Since high school, my brother and I have been repairing our own cars. We took one auto shop class, and the rest, we learned on the job. In anoter word, on our own cars. The purpose of repairing our own cars is to save money. Of course, we don't have much money to begin with, so that means buying the minimal amount of cheap tools and improvise with others. There are some memorable moments in trying to repair cars without the right tools.
Pulling Oil Pump
We just moved into our Castro Valley house after my freshman year highschool. We had our 71 VW van we got from the highschool auto shop teacher for $450. It had a low oil pressure problem. There was a Buggy House of Import in Haward that sold a heavy duty oil pump for under $20. The oil pump was pressed fit into the engine. The puller costed about $18. We paid the $20 for the oil pump, but there was no way in hell were we going to pay another $18 for the puller. The automotive tools we had then consist of a mini floor jack, and a 40 piece socket set that costed $2.99. Scrounging around the garage in the new house, we found some stuff that looked like it would help us pull the oil pump out. There was a drawer handle, c-clamp and a gear puller that did not fit the oil pump. We worked at every possible combination of arranging the pieces we had all afternoon. Gear puller was used to pull on the pump body. The screw of the puller pressed against the drawer handle's "U" shape in the center. The handle span the pump, and pressed against the engine. C-clamp to clamp the handle on the engine to prevent it from moving. Miraculously, the oil pump finally came out. After the new pump, we never had oil pressure problem again. Latter on, we sold the van for $1100 for a little profit :)
Honda 175 XL
Back in highschool, helmet was not required for motorcycle, and the minimum highway legal was 150cc. We saw a Honda 175 LX for sale in the neighborhood for aound $400. Showed it to dad, who said he was going to spank us if we don't sell it immediately. We did, and sold it to a college student in Berkley. It turns out 185 was too small for the freeway. The motorcycle would redline even before 50mph. That was too slow. The buyer in Berkley did not have transportation, so we loaded the bike in our just smogged 71VW van, and sold it to him. Next night, he complained that the bike did not work, and did not start. We drove out to him again in our van. Turned it on and started the bike right up. He felt stupid standing there. So we drove off. I was latter told that even as we were driving off, the motorcycle died, and he could not start it again. He just stood there watching us drive off. We offer to buy it back for half price, but he never returned the phone call.
Sometimes, starting a motorcycle is an art. It takes some intuition to kick start an engine. Two people can be doing the exact same thing, and one person cannot start it while the other person starts it on the first try.
In high school senior year, I bought a Fiat 131 2 door Mirafiore coupe for $570. It only had about 40k on the clock. People were selling them cheap then since it was considered unreliable. Ok, there are other cars that were considered unreliable too, but they have personality to compensate, and justify their more expensive price. The Fiat was unreliable and lacked personality. To me however, I thought the car had agreat personality. I imagined myself to be driving a Fiat rally car sliding around each corner in the block. One day, it as raining hard, and the road was slipery. It was my chance to go rally driving. I took the car up Redwood road around the back of the mountain at high speed trying to make it oversteer. Oh, did I mention the back brakes on the car was worn out. My dreams of becoming a rally driver quickly vanished when I stepped on the brake around a sharp corners. With the weak rear brakes, the front locked up. Despite my rally driving instinct, I did not modulate the brakes. The car plowed straigh ahead with the wheel fully turned, and ended up ten feet up a very steep dirt bank. The left fender was crushed against the front wheel which displaced to the back of the fender well. Obviously, the car is not worth fixing. Given the market condition back then, selling the car as is in undrivable condition would relegate it to junk status, which means is not worth anything. If a car can be driven, but not worth fixing, then is considered a parts car which is worth more than a wrecker. Since it had low mileage, it could be worth a good sum of money. Our job was then to perform some frame straightening on the vehicle. Obviously, we don't have the right tool. The closest thing we have to resemble a professional frame straightening machine was a come-along hand winch. After surveying the frame, we decided to tie the come-along to a telephone pole, and the other end to a strategic location on the frame. I backed up the car quickly until the cable was taught. There was a jerk, and the frame pulled out a little bit. After several jerks, we attached the cable to another location on the frame, and did several more jerks. To our amazement, the car began to take shape again. In fact the result was so good that when we sold it to a buyer for $450, he commented that he can't see anything wrong with the car frame, and wanted to drive it instead of pulling it for parts. I quickly said no, don't even think about that. In the whole deal, I lost about only $150 despite wrecking a car :) I did learn a good lesson on driving carefully.
Cadillac Bushing Press-
I was working on my Chevy Sprint while staying at my grandfather's house in LA. The front suspension bushings were quite worn on the car. In fact, the rubber was almost all gone, and it was about metal to metal contact on the suspension parts. By now, I was out of college, single and working, and could have afforded almost any needed tools. However, since I was living at my grandfather's house, the space they gave me to store my tools were limited. Definitely no room for a press from Harbor Freight. They would not even let me have enough room to get a bench vise. The bushing that was worn needed to be pressed out, and a new one pressed in. Although the bushings were made from elastomers, they are an incredibly tigh fit, and hard to press in. Pounding on them is completely useless since the hammer will just bounce off. Not wanting to give up, I looked around the house to find anything that would get the bushing in. Being at my grandfather's house who owned a textile manufactuer plant in his days, his garage was filled to the top with boxed of clothing, with a special edition Guchi Cadillac from the 80's in the middle. It was almost in brand new condition. An idea sprang to mind. I proped the suspension arm on the floor jack, and the bushing on top of it. Then picking the most robust and heavy section of the rear suspension, I used the Cadillac to press down on the bushing by jacking up the Cadillac by my bushing. The rear of the Cadillac must have weight close to a ton. Viola, I have a one ton press :) Both wheels of the Cadillac almost came off the ground before the bushing slip into place. The busing was fixed.
4Runner Suspension Repair-
Also at my grandfather's house, I wanted to bend the spring prech straight again. I had one week before moving back up to the Bay Area, and start work at Loral. That gave me about 2 days to fix the suspension. Figure one day to remove and straighten out the spring perch, and one day to have it welded and installed. My friend lend me his gas welder and a sledge hammer. Day one, I took out the front axel, lit the welder, and started heating the spring perch to a dull cherry red to begin pounding it straight. I only had a floor jack and some jack stand to work with. The front axel was heavy. If it dropped on the floor, I don't think I could have lifted it up on the jack again by myself. My neighbor being a retired old man would not have been a help to me. It was quite precarous balancing the axel on the jack stand, keeping it from rotating while pounding on it. By then, it was close to evening. Working by myself, I only had breakfast, but no lunch or dinner. I had to get pounding done that evening. I had a temporary loss of concentration, and pounded the sledge hammer on my thumb. It was super painful for a moment. However, the truck needed to be finished before the move. I blocked out all pain from my mind, and continued working on the perch with my other four fingers. The perch on the truck was fixed completely :) I even had time to get to All Pro in Hamlet to get a differential armor welded on before moving day. In fact, the guys at All Pro had to wait for me on a Friday after work so I could show up in time. They were nice.