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Hammers and cars

I was just listening to this morning’s (30 July) show, and a huge rush of recognition hit me as I listened to the story of the person who thwacked his alternator with a hammer. One of the best mechanics I knew kept my vw beetle going when I couldn’t afford a repair by teaching me to knock firmly on a couple of places in the engine (the technical terms didn’t stick!) whenever it stopped. And it worked and worked and worked…and earned me a wholly unwarranted reputation among the equally poor friends to whom I gave rides as a knowledgeable car driver.

The old scientific sounding computer term for thumping things to get them to work was shock modulation. Yes sir, your alternator just needs a little shock modulation to get it working again… OK, how much will that cost?

Shock modulation also works on starters. I’ve done this a few times when the bendix hangs up in the flywheel. My grandfather also applied this technique to his old tv by slapping it on the side.

I Had One (my last one) And My Brother-In-Law Had One (his last one) .


Letting a truck coast downhill to start it - may not be a good idea. You don’t have power steering or power brakes.

My trucks never had power steering anyway.

Any wrencher will tell you that impact often works to free stuck parts. Impact wrenches are designed around exactly this principle.

As a matter of fact, general aviation aircraft instruments are designed to operate with vibration applied. They’re tested this way at the factory (I worked for an aircraft instrument manufacturer for 6-1/2 years). And you’ll commonly see small aircraft pilots tap an instrument out of habit when reading it.

We used to “stake” the valves, which ment grabbing a rubber hammer and smacking the rocker arm to break loose the carbon between the valve and seat. A good start for troubleshooting low compression.

Standard equipment for the Jaguar XKE was a ‘THOR’ rawhide-faced hammer for removing and installing the ‘knock-off’ wheel hubs.

I once had a Chevy Cavalier with a digital instrument panel that developed a bad electrical connection. Every so often, all the gauges on my dashboard would go black, leaving me with no gas gauge, no temp gauge, and no speedometer. Even got a ticket for speeding because with no cars immediately around me I had no way to judge how fast I was going.

I took to carrying a hammer in the car with me and giving the dashboard a whack just above and to the right of the panel. Sometimes that would bring it back to life, sometimes not.

Worst part was my warranty didn’t cover repair because it lumped all “gauges” together; that $400 (in 1989 dollars) electronic panel was considered equivalent to an aftermarket pressure dial you could pick up on sale for ten bucks at any parts store.