Willys Jeep: The First Step is Acknowledging You Have A Problem

Looking back I see that it’s been a month since I’ve last posted, which surprised me at first. Then I realized that yes, with the traveling for work and some of the crappy weather, it actually had been a while since I was able to actually work on the Jeep, let alone post about it.

I did manage to get a little work done on it last weekend, and some this weekend as well, so I have some updates.

While I was traveling in England, my book on Restoring Jeeps came in. There are step-by-step pictures about how to dismantle the Jeep, and while the example in the book is a ’55, it’s close enough so that I can get visuals about what things are. However, the jeep I have is different enough as to give me a few moments of head-scratching.

Even so, having the book with a clear plan of action really left me chomping at the bit to get going again. I began leafing through the “Place to Start” pages, about disassembling the Jeep, and then realized that I need…

More tools.

Okay, so I’ve never been one of those guys – yes, “those guys” – who have had a desire to spend every weekend in a Sears outlet looking for the one tool that costs $79.99 that you’ll use only once. Generally speaking, I’m not a collector, and tools just aren’t something that I’ve ever felt a compulsion to own.

But last weekend, something snapped. I did what any person heading down the primrose path to tool obsession did and should never do.

I made a list.

Going through the book, and looking at all the things you need to have (need! NEED!) in order to remove one bolt or another, one widget or another, I started listing off all the tools I didn’t have but need.

Among those on the list:

  • Torque wrench
  • Stud puller
  • Drag-link tool
  • Flare nut wrenches
  • Latex Mechanics gloves
  • Angle Grinder
  • Engine Stand
  • Engine Hoist

I was apoplectic with desire.

Surely there has to be a way to get these on the cheap, right? I mean, cha-CHING!

In a desperate attempt to get ahold of myself (and my expenses), I decided to double-check to see if I actually had any of these items.

As it turns out, I did. I started realizing I had a problem when the conversation in my head went something like this:

“Wait, do I have this already?”

“Possibly”

“I should check.”

“Well, it’s all the way out in the shed, and it’s locked, so I’ll have to get the keys… you know, I’m sure that even if I do have one, it’s probably not the right size.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Look, according to the book, you need a two-jaw stud puller. You have a three-jaw stud puller. You obviously need to get the right tool!”

“I’m not so sure…”

“You don’t want to risk breaking something just because you used the extra jaw, did you?”

“No, I’m going to wait and see if I actually really need it.”

“[Unintelligible]”

“What?”

“Nothing. Wussy. I said, ‘Wussy.'”

This is why I don’t let people inside my head very often.

On the Hunt

In all honesty, there are some things that I will need, and am probably going to need sooner rather than later. The engine, for instance, is going to need a lot of work and that means 1) getting it out of the engine bay and 2) putting it somewhere. So, a hoist and a stand seemed appropriate. So, I did what any self-respecting first-time tool hunter does. I went on Craigslist.

Craigslist is, of course, a crapshoot. I wasn’t afraid of losing a kidney (this time), but I saw that there was an advertisement for a hoist for $200 and an engine stand for $40. Considering I had looked on Grainger’s website and the cheapest ones I had seen were $600 this seemed like a real bargain.

Craiglist brought me to the auto-shop equivalent of the Lewis Carroll’s looking glass. Sure enough, there were engine hoists, stands, safety gloves, propane torches. There were also toasters, back scratchers, “As seen on TV” “Snuggies,” and an entire shelf dedicated to Ron Popeil.

More flea-market than anything else, this sojourn into a Vietnamese shop was an adventure in and of itself. I’ve seen high-pressure sales people before, and usually I can handle just about anything someone throws at me.

But this was new. So much yelling! The workers were huddling around the PC watching YouTube videos of a, er, NSFW nature, while shouting back and forth in a mixture of Vietnamese and English. We were helped by a tiny, young Vietnamese girl (and I mean ‘girl.’ She looked little more than 18) who was absolutely, definitely, positively in charge.

Get your running shoes on, because if you want her to help you better keep up.

Racing around the aisles, she pointed out the different items. “This is good; this is better.” Rapid fire Vietnamese back to the people in the front. One young boy runs up to her and grabs the box she’s been pointing to, looks at me, and then takes it to the front counter.

Hey, wait a minute! 

“What else you need?”

“Um… I’m not sure if I’m going to buy that partic-”

“I won’t sell you bad product. That one is better. You want engine stand, right?”

More Vietnamese.

More running.

More yelling.

As we turn and run down an aisle to the heavy lifting equipment, we stop and look at a long box, just under  a “Hello Kitty” pencil box display.

“We’ve got three kinds. Red, blue, and silver. Which one do you want?”

It’s at this point when I start to realize I don’t even know the right questions to ask. If I’m not careful, I’m going to get pwned.

While some of the products on the shelves looked legit (they had some Ingersoll Rand power tools, and some Crescent branded products), I had to look a bit closer to make sure that it wasn’t “Ingersoll Band” or “Cressent” tools.

As it was, I have no idea who a decent manufacturer for a hoist and/or stand were going to be, but generally a good rule of thumb should be that the spelling on the box should at least resemble accurate English.

“Lift uour engine with safe easy. Holds 1000 lbs.”

The instructions in the booklet were even worse. I wish I had taken a picture of them because, well, you could have made a drinking game out of the Engrish.

The parts list alone was something I should have checked before leaving the store. According to the instructions/parts list – which were printed out at an angle on the back of an envelope shoved into the box (true story!) there were supposed to be 16 bolts and corresponding nuts and 6 casters.

Take a look at the picture here. This was the entire contents of the box. As you can see, there were a few things that were missing (not to mention a couple of consonants in the instructions, but no matter).

Of course, I didn’t see this until after returning back to the house and unpacking everything to ensure that it was all there…

I think a good lesson to take away from this is – make absolutely sure you speak the language of the store you wish to purchase expensive items from. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Sears Craftsman Club

Overall, I like Sears’ quality. I’ve bought quite a few different tools from them in the past month and a half, but it was only last week that someone asked me if I was part of the “Craftsman club.”

I was a bit perturbed. I had actually asked about such a thing the first time I spent money at Sears when I bought the air compressor. I’ve spent nearly $600 at Sears alone before hearing that they actually had a rewards club that took 10% off each purchase.

Needless to say, I signed up immediately, and now I have to go back through the receipts and see if I can call up Sears and see if they’ll allow me to apply those previous purchases to the club. Most of my big purchases are out of the way now, though, so I’m not sure how much more it will help. Nevertheless, at least I have it so that I can get some discounts moving forward, I suppose.

I did manage to pick up a professional ratchet set, though. When we were working on the Jeep last weekend, a particularly stubborn bolt got the best of the cheap-o ratchet set that I’ve had for a while (you know the kind, $19.99 at an Autozone that really isn’t useful for much outside of loosening Jell-o).

Now, though, I’ve got a proper ratchet set. Oh my, this is sweet. It has the curves of a 65 ‘Vette, fits comfortably in the palm of my hand. It’s one of those tools that makes you feel like you can connect or disassemble anything. It is the God ratchet, I swear.

Back to Work

Shopping adventures aside, I actually did get some work done on the Jeep last weekend and this past weekend, and found some rather nasty surprises. I used a cut-off tool for the first time in my life, and managed to keep all of my fingers (barely!), and found out that I’m going to have to make a pretty severe choice moving forward.

More to come.

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4 Comments

  • Rich March 6, 2012 at 22:37

    Next buy, tap and die set… some tools you can go cheap. Others, you must buy quality …

    Drills, grinders, etc.. things of that nature go cheap …

    Handtools, I gave up on Craftsman because their return policy is like jumping threw hoops..

    Matco, Snapon, or even Lowe’s brand “Kobalt ”
    Are good choices.

    Reply
    • J Michel Metz March 7, 2012 at 06:52

      Still in learning mode, so sorry for the ignorant question: I’ve seen a “tap and die set” but I don’t know what it is or why it’s used. Advice?

      Reply
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