A home air compressor is an excellent addition to any backyard hot rodder’s tool collection. The small 110-volt units are inexpensive and take up very little room. But any air compressor requires a certain amount of maintenance to ensure dependable operation. Perhaps the single best thing you can do for your compressor is to periodically drain the moisture from the tank. Ideally, the tank should be drained daily if it is used full time. If not, draining the tank of water at least once a month will prevent tank corrosion and also extend the life of your pneumatic tools. Special compressor oil is also critical. Sometimes, hot rodders substitute automotive engine oil for compressor oil, which is not recommended since automotive oil can contribute to increased deposits that can hurt durability.
- End wrenches, sockets, ratchets and screwdrivers are the basic hand-tools that all hot rodders must have to perform the most basic tasks. Once you’ve purchased your tools, the toughest part is keeping track of them so they don’t get lost. Most mechanics lose far more tools than they break. The best way to keep track of your hand-tools is with drawer dividers that stack end wrenches and sockets in neat rows. As you’re cleaning up after a job, placing the sockets or end wrenches in their respective locations will instantly tell you if one is missing.
- For those hot rodders who own modest tool kits, canvas end-wrench wraps make great tool holders that keep the wrenches handy and also signal missing wrenches. Socket strips work the same way, and if they’re not riveted to the tray, make a great way to quickly tote the sockets to a job site. If you have metric sockets or end wrenches, a strip of paint will immediately identify the metric pieces and prevent confusion.
- We’ve also found that six-point sockets work better and are less prone to rounding off bolt heads, unless you’re dealing with 12-point bolt heads. Tool companies typically sell large tool sets with mostly 12-point sockets, but unless you’re buying a huge set, stick with the six-point sockets. Combination wrenches offer a similar advantage over double-box-end or open-end wrenches. Double-box-end wrenches are sometimes handy since they are often longer, offering more leverage. But for first-time users, combination wrenches are the only way to go.
HACKSAWS AND FILES
- To survive, every hot rodder must be a neophyte fabricator. Little brackets, hangers and other trinkets take less time to make and are far cheaper than searching for store-bought pieces. While power band saws and electric grinders are nice, hacksaws and files work just as well and are far more affordable for the average hot rodder. As with all tools, there are right and wrong ways to use files and saws.
- The best approach when using a hacksaw is to have a selection of different blades handy before you begin. Cutting thicker metal takes less time if you use a coarse tooth-count blade. For example, cutting a 1/4-inch steel plate is easier with an 18-tooth-per-inch blade, while a 24-tooth-per-inch blade would cut sheetmetal quickly and easily. The teeth of hacksaw blades are designed to cut in only one direction, so it’s best to install the blade so the teeth face forward, making the cut as the blade moves forward. The best cutting procedure is to make long, easy strokes with moderate pressure on the blade, working gradually toward completion. Undue pressure on the blade will result in erratic cuts and sore arms.
- There are literally dozens of different shapes of metal files categorized into either single-cut or double-cut surfaces. The distance between the teeth on the file determines whether it is a rough-cut or smooth-cut file. As with hacksaws, files are designed to remove metal in only one direction. So metal is removed only with the forward stroke of the file. The best procedure is to work slowly and deliberately to prepare the surface gradually. Always fit a file with a handle to prevent injury.
Hot rodders should take good care of their tools in order to ensure their continued usability. Tips on storing, cleaning and using automotive hand tools are presented and discussed.