Garage Tips for the Backyard Mechanic

DEPARTMENT OF:  Cheap Tricks & Useful Tips …

Over the years I have been asked by people who are going to undertake a rebuild of a Jeep, what I might suggest to help get the project done. For anyone undertaking a backyard mechanic I always suggest getting a few things if you don’t already have them. Get a good quality 4 1/2″ angle grinder. Get plenty of quality 1/16″ cutting wheels for steel as well as some other steel cutting wheels. Get an in-expensive MIG Welder that feeds the welding wire and get flux shielded wire (or you can get a gas shielded model but flux core wire is cheap and convenient). Then learn to weld safely and effectively. I found welding relatively easy once I got the knack. I talked to a friend I have who is a well experience welder and I asked him what makes a good weld. He gave me some tips that I found quite useful. So it’s good to talk to an expert if you are learning to weld. Welding tutorial books can be very helpful too. You just have to do it safely if you do it at all. Another tool that comes in handy is a free standing drill press. A couple of good variable speed hand drills, one that is built for speed with a 3/8″ chuck and another that is built for torque with a larger chuck for those big holes. A quality socket set with plenty of sizes in metric and standard. Also a good variation of wrenches on both standard and metric. Obviously the more hand tools you have the better. These tools were the most useful tools I had in the garage to get many custom jobs done myself.

Always be very aware of sparks in the garage and flammable things laying around. It’s always better to weld and cut outside if possible. Don’t burn your garage down and your project with it. ALWAYS have a few decent size fire extinguishers in strategic places in your work area. Make sure they are rated to cover types of potential fires that may occur. It’s even a good idea to have a smoke detector in the garage just in case you have a smoldering spark somewhere. Especially if your garage is attached to your home as mine is. I removed the beeper out of smoke detector and ran a wire into the house to put the beeper where I could hear it.

Another tip is to find a local metal shop. Talk to them. Ask them if they have a scrap dumpster and tell them you are working on a project and you may occasionally need small, various sized pieces of steel. Ask them if you could look in their scrap dumpster occasionally. If that’s not an option just ask about buying various pieces of steel for your repairs. Don’t get too picky about getting the steel cut to the right length or drilled out or whatever. Their time is money and if you are a pain in their backside, they’ll be much less helpful or tolerant of someone asking for free or cheap steel. But generally speaking steel is cheap for small stuff. Scrap can be free. I have a friend who owns a welding shop and they fabricate lots of stuff. I’d occasionally look through the scrap dumpster, even grabbing odd shape stuff that I didn’t have a use for at the moment but ultimately I might. Many times I did. You’d get a knack for that if you think about it.

Another suggestion is to have a digital camera on hand and take lots of pictures. There were times I needed to go back and refer to the pictures because I forgot how something went back together or whatever and pictures were great to have.

I always have plenty of spray paint and primer on hand and several extra cans of Rustoleum gloss black, which I use a lot. I also have a small, refillable can of mineral spirits (paint thinner) handy to clean parts, prep the surface for paint, whatever. I keep the bulk container out in the shed. I also have plenty of sand paper in various grades handy. I have small bins of various sizes of grade 8 hardware, nuts bolts and washers, which I bought at one of those supply stores (TSC is great!) that sell it by the pound, not by the piece. I’d stop there occasionally to re-stock. I have bins of misc stuff that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away, which I look though frequently for that thingamabobber I need. I have several tubes of silicone sealant on hand in clear and white, which I use alot. I keep that right next to the shelf that has all of the various liquids and strays like the rust buster PB Blaster which is great stuff.

I found an old inner tube out of a truck that I saved. I have used the rubber of this inner tube for all kinds of things from seals to rubber buffers between fenders and body as well as a buffer against the rocker panel guards. The rubber is strong and can be cut with scissors. Very useful.

Everyone has their list of garage tips and these were a few of mine. I’m sure there are plenty of things I forgot to mention. If I think of more I’ll post them. -RH, Project CJ-7