And Women Too
Brains and charm are fine, but a real guy needs to know how to do real stuff. After months of debate among PM’s expert editors – and a preview of 2008’s ultimate DIY list – now you can explore how to perform life’s essential skills, broken down in 10 categories for the competent man – plus 20 tools you need to own. Did we leave anything out – or included a skill you don’t think is worthy? Scroll down and click through for tips, then sound off in our chat, or take PM’s interactive DIY quiz to see how you measure up against the MythBusters and more TV know-it-alls.
1 | Handle a blowout
“Instead of hitting the brakes, maintain your speed,” says Eric Espinosa, executive director of the Maryland-based National Institute of Vehicle Dynamics. Sudden changes of speed can compromise what structural integrity the tire may still have. Steer gently for the same reason. With things fully under control, slow gradually and pull over to the shoulder.
2 | Drive
Use snow tires on all four corners. (On nondriving wheels, they maintain traction and prevent spinouts during braking or steering.) Tall, narrow tires have more contact pressure than wide ones do, so they’re better at cutting through snow down to pavement. Apply throttle sparingly to keep the wheels from breaking loose. Traction is poorest at near-freezing temperatures, when the pressure of the tires melts snow or ice into a thin, slick film of water.
3 | Check
Baffled by that annoying Check Engine light? Plug the scan tool into the OBD II port, a 16-pin connector under the dash. If you get a code, write it down to compare next time the light comes on. Some codes, called pending codes, don’t turn on the light, but will still flunk you at inspection time, so scan before your next smog check.
4 | Replace
Cut off the old belt with a knife. Inspect for possible causes of failure, such as misaligned pulleys, rubber buildup in the grooves or a worn-out tensioner spring. If everything checks out, install the new belt by unloading the idler pulley and slipping it into place. (Check the owner’s manual; the belt routing can be complex.)
5 | Wax
Park the car in the shade, or work after sunset to keep hot sunshine off the paint. Wash the car thoroughly with a cleaner that won’t strip off old wax, as household detergent does. Rub the wax on in a circular motion, one panel at a time. Give it a few minutes to haze up, then buff off with terry cloth or microfiber polishing cloths.
6 | Conquer
an off-road obstacle
Off-roaders know to lower tire pressure when rock-crawling to improve grip over rocks and sand. Don’t forget to air up when you hit the pavement.
It comes down to tire placement. Think: Rubber first. Approach the rock or ledge slowly, using first gear and low range in the 4wd system. Aim the driver’s side tire (or passenger’s side, depending on the obstacle’s location) for the rock or ledge at a slight angle, so the rubber hits before the bumper or fender. Once the tire finds traction and begins to pull the vehicle up, raise your sightline to see farther down the trail. If the tires spin, don’t floor it. Instead, ease off the gas slightly and saw the wheel back and forth, which helps the tires hunt for traction.
7 | Use
a stick welder
Alex Tocco, Welding Instructor, Lincoln Electric, Cleveland, Ohio:
“Stick welding is one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to get into welding,” Tocco says. (Some handymen prefer wire, or MIG, welding because it’s faster.) The first step in stick welding: Set the amperage for the electrode size and metal thickness. To strike the arc, brush the electrode against the workpiece as if striking a match. Hold the electrode at a 45-degree angle to the center of the joint and drag it along at a 15- to 20-degree lead angle, Tocco says. Maintaining a consistent arc of 1/8 in. or less, move the electrode slowly, so that the molten pool at the end of the electrode washes evenly into both pieces of metal.
8 | Hitch
up a trailer
To confirm that the hitch is secure on the ball, lift the rear of the tow vehicle a couple of inches with the trailer tongue jack. Cross the breakaway chains under the tongue to prevent it from dragging on the pavement in case of a breakaway. To save yourself repeated trips to the rear of the trailer to check lights, turn on both the running lights and four-way flashers simultaneously.
9 | Jumpstart
Use the red cable to connect the batteries’ positive (+) terminals. Clip the black cable to the live battery’s negative (–) terminal, but don’t touch the other end to the dead battery’s negative terminal. Instead, clip it to anything metal that’s connected to the engine. Start the live car; let it idle for 10 minutes, then crank the dead car. Remove the cables in reverse order, making sure they don’t touch each other or either car.
August 1, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Popular Mechanics