Is the cartridge in your respirator still working? – Keep a bottle of vanilla or banana extract in the shop. Each time you put on the respirator, hold the open bottle close to the air intake and sniff. If you can smell the extract, replace the cartridge.
Batteries are quite heavy and usually located in an area that requires leaning over to reach. Lifting heavy loads while leaning causes back strain problems, so it pays to use a battery removal strap to make things easier.
Can’t find the strap or don’t have one? No problem—just take off your belt and slide one end under and around the center of the battery case. Pull the ends together tightly, just enough to get your hand under, then use the belt as a sling to remove the battery.
Caution: Be careful of belt buckles and never use metal chains on a battery. These could short the battery terminals, causing catastrophic results.
Can’t decide on the right color? Veteran painters and restorers will tell you that color appears differently on different shapes. What looks good on one vehicle might look horrible on another. Anyone who has painted a car a custom, non-stock color has been faced with the fear that it won’t look good on the finished project. The solution to that problem is to buy a plastic model of the car and assemble the body parts!
From an automotive paint supplies shop, purchase small quantities (pints or sometimes half-pints) of the color(s) you’re considering. There’s no need to spray the paints onto the model—just brush it on fairly thick. Once the model is coated you’ll instantly have a good idea how the car will look in full scale. If you don’t like the color, coat it with another sample.
Chrome discolored? – Sure, you can use chrome polish and other products to clean your brightwork, but nothing works better than plain old ammonia to get stubborn stains, water spots and greases off bumpers and other trim. The stuff is cheap and extremely effective.
When your trim is clean and bright, wipe it down to dry and apply a thin coat of paste wax or liquid polish. It will keep the weather off for a considerable time.
Don’t throw away vegetable and soup cans, or jelly jars! – Save those tomato, soup, tuna and other cans instead of throwing them in the trash. When empty, clean them with a little soap and water and let dry, then put them in a drawer or cabinet in the shop. They come in handy for all sorts of applications, like mixing small amounts of paint, washing out small parts in solvent, acting as water containers for small jobs, holding greasy rags, etc. Save jars, too. You never know when you’ll have some leftover paint, solvent or other material that needs to be kept in an airtight container. Metal cans and glass jars are typically much less reactive with shop chemicals, solvents and paint then disposable plastic alternative, and you were going to throw them away anyway.
Electrical connectors in automobiles live in a very bad environment. Over time they are subjected to extremes in temperature, humidity and vibration. Eventually the metal surfaces in the connectors oxidize and cause a long list problems from dim bulbs to total failure. To prevent this, coat the connectors—one contact at a time—with a conductive grease. You can buy these compounds in electronics stores or auto parts suppliers.
Many older cars had original window glass that was rounded and blackened on its top and side edges. Now, when modern replacement glass is cut by a shop or provided by some suppliers, the edges are rounded, but the greenish color of the edge tips-off “purists” that the glass has been replaced. To blacken the edges, just run a black, waterproof laundry marker over it and wipe off any excess. It will stain the glass edge.
Not sure you’ve made a continuous weld? – Looking for holes in welded seams is difficult, and many holes don’t show up until you’ve already ground-down the weld bead. To make it easier on yourself, keep a light on behind the panels being welded. The bright light will show through any holes in the joint, directing you precisely to where you need to add some weld.
One neat trick for polishing a piece of hardware, like a screw, or bolt, or other piece of hardware that will be seen is to chuck the threaded end into your drill. You can then spin it up and push the head against a soft wire brush, buffing cloth, piece of leather, etc. to get a great shine.
It’s a good idea to keep spray paint and other aerosol cans indoors, and bring them in overnight before painting the next day. This practice keeps the paint above 55°F in cold weather, and below 80°F in hot, significantly extending the shelf life of the paint and assuring it will adhere properly when spraying. You also want to store them in a part of the shop/basement/garage away from a source of heat, like a furnace or heater. Storing spray cans properly will help you avoid the dreaded can full of liquid with no propellant in it.
Always keep a telephone in the garage, either a landline or cell phone. Thousands of people get injured in garages each year. Tools, lawn equipment, saws, grinders, welders, jack stands and countless other devices take their toll on careless, or otherwise distracted, hobbyists. Make sure a phone is handy to call for help if something happens to you. Having a cell phone within easy reach can mean the difference between a trip to the hospital with a broken bone when you get pinned under something heavy, or a trip to the funeral home.