Low Cost Auto Restoration Tools

dazed chevelle Remember back, driving your parents’ station wagon or sensible Buick, dreaming of the cool wheels beyond your reach? Cherry Bomb and header and 4-barrel carb were part of our vernacular, just not part of our lives. It’s funny how, now as we get older, we can do all the cool stuff we wanted to do when we were punk teenagers. We were car crazy, man, and many’s the time I envied the guys in the neighborhood who were out on their front lawns, working on their Dodge Challengers or GTO “Goats”—

—not just because they HAD them (which would have been enough), but because they WORKED on them. They probably borrowed their dads’ tools, saved up working shit jobs to get parts and supplies, and spent Satyurdays doing whatever it took to keep their wheels “cherry.” Nowadays, though, when you hear (and feel) a carb-powered 426 Hemi thundering down the road, it’s a geezer you’re more likely to see behind the wheel than a punk. And chances are, that geezer is one of us. Classic car restoration is more popular than ever, and with the help of online parts stores, chat forums and YouTube videos, guys who thought they’d never get to rebuild their favorite classic rides are now living the dream– in their garages (and on their lawns), doing just that. If you’ve decided to restore a vehicle yourself, I salute you. Not only will you save thousands of dollars, you’ll be embarking on a long, challenging– even therapeutic– journey that will reap rewards for years to come. But before we start doing that victory lap, to “Eye of the Tiger,” let me suggest some basic tools you’ll want right out of the gate to make the dream a reality (unless, of course, you like repeatedly going back & forth to the store when you’re in the middle of doing something): The Must-Have Tool The Air Compressor will quickly become your best friend over the course of your restoration. It’s the first thing you’ll need for your arsenal. Between the Die GrinderPaint Sprayer and Impact Wrench, you’ll get a lot of use out of it and, believe me, you’ll thank yourself every time you facea big chore that you don’t have to do manually. It needs to have a decent enough CFM—at least 5-6 CFM per minute at 90 psi– so that the long bursts of sanding, buffing or cutting won’t wear too hard on the compressor. You could get the job done with a 29-Gallon Tank Unit, but if you can swing it, go for a 60-Gallon Compressor, with power to spare. By the way, the Die Grinder is great for polishing the inside of the head ports, cleaning up metal and using with a cut-off wheel to repair panels. Air power, man… it’s a bacon-saver.

Engine Work Compression Tester will help diagnose vital motor issues, such as worn piston rings, burnt valves and bad head gaskets.  This is a great first tool to use when you get your new project car home. You can even take it with you to test a car before you buy it! While it’s not vital for the project, you may want to consider picking up a “cherry-picker” Engine Hoist, especially if you’re planning to restore more than one vehicle. A good 2-Ton Shop Crane should be sufficient, and will more than pay for itself in the long run. Most likely, you should have the cylinders re-bored. A cylinder bore gauge is needed to check for taper, out-of-round and oversize on the cylinders if you are rebuilding the motor yourself. Any critical wear on the cylinder can be reached with this gauge. An Engine Cylinder Hone will de-glaze the cylinder walls and give them a nice, smooth finish. Next, you’ll want a Valve Spring Compressor to remove the valves for a rebuild. Also a cheap valve lapping tool, with grinding compound, helps reseat the valves. Piston Ring Pliers will help you remove and replace the rings on the pistons without breaking them. A Piston Ring Compressor is needed for the installation of the pistons. Also, a piston groove cleaner will remove the carbon crud from the piston grooves. A Dial Indicator is used to measure run-out on things like the flywheel, and endplay on the crankshaft. While there are various types of mounts, including magnetic base and screw mounts, I recommend the clamping mount because it’s faster and easier to work with. Next, a Stud Puller is necessary for removing stripped, rusted and otherwise stubborn head studs, as well as exhaust & intake manifold studs. Another tool you cannot live without is the Torque Wrench—two, actually. Get both a 1/2″ drive and 3/8″ drive for your tool cabinet. These are essential to torque all your bolts to factory specs. Have a complete Tap and Die Set on hand, preferably with both SAE & metric. You’ll find this invaluable for cleaning up old bolts and restoring rusted holes. A good Digital Micrometer is needed to precisely measure anything.

Body Work MIG Welder. You won’t get through a restoration job without it. Why a MIG welder, as opposed to another type? Well, for starters, if you’re new to this kind of project, the MIG is the easiest to learn. Also, they work with the most common types of metals, overhead welding is easier, and the MIG welder works fast. You’ll also want a Hammer & Dolly Set, otherwise known as a “Body & Fender Set.” These tools go a long way in repairing and straightening steel panels, and all-around custom fab work. This one, made by Pittsburgh, probably has the best price you’re going to find, and one look at the customer reviews should convince you there’s no need to keep looking. A Step Drill is essential to make quick, clean work out of drilling large diameter holes for auto-body jobs such as installing chrome trim, and for firewall holes. A Spot Weld Cutter works great in restoration projects and does just what its name implies. Also, a Plumber’s Torch is great for softening and shaping metal. As you work on your project, you’ll find a Bench Grinder and Drill Press are extremely helpful in the auto restoration process.  Plus, a Wire Wheel on the grinder is a must and makes cleaning up parts quick and simple.

Additional Work Make sure you include various Brake Tools, a Tubing Bender and brake flare tool. Finally, get a CreeperPaint StripperTransmission JackDent Repair Kit, and a Comprehensive Mechanics Tool Kit, and you’ll be equipped to tackle most everything involved in your car restoration, as well as many other future projects. Of course, you’ll inevitably be needing cleaners, sealants, lubricants and the odd part along the way, but consider yourself the proud owner of an equipped auto restoration garage.

gremlin Now, get out there and make that Gremlin Funny Car a reality!

Firebird Restoration Tools: Harbor Freight vs. the Competition – Pt. 2

Engine Removal Tools

Last week I started a series illustrating how much could be saved buying products from Harbor Freight Tools– as opposed to the competition– for the ’67 Firebird Restoration project. Breaking it down phase by phase, we’re comparing the prices of tools used in the project with similar (if not exact) products that the competitors advertise. The competitors I chose were Craftsman, Northern Tool, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Grainger. It should be noted that exact matches weren’t always found, so I substituted the closest comparison available. As I suggested last week, I don’t think this compromises the test because we’re only talking about differences in size and shape, not function. It should also be pointed out that not all the listed competitors carry all the tools used in the project.

In the first segment, we looked at Harbor Freight’s tools used in the vehicle’s disassembly video. This week we’ll be exploring price differences on the engine removal phase:

 

This powerful shop crane delivers the lifting power you need to easily hoist engines and transmissions, move heavy machinery and load equipment. And when you’re done, it just folds vertically up against the wall or in a corner, taking up very little space. Made of heavy-duty steel, Harbor Freight’s rock solid and sturdy shop crane is an invaluable, cost-effective addition to the garage.

  • Sears – Dragway Tools 2-Ton Engine Motor Hoist Cherry Picker Shop Crane Lift – $279.99
  • Northern Tool – Torin Big Red Folding Shop Crane – $279.99
  • Home Depot – N/A
  • Lowe’s – N/A
  • Grainger – Shop Crane, 4400 lb. Cap. – $517.50

 

An excellent addition to your home or shop, this all-steel stand employs an “I”-shaped design to keep even complete big block engines from tipping. Heavy-duty casters enable you to move the engine around easily and smoothly, and its four adjustable arms allow you to easily mount the engine. Check out the reviews and see why Harbor Freight Tools customers love this engine stand!
  • Sears – Black Bull 1000 lb. Four Wheel Engine Stand – $69.99
  • Northern Tool – Torin Big Red 1250 lb. Engine Stand – $109.99
  • Home Depot – 750 lb. Engine Stand – $104.16
  • Lowe’s – N/A
  • Grainger – Automotive Engine Stand 750 lb. – $186.25

 

This industrial-quality impact wrench is a must for the home garage or shop. The twin hammer delivers a max torque of 425 ft. lbs. and the impact wrench features a forward/reverse regulator with five speeds, allowing you total control. With a free speed of 6,500 RPM, this impact wrench is a powerhouse for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts!
  • Sears – Eastwood 1/2″ Drive Twin Hammer Air Impact Wrench – $59.99
  • Northern Tool – Wel-Bilt Air Twin Impact Wrench – $79.99
  • Home Depot – PowRyte 1/2″ Heavy Duty Air Impact Wrench – $69.99
  • Lowe’s – Kobalt 1/2″ 500 ft.-lbs. Air Impact Wrench – $79.94
  • Grainger – Chicago Pneumatic Impact Wrench 1/2″ Drive – $334.25

Check out The Video to see the tools in action during the engine removal process!

In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the tools used for stripping and priming the car, and compare them to the competition’s. Until then!

The Many Lives of the Motorcycle Lift

Harbor Freight’s made a decent name for itself for, among other things, its motorcycle and ATV/motorcycle lifts. A quick glance at the customer reviews– not to mention independent bike forums– will show Harley, Goldwing, dirt and Big Dog Chopper (to name a few) wrenchers across the country doling out praise for the garage equipment they’ve come to rely on.

Look deeper, though, and you’ll find ATVs and motorcycles are not the only things Harbor Freight’s motorcycle lifts are being used for…

Recently, on an auto parts forum, a member shared how he used a Central Hydraulics Lightweight Aluminum Motorcycle Lift as a drivetrain jack for his 914.

Coincidentally, on a different site, another guy was asking advice on employing the lift for removing his Porsche 914 engine. But then, as a twist, a very different idea was offered in a product review:

This is about the perfect tool for working on clinical equipment and gurney wheels. It is easy to keep clean which is very important. Safer than makeshift methods using levers, work progresses better and it has paid for itself in time saved.

On Lumberjocks, a woodworkers’ site, a member told of how he bought a table saw, but as his wife needed the garage space for her car, he had to find a mobile base. Due to high costs and lackluster reviews for what was out there, though, he suddenly had a stroke of necessary genius, and…

…instead,  got a Central Hydraulics 1500 lb. Capacity ATV/Motorcycle Lift for the job. More than enough for the task, the lift easily maneuvers the shop equipment into a corner with plenty of room for the Mrs.’ ride.

The ingenuity doesn’t stop there. Another guy used his 1500 lb. lift to spruce up the office:

I bought this to lift and/or move office furniture so I could get carpet tile under the furniture. It worked beautifully and an incredible bargain compared to the alternatives. It allowed me to work by myself, saving me the cost of hiring a grunt. It lately has been used in a garage that I store materials in. Makes a dandy little pallet jack for my homemade pallets. Roll them under the shelving, drop in place, doesn’t take up much room. Someday, I may try it on my bike. A very versatile investment. And unlike the grunt, it’s still with me.

Last (but certainly not least), is the Central Hydraulics High-Position Motorcycle Lift

which not only lifts furniture—it becomes furniture! In fact. TWO product reviewers discovered this to be the case—one using it as an adjustable work welding table and the other, a great portable workbench (“I have a table top that easily clamps to the arms. Extremely stable and very strong”). That’s not to say it doesn’t carry its weight. After a quick review, I found the affordable high-position lift is used for boosting riding mowers and lawn tractors, pressure washers, and snow blowers. And did we mention, it’s great for lifting bikes and ATVs?

“This is a very handy lift,” noted one happy wrencher. “I easily give it 5 stars.”

Whether you own a motorcycle or ATV– or don’t– check out the product reviews and all the great ways you can use an affordable, heavy-duty motorcycle lifts from Harbor Freight.

Seriously, don’t get a grunt.

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Harbor Freight does not endorse any other business or organization or any technique in any customer video or blog post. Always follow all of the instructions and warnings included with our products. Harbor Freight makes no representation or warranty of any kind by including the information on this website.