Tag: Kyle Smith

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 A dedicated dwell meter is an outdated tool for a modern mechanic, and thus most of the vintage ones are left to estate sales and online auction sites.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. 

Read on

6 of the most rewarding moments in vintage car ownership – Kyle Smith @Hagerty


Owning and maintaining a hobby car is full of ups and downs. With any luck the highs appear more often than the lows, but there is no way to guarantee their appearance. What we can do is focus on the moments that make the thin wallets and late nights and headaches worth it.

To bring some light into what may be a dark tunnel, we pulled out six of the moments in car ownership that we’ve found most rewarding. Whether you own a classic now or are thinking about jumping in with both feet, here is what you have to look forward to.

First show/event

Getting your new purchase home is a big moment; taking it out for its first show or event is even bigger. A car can be an extension of your personality and going out to your first car show with this new form of expression is a powerful moment.

Sharing your car and its story can be as easy as joining a gathering of likeminded individuals in a parking lot—or, if you thrive on more challenging goals, as complicated as earning a spot on a concours lawn. You don’t have to walk away with an award, but we’ll bet you’ll carry a memory when you go.

First startup

Catching a problem before it’s a problem

Classic vehicles require a certain understanding. Once you learn your car’s language, you will know when something is not right.

Whether you do your own diagnosis or call in the professionals, having your hunch justified is an awesome feeling. It’s more than just keeping up on maintenance. This is knowing your car well enough that, when you detect a disturbance in the force, you act on it with confidence.

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12 essential automotive chemicals for your garage | DIY – Kyle Smith @Hagerty


I remember the days when you only needed a roll of duct tape and a lubricant in your toolbox. These days there are so many automotive chemicals it can make your head spin. Lubricants, penetrants, cleaners, adhesives; where do you start? In this DIY, Kyle Smith breaks down what he thinks are the essential chemicals you should always have handy in your garage. #DIY#KyleSmith#NeverStopDriving


  • Contents of this Video:
  • 0:00​ Intro
  • 0:47​ Multi-Purpose Grease
  • 1:22​ Threadlocker
  • 2:13​ Dielectric Grease
  • 2:52​ WD-40 & PB Blaster
  • 4:09​ Starting Fluid
  • 4:59​ White Lithium Grease
  • 5:38​ Carb Cleaner
  • 6:20​ SEM Solve (Paint Prep)
  • 7:10​ Brake Clean
  • 7:56​ Engine Degreaser
  • 8:32​ Glass Cleaner
  • 9:16​ Interior Cleaner
  • 9:37​ Outro

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5 steps to bring your car out of storage for spring driving season – Kyle Smith @Hagerty


No amount of lamp light will cure the car lover’s seasonal affective disorder, suffered when the weather is too cold or the roads too salty for driving a classic. Luckily, spring is upon us, which means many of us are champing at the bit to get our cars out of storage and onto our favorite roads. If you haven’t already, you’re likely planning to go out to the garage soon in order to peel the car cover off and greet an old friend for a fresh season of cruising. Tempting as it might be to just turn the key and go, it’s often wise to make sure everything is in order, so as to avoid any mechanical diversions from the next blissful day of weekend sunshine. These five steps should do the trick:

Clean and inspect

Even if your beloved ride has been living under a cover for the last few months, it could use a good cleaning before hitting the town. The best part about a good deep clean-up is that it gets you up close and in personal with your car. A basic walk-around tends to overlook a handful of areas, but going over the whole body with a microfiber or a clay bar will get you noticing a lot more than a passing glance would turn up. Keep a pad of paper handy while you do this and document your observations while you go over the car front to back, or snap some photos on your phone. This written status report or photo documentation can be a useful reference in future to better understand how components are wearing or aging.

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Redline Rebuild: Watch this tired big-block 396 go from crusty to trusty – Kyle Smith @Hagerty


There is no sound quite like a tuned-up big-block. Sadly, when our 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS396 rolled in the shop it had more of a wheeze than a growl. This engine got a refresh just five years ago, but in that time the car’s duties included teaching hundreds of young drivers how to use a manual transmission, driving road trips, tours, and general use. Given the oil in the ‘Maro’s tailpipes, Hagerty’s Davin Reckow knew there was something wrong but wasn’t sure just how far he’d have to dig to figure things out.

The diagnosis once we got the orange big-block on the engine stand wasn’t good—Hammered valve stems and leaking piston rings meant we had one choice—a Redline Rebuild.

Read the rest of the story here

Today’s sales incentives are a joke compared to 1962’s free pony with a new Chevy – Kyle Smith @Hagerty


In the long history of car sales, dealers have attempted all manner of gimmicks to get new buyers into the showroom and out the door with a new set of wheels. Lottery contests, rebates, all types of giveaways, and more. We thought we had seen it all until an we saw this ad from 1962: a free Shetland Pony to the first 25 buyers of a new Chevrolet.

Read the article here

The best 1920s cars for turning heads, according to @Hagerty Readers – Kyle Smith


The book (and subsequent movie) The Great Gatsby gave many car enthusiasts a reminder of the grand vision many in America shared during the 1920s. Cars were bold. Flashy. If you need to make a grand arrival in modern times, a true pre-war classic is a great way to go about it. We asked our readers what car from the 1920s they would choose, and here are the results.

Read Kyle’s article here

Watch this Pontiac V-8 go from basket case to brawler on Redline Rebuild – Kyle Smith @Hagerty


Watch another great Hagerty engine rebuild with Davin

We told Davin we got him a gift, all he had to do was open the boxes. Inside was a gearhead’s ultimate greasy-hands LEGO set. A Pontiac 389 V-8 split up about just as far as one can be, with extra parts mixed in for a good measure of confusion. If anyone was going to get this engine back to its Tri-Power glory, our resident wrench would be the one to do it.