normally used for spinning steel Pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age, but it also works great for drilling rollbar mounting holes in the floor of a sports car just above the brake line that goes to the rear axle.
Hacksaw: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.
Vise-Grips: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.
Oxyacetylene Torch: Used almost entirely for lighting those stale garage cigarettes you keep hidden in the back of the Whitworth socket drawer (What wife would think to look in there?) because you can never remember to buy lighter fluid for the Zippo lighter you got from the PX at Fort Campbell
Zippo Lighter: See oxyacetylene torch.
Whitworth Sockets: Once used for working on older British cars and motorcycles, they are now used mainly for hiding six-month old Salems from the sort of person who would throw them away for no good reason.
Drill Press: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against the Rolling Stones poster over the bench grinder.
Wire Wheel: Cleans rust off old bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar calluses in about the time it takes you to say, “Django Reinhardt”.
Hydraulic Floor Jack: Used for lowering a Mustang to the ground after you have installed a set of Ford Motorsports lowered road springs, trapping the jack handle firmly under the front air dam.
Eight-Foot Long Douglas Fir 2X4: Used for levering a car upward off a hydraulic jack.
Tweezers: A tool for removing wood splinters.
Phone: Tool for calling your neighbor Chris to see if he has another hydraulic floor jack.
Snap-On Gasket Scraper: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading mayonnaise; used mainly for getting dog-doo off your boot.
E-Z Out Bolt and Stud Extractor: A tool that snaps off in bolt holes and is ten times harder than any known drill bit.
Timing Light: A stroboscopic instrument for illuminating grease buildup on crankshaft pulleys.
Two-Ton Hydraulic Engine Hoist: A handy tool for testing the tensile strength of ground straps and hydraulic clutch lines you may have forgotten to disconnect.
Craftsman 1/2 x 16-inch Screwdriver: A large motor mount prying tool that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end without the handle.
Battery Electrolyte Tester: A handy tool for transferring sulfuric acid from car battery to the inside of your toolbox after determining that your battery is dead as a doornail, just as you thought.
Aviation Metal Snips: See Hacksaw.
Trouble Light: The mechanic’s own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin”, which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, its main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate that 105-mm howitzer shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.
Phillips Screwdriver: Normally used to stab the lids of old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splash oil on your shirt; can also be used, as the name implies, to round off Phillips screw heads.
Air Compressor: A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty suspension bolts last tightened 40 years ago by someone in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, and rounds them off.
Grease Gun: A messy tool for checking to see if your zerk fittings are still plugged with rust.
Sage wisdom for the ages…
– T. August Green