There are times in life when it's not so easy being a gearhead. Like, most of the time. But there are ways you can make it easier. These lifehacks will help anyone with a taste for cars and the turning of wrenches get on with things and still have time for all of that annoying non-car stuff your friends and significant others want you to do.
1. Learn the many uses of PlastiDip. Changing your car's color can be tough, and often pricey. A good paint job can cost thousands of dollars, and so can a custom vinyl wrap. If you can tolerate a slightly less fancy finish, however, you can PlastiDip your car for just a few hundred bucks and a couple hours of your time--and without the depth of skills and experience needed for a full paint job. Best of all? When you're tired of it, you can just peel it off and still have the car's original paint underneath, ready to paint, wrap, or dip again.
2. Get a lift. If you have the space, a two-post lift can be a serious time-saver, as well as make many projects that much easier. Thanks to the magic of China, many affordable and functional models of two-post lifts are available for about the same money as that new clutch & flywheel you've been eyeballing.
3. Learn when to outsource. We all have different abilities and strengths. You can weld, sure, but can you build an FIA-spec fuel cell in your garage? Should you? There are times when it's best to buy a completed part, or let a professional fabricator take over the job. You'll be trading part of (or all of) your paycheck for another's skills and abilities--but making your end result that much more reliable and safe, and avoiding a lot of frustration along the way. This goes for anything that's outside your skill and/or equipment set, from mounting and balancing tires to replacing the floorpans in that rusted-out '48 Packard. Be honest with yourself.
4. Get a bigger air compressor (with tank) than you think you need. If you're like many of us, you have three or four air compressors sitting around, waiting to land on Craigslist. Go bigger your first time and skip a couple of upgrades. Electric tools have come a long way in the last couple of decades, but there's still no replacement for the displacement of compressed air when it comes to many jobs. You'll end up wanting that bigger tank sooner than you think.
Two-post lift. Image via Amazon.com.
5. Invest in a decent tool chest and stock it well. A corollary to #1, a wheeled tool chest will help keep the tools for your project close at hand--and, should you end up finishing your project and taking it to the track, it will make for a handy quick-repair center/trauma cart for your new steed. Yes, it requires spending money on something you can't install on your car, but it will make you faster.
6. Conscript your friends. Many jobs are too much for a person to handle solo, whether it's hoisting a heavy transmission into place, lowering the old, blown-up differential out of the rear end, or dropping your shiny new engine into the bay. There are workarounds if you have to do these alone, but it's safer and quicker to have some extra hands and eyes to help. Plus, you'll have someone to share that post-job beer with, since many gearheads will work for that liquid gold payment alone.
7. Learn to weld. If you haven't yet, consider developing the ability to stick two or more pieces of metal together. You might never make it to full-fledged fabricator level, but the ability to build or mock-up mounts, jigs, and many other handy items that aren't practical to outsource will pay for the community college or vo-tech classes you'll take to learn.
8. Get your garage in order. This one sounds simple, but it's fundamental. A clean, neat garage makes every project quicker and easier, and the hours your invest up front cleaning it up and getting everything filed into its proper drawer, hanger, or cabinet, will pay dividends on that Saturday when you want to finish installing your new headers and still have time for dinner and a movie.
9. Learn when to put the tools down. Wrenching all night through the week and all day every weekend is a great way to spend your time, but your wife/husband/family might not agree. Learn to find the pauses in each project that will allow you to feel like you've gotten something meaningful done, but still break away for some quality time with the people in your life. Cars are great, and achieving your vision for one is even better, but what good is all of that work if there's no one there to offer forced smiles and uncomprehending congratulations?