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I was asked by one of our members for advice regarding which tools he should acquire. It got me to thinking, and I wrote the following response. If any other members would like to add their two cents worth, this might be a good place to talk tools...


I don't have a GT yet, but hope to get one in the next year (need a little cash flow, first, y'know?). In the meantime, I am reading all I can and would like to start collecting whatever it is I might need. I have absolutely no experience with cars (I can change my Jeep's oil, though!) and have a pretty limited tool collection as it currently stands. And the only person I know who has an interest in cars is a wonderful relative who lives 3000 miles away from me! So, as you can tell, I'm a total newbie and pretty much on my own (aside from the wonderful www.opelgt.com crew!).

If you have time, I would love it if you could make some recommendations...tools, books, parts, websites, whatever you think would be good to have on hand. Recommended brand names would be excellent, too, if possible!

Thank you so much -- your input is truly appreciated!



To a great extent, what tools you need depends on what repairs and/or restorations your car needs, and even more on what repairs you are willing (more than able) to undertake yourself. Virtually ANY repair on a car such as the Opel of the vintage we are discussing can be done by a "back yard mechanic". But sometimes it takes a bit of bravery, a trace of skill, and tonnes of patience. And some good directions (either in the form of a mentor, or even a good manual or "how-to" book) is the most important thing. Remember, these cars were designed by folks no smarter than you or I (well, maybe smarter than I) and were assembled by common folk using quite ordinary tools. So with few exceptions, such as the rare bit of electronics and the occasional mechanical device, most things on these cars can be repaired by the layman, or at least removed to be rebuilt by a specialist. It is MUCH less expensive to get an alternator rebuilt at a re-wind shop, than to take it in to Larry, Curley and Moe and have them charge you $65/hour labour to diagnose it, remove and replace it and then sell you a new (or even re-manufactured) alternator, which has a 50% mark-up. And thanks to the Internet and speciality suppliers such an Opel GT Source, these particular cars are more restorable and repairable than when they were much newer. I have had my GT since 1977, and it was MUCH harder to obtain parts back then, even from the local Buick dealership, which had been selling Opels for 7 years and right up until 1975. And it was virtually impossible to get advice. The world is a much smaller place these days.

As for brands, when you are starting up, a cheaper tool allows you to buy twice as many on a limited budget. Now that I am older and wiser (more of the former, less of the latter) and a bit better off, I seldom "cheap out" when I buy tools. Except when I am buying something that I truly believe to be of limited use, such as an esoteric puller or something, which will function perfectly fine for the few times it will be used. But otherwise, I stick with the best quality that I can afford. But I NEVER buy the gold plated stuff. Decent quality, not extraordinary, is my rule.

I’ll start with the simple, daily maintenance tools, and then go from there right up to full repair and restoration type tools.

1) A good manual. There is NO replacement for a genuine Opel Factory Service Manual. Over the past few years, I have collected an assortment of aftermarket manuals, as well as several different years of Opel FSM's. The different years of FSM's provide different diagrams, and sometimes a Chilton's, Glenn's, or Autobooks will show a better way to do something. But before you buy a single tool, get an original FSM for the year of your Opel. And if you haven’t yet bought your car, wait until you do, since the specifics change somewhat during the 1970 to 1971 model years. The 1969 or '70 manual works fine for either year, and the '71,'72 or '73 FSM will work for all three years, but the early cars have different wiring and somewhat different differentials and slightly different transmissions.

2) A metric wrench set. My favourite is a combination box/open end set, but you can get by with half as many wrenches with the double open end set that has two sizes per wrench. That was my first set, and I still use it. Just not as much.

3) A good metric socket set, 3/8 inch drive, and ratchet, with a variety of extensions, and a spark plug socket (with the rubber inner sleeve to protect the ceramic insulator). I have become a HUGE fan of the "wobble extensions", and they are even more useful than a universal drive extension. Both can wait until you have more money, as the “kit” will come with its own extensions. Short sockets are fine to start, and you can add deep sockets and ½ inch drive and impact sockets as you get richer.

4) A torque wrench. You need one. Even for changing wheels and spark plugs. NEVER tighten a wheel nut or spark plug without a torque wrench. The "beam" style is fine (although I now own a "clicking" ratchet style, and in fact I own three: 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2"), and usually a 1/2 inch drive (usually 50 to 250 ft-lbs) with a reducer will do most stuff. When you can afford it, get a 3/8 inch torque wrench with a 20 to 100 ft-lbs range. The 1/4 inch (that torques to inch-lbs) is usually overkill. But don’t tell my wife.

5) A GOOD screwdriver set, with three sizes of flat blades and at least two sizes of cross (Phillips) tips. In Canada, we also use Robertson (square tip), but you Yanks don't. And the Opel came before the Torx tip, so you only need a set of those if you work on modern cars. And change their headlights. Another good option for a screwdriver (or even a supplement) is a multi-tip set.

6) A trouble light. I prefer a fluorescent model, but I used a bulb style for years, once I learned to buy “rough duty” bulbs made for trouble lights. But the bulb style gets hot, and I have melted a few things accidentally, such as my skin

7) An Allan wrench set. Metric, of course, for the Opel

8) A pair of vice grips. Two when you afford them.

9) A pair of needle nose and a pair of slip jaw piers, and a set of side-cutters

10) A 12 volt test light

11) An oil filter wrench. I have the strap wrench-style (which is most common) and the end cap hex wrenches, which work better for stuck filters

12) A hacksaw.

13) A ball peen hammer

14) A chisel set. Cheap to start, good quality later

15) A drift (and punch) set. You NEED a good quality set if you are going to do transmission work, but a cheaper set will do otherwise

16) A timing light. If you are flush, buy one with a variable degree adjustment, but usually cheap is fine

17) A feeler gauge set, to set your points and to adjust spark plug gap.

18) A battery post cleaner

19) A brass hammer

20) A nut runner set. Frankly, I still use the 1/4 inch drive sockets that came with my first socket set, and a handle drive, rather than individual nut runners.

21) About this time, you will need a toolbox. Nothing fancy, but a decent two drawer toolbox will allow you to keep your tools organized and available. A roller box is nice, but I still don't have one.

22) A file set. Nothing fancy, just a couple of files, preferably with removable handles

23) A tap and die set. I have had mine (a present from my dear departed Dad) for many years. If you are doing ANY restoration work, you need a set. Buy the biggest set you can; usually I see them for under $100 (Canadian, so $70 U.S.) for a 40 piece set. Don’t waste your time with a 15 piece set. It won’t have the tap or die you need when you need it. The “reasonable” sets have both metric and SAE sizes.

24) A bolt extraction set. A couple of sizes will do, for most bolts that break off

25) A decent electric ¼ inch (or up to 3/8 or even ½ inch) variable speed drill, and a basic set of drill bits

26) Jack stands and a hydraulic floor jack. The biggest jack stands you can afford, since you might decide to drop the GT's engine someday, and you will need to lift it 24 inches. But a 16 inch stand can easily be lifted with a base of timbers to give you the 24 inches you need. But only if the stand is wide base, at least 2 (and preferably 3) tons with the ratcheting head (NOT the pin type).

27) A bench vice. Preferably at least a 4 inch with a swivel base

28) A compete set of drill bits, titanium if you can afford them, but HSS is fine if you can find a set that consists of at least 26 sizes of bits

29) A set of 12 point Star-headed (sometimes called “Triple Square”) Opel-style socket head drives, in 8 mm, 10 mm and 12 mm. These look like Allan heads or Torx head drives, but are different. You need the 8 mm for the manifold bolts and torque tube, the 10 mm for the brake rotors, and the 12 mm for the head bolts.

30) A compression tester. The screw in type is best, but for the number of times you will use it, whatever is cheapest will work.

31) An electrical multi-meter, preferably digital, with at least an ohm scale and voltage scale. Amps are seldom required, and meters with usable ammeters are quite expensive

32) A dwell/tach meter, to set your points (unless you have converted to a Pertronix) and to adjust your idle speed. The dash tachometer just doesn’t cut it at low rpm

33) A vacuum gauge, which often come with a low pressure (0 to 20 psi) pressure reading on the same face. Very useful for finding vacuum leaks and adjusting carb idle settings, and for testing fuel pumps.

34) A combination puller set, or at least a two arm gear puller


After these, you are into the speciality tools. Air tools and sprayers and a compressor for bodywork and such, and impact air or electric tools for heavier duty mechanic work. Frankly, I would put a ½ inch impact wrench (air or electric) up near the top of the “serious” tools, since it can allow you to disassemble things without breaking bolts that you couldn’t do otherwise. But bolts still break, so you need to have a way to repair them. Another handy thing is a thread repair kit (often called a “Thread-A-Let”), which comes in various metric sizes. Other tools to come later might include a solvent washer (or at least a tub with solvent in it to wash greasy parts) and a small sandblasting cabinet. If you are going to drop engines and such, you either need a hoist from the ceiling (which is what I use) or a portable engine hoist. Then a set of engine stands are mandatory. Actually, I would move the jack-stands up on the list, to maybe #21. I have even gone so far as to buy a 12 ton bearing press and a floor mount drill press, but I still don’t own a metal lathe. If you get serious, a MIG welder and oxygen/acetylene welder is pretty nice to have. Well, more than nice, since serious body repairs require the MIG welder, and the gas welder is pretty much essential if you have a lot of badly rusted parts to cut off. Then, you need a right angle grinder and at least body shaping tools. Maybe a slide hammer.

I hope that this helps, and doesn’t overwhelm you. Start with the first few things on the list, and use your ingenuity to work around the need for the next 25 tools until you are old like me. After nearly 30 years (Yikes!) of tinkering with cars, I have pretty much everything on the list, and a bunch more besides. There isn’t any reason to get THAT carried away, but car repair is a terrific hobby. And remember all the money you will save by buying all these tools!

HTH and good luck. Oh, and my name is Keith. Mr. Wilford was my Dad. Terrific guy, taught me everything I needed to know about what I needed to know.
 

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also one site that every one should know about www.harborfreight.com order their free catalogue. its all a bunch of cheap chinese junk but i have never used finer punches than theirs. now i dont agree with keith on the cheap tools part, i have a 241 piece craftsman tool set (1/4,3/8,3/4) it has every socket imagineble for those sizes, metric sae every thing (allens, sockets and spanners) the best $200 i ever spent (and it came with a 3 drawer tool chest) the ratchets always break thought i have broken the 3/8 5 times now, but it is an unconditional lifetime warantee!

Moderator's note: I don't think Craftsman tools are cheap. Not compared to SOME tools I have bought! If you can afford $200, that is a great way to get good quality tools with an awsome warranty. I found a broken Craftsman ratchet in the back lane years ago, and Sears actually replaced it!
 

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crazy opeler
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Don't ever waste your time with cheep tools, especially sockets, you will save time, money, and broken up nuckels in the end if you buy the best that you can afford.

as for the service manual being number one on the list I would have to kind of dissagree, I rebuild an entire motor and the only thing that I looked at was the picture that showed the timing, and the page with the torque specs. Other than that I have found them mostly worthless, the most valuable info usually comes with stuff that you order from OGTS, or from the members on these lists.

as for setting the points......well you shouldent need to do that since we all should be converting to petronix......right?


Moderator's note (It's GREAT to have edit privileges!): You should know that Chris is studying to be an Engineer. Does it scare you that Engineer's don't read the instruction manual?
 

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opelgt73 said:
Don't ever waste your time with cheep tools, especially sockets, you will save time, money, and broken up nuckels

I've been there ;) ^
 

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OPEL-LESS!!!
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and if your like me and hate using air due to the noisy compressor..... dont stress the ratchets so much to where they snap, its better to use a impact, ask the 3 stitches and 2 broken fingers:)
 

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Solo II is fun in a GT!
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tool suggestion: digital camera. It helps you remember when your memory fails.
 

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Opeler
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Finally, something I can contribute to more or less intelligently!

Tools can be bought at the local used tool emporium or pawn shop. Be careful to inspect them and only buy what you need. Also, it is imperative you buy tools with a lifetime guarantee from an outfit with a LOCAL outlet. It isn't any good if the nearest distributor is located halfway across the state (or province). Sears Craftsman line of HAND TOOLS is quite good as well as easily available. Home Depot sells the Husky line with a lifetime warranty; my 3/8" set has served me well.

A 12 volt cordless drill is invaluable and light enough to not be fatiguing in use. It also will handle any job a medium duty drill should be called on to perform and do it for an extended period. Get one with two batteries and a charger. Don't skimp on quality here.

Harbor Freight has a huge set of titanium coated drill bits for 30 USD that is very good. Much of their stuff isn't, though. The set goes up to 1/2 " by 64ths and has the number and letter series also. Decimal inch chart included.

Buy a Bucket Boss canvas cover for a standard 5 gallon bucket. This allows you to tote the set of tools you are using at the moment without having to carry around your entire toolbox. Especially handy when scavenging at the junkyard!

A claw or magnetic parts retriever comes in quite handy for the clumsy among us (me).

Bill and the FrankenOpel
No sense doing a job unless you can buy a new tool.
 

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Member
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Another item which was not listed was a small garage fridge for the "bubbly-pops". Not for over indulging when working on your car but just to provide one cold drink to sip for those moments when you step back scratching your head wondering "what the heck should I do now?" or for when patting yourself on the back for the figuring out that ole electrical problem.
The most important item you require is a piece of paper in your tool box with this http address on it. This will be your most useful tool because no matter what your problem is there is someone on this site that has experienced it and will be willing to offer you advice on how to solve it.
Good luck.

Moderator's Note: John DEFINITELY has something here. Hmmm... Isn't Father's Day next week?
 

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Opeler
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A good dedicated crimping pliers for attaching terminal ends. Not the cheap stamped metal ones, but a nice solid pair that puts a deep dent into the terminal. Get the best stamped one you can afford also. They are very handy for other things such as stripping wires and cutting machine bolts (although I have never seen them in metric bolt sizes).

I have built a solid probe from a cheap testing light with the bulb replaced with a chunk of metal to supply +12 volt power directly from the battery to the part being tested to determine if it is working or not. Along with this, I installed insulated large alligator clamps on each end of a 10 foot length of #12 ga. wire as an extention cord. A shorter one works well for local ground testing.

The wiring diagram from OANA is a must. True, all the years aren't covered, but the wiring is largely the same and the colors seem to be pretty much the same. Even where there are differences, most of the circuiits are represented. I have worn one out completely fixing up my '73 GT. Yes, there's still plenty of electrical work waiting to be done. Keep a record of any changes you make because next time you think uncharitable thoughts about the PO, it just might be you.

Pieces of sandpaper or a nail file work well to renew your one billion grounding points!

Hand cleaner and WD-40 - pretty much interchangable.

Also a couple of good pry bars to break the pieces you are going to need to replace.

Bill and the FrankenOpel
 

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Premium Member
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Check out our diagrams

Bill, have you checked-out the diagrams in the Photo section here yet? I like them better, which is why I sent them to Gary. Good wiring diagrams are certainly a must.

A Poloroid works as well as a digital camera, and is priced right for those of us who are cheap. Good photo records of how things came apart can really make reassembly a lot easier, especially if it gets delayed for a while.

Pawn shops are great places to get tools, just be thorough about inspecting them first.

The battery terminal brush really works great on light sockets that just won't seem to ground right.

Sears sells a 200 or so piece set for @ $200 that has a solid assortment of metric and SAE shallow and deep sockets as well as wrenches and screwdrivers and the like. It is a great starter set for a pretty good price. Add a coupule of extra 13mm and 10mm wrenches and you'll be in business.

Throw away the standard u-joint type swivels that came with your socket sets. They are junk, especially if you're trying to get those middle two bell-housing bolts. Get the ones designed for air impact tools instead. You'll love them!
 

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Detritus Maximus
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Glory be to the Internet! What a boon it has been to the 'inner-net'. Used to be that the vast majority of people learned this stuff the hard way.

Little bits that I can contribute:

1- For reference material: always be on the look out for any Opel manual for any year by any publisher. There are differences between them and they don't all have the same info. Buy them cheap, especially the obscure ones.

Check around at flea markets, used book stores, people's basements, whereever, but try to find an old auto repair text book. The kind they used in technical (trade) schools. Something from the 50's or 60's. I know it sounds obsolete, but the one you want will have two or three chapters explaining all the different tools you could possibly need for the Opel, these old books also had to train potential mechanics who had no idea which end of a screwdriver was the business end. The book will go into depth on the techniques of repairing cars in a general sense, but it will teach you what you are looking at or for. Some of them also explain how things work, they are the best (I have one of those from the late 90's and while it tells me how ABS on a Corvette works, it doesn't tell you how to use a torque wrench).

2-Get a big floor jack, not the little $30 model whose seals will fail in six months and won't be able to lift the car high enough for a clutch job (much less engine removal). I made a set of 3" tall ramps out of treated 2x4's to get the GT up a little to make it easier to get the jack under it (I can change the oil without digging out the jack, too).

3-I don't know who has an 'Autozone' in their area, but I bought some 3/8" drive sockets (8mm thu 19mm, deep and shallow, 6-point) there a couple years ago. They are under the 'Great Neck' brand (usually awful stuff), but I have been extremely satisfied as they are much better made than one would expect. The corners (where the wrench flats inside come together) are radiused (curved to eliminate stress fractures) impressed me. If you ever break a socket, I guarantee it will be at that corner (I have yet to break one of these). I also bought a set of Great Neck 1/2" drive impact sockets at Autozone. I'm not sure I'd really trust them on an impact wrench, but if you think your regular socket might fail, these won't. I'm picky about tools, but I have been very happy with them and at $19.99 ($14.99 on sale) I can accept losing them at the junkyard.

misc.-
brass drifts and puncheswill not damage or 'mushroom' bolts, pins, shafts, etc. made of steel.

get a set of 'stubby' wrenches (Nothern Tools/Harbor Frieght are about the same quality). They are perfect for tight spots. As are 's-wrenches'.

a mirror on the end of an 'antenna'-like telescoping tube! Unless you have eyeballs on long stalks.

buy 'brown jersy' gloves in packs of a dozen. They are washable and keep your hands from getting too dirty.

portable halogen worklight. Not for summer use, really. I point mine at whatever part I'm going to work on when it is cold outside. Wait about 15-20 minutes and the parts are warm (makes old gaskets, oily-dirt build up, etc, come off easier. Makes rubber lines/plastic parts a little more pliable and less prone to breakage) and makes a wonderful heater to take the edge off the cold. I changed a clutch in my Manta when it was 20 degrees (not celsius!) and snowing. No gloves and did it in one day (insulated Carhartt overalls and pac-boots helped), but my hands and face never got cold.

18" straight blade screwwdriver with the handle cut-off makes a great tool for aligning the oil-pump drive when inserting the distributor with the added benefit of putting it in the drill chuck and 'pre-oiling' (pumping oil up to the cam, lifters, crank, and all bearings) the engine before 'new engine' start-up.

"PB" or "Kano" brand penetrating oil. Compared to these (Kano, especially) WD-40 and Liquid Wrench are like water.

metric-flare nut wrenches for brake fittings. Get the SAE (inch size) wrench, too, sometimes it will break loose a damaged/stripped metric fitting (actually, for the same reason, having a full set of SAE sockets is helpful).
 

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Detritus Maximus
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I almost forgot the two most important tools. If you have access to electricity, get the blower unit out of a home central air unit. With a 110 vac motor they will blow a tremendous amount to air at floor level, much more than a box fan. It can make a 100 degree day bearable.

And the most important tool of all (more so than patience) is to have some 'inspirational' material on-hand. When you get tired and frustrated and want to start throwing wrenches, walk away and get 'remotivated'. My personal favorites are "Classic and Sportscar" and "Thoroughbred and Classic". Both are very good British magazines that tend to cover just about anything.
 

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crazy opeler
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558 Posts
Maybe I missed it but I think we left out the most valuable tool of all time, the Saw-zawl get yourself one of these, they are great for disecting parts cars!
 

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Registered
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Hey Chris I'm glad you mentioned the sazall.

Just used it today to cut out the driver-side pylon. Next stop the parts car in the backyard. Of course the trick will be to match up the parts up for a good weld. I didn't realize there was a stiffener inside the pylon (for the seat belt attachment). That means leaving some exposed metal to weld the the stiffener metal stock. I'm at a critical junction here - next step is the passenger side pylon and most of the driver side rocker panel and part of the passenger side one. That looks like quite a challenge since the panel is "multi-layered". Any suggestions would be appreciated.

:p Yeah a lot of rust but I'm getting used to it.
 

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Detritus Maximus
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A source for 'factory' type tools:
http://www.mytoolstore.com/kd/kdindex.html

and check out the "GM Sterring Wheel Puller Legs" (they look just like the tools for pulling GT steering hubs. Not certain if they are the right size, but since they list the Catera, who knows.
 

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Senior Contributor
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;) Well, I hate to be the odd man out.....But! I think every new backyard mechanic should start out with a cheap set, to get wet, so to speak. If he hates grease, he dosen't mind getting his tools dusty. If he's in to it (and gets his first or 3 scrapped knuckles), he learns to appreciate quality tools and will take care of them. I've seen too many "rusty" tools in garages. As far as tools go, I'd pick either: 1)Sears, 2)S&K or (if you got cash 3)Snap-on. I been using S&K and Sears for 20 years but started with the throwaways.
 

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OPEL-LESS!!!
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or be like me and use the old mans garage, tools, and even his hands now and then. hey, i'm a kid what do you expect me to do, buy all of my own tools, garage, and know how to do EVERYTHING? LOL, anyway we have alot of S&K, craftsman. some of its over 50 years old but still works great, both are wonderfull tools.
 

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Member
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I make my livivg with my tools and would like to add my 2 cents.
A good pair of safety glasses is a must, I know they are a pain to wear but better than a trip to the doctor. When using any tool that requires a lot of force I always try to ask myself where is my hand going to end up if(when) this slips or breaks. I can go many months with no skin or blood loss! Having my hands on cars and their parts all day I have learned to wear latex type gloves. Now people can't tell what I do for a living by looking at my hands. I would not recomend using incandecent type drop lights. They are too easy too cause FIRES, burns and melted soft parts. Sears sells florescent ones that wont break you.
 

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OPEL-LESS!!!
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2,116 Posts
i'm probably going to start working for the girlfiends dad sometimet his week, because i'm sick of the boss getting behind in paying me. he owns a garage and i'm sort of curious what a "real" garage has in the way of tools.
 
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