Tools in cramped engine compartments

No more than minimal competence as shade tree mechanic who used to be able to tune car and have done some bolt on, bolt off repairs such as water pumps, alternaters, shocks, et. al.

Decided to junk a Pontiac Montana after the head gasket blew (endemic problem for that engine) and my mechanic listed all the things that could have happened to the engine to make it cost more than my budget would allow. Somebody suggested taking the alternater, starter, and catalytic converter off and selling them separately.

I couldn’t get the first bolt off the alternater. I didn’t have room between the radiator to put a breaker bar on, didn’t have leverage to use a combination wrench. The only thing that I could get on was a flex head ratcheting combination wrench and still didn’t have the leverage needed. I could put a box end wrench on it, but didn’t have room to rotate a cheater bar. How could I get the bolts loose? Similar issues with spark plugs. How do I get to plugs on back side of engine?

First. You cannot sell a used catalytic converter This can result in a fine of up to $20,000. You can recycle the used catalytic converter at a local auto recycler and maybe get $50.00 for it depending on the size.

When working in a cramped engine compartment, sometimes it requires removing other components to gain access to the original component that must be removed. Or, sometimes it’s easier to gain access from under the vehicle.

When it comes to tools sometimes you have to improvise. For example, if you take a combination wrench and put the box end on the fastener, and then take another larger combination wrench and lock the box end on the open end of the wrench on the fastener, this doubles the amount of force applied to the fastener.


I have various sizes and lengths of pipe that I keep around to slip over hand wrenches where I can’t het a ratchet or breaker bar in. The most useful ones are sections of an old pole lamp. Besides, how hard is it to remove a radiator from a car you are going to junk? People buy used radiators too.

There’s a thread on this site titled something like “removing stuck fasteners”, try that in the search box, if you can find it, might be of some help. Lots of people here posted good ideas.

Like said above, removing fasteners requires some trial and error. I had a problem just today removing a stuck bolt on a distributor clamp. The first 12 mm box wrench I tried was too short. The second was too long. I found the best way was with a ratchet/socket/ and 3 inch extension. There was another bolt too that was stuck. The longer 12 mm wrench fit ok but I couldn’t budge it as the position was awkward. I got out my trusty hammer and tapped the end of the wrench (with a block of wood in between) and the bolt broke free straight away. Sort of a poor man’s impact wrench.

Oh, and don’t forget about Liquid Wrench or what folks here seem to prefer, PB Blaster.

Yeah, gotta agree. Also small hands, swivel head ratchet, home made devices, etc. help. On the other hand I’m getting older and am ashamed to say I’ve met my Waterloo a few times. It was well worth the $35 to have a pro put the 6 foot serpentine belt on my G6. No way you could get back there for plugs without taking the coils off and the alternator should have come off too.

I’d rip out the rad regardless. Scrap cars go for $0.12/#; Cu/Al rad cores go for $0.80.

Wrenching is FUN (and easy) when you don’t have to worry about trivialities like ever having to put it back together again. Invest in a sawzall, cutting wheel, and possibly cutting torch. Rip out anything that’s non-magnetic and seperate; drag the rest to the scrap yard.

The Pontiac Montana that I’m familiar with (2001) evidently has a different configuration than yours. The alternator is tucked up under the cowling near the firewall but is difficult to remove in any case. Rotating the engine forward helps but it’s still not easy.

That radiator isn’t the easiest to remove either even though it fairly out in the open. Those two top engine mounts are in the way and the radiator is somewhat attached to the A/C condenser so it’s not as simple as it should be.

Speaking of radiators, anyone notice that it seems like a lot of radiators have to come out the bottom now? Almost have to have a lift to do a simple radiator change or else take the front end apart.