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Lost And Found: When Good Tools Go Missing

There are those occasions when a phone call or a complete search of the shop doesn’t yield any sign of a lost tool. For the most part, you can mark that tool down as “gone for good,” lost to that place where wayward nuts, bolts and tools always end up.

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Repair toolsHow many times have you finished a job, watched the car drive off, and then started cleaning up your tools, only to realize you’ve misplaced something? You’re not completely sure that the missing tool is under the hood or in the interior of the car that just drove off. If you’re lucky, you can call the customer and ask if they’ve found your missing tool.

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But, there are those occasions when a phone call or a complete search of the shop doesn’t yield any sign of the wandering tool. For the most part, you can mark that tool down as “gone for good,” lost to that place where wayward nuts, bolts, tools, and my errant golf ball shots always end up. You know what I’m talking about — I think every technician has that “lost and never to be found again” place.

Once, while I was working under an old car, the socket I was using popped off of the extension, and I watched it rattle around, banging off of one thing after another. It was spinning like a top by the time it made it to the flat surface of the center crossmember, when it stood straight up, spun some more, and then, like a cartoon, vanished into a hole. I swear, the hole was not more than a thousandth of an inch bigger than the socket, but somehow it managed to fall so perfectly that it dropped straight in. And, of course, there was absolutely no way to get a magnet down the hole because the oil pan was in the way, and no way to use an air nozzle to blow it to either end of the crossmember because both ends were welded shut. I never did get that socket back. So much for using a good socket on a cheap extension.

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Sometimes, it’s just the pinball-like sounds that a nut, bolt or tool makes as it falls through the engine bay or behind the dash that get you rolling your eyeballs in dismay. Everything else about the job has to come to a complete halt while you go on the old tool safari to find it.

Tools are too expensive to leave to fend for themselves behind the dash or tucked in a corner of the engine bay. Besides, I always seem to find myself in a position where the tool truck won’t be back until next week, and that particular socket seems to be the only one that fits into the area of the car I was working on.

On the other hand, how many times have you found a tool that some other poor soul couldn’t find after dropping it down in the engine? I’ve found wrenches stuck between the exhaust manifold and the engine block, and assorted sockets lying in the intake valley. Sometimes I wonder how some of these misplaced tools end up in such bizarre places.

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I seldom get that lucky, though. Usually when I lose a tool, it’s gone for good. But, you never know where a lost tool will show up. For instance, every once in a while, I’ll be on a road call to rescue a stranded customer, and I’ll keep my eye out on the side of the road for anything shiny, such as a wrench or screwdriver. Occasionally, I’ll find one, and I figure I’ll gladly accept it in exchange for the last tool that I lost.

Maybe one of these days I’ll get ahead of the curve and collect more than I lose. I just wish more people would lose the good stuff, rather than those cheap overseas tools I seem to find most often. I mean, come on, what does an honest technician have to do to get a little bit of good karma on his side once in a while?

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