posted on November 15, 2009 10:00
We turn a lot of wrenches at MotoIQ, and between the bloody knuckles, we've actually learned a thing or two. Going forward, we'll be posting a helpful tip each Friday in the hopes you might screw up one less thing under your hood over the weekend. Enjoy!
Tip #1: Take a Picture
Eyes still blurry from last night? Can't get your head and a flashlight in that hole at the same time? Need to be two places at once? Take a picture.
Writing tech articles has put me in the habit of carrying a camera when I work on something, but more and more the camera is becoming a tool itself. Consider these three examples:
Camera as a microscope: In the middle of a downpipe swap, I shoved my camera up near the turbine outlet and took a snap. Later, when I zoomed in on the picture, I discovered a crack propogating across the weld in my wastegate divider (the divider was welded in by a fabricator at Garrett so my turbo could match the performance of updated Disco Potato (GT28RS) that was supposed to come with a cast-in divider. Now that I know the crack is there, well... I'm not doing anything about it. But I will check and see if its getting any bigger next time I'm in there.
Camera as a second set of eyes: I was working on the Mazdaspeed3 SEMA car (pictured above), and we were trying to squeeze Stoptech brakes behind RX-8 R3 wheels. The RX-8 wheels don't have enough caliper clearance for the off-the-shelf kit for the Mazdaspeed3, so Stoptech's Dan Barnes whipped up a custom setup with narrower rotors and a higher-offset hat that pushes the rotor back closer to the ball joint. It worked on paper, but we were still unsure if I'd have to trim a bit of the control arm to clear the rotor.
Test-fitting the brakes in the paint shop while the car was color sanded, I couldn't get under the car to see the back of the rotor. Reaching around with feeler gauges, it felt like I had .040" of clearance, but I couldn't be sure the feeler gauge was actually in the right place. So I gave the rotor a two-handed reacharound. Feeler gauges in one hand, camera in the other. The rotors cleared.
Camera as a problem solver: Pulling the S13 head off Project Silvia the head bolts were TIGHT. One of them felt a little different when I loosened it the first quarter turn. Yup, turns out I rounded the head and didn't loosen it at all. The next step was gonna be ugly. It was hard to imagine any solution other than trying to drill out the head bolt until the entire top of the bolt was a pile of oily metal shavings in the top of the head. This was not gonna be fun.
Before grabbing the drill, I grabbed the camera. The bolt was black, oily, and in the bottom of a hole, but with the on-camera flash and a couple of tries, I was able to get a clear shot that I could zoom in on. Sure enough, the socket had lifted out of the bolt head, only rounding the top 5mm or so. Looking at the shape of the damaged head, it looked like I could insert the 8mm Allen socket, turn it clockwise a few degrees to align it with the undamaged part of the bolt head, and then hammer it down into the hole. It worked, and I got the bolt out without drama.
If this is gonna be any help, you actually have to take clear pictures. Realize digital cameras aren't magic. They work just like film cameras, only with faster developing time. You still have to hold the camera still while you take the picture, and you still have to get your subject in focus. Get a camera with a macro feature so you can take close-ups and actually learn how to use it. Maybe read the manual or something. Don't expect the auto focus to work in pitch blackness either. If the camera won't focus on something dark, shine a light on it. The dramatic lighting on that turbo picture was no accident.
Got any helpful tips of your own? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org we'll use the good ones next friday.
Sunday, November 15, 2009 6:31 PM
SR20 head bolts use 10mm Allen sockets. Good camera tips. Peeked under the intake manifold with one, myself.
Sunday, November 15, 2009 8:56 PM
Yup, camera is invaluable. I've used it a TON working on fitment issues of various components. They're great for looking at things you don't have a good view of, and for checking clearences between components, etc.
Monday, November 16, 2009 4:44 PM
Not a big wrencher myself(car usually gets wrenched on by other people), but the camera trick is quite useful and have used it a few times before.
Monday, November 16, 2009 6:05 PM
Best thing about camera shots for the backyard mechanic - the photos will help put things back together properly. Memory is only so good - after back ordered parts, having to go back to work, etc., etc., a few pictures are amazing!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 9:18 AM
Really a great idea to use camera in the garage. Thinking back there are a lot of times this could have come in handy.
It looks like no one has any tips yet, so I have two.
Propane torch, one wouldn't expect it to help in the garage just like the camera. Here in Ohio on the rust belt I use my propane torch as much as I use my left hand, maybe more. Mostly I use it on stuck nuts and bolts. Anytime I see a rusty bolt I just remember the awful feeling of a nut turning way to easily. I fire up my trusty torch heat the sucker up until it's glowing red hot, heat what ever it is stuck in for a while, (like a caliper bracket). I like to spray some PB blaster to cool it off a little faster and then let thermal expansion do it's job.
It also works on rubber hose that is old and stuck or new hose that needs stretched. Or if you are desperate for a coupler for you IC pipes because your last one blew and you don't mind getting ghetto. Pick up a 2in coupler from your hardware stores plumbing department. Heat it with the propane torch until it fits. You can get another inch out of that 2in coupler ask me how I know :)
The other is a garden sprayer/portable power brake bleeder and vacuum pressure tester for your IC pipe. it is not as simple because it needs modifying, but it is pretty easy to do, and most of all cheap :) Just change the end of the sprayer coming out of the sprayer to clear vinyl tubing. Then add a 3 way brass T and a cheap round face metal tire pressure gauge to the T, and you have a portable power brake bleeder and vacuum pressure tester for your IC pipe.
All that is left is making or buying the cap for the master cylinder and intake where the filter is. I made one from a Craftsman rubber sanding disc backing for a drill. Just fed the tube through the hole and stuck a rtv end on the other side to keep the hose from sliding out (with a hole open of course) ziptie in place fill the sprayer with brake fluid pump it up to 10psi or so. Bleed your brakes in the usual order :)
If you want to use it to test the vacuum plumbing in your turbo car, just pick up a PVC cap while you're are a the hardware store. Clamp it in place of the air filter. Pump the pump up to 15-20psi and listen for leaks
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 6:39 PM
I've been doing this for sometime to take pictures of things I can't see under the hood. Its good that someone is going to start compilling good tips.
I've got a couple of tips.
1. When trying to put a bolt onto something, like a header stud that is hard to reach. You can put some paper towel or cloth between the nut and socket to keep it in there while reaching far away.
2. this might be common sense, but lots of rust penetrator on bolts attached to exhaust components a day or two before trying to break the bolts loose.
3. A nice sized pipe for a ghetto breaker bar to get some more leverage.
Monday, November 23, 2009 9:07 AM
I loved this article! I went surfing over a dead deer in the road at 5a.m. one icy snowy morning going 65mph...there was a dropoff to my right and an oncoming car at that precise moment. After I aired over it...the alignment felt fine...but held my camera under the car and found the bloody damage! And fur!!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009 9:51 AM
Great tip. I shoot pics of everything when I am working on my cars, often I'll see something I'd otherwise miss later on. If you're working with ramps or stands, a really easy way to get a nice relaxed view of the underside of the car. Great for spotting leaking trans switches on a B13, so when DC sends you a bag of ones he bought but never installed, you can see where you should also put them...soon, really ;)
Drips here from said switches - http://homepage.mac.com/stracy01/.Pictures/B13_07/Fastbrakes_09.jpg
Also invaluable in warranty issues, I have V35C leaking oil around the plugs and took many pics when I had the plugs out for replacement, they warrantied the VC covers (NO spark plug gaskets available separately!) w/o much question. Saved me well over $600 in potential repairs or at least $300 if I did it myself.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011 9:14 AM
Thanks for the macro tip, I got some great pictures of damaged parts at my workplace by utilizing it. Also yes, I did have to read the manual for running it correctly. Thanks Dave
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 4:29 PM
I rarely leave for the shop w/o my ZS3 on my belt.
Greatest in image and video on the spot.
Absolutely a must to record hose and harness routing when pulling top of engines off.
I'll start the shooting from one fender across to the other, and shoot one every 6".
A second path at 90 degrees to previous and you have dual view around corners later.
500w Flood lights help to keep focus sharp when it's usually a dark cave under the hood.
Sure enough, the laptop comes out to verify image assembly in question.
Even at my Monster Garage desk, that has overhead counter, if a cable
falls down the hole at back of desk into cable hell, all the reaching blind is at best a lottery shot.
Shoot down the hole, poof-there it is.
Same with the 2 big screens there.
Too difficult to move the 52" out to see behind it for connection needed, mystery solved.
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