November 29, 2015

10 Garage Best Practices

Posted on July 17, 2009 by in In the Garage

Best practices in the garage can save you a lot of headaches and a lot of money. Some general rules apply to every project you’ll ever complete involving your vehicle.

Plastic Baggies and a Sharpie

Any time you remove anything, label a ziploc baggie by the part you’re working with and put all the nuts and bolts into it for safe keeping. Losing or confusing one bolt for another can be murder when you’re reassembling your project.

Another school of thought is to keep a piece of cardboard handy, and draw quick diagrams on that cardboard. As parts come off your project car, cut/poke a hole in the cardboard and put the part into that as shown in this picture.

Torque wrench
I’ve seen too many parts that wriggled loose or fell off on the road, and even more that had bolt heads sheared off entirely because they were torqued down too much. Spend the money and get a trustworthy torque wrench, you won’t regret it. I use my 1/2 drive torque wrench constantly.

Zip Ties
Zip ties hold together at least 10% of my car at any given time. You may be surprised by this, but they’re universally useful for just about anything.

Tire Guage
Although you won’t need this for every project, it’s a cheap investment and makes troubleshooting take far less time.

Shop Lights are wonderful, and I’d say they’re a must, but sometimes you just need to see a certain place, and the ambient light won’t cut it.
I personally buy LED flashlights in packs of 3 at Pep Boys for around $5 and just have them lying around for whenever I need them (uses always come up) very similar to these.

Have the right tool for the wrong job
Having a universal multitool clipped to your belt or pocket at all times can save you all that time of wandering around the garage or rummaging through the toolbox. A multitool is nice, but is large and bulky. I use a small Gerber Ridge. It doubles as a screwdriver, is small and slim, and is cheap enough that it can be considered disposable.

Shop Manuals
I don’t especially care what you’re working on, but a Hayne’s/Helm’s/Chilton’s manual is an absolute necessity. Everybody has a different opinion of which manual is the best, and I’ll leave that up to you. I tend to have a copy of all 3 on-hand whenever I tackle a project.

Err on the side of caution
Making mistakes is fine, as long as they don’t cause any permanent damage. If you lose 10% of your power because your timing isn’t as extreme as it could be, that’s fine. You’re probably going to end up rebuilding it at another point anyway. Let your project evolve rather than trying to engineer it perfectly the first time.

Make a plan, then stick to it
The first step to any project is planning.  Figure out what you plan to do, and don’t stop until that plan is complete.   THEN tackle the next project, by planning it out.
Write down your plans for the future.  Have a goal in mind, and make sure every time you crawl under your car you’re working toward that goal.   Think things over before you add them to the top of your to-do list.  Get all the parts and tools together BEFORE YOU START. It might seem like a good idea to dive in and “see how it goes” but that’s just begging for troubles.   Make sure you have any fluids you’ll need, and all the correct wrench sizes laid out.


Organize your tools
Looking for tools won’t save you any time. Keep your toolbox or tool roll (common for motorcycles, I love using a tool roll for my car).  Lay out a shop towel or rag to keep your tools that you’re currently using. A 10mm, 12mm, and 17mm along with a 3/8 drive ratchet always get laid out first for me, along with any special tools I might need (like a 32mm for my axles, or torque wrench) for the particular job at hand.


5 Responses to “10 Garage Best Practices”

  1. Irish 3 November 2007 at 6:23 pm #

    I’ve found that people generally forget about the simple little things and focus on whatever big hurdle is coming up. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Eric 6 August 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    I think the #1 for me would be safety. If you’re working under your car, have someone else at least present. Especially in the bay. You never know when you might have an earthquake, or break that bolt loose right as something tips over. You’ll also save yourself bumps on the head if you have someone to hand you tools.

  3. Kyusha Kai 14 January 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    “As parts come off your project car, cut/poke a hole in the cardboard and put the part into that as shown in this picture.”VERY good idea. I'm going to have to try this the next time I take something apart.

  4. Joshua Bonnett 29 January 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Yeah, I did that with my gsxr when I was going through the valve train. A previous version of this article had a picture of it.

  5. Joshua Bonnett 29 January 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    Yeah, I did that with my gsxr when I was going through the valve train. A previous version of this article had a picture of it.

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