Wrenching Tips: Write on Stuff

Zombees are short on brains; they need a little help


Renaissance and Early Modern writers characterized the Vandals as barbarians, “sacking and looting” Rome. This led to the use of the term “vandalism”, to describe any senseless destruction, particularly the “barbarian” defacing of artworks.

 – “Vandals”, on Wikipedia

Historical perspectives on the group have evolved with time, but their name is still the root word for the act of marking up something that’s not yours. Luckily, your car is yours, so you shouldn’t feel bad about writing down useful info when and where you need it.

We needn’t go overboard like the ZomBee here, but the it’s a great example of the concept. Whenever you need to shout (or wonder to yourself) “hey, what the _____ for the _____?”, you might as well write it down on the _______ in question. If that’s not feasible or aesthetically palatable, there may be a suitable place nearby.

Personally, I love the idea of reference materials or log books (which allow me to geek out about Moleskines, Field Notes or finding the right pens), but in practice I rarely end up updating them, to the point that they’re almost dangerous. “That can’t be right…I’m sure I changed the oil sometime since last March…” (nope).

labeled oil filtertransfer case no oil

firing order in engine bay

What functional tatts do my cars bear? Every oil filter gets the date, mileage and oil type written on it. Usually I remember to do this in a way that’s actually legible once it’s installed, too. It seems someone was kind enough to label my Wagoneer’s transfer case for me (hopefully at the used parts depot before it was filled with oil). After a number of rounds fiddling with valve adjustments, I wrote the Falcon’s firing order in the engine bay for easy reference. Lastly (and un-photographed), timing marks on the pulley and/or motor get touched up as well.

Liquid Paper Pen

When it comes to writing semi-permanently on greasy metal that tends to get hot and greasier, special tools may be in order. My personal go-to is a Liquid Paper/White-Out pen. Because the tip is solid (not felt), it can take the abuse issued from writing on cast metal surfaces or whatever else you car’s made up of. The ink/paint is designed to cling tightly, so flake-off hasn’t been an issue.

paint markersoapstone

Your local welding supply or metal store will likely supply a couple more viable options. A paint marker is about what it sounds like: a heavier duty marker filled paint, not ink. They’re usually available in a number of colors if you’re feeling artsy or bright pink is the only shade that’ll stand out through layers of road grime. When thing get really hot, the hot get going a soapstone pencil (crayon? stone?) gets the job done. Typically used for welding work, soapstone will stay in place and legible no matter the temp. Might be useful for on-site exhaust or turbo crib notes.

tire marking crayonmetallic sharpie

Rounding out the options are more typical crayons and markers. Ok, maybe less typical crayons and markers. Hardware or auto supply stores usually carry crayons well suited for marking on tires (critical for rotations or flat-finding). In my experience, a typical Crayola won’t work. Marker-wise, Sharpie makes a few “metallic” pens, which will also get the job done, sometimes in a more controlled manner than the blob/run-prone paint-filled options.

And with that, we wrap up this week’s Wrenching Tips.

Even as I was writing this, it occurred to me I could probably hide tire pressure and lug torque specs in my wheel wells and I should probably label a few key parts of my Falcon’s wiring harness, given how often I find myself screwing with it. What other places should we be tagging with useful information?

[Lead image credit: Chris Hanzel, shooting Pete’s Zombee MGB at Seconds Saturday. Monsieur Hanzel would also like you to know the next Seconds Saturday is just around the bend on March 10th]

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