Nothing is worse than missing parts especially when you’re in the middle of putting your project back together. Don’t think you are the only one because I can almost guarantee if you’ve ever taken a bolt off of something you’ve probably lost it during the process. The key to any project going smoothly is organization, if your garage isn’t organized every part of the process slows down.
Garage Organization is a big task that I’m not going to get into in this article because everyone works differently and what works for me may not work for you, but today lets focus on disassembly organization. Keeping track of everything that comes off your project and making sure it is all in an easily accessible place makes reassembly a breeze. This is especially true if the project spans multiple weeks or months, keeping track of where every part is can be a nightmare and easily forgotten.
There are multiple methods for keeping track of parts and you will have to try each to see which works best.
The first method is to put every part taken off into a zip-lock sandwich bag and write the contents on the outside of the bag. This is helpful if you have multiple of the same part like head studs or oil pan bolts, generally parts like these are all the same making them easy to throw into one bag. This way they will all be together and not get separated. With the bag method you can be very particular and put only exactly alike parts in each bag and labeling them very precisely. Be careful of this though, Make sure the labels written on the bags are easily understandable. You may not remember what you meant by “Small Right Lower Inner Crossmember” a few months down the road. For more in depth projects it’s a good idea to group bags of similar part type or location into small boxes.
An example is, if you have your engine fully disassembled, bagged and labeled then begin work on the suspension, make two boxes and label one “Engine” and the other “Suspension”. It may seem silly and childish but you will thank yourself later on when you know exactly where every part is when its time to go back together. For parts that will not fit into bags, put a piece of general masking tape on them with the part name written and place in the respective box.
The second method I just recently used while preparing my car to be painted. I have found that it is very difficult to find an individual part when there are a lot of labeled bags and it can take a lot of time to dig through them.
I decided to use plastic compartment bins meant for keeping track of fishing gear, hooks and bobbers. These allowed me to adjust the compartment size to fit the part and then once inside I could easily write the contents of each on the outside in marker. Not only did this save time when looking for a specific piece, I could also transport the containers very easily. These have an added bonus of a locking top, you’ll never have to worry about knocking that plastic cup or jar of bolts over, making a mess on the floor.
You can even go a step further and buy multiple containers and allocate each one for a different part of the car. In the first picture of the containers you can see that most of the parts are off of the trunk and rear section of the car. In the picture above, the containers parts from the front bumper and front end of the car.
Using one of these methods on your next project will ensure one less speed bump in the road to completion. I know it might sound silly but this is one trick you’ll use for the rest of your wrench turning days.