We turn a lot of wrenches at MotoIQ, and between the bloody knuckles, we've actually learned a thing or two. Going forward, we'll be posting a helpful tip each Friday in the hopes you might screw up one less thing under your hood over the weekend. Enjoy!
Tip #1: Take a Picture
Eyes still blurry from last night? Can't get your head and a flashlight in that hole at the same time? Need to be two places at once? Take a picture.
Writing tech articles has put me in the habit of carrying a camera when I work on something, but more and more the camera is becoming a tool itself. Consider these three examples:
Camera as a microscope: In the middle of a downpipe swap, I shoved my camera up near the turbine outlet and took a snap. Later, when I zoomed in on the picture, I discovered a crack propogating across the weld in my wastegate divider (the divider was welded in by a fabricator at Garrett so my turbo could match the performance of updated Disco Potato (GT28RS) that was supposed to come with a cast-in divider. Now that I know the crack is there, well… I'm not doing anything about it. But I will check and see if its getting any bigger next time I'm in there.
Camera as a second set of eyes: I was working on the Mazdaspeed3 SEMA car (pictured above), and we were trying to squeeze Stoptech brakes behind RX-8 R3 wheels. The RX-8 wheels don't have enough caliper clearance for the off-the-shelf kit for the Mazdaspeed3, so Stoptech's Dan Barnes whipped up a custom setup with narrower rotors and a higher-offset hat that pushes the rotor back closer to the ball joint. It worked on paper, but we were still unsure if I'd have to trim a bit of the control arm to clear the rotor.
Test-fitting the brakes in the paint shop while the car was color sanded, I couldn't get under the car to see the back of the rotor. Reaching around with feeler gauges, it felt like I had .040″ of clearance, but I couldn't be sure the feeler gauge was actually in the right place. So I gave the rotor a two-handed reacharound. Feeler gauges in one hand, camera in the other. The rotors cleared.
Camera as a problem solver: Pulling the S13 head off Project Silvia the head bolts were TIGHT. One of them felt a little different when I loosened it the first quarter turn. Yup, turns out I rounded the head and didn't loosen it at all. The next step was gonna be ugly. It was hard to imagine any solution other than trying to drill out the head bolt until the entire top of the bolt was a pile of oily metal shavings in the top of the head. This was not gonna be fun.
Before grabbing the drill, I grabbed the camera. The bolt was black, oily, and in the bottom of a hole, but with the on-camera flash and a couple of tries, I was able to get a clear shot that I could zoom in on. Sure enough, the socket had lifted out of the bolt head, only rounding the top 5mm or so. Looking at the shape of the damaged head, it looked like I could insert the 8mm Allen socket, turn it clockwise a few degrees to align it with the undamaged part of the bolt head, and then hammer it down into the hole. It worked, and I got the bolt out without drama.
If this is gonna be any help, you actually have to take clear pictures. Realize digital cameras aren't magic. They work just like film cameras, only with faster developing time. You still have to hold the camera still while you take the picture, and you still have to get your subject in focus. Get a camera with a macro feature so you can take close-ups and actually learn how to use it. Maybe read the manual or something. Don't expect the auto focus to work in pitch blackness either. If the camera won't focus on something dark, shine a light on it. The dramatic lighting on that turbo picture was no accident.
Got any helpful tips of your own? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org we'll use the good ones next friday.