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Unhinged: Why I’m Not Meant To Be A Highly-Skilled Mechanic, A Lesson Taught To Me By A Hose Clamp.

Unhinged: Why I’m Not Meant To Be A Highly-Skilled Mechanic, A Lesson Taught To Me By A Hose Clamp.

I’ve maintained for years now that in the grand scheme of things automotive, I’m first and foremost NOT a skilled wrench. Sure, I can work on a car and yes, I tend to do better than most, but I’m not gifted. Just because I can maintain and modify a car doesn’t mean that I’m a skilled mechanic…it means that I can read and follow directions while properly using tools. A lot of people tend to think that just because they can change their own oil that they are a skillful wrench, or that they are a tuner because they put on a cold-air kit and wheels. You aren’t. You just know how to read and follow directions. If you want to see a skilled wrench, look at the guy that is doing this every day as his job, or a NASCAR crew member, or some of the people on the Forums here that can make miracles happen with metal and knowledge. You might think I’m being a bit harsh on myself. I do tend to underrate a lot of what I’m capable of, but hear me out. I got my ass kicked a couple of days ago by a hose clamp. Seriously. One hose clamp set me back about an hour and forced me to drive to a Firestone garage and beg for use of one of their lifts so I could retrieve a 3/4″ piece of metal from the underside servicing tray of the Angry Grandpa 300C…something I had to do twice. And that’s after I broke two air intake temperature sensors while trying to put on a cold-air intake kit that was engineered to be absolutely idiot-proof. Nothing is idiot-proof to a sufficiently talented idiot, however.

hemi aits

Things like the air intake temperature sensors breaking don’t surprise me. These sensors tend to be delicate and don’t respond well to the manhandling required to fit the sensor into a rubber grommet two sizes two small for the sensor on it’s best day. So, while breaking the sensors was both annoying and expensive, it wasn’t as out-of-context as the hose clamp debacle was. Spectre included T-bolt hose clamps with the kit, and for the most part, I love them, finding them a much better design than the typical radiator hose clamp available. But during the attaching of the 90-degree pipe to the velocity stack tube, I loosened up the clamp too far, backing the bolt out of the tapped barrel. And before I knew what was happening, the barrel slid out of the clamp and disappeared into the depths of the 300C’s engine bay.

t bolt clamp

I swore like I’ve never sworn before, especially when I realized that A) my arm won’t fit anywhere in that engine bay without serious alterations, and that B) the only way I was getting that barrel back was to open up the maintenance tray underneath the car. I had no other option, so I gingerly drove to the local Firestone garage and begged for a ten-minute use of their oil rack so I could get the barrel out. The guy must’ve taken pity on me because he agreed. With the car on the lift, it took a minute to drop the tray and retrieve my prize. He lowered the car down and I went to install the clamp properly. I fought for a minute to thread the bolt into the barrel before my hands, aching and frozen from the winter weather outside, locked up. And then I heard a sickening noise. One that sounds like metal hitting plastic after a two-foot fall. It had slid out and fallen again. Son of a…


By this time the Firestone tech’s patience was running thin and I was warned that if it slipped again that I would be paying the $75.00 shop fee if I dropped it again. Gotcha, boss. The car was lowered and the clamp was bolted together. I thanked them and left before he got to the computer to charge me. Now, you’d think that’d be the end of it, right? Nope. Somewhere on the fourteen-mile drive back to the house the velocity stack tube fell out of the 90-degree bend, which was found when I showed my father-in-law the new setup.

Somedays, you just can’t win for losing.

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17 thoughts on “Unhinged: Why I’m Not Meant To Be A Highly-Skilled Mechanic, A Lesson Taught To Me By A Hose Clamp.

  1. mooseface

    I like what you’re saying, Bryan.
    Sometimes us hobbyists and shadetrees can inflate our own abilities in our heads, it’s good to have a reality check.

    That said, your local Firestone tech was very generous to let you use his lift for free. Anytime I have to borrow a shop’s utilities, I usually expect to pay, even for a half-hour’s rate, just for the sake of being fair.

  2. The Ry Guy

    I know the pain. Don’t feel to bad though, even experienced techs drop things too.

    Here’s a tip for putting the IAT back into its grommet; Use a little bit of silicone spray or sil-glide or spark plug boot lube on the rubber (not the sensor), and it will slide right in. I use that stuff whenever I have to slide something into or out of a rubber part.

    1. cyclone03

      Dawn dish wash detergent with just a little water works to. I have a little bottle in my locker at work for lubing air ducts on the Air Force jets I work on.

    2. TheSilverBuick

      Pull the oil dipstick, a little oil on one of your fingers, slick up the grommet, and install the sensor. Cake. I’ve assumed by now you realized to put the oil dipstick back =P

      I get things done, but a master I ain’t.

  3. cyclone03

    I paid the gods of BMW the required $500 in parts yearly fee this week end.

    The I6 ,and maybe others, has what is actually a pretty cool PCV system that drains the vented oil back to the pan. The problem is all the tubes that connect the system together are plastic,in my case 126k miles hard, brittle, fragile crystal , plastic. Touch,crumble…..Luckily for me the internet pointed me to full kits to service all this and it was my job to install it. 8 hours later I got the left side of the engine back together. Then……..

    I’m cleaning up,sweeping the floor, and I find an O Ring……………..

    Three days later the car runs fine and has no leaks but that O Ring is driving me nuts!

    * the above $500 also included other parts.

    1. mooseface

      It’s like that one part in the bottom of a model car’s box that you can’t figure out what it is or where it goes.

  4. Leevon

    I know exactly how you feel. I own a shop with three 20+ year, highly trained techs and although I’m a pretty good wrench…anytime I get my hands dirty its a humbling experience. There is always a shortcut I’m missing and I always wind up asking for help. It takes a mix of experience and innate skill to pay the bills working on cars, and very few people have both! That’s why they make offices and desks, for the rest of us!

  5. greg72

    I’m thinking you should have at least given them $20 …. a little cash goes a long way …and paves the way for your next visit. just sayin’

  6. old guy

    Air temp sensor install on a K+N cold air kit on a PT Loser was a trial – same thing -the grommet is a grinches heart-2 sizes too small –
    but managed to not break the sensor…..forget what I lubed things up with .
    Instructions / web sites when you order should tell tou to order an extra one
    cause you are going to trash one if you are impatient .

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