There used to be a time when working on a car was simple. At least a little simpler than rocket science or brain surgery. I can remember when I could open the hood of a car, look inside, and immediately identify everything I saw. It wasn’t that hard, because there wasn’t that much there to be identified. It was mostly empty space surround a nice, simple, easy to reach without scraping your hands, engine. That’s not true anymore, I open a hood now and see all kinds of things I don’t recognize. It looks a lot like what I would imagine should be under the hood of Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter. I know there is an engine in there somewhere underneath all those hoses and wires and strange little black boxes and stuff. It’s like my own butt; I know its there, I just cant see it. What really worries me is that I don’t know what all that extra stuff does, no matter how long I stare at it. Every time I work on my car I swear to myself that I will never buy another car that was built after 1974.
It’s not just that the cars were simpler then; the tools yon needed were simpler too. Give me a ’69 Chevy, a couple of wrenches, and a pair of vice-grips and I could do anything. Now, like anything else, the trend is specialization. Every time I open a hood to do more than check the oil, I inevitably spend the better part of an afternoon searching the parts stores in quest of yet another specialized tool. Try finding a spring lock coupling disconnect tool some Sunday afternoon, that or maybe something easier, like the Holy Grail, and you will start to see the picture. I don’t normally believe in conspiracies, but I’m pretty sure there is a conspiracy between the auto makers and the toolmakers. It goes something like this: The toolmakers, having nothing better to do, invent a new tool. They ask the car makers to make at least one part on their cars with a service life of less than 30,000 miles that can only be removed by the new tool. The toolmakers make a fortune selling the new tool to all us poor shmucks who spend a couple of hours trying to pull the damn thing off with our bare hands. Then they split the money with the car makers. When they have sold all of the new tool that they can; they do it all over again. Same tool, but a different size. They do this two or three times until we are so frustrated we are ready to buy the whole set of the tools in assorted sizes. I think this all started with the metric system. When they slowly started converting over to metric size bolts they realized they had a gold mine. That’s why today we have things like spring lock coupling disconnect tools.
This all comes to mind because yesterday, a friend of mine, well call him Steve (because that’s his name), had a similar run-in with automotive technology. His truck broke down, and I got to help him fix it. As you know, in the south, a man’s truck breaking down is a serious thing. Not quite as bad as your dog dying, but a little worse than your wife leaving you. (If my wife is reading this she should remember that I do not own a truck.) His truck broke down in a very interesting way, it began pouring gasoline out of the tailpipe. This is not a normal thing for gasoline to do, so Steve was duly concerned. He called a buddy of his who is a mechanic, to ask if he knew why gasoline would want to behave this way. Without skipping a beat, the mechanic instantly told him what the problem was. “Sure, you got a bad fuel pressure regulator” he said. Of course, the old fuel pressure regulator, I should have thought of that. I probably would have thought of that too, if I knew what a fuel pressure regulator was. Steve, of course, spent the rest of the afternoon trying to locate a new fuel pressure regulator. As expected, only one store had it, and they were clear on the other side of the town. I agreed to give him a ride there right after work, since I knew exactly where it was. I’ve played the “try to find the part” game before, and I have ended up at that same store more than once. Since the gasoline had decided to exit the vehicle via the tailpipe, it was a safe bet it was doing other mischievous things, like swimming around in the crankcase where the motor oil is supposed to be. We would need some motor oil to do an oil change. We would also need some beer. Every real amateur mechanic knows you don’t open the hood until you’ve cracked open a cold one; besides, Steve was starting to look a little intense.
Synthetic motor oil is very expensive. I imagine synthetic dinosaurs are hard to come by. We accidentally picked up five quarts of the synthetic stuff by mistake. After Steve recovered from what appeared to be a mild stroke when the cashier rang up the total, he told them in no uncertain terms he did not want the synthetic oil if it cost six dollars a quart. Of course now the cashier had to void out the sale and ring it up again. This process takes about two hours, requires the approval of two managers and a senior vice-president, and generally puts everyone in a bad mood. Steve was able to use this time to look up in a manual how to remove and replace his defective fuel pressure regulator. It’s a good thing he did too, for he discovered that to remove it you need a special tool, namely a spring lock coupling disconnect tool. Without it we would be up till midnight trying to pull it out with our bare hands. Steve was starting to look intense again. I began wondering if maybe we should have stopped for the beer first Then they told us that, although they knew what this tool was, they did not have any in stock. They were kind enough to suggest a store which they were pretty sure had some in stock. When I looked back at Steve, he seemed to be having a relapse of that mild stroke.
After stopping for beer, we began our quest for the spring lock coupling disconnect tool. Actually it went fairly well. The guy behind the desk at the next store didn’t know what it was. They had the same manual as the last place so we got it out and showed him a picture. Then he knew what it was. Fortunately, they had one left in stock. I had no idea a spring lock coupling disconnect tool were so popular. Unfortunately, it was the wrong size. And no, they did not have any in the other sizes. As we were about to leave, one of them remembered they had a packaged set of spring lock coupling tools (in assorted sizes). He said “If your gonna own a Ford, ya might as well git the whole set.” Unable to argue with logic like that, Steve purchased his first set of spring lock coupling disconnect tools, five little pieces of plastic that cost about ten dollars. I’m guessing it costs about one dollar to manufacture and distribute, so the tool company and Ford each got about $4.50 on that deal.
The little piece of plastic worked like a charm. It disconnected the spring lock coupling in a matter of seconds. That done, Steve was able to remove his fuel pressure regulator, which he promptly hurled about fifty feet across the parking lot If your wondering if we also needed a spring lock coupling connecting tool to install the new fuel pressure regulator, we didn’t. It seems connecting a spring lock coupling is done by simply pushing it together with your bare hands. That way Ford doesn’t have to buy a whole bunch of spring lock coupling connecting tools for all those guys they have building trucks on the assembly line. Are you starting to buy into the conspiracy theory yet. If not just wait. You see, that set of spring lock coupling disconnect tools that Steve bought were all sized in inches. I would bet good money that the next spring lock coupling I encounter will require a metric sized spring lock coupling disconnect tool.