Category: Tools

9 old tools almost nobody uses anymore – Kyle Smith @Hagerty

9 old tools almost nobody uses anymore – Kyle Smith @Hagerty


The nuts and bolts that make up our beloved automobiles have not changed that much over the last 150 years. But the tools needed to maintain them? Those have changed a lot. Software has cemented itself as part of a service technician’s day-to-day regimen, relegating a handful of tools to the history books. (Or, perhaps, to niche shops or private garages that keep many aging cars alive and on the road.)

How many of these now-obsolete tools do you have in your garage? More to the point, which are you still regularly using?

Spark-plug gap tool

Though spark-plug gap tools can still be found in the “impulse buy” section of your favorite parts store, these have been all but eliminated from regular use by the growing popularity of iridium and platinum plugs. These rare-earth metals are extremely resistant to degradation but, when it comes time to set the proper gap between the ground strap and electrode, they are very delicate. That’s why the factory sets the gap when the plug is produced.

These modern plugs often work well in older engines, meaning that gapping plugs is left for luddites—those who like doing things the old way just because. Nothing wrong with that; but don’t be surprised if dedicated plug-gapping tools fade from common usage fairly quickly.

Verdict: Keep. Takes up no real space. 

Dwell meter

50 years ago, a tuneup of an engine centered on the ignition system. The breaker points are critical to a properly functioning ignition system, and timing how long those points are closed (the “dwell”) determines how much charge is built up in the ignition coil and thus discharged through the spark plug. Poorly timed ignition discharge is wasted energy, but points-based ignition systems disappeared from factory floors decades ago, and drop-in electronic ignition setups have never been more reliable (or polarizing—but we’ll leave that verdict up to you.)

Setting the point gap properly is usually enough to keep an engine running well, and modern multifunction timing lights can include a dwell meter for those who really need it. A dedicated dwell meter is an outdated tool for a modern mechanic, and thus most of the vintage ones are left to estate sales and online auction sites.

Verdict: Toss once it stops working. Modern versions are affordable and multifunctional. 

Distributor wrench

When mechanics did a lot of regular timing adjustments and tuning, a purposely bent distributor wrench made their lives much easier. However, much like ignition points, distributors have all but disappeared. Thanks to coil-on-plug ignition systems and computer-controlled timing, the distributor is little more than a messenger: It simply tells the computer where the engine is at in its rotation.

Timing adjustments have become so uncommon that a job-specific tool is likely a waste of space. If you’ve got room in your tool chest, keep yours around; but know that a standard box-end wrench can usually get the job done and is only fractionally less convenient than the specialized version.

Verdict: Keep if you have them. No need to buy if you don’t. 

Pre-OBDII diagnostic scan tools

Prior to the required standardization of on-board diagnostic computers by the U.S. in 1996, a single car could host a wild mix of analog and digital diagnostic methods. OBDII, which stands for On-Board Diagnostic II, wasn’t the first time that a small computer was used to pull information from the vehicle via an electronic connection; it merely standardized the language.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s each OEM had its own version of a scan tool. Now those tools can be reverse-engineered and functionally spoofed by a modern computer, allowing access to diagnostic info tools that, at the time, were only available to dealers. Since many pre-OBDII cars are now treated as classics or antiques and driven far less frequently, the need for period-correct diagnostic tools is dropping.

Verdict: Keep. These will only get harder to find with time, and working versions will be even rarer. 

Distributor machine

A distributor is simple in concept. Trying to balance the performance and economy of the ignition system, with the distributor attached to a running engine, and achieving proper operation starts to get pretty complicated. That’s where a distributor machine comes in.

A distributor is attached to the apparatus and spun at engine speed by an electric motor. This allows you to literally see how the points are opening and closing. You can also evaluate the function of vacuum or mechanical advance systems. These machines are still great but the frequency that this service is needed these days is few and far between, especially when trying to justify keeping a large tool around and properly calibrated.

Verdict: Keep, if you are a specialty shop or tool collector. 

Engine analyzer

Even a casual enthusiast can see there is a lot more information that can be gleaned from a running engine than whatever readouts might be on the dash. Enter the engine analyzer, a rolling cabinet of sensors and processors designed to fill in the data gaps between everything that is happening in a car and what its gauges report.

An engine analyzer is essentially a handful of additional instruments packaged into a small box hanging around the bottom of your tool drawers. It can also house a lot of sensors in a giant cabinet, which was likely wheeled into the corner of the shop in 1989 and left to gather dust. Now engine analyzers can be found listed online for as cheap as $200.

The funny thing is that many of the sensors in these engine analyzers are often the same systems that come built into modern dynamometer tuning systems. In a dyno, the sensors allow the operator to see more than max power; they also show how changes to an engine’s tune affect emissions. Maybe engine analyzers didn’t disappear so much as change clothes.

Verdict: Toss. The opportunity cost of the space these take up can be tough for most home garages. Sensors went out of calibration decades ago so the information you might get from one is dubious at best. 

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Stand and Deliver!


The latest addition to armoury is an engine/gearbox stand with the Model B Gearbox swap in mind

SGS do a nice stand at a very reasonable price so duly ordered, you can see here

Bit limited for storage so this is a nice size, fingers crossed it’ll fit in the available storage.

Will post further once unpacked and assembly is underway!

Vevor Air Jack – The story so far


I’ve had a Vevor air jack for quite a while now so I thought an update was in order

The jack is effectively a portable air bag and as the title suggests an air compressor is required.

The model I have is detailed below

VEVOR Pneumatic Jack 3 tons Pneumatic Jack Pressure 1.0 MPa Pneumatic Bottle Jack Lifting Time 5 Seconds 17-41 cm, Inflatable Jack 1 Adjustable Wrench, Car All-Terrain Vehicles Red

It’s a very well made product with a good quality air bag and valving equipment. Out of the box the only commissioning required was to cut and attach the air feed pipe to the handle.

So far I’ve found it to be an excellent addition to the armoury.

Far more useful than a trolley jack as you can see below quite easy to use in awkward situations where the use of a normal jack would be a challenge.

In normal use the effort required to lift a vehicle versus a normal jack is virtually zero, and of course the speed of lift goes without saying, but of course is

Demonstration of full lift, block of in use here to aid lift on a beam axle.

Awkward terrain rear end lift on Chevy S10 Xtreme truck

I think the only modification I’d like to see on the product is a slightly more prominent lift pad.

Best Wrench? Let’s Settle This! Snap On vs MAC Tools, Matco, Proto, SK, GearWrench, Kobalt, Husky


21 Wrenches: Snap On, SK Tools, MAC Tools, FACOM, Sunex, Gedore, Proto, Wright Tools, Matco, GearWrench, Williams, Klein Tools, Kobalt, Crescent, Tekton, Craftsman, Performance Tool, GearWrench 6 point and 12 point, Pittsburgh and a vintage S K wrench. The box end of the combination wrenches are compared for performance on a rusty fastener with limited contact area and on ½ inch low and high carbon steel with full box end contact.. The open end of the wrench is compared for performance on a low carbon steel fastener as well as on high carbon steel. I always purchase all of the tools and supplies used to test the products to ensure unbiased comparisons. So, thank you for supporting the channel.

Thankfully, somebody’s out there rounding off nuts and snapping bolts for science – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


There’s a lot of garage advice that gets handed down and repeated unquestioningly. Don’t put a battery on a bare concrete floor. Tire dressings help preserve the rubber in tires. Hex wrenches are better than 12-point box-end wrenches. To set the record straight on that latter bit of advice and on a number of other beliefs about commonly used tools, the Torque Test Channel – which normally focuses on power tools and as a result has developed a robust testing apparatus – recently started testing hand tools to their limits and recording the results. What we appreciate most of all is that the tester at the channel has an understanding of the technical specifications behind his tests, he tries to document everything as scientifically as possible, and he tries to gather as many examples of the tool in question to provide a fair and unbiased test.

He started off with a massive comparison of flare nut wrenches, often mistakenly blamed for the frustration that comes with rounding off those soft steel brake bleeders and other crucial nuts, then followed that up with a pliers-versus-wrench comparison and a hex-versus-12-point-versus-spline wrench comparison. Finally, he also waded into nuts and bolts with a look at exactly what separates the various grades of fasteners, focusing mostly on the ones we’re likely to encounter in automotive work but also throwing in a few more exotic grades. It appears these sorts of videos have proven popular, so we’d expect to see more hand-tool torture tests and comparisons from the channel in the future.

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According to you: 10 of the most underrated tools – Sanjeev Mehta @Hagerty


Last month I asked members of the Hagerty Community which was the most underrated tool in their collection. The answers covered the entire spectrum of automotive repair, so the ten examples listed here may not necessarily be suited for your particular project. But this discussion brings up the point that if you haven’t yet interacted with your fellow Hagerty readers in our Community, whatcha waitin’ for?

Join the fun on the Community and enrich our collective passion for all things related to the automobile with your knowledge. Anyway, let’s get to the answers that YOU provided us.

MAPP gas torch

Community user RedRyder_SFZ chimed in with a tool that isn’t needed regularly—but when you need one, you need it bad! These torches run on MAPP gas for its safety and ease of use compared to a conventional oxygen-acetylene setup, thereby making them great for smaller projects like breaking free rusted bolts and brazing metal together. RedRyder went further to say: “Without my gas torch, I’d go through more cutting and grinding discs than I care to think about. Sometimes after the torch gets the rusty fasteners loose, I pound my chest and exclaim ‘I … have made fire!!!’”

Braided wiring loom installation tool (DIY)

Again, this isn’t a tool for your average brake job or oil change. But when you need the finishing touches under the hood for your project car, Hagerty Community user johnman has a word for you. He made a DIY tool to run wiring into these looms: “I discovered a quarter-inch wrench worked the best on the half-inch split plastic wrap. Put the wrench into the split gap sideways, then turn 90 degrees to open the gap. As you lay the wires into the gap, pull the wrench through, and follow along with your thumb to secure the wires inside.”

Reciprocating saw

The Sawzall cutting tool is a bit of an Internet hero these days, for many reasons and likely countless applications. Which is why our CitationMan has one, and tells his friends, “I can cut anything you own in half.” Enough said—it’s gotta make the list.

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3 handy electronic tools to keep in your modern classic – Brandan Gillogly @Hagerty


Not everyone wants or needs to carry a tool kit in each vehicle they drive. Your late-model daily-driver that’s proved totally reliable shouldn’t need more than a spare tire and a jack, if that. Each tool kit should be balanced for the vehicle and its intended purpose. Even if you could carry a Snap-On truck’s worth of tools, many mechanical issues aren’t practical to fix on the side of the road. For labor-intensive problems, it’s best to have your phone with you to call roadside assistance for a tow—whether to your own garage or to a trusted repair shop. In the spirit of this list, perhaps a phone is truly the #1 piece of electronics that can rescue you from a spot of bother.

However, if you venture off-road in your Jeep or pickup, or if you find yourself in more remote locations searching for fun backroads, you likely want to be much more self-sufficient. You’ll want to carry a well-stocked tool bag, plus spares for the parts most likely to leave you crippled in the event of failure.

Last year, our own Kyle Smith gave some tips on how to properly select the tools to bring with you in your vehicle. His advice led me to practice some of my most probable road-side repairs. In the process, I realized that 2 additional feet of extensions made a disabling sensor failure a 10-minute fix rather than an obscenity-laced knuckle-buster.

For my Jeep Cherokee, I keep a basic socket set—in standard and in metric, because Jeep hadn’t yet made up its mind in 1998—with lots of extensions, wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers (including Torx drivers). There are some spare nuts and bolts, fuses and relays, and wiring terminals in there as well. I also keep some spare fluids (ATF and engine oil at least, along with a funnel) and the most common parts that could fail and leave the 4.0-liter stranded: the MAP sensor, the crankshaft position sensor, and the coil.

Following the lessons from Smith’s previous article, I decided to add three electronic doodads to my on-board tool kit.

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Considering an Ultrasonic Cleaner?


Recently purchased a budget Ultrasonic cleaner

Really good value listing is here

I can highly recommend the use of one of these well priced cleaners which have a number of uses, for me the parts and tool cleaning aspects will be the best value

A tip to start with, save the need to keep cleaning the machine, the items have been put in various containers. As the machine works on cavitation the cleaning isn’t really hampered.

Results after about 10 mins, these bolts had 90 years of junk on them!

All that’s really needed for pretty good results is washing up liquid or a non bio washing machine soap (my result) but you can use a number of different detergents dependent on the item in question and the results required.

It’s not really crucial to have the lid on if you have a heated unit.

As you can see the results are quite impressive,. these items had about a 1/4 of an inch of oily residue attached. This is after 20 mins at around 49C. The container is a cut off water bottle, pegged to stop it rolling over.

Snap-on and Blue Point Tools 1930-1959 – @alloyartifacts


A great site for those of us vintage car geeks, as you need vintage tools for vintage cars 😉

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