Matt at the YouTube DIY automative channel Schrodinger’s Box shares some of his shop tips, tricks, and hacks in the following two videos. There are a lot of great tips here. While some of them only apply to auto mechanics, many of them are applicable to all sorts of shop work. There are a few here that have definitely gone into my mental bag of tricks for future use. I bet you’ll find the same.
Here are 13 of my favorite tips culled from the two videos.
Rubber Band DVOM Mode Reminder
When using a DVOM (Digital Volt-Ohm Meter), it’s easy to leave the leads in current-reading mode which can cause real problems if you try and test voltage on the meter. The least you can do is blow the meter’s fuse, the worst is short out an expensive electronic part, like a power-train control module (PCM). To give yourself a reminder that you’re in Amperage/Current mode, place a rubber band over the dial. This way, when you go to use the DVOM again, the band over the dial reminds you to switch the red lead back to voltage detection mode before testing.
Securing Ramps That Want to Travel
If you’re trying to drive your car onto some portable shop ramps and the ramps keep sliding away from the front wheels on the smooth floor of your garage, tie some nylon strapping to the holes in the ramps and situate the other ends so that your back wheels roll over them. And up the ramp you go.
Using Wax to Free a Frozen Bolt
We can add this to our growing list of useful methods for unfreezing bolts. Here, you heat the frozen nut with a torch and then melt candle wax into the bolt threads. Repeat as needed until the nut can be worked free.
Rolling Parts Trays from a Tranny Pan
Matt took an old transmission pan and welded some small casters on it to make a shop-floor rolling parts tray.
Holding a Bolt in a Wrench
This one is a keeper. To hold a bolt in a wrench or extension when you need your other hand free, put a little chunk of paper towel over the head of the bolt before slipping it onto the wrench. This will create a friction fit tight enough to hold your bolt but loose enough that you can easily pull the wrench away when the bolt is secure.
Make a Groovy Pair of Pliers
Sometimes old, stubborn hose clamps can be tough to pry off with regular pliers (the little metal release tabs can be slippery). To address this, Matt cut some grooves in a pair of bent needle nose pliers. This groove engages with the tab and gives you a good grip for prying the clamp apart.
…And a Cushy Pair
When trying to remove hosing that is good and stuck, you can sometimes tear up the rubber material with conventional pliers. By wrapping some hockey tape (or other grippy tape), you can create a pair of pliers that are more forgiving to marable surfaces.
Make a Funnel from an Oil Container
A handy funnel for hands-free pouring of 1 qt. oil containers can be made by simply cutting the bottom off of an old 1 qt. oil container.
Use a Flashlight to Check Fluid Levels
It is often hard to view fluids levels in those milk-white plastic reservoirs (often coated with dust and grease) found in car engines. Shining a flashlight up against the plastic will reveal the fluid level inside the container.
Cleaning Bucket Drip Tray
Matt gets these two-bay cleaning buckets on sale, two for $5, at stores like Walmart and Target. They fit perfectly over the box steel tubing of his engine stand, making a perfect drip tray that can travel the floor with the stand.
Tape a Spare Fuse to your Meters
It’s always a good idea to tape an extra fuse to the back of your multimeter so that it’s handy if you blow one.
Pickle Lid Oil Tester
When changing oil, place a little of the old oil into a jar lid that had a gloss-white interior. By shining a light onto the smear of oil in the lid, you will be able to see any metal particles, bearing bits, coolant, or other contaminants in your oil.
Waterproofing Heatshrink Tubing
To create a more waterproof seal for heatshrink tubing, apply some dielectric grease to the wire you are insulating, slide on the tubing, and heat as normal. As the tubing shrinks, it will squeeze out the excess grease and leave you with a very waterproof seal.