Archived Story

Correct tools needed for everything

Published 9:49am Wednesday, June 19, 2013 Updated 11:57am Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There is, it is said, a correct tool for every purpose, every job. Or so it is said.

Since my childhood, from the time I tore the coaster brake on my bicycle apart and couldn’t get it back together again, which should be no surprise to anyone who has seen the seemingly millions of gears, washers, couplings, and clutches inside one of those things, I’ve learned that there is a correct tool. That correct tool will make that job easier.

Once a year, I get the ’92 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon out of storage to take advantage of its endless ability to carry everything, including the kitchen sink.

It was that time, so, out to the storage unit, hook up the battery, the voltage charge of which I checked with a good voltmeter, check the oil, etc., and hit the switch.

Nothing. Not even a click. Recheck those evil side-terminal General Motors battery connections, using the correct 5/16 box end wrench so as not to strip the threads—the correct tool—right? Hit the switch. Nothing.

Called my mechanic. “This thing won’t even click.”

I hated to call him. I’m a fair mechanic myself, having to figure out the heating-air conditioning changes that have come faster and faster the last several years. “I checked voltage at the starter,” I told him.

He didn’t seem impressed, said something about hitting the starter to vibrate it and knock the rust off the armature that had it stuck. “But it won’t even click.” Hit it, he said.

The thing is, the Buick Roadmaster—you’ve seen these wagons, wood grain sides, the last of the big iron out of Detroit before SUV’s really became popular and killed these wagons — sits about three inches off the ground.

It took me half an hour to find my shop jack, drag it out through the dirt, get it under the Roadmaster, jack it up, and be still barely able to get under there with a hammer and tap the starter.


The right tool. I was at a garage sale with my brother several years ago, and I picked up and bought a small ball peen hammer, weighed maybe ten ounces, just a little baby thing. “What are you going to do with that?” my brother asked me.

I told him I was going to put it in the toolbox of one of my old gas-powered farm tractors, have it handy to tap on the side of the carburetor when the float valve stuck, and gas came flooding out.

Too big a hammer, might injure the carb. Too little, not enough. Just right, that hammer.

I tried that hammer on the Buick starter. Hit the key. Nothing. Then a bigger hammer. Nothing.

I called my mechanic, asked him if he could come out with the wrecker, pull this thing into his shop, get it up in the air where we could get a real good whack at that darned starter from the bottom up.

A good automobile hoist, now that’s the right tool for this job, I thought to myself.

A bit later, he showed up in my yard with the wrecker, got out, reached back behind him in the rack and pulled out a heavy steel bar, about 1/2 inch in diameter, six feet long. I figured this must be part of hooking the car up to the wrecker. Nope.

He came around to the front of my car, popped the hood, threaded that bar down through air cleaner hoses, EPA pollution gadgets, spark plug wires, through a hole in the frame, past an air conditioning line, and right by a wire connector with about a hundred colored wires sprouting out of it.

He adjusted right, then left, then gave the starter a good jab, and said: “Try it.”

I didn’t want to. Somehow, I knew. And yes! It started right up.

He grinned at me.

The right tool. One just never has it.

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