Tools! Just like money, you can never have enough. As Tim Allen bragged 25 years ago, “I have tools that fix tools.” Yeah, sounds about right, we have a few of those too. Similar to how a woman’s status among her friends often has to do with how many expensive shoes she has, a gearhead’s status is instantly elevated when his buddies see his huge roll-away box filled with every tool imaginable. It’s who we are.
The Power Automedia shop techs are no different. Working on a large variety of projects in the shop necessitates different and specialized tools. But there are some ProForm tools recently received and tested in the shop that are not necessarily specialized but should be standard equipment in the box of any gearhead. And they won’t break the bank either. Hell, one of them is under $10! Check ‘em out, and let us know what cool tools you have that make life with cars easier.
Tool: Universal Oil Filter Cutter
Part number: 66490
Why You Need It: When an engine starts eating itself, it can be hard to detect until it’s too late. Excessive bearing wear and other maladies will usually send junk into the oiling system, where the oil filter’s job is to catch it and prevent it from causing further damage. The clues are not always obvious, so a wise engine builder not only changes the oil and filter frequently, but they also cut the filter apart to look at what it may have caught. Excessive metal filings or anything else found trapped in the filter can pinpoint a problem in time to save the engine from real damage, and should be considered a mandatory tool in your box.
How To Use It: Think of a simple can opener and you’ve got the concept behind this tool. It locks the cartridge filter in place and you rotate the filter to make a clean cut, and then pull the filter element out for inspection. This tool works on filters up to 4.5 inches in diameter.
Tool: Oil Pressure Tester
Part Number: 67405
Why You Need It: Knowing an engine’s oil pressure is critical information for anyone who cares about their engine. With a newly rebuilt powerplant, you want to make sure you have oil pressure before the ignition is lit, to avoid any dry startup situations that can wipe out bearings. A pre-oiling device to spin the oil pump helps this, but you need an oil pressure gauge to make sure the pump is working before the fire is lit.
And even after the engine has been run for years, you still want to know the oil pressure to determine potential problems. If the gauge drops to zero, you obviously need to shut the motor off immediately, but a drop of a few pounds over time signals excess internal wear and points out that something’s wrong, or at the very least a rebuild is in your near future. Problem is, a lot of cars don’t come factory-equipped with an oil pressure gauge, substituting an idiot light for a gauge. Proform’s Oil Pressure Tester tells you exactly where the pressure is to either ease your mind or give you nightmares.
How To Use It: Every engine has an oil pressure port; with a Gen I small-block Chevy, it’s at the top of the block in the back, for instance. Thread the tester fitting into this spot, start the engine and run it up the rpm range and you’ll have a map of where the oil pressure is actually at during engine operation. The tester features a 0-100 psi scale and comes with a 24-inch hose.
Tool: Pro Crankshaft Turning Socket for GM LS Engines
Part Number: 67606
Why You Need It: Sure, you can install a camshaft by just lining up the marks, but real engine builders can’t sleep at night unless they accurately degree the cam to know exactly what it’s doing to the valve train. Following the factory’s mark on the cam will usually (though because of production tolerances, not always) install the cam as indicated by the cam card, but oftentimes you may want to advance or retard it slightly to alter the power curve, and a degree wheel is mandatory for this. But with the big wheel in place, how do you turn the crankshaft? With Proform’s 100 percent stainless-steel crank turning socket.
How To Use It: The Pro Crankshaft Turning Socket attaches to the oil pump drive lug splines on an LS engine, and then you can put an oversize degree wheel on the socket and turn the engine over with a large wrench.
Tool: 8-Piece AN Wrench Set With Pouch
Part Number: 66978
Why You Need It: AN fittings sure are pretty, aren’t they? With their red, blue, black, and whatever anodized finishes they look a lot better than ugly worm clamps. They also hold a lot more pressure, and are mandatory for high-pressure fuel systems, oil systems and other critical components on the car. The problem is that those aluminum AN fittings are fairly soft and get beat up easily when a ham-handed mechanic takes a standard stainless-steel wrench to them. Or, God forbid, a steel adjustable wrench! The horror! Always use a proper AN wrench on the fittings to avoid marring them.
How To Use It: Proform has several AN wrench kits, and you can also get them individually, but the handiest one is this 8-piece set that has wrenches for #3, #4, #6, #10, #12, #16, and #20 fittings. If you have an AN fitting that doesn’t fall in this range, what in the world are you building? The wrenches come in a handy fold-over pouch for safe keeping.
Tool: No-Mess Funnel
Part Number: 68068
Why You Need It: You wouldn’t think a simple funnel could ever be labeled “cool” but that’s because you haven’t used Proform’s No-Mess funnel. This is an answer to an age-old problem that we never thought to fix because we had no idea how. Here’s the scenario: you’re adding oil to the engine or power steering fluid to the reservoir. You hit the fill mark quicker than expected but there is still residual fluid in the funnel. So you quickly wrap a rag around the funnel’s end to avoid spilling any until you can drain it back into the bottle. Even if the funnel is empty, there will be residual fluid clinging to the walls that will drip out, so you have to let it sit on the rag forever until it’s dry. It’s especially scary when you’re working with paint-killing brake fluid. Proform’s No-Mess funnel ends the mess, and it’s so cheap you have no excuse not to get one.
How To Use It: You use it just like a regular funnel, but this one has a patented ball and hook mechanism that works like a check valve. Insert the funnel into the opening and a small wire hook rests on the opening flange, like the valve cover shown here. Push the funnel down and the hook opens the ball valve allowing fluid to flow out. Lift the funnel back up and the hook drops and closes the ball valve, keeping whatever fluid is left in the funnel, in the funnel. Neat.
Tool: Block and Head Handles
Part Number: 67446
Why You Need It: If you’ve ever picked up a big-block Chevy or Chrysler Hemi cylinder head, you know what an enormously heavy chunks of iron they are. And that’s nothing compared to an iron engine block. Move a few of those around the shop and it’s usually time to consult the chiropractor or have a hernia exam. Proform makes these durable aluminum block and head handles to make picking up and moving those parts much easier—it’s far easier to carry a cylinder head with these handles than grabbing it by the edges or ports.
How To Use It: The set includes four handles with 3/8-inch studs built in that thread into holes on the head and block. This is a very common size bolt-hole on nearly every domestic engine produced, including the accessory mounting holes on the end of cylinder heads.
Tool: Tall Valve Spring Height Micrometer
Part Number: 67390 (for beehive springs)
Why You Need It: A large part of the blueprinting process for any engine involves the valvetrain, especially the springs and pushrods. Valve springs have a set height when you take them out of the box, but depending on how a cylinder head is machined and how you install them to the cylinder head, the springs may not have the installed height that you think they do. In a worst-case scenario, the spring might not have enough compression travel for the combination of lobe lift and rocker arm geometry in use. In other words, say you have a .600-inch-lift cam with a 1.5:1 rocker ratio. With zero lash, that’s going to compress the spring .900-inch. Taking into account lobe launch or valve float, you need to have well more than just .900-inch of spring travel. A height mic will tell you where the springs are when installed to ensure you have enough travel and safety margin. Knowing the installed height is also mandatory when accurately measuring installed spring rate.
How To Use It: Simply install the height micrometer instead of a valve spring, and then rotate the clearly engraved dial to expand the tool to seat the valve, locks and retainer. Read the dial and you have the installed height. Part no. 67390 is specific for beehive springs for most V8 engines and has a range of 1.600 to 2.100-inch, but Proform also has a traditional mic of the same range (66902) and part no. 66903 for taller springs with a 1.400-1.800 range.
Tool: Mini Valve Spring Pressure Tester
Part Number: 66834
Why You Need It: Just as with installed height, you need to know what a valve spring’s pressure, or rate, is both at assembly and after use. A spring that’s too weak won’t control the valve properly and that can lead to piston-to-valve contact, which is never good. Also, coil springs will wear out and lose pressure with use (especially if the engine gets over-revved a lot) and a smart racer or engine builder needs to periodically check spring rate to make sure that they’re up to the job after a few races. Also, sometimes a performance drop-off can be caused by worn out springs, leading a racer to check them.
How To Use It: Proform’s mini spring tester makes it quick and easy, although the spring does have to be removed from the head in order to be checked. There are two mini spring checkers; part number 66835 has a range of 0-300 pounds and reads in 5-pound increments, while 66834 has a wider range of 0-700 with 10-pound increments. To use it, just install the tester and a spring in a vice or arbor press (or with a spring compressor as shown in the photo) and check the pressure at the spring’s installed and open heights.
Price: $71.97 (from Summit Racing)
Tool: Universal Pushrod Straightness Checker
Part Number: 66979
Why You Need It: Bent pushrods should never go back into an engine. For one thing, a bent pushrod’s strength has already been compromised and should be thrown in the trash. For two, a bent pushrod, even if it doesn’t fail, won’t deliver the proper amount of lift from the camshaft lobe to the valve and that leaves performance on the table. But sometimes the bend is so slight that you can’t see it with the naked eye. The age-old hack is to roll the rod on a known level surface, but the better way to do it is to check the actual straightness with a micrometer, and that’s how Proform’s pushrod checker works.
How To Use It: Proform’s checker makes it easy to check the concentricity of pushrods by inserting the pushrod between the spring-loaded holders, spinning the pushrod, and watching the included, positionable dial indicator, which reads down to .001-inch. A few thousandths of runout are probably acceptable, but everyone has their own preference. If you see .010-inch of runout though, throw the pushrod in the trash.
Tool: Vacuum Pressure Gauge
Part Number: 67410
Why You Need It: How many uses are there for a vacuum gauge? Oh, about a million, meaning an accurate vacuum gauge should be considered mandatory equipment in your toolbox. Setting a carburetor’s idle mixture is best done with a vacuum gauge since it’s more accurate than using a tachometer in most cases. A vacuum gauge will also let you test the effectiveness of fuel pumps and help pinpoint leaks in intake manifold gaskets or anywhere else that is subjected to a vacuum condition. Power brakes that aren’t working properly may also be traced to a lack of sufficient vacuum to operate the booster, but you won’t know that unless you know how much vacuum is in the system.
How To Use It: This vacuum pressure gauge reads up 30 inches of vacuum and also 60 pounds of pressure, but unlike the oil pressure gauge shown elsewhere in this story, this one doesn’t thread into a port. Rather, the hose comes with both a small brass cone and a large rubber cone, which you hold over a vacuum port (such as at the carburetor, shown here) and look at the easy-to-read gauge.