You found your car, it's purchased, and now it's sitting in your garage / driveway. The first
thing you have to do is resist the urge to start ripping the car apart. One of the most common
errors that novices make is to completely dissasemble a vehicle willy-nilly only to wind up with
no plan and a pile of unidentifyable parts. I buy a good number of my cars in such a state.
Before doing anything to the car, it's time to assemble your most important tools. These simple
items, when used properly will ensure the success of every car restoration:
- A notebook (I prefer old-school Composition books)
Memories get fuzzy fast, especially if you are continuously working on something. Use your
notebook, take copious notes. I divide mine into three sections: Working notes, Parts List and
Costs. Put not only the date, but also the total time spent working when you do your working notes.
Time is a cost, and you'll have a far better idea of the actual total project cost when you can
calculate the number of hours you've spent. The parts list is for all the stuff you know you need
to buy. When you use it sequentially with your Working Notes you will ensure that you buy the
right parts in the right order, and it'll help you keep from buying the unnecessary whiz-bang stuff.
The other important bit is costs. If you record what you've spent, then you have a good historic
record of the parts/labor cost over the life of the project. It's easier to do it while you're
working rather than trying to locate all your reciepts at the end of the project. (I also use an
8.5" X 11" envelope to hold the reciepts.)
- A camera (you're really going to want to get a digital one if you don't have one)
In tandem with your notes, photographs of the process are invaluable. Take pictures frequently.
My recipe for success is that for each step of the process I snap a minumum of one photograph, and
more likely two or three. When you're sitting there later trying to figure out how the heck to get
something back together again you just have to go backwards across your photos. Also, since you want
to take a lot of photos, this is where a digital camera with a goodly amount of memory is invaluable.
Plus, you don't have to wait for / pay for processing fees for normal film.
- A collection of various sized ziplock-type bags
You're going to need to collect screws, small bits, etc together. Ziplock type bags work best. As
an additional recommendation, keep the bolts/screws/etc with the component you removed them from.
That way you know you're using the exact hardware to reassemble the item.
- A standard type of storage box. (I like the 12 Gallon flip top ones)
Not everything fits in bags. Hard boxes like these are great because they have decent capacity, are
stackable, and will hold up to oil/goo/spills far better than old carboard boxes. For ~$5.00 they are
definitely worth the investment.
- Sharpies (Black & Silver)
Label everything! I like sharpies best, but for some parts you may want a paint pencil
or a grease pencil as well. I recommend silver as well in case you need to mark something that's already
- 2 inch wide masking tape
This is useful for taping bags of bolts to the parts they came from. Also, you can attach it to parts to
add notes (with your sharpie). It also is good for putting labels on your storage boxes.
- a bottle of whiteout.
When you get to the point of having to dissasemble parts that require specific alignments you can create
alignment marks with the whiteout. The best part is that the line will stay there until you remove it.
- Simple Green cleaner
D'uh, you and the car will be or already are dirty. :) Simplegreen is biodegradable and doesn't have any
ill effects to most parts or your skin.
For those who are over-the-top anal retentive here's a few more items:
- Clear sheet protectors
You can use these on the outside of your storage boxes to contain notes or better yet a list of all the
parts contained within the box. It takes time to add this in, but is invaluable when you're looking through
ten containers for a two inch square wonkilator necessary to reassemble your motor.
- Nitrile rubber gloves (like the ones your doctor uses)
If you wear these it saves on the cleanup afterwards. It also provides protection for your skin from oil,
grease, and other wonderful unknown goo in your project.
- Looseleaf ruled paper
For making notes that don't need to be in the notebook. Also very useful for the lists of parts that go
in the clear sheet protectors you've attached to your storage containers.
- Laptop and color printer
For viewing and printing your pictures when needed. I personally don't print so much, but then I also have
an old laptop that's specifically for my garage. If your computer is in the house or you don't want to get
it dirty, then printing pictures is the way to go.
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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr
All references to They Might Be Giants are fan references only. John & John I hope you don't mind! And
if you're ever in Phoenix stop by for a visit!