Troubleshooters.Com Presents

Troubleshooting Professional Magazine

Volume 8 Issue 3, Summer, 2004
Choosing the Right Tool
Copyright (C) 2004 by Steve Litt. All rights reserved. Materials from guest authors copyrighted by them and licensed for perpetual use to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine. All rights reserved to the copyright holder, except for items specifically marked otherwise (certain free software source code, GNU/GPL, etc.). All material herein provided "As-Is". User assumes all risk and responsibility for any outcome.

Steve Litt is the author of the Universal Troubleshooting Process Courseware,
which can be presented either by Steve or by your own trainers.

He is also the author of Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist,
Rapid Learning: Secret Weapon of the Successful Technologist, and Samba Unleashed.

[ Troubleshooters.Com | Back Issues | Linux Productivity Magazine ]

It's a poor workman who blames his tools. -- Unknown
The good workman finds better tools. -- Steve Litt


Editor's Desk

By Steve Litt
Impossibly buried, there was just no way to get to the clamp holding the upper radiator hose to the radiator on my wife's GMC Suburban. Nestled snugly between the radiator, the grill and the wiper fluid reservoir, no pliers, no screwdriver, no twisted coathanger could have sprung this spring clamp. Removal of the wiper fluid reservoir seemed the quickest option -- or else just cutting the hose, prying the clamp, and replacing everything.

Aaron, the radiator tech looked at the situation, went into the shop, and brought out a bizarre looking tool. It was like a tiny flat guillotine connected to a bicycle brake cable, itself connected to a pliers like device to pull the cable. Aaron slipped the guillotine over the clamp's squeeze handles, squeezed the pliers, and effortlessly slid the clamp down the hose and removed the hose. Ellapsed time: 1.5 minutes. One minute to retrieve the tool, and 30 seconds to do the job.

Ever since writing the Winter 2003 Troubleshooting Professional Magazine, titled "Toolsmanship", I've been much more conscious of the role of tool use in productivity. I've seen many cases where using the right tool could cut out 9/10 or more of the time required for a task.

This issue of Troubleshooting Professional Magazine is devoted to choosing the right tool for the job. So kick back, relax, and enjoy the read. And remember, if you're a Troubleshooter, this is your magazine.
Steve Litt is the author of "Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist".  Steve can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.

A Trip to Young's Automotive

By Steve Litt
A recent trip to Young's Automotive in Longwood, one of Orlando's premier radiator and cooling system shops, provided me more than enough incentive to write this issue of Troubleshooting Professional Magazine. The owner is named Craig, and his main technician is named Aaron. They're both extremely knowledgeable, with great diagnostic skills. I could write an article about their cooling system troubleshooting prowess, but this month's theme is tool choice, and Young's Automotive is a prime example of excellent tool choices.

It started out simply enough. I wanted to change out the Dex-cool coolant on my wife's GMC suburban for ethylene glycol. They inspected the car and found evidence of leakage out the lower weap hole of the water pump. After hearing that, my wife wanted the water pump changed.

I could have changed the water pump myself, but it would have taken me a week. Aaron did it in an hour.

Of course, Aaron had the advantage of being a pro, and knowing what needed to come off and what didn't. But more significant was his tool choice and toolsmanship.

Some of it was a nobrainer. He had an air driven wrench. He had a flexible extension on which to attach sockets. He had the right sockets for the job. He had the fan shroud off in a minute.

Removing the fan and fan clutch was a little tougher. The fan clutch screws on to the threaded shaft of the water pump. The end of the fan clutch shaft is a hex on which to grab with a wrench.

Side view of fan assembly
Fan assembly, back view
Fan assembly, side view
Fan assembly, back view

So all you need to do is place a wrench on the hex and turn counterclockwise. NOT!

Number one, the fan clutch shaft is screwed tightly to the water pump shaft, because the turning of the water pump continuously tends to tighten the threaded connection. Worse yet, if you turn the hex, the water pump will just turn with it. The fan belt, which contacts a pulley bolted to the fan belt shaft, stops the pulley turning to a degree, but not much.

So Aaron used an air powered hammer to turn a wrench. But not just any wrench. It was a wrench with a notch built into the handle. You place the head of the air hammer in that notch. It looked like this:
Fan wrench

It took a couple minutes, but he hammered it loose. Once loose, he could easily unscrew it.

One of Aaron's best allies in this repair was his swivel extension, onto which he placed the sockets. This freed him from the necessity of aiming the socket "just so", which in many cases would have been impossible. Another timesaver was his right angle air wrench, a slow speed, high torque job that could fit anywhere. That's how he removed the pulley from the water pump shaft after removing the fan assembly.

Removing the water pump itself required exactly the right socket, and a heavy hand on the air wrench, because naturally the bolts were rusted in. Had the corrosion been worse, perhaps penetrating oil would have been called for.

As I mentioned, by far the most impressive tool was his hose clip releaser, consisting of a pliers like device connected to a guillotine type device with a bicycle brake cable. It looked like this:
The guillotine tool

You put the guillotine looking part over the "handles" of the spring clip, squeeze the pliers, and the guillotine sqeezes the clip handles together, freeing the clip.

There were other impressive tools, but I've forgotten them.

Steve Litt is the creator of the Universal Troubleshooting Process.  Steve can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.

You Know You Need a Better Tool When...

By Steve Litt
Frustration is your best indicator that you need a better tool. If some aspect of the system converts what seemingly should be easy into a knucklebusting bloody battle, you need a better tool.

Another excellent indicator is procrastination. If you dread taking a measurement because you need to spend a half hour on disassembly, or there's one nut you just can't get loose, you need a better tool. If you perform zillions of diagnostic tests to make up for the one that would have cleanly divided the root cause scope in half, you need a better tool.

When you need a better tool, find one...
Steve Litt is the author of the Universal Troubleshooting Process courseware.   Steve can be reached atSteve Litt's email address.

Finding Better Tools

By Steve Litt
Tool catalogs are your friend. Look through tool catalogs. See what's available, and what situations call for such a tool. If the situation is something you run into frequently, and without the tool the situation is an excercise in frustration, order the tool immediately. Otherwise, make a mental note of the tool and the situation, so when the time comes you can order the tool.

Friends are your friend. If there's a situation that regularly costs you too much time, ask your friends what they do to solve such problems. Chances are one will have a tool that's just right.

Your own ingenuity is your friend. If you can't find a tool, make it. What else are coathangers, magnets and tape made for. If you're at all familiar with computer programming, you can make software tools to see inside what would otherwise be black boxes. You can either put together existing tools to fill a new need, or if you are a fairly sophisticated programmer you can write a tool from scratch.

Leverage is your friend. Using sturdy pipes to extend wrenches is a time honored tradition. Pipe wrenches "grab" where nothing else can. Strongarming can backfire and should be used only in a last resort, but when needed, it's useful.

Vision enhancers are your friend. There are cable mounted lamps that can shine way inside the machine. Magnifying glasses can help with small parts. Mirrors show you what otherwise would be unseen, and can be used to best effect with proper light sources. Digital cameras are your friend, as their pictures can be zoomed and shrunk to see the big picture, or the connector number silkscreened on the motherboard.

Knoppix is your friend. Knoppix is a CD-based Linux distribution that boots without disturbing the operating system on the hard disk.

There ARE ways to make Knoppix disturb the underlying operating system, and it's theoretically possible that an error in Knoppix could make it disturb the underlying operating system even without user error, so always back up and follow other damage control procedures to the extent justified by the situation.

With Knoppix, you can explore various disk partitions, whether they're Linux or Windows. You can delete problematic files or edit configuration files. When editing or deleting, the partition must be mounted read/write (which involves some degree of risk), and you must unmount the partition in order to "finalize" the edit or deletion.

Knoppix is great for investigating video problems, network problems, sound problems and the like. It's great for obtaining one last backup (via data transfer to another computer) on a hard disk stable enough to copy data from but not stable enough to run an operating system.

Always be on the lookout for new tools to speed your work.

Letters to the Editor

All letters become the property of the publisher (Steve Litt), and may be edited for clarity or brevity. We especially welcome additions, clarifications, corrections or flames from vendors whose products have been reviewed in this magazine. We reserve the right to not publish letters we deem in bad taste (bad language, obscenity, hate, lewd, violence, etc.).
Submit letters to the editor to Steve Litt's email address, and be sure the subject reads "Letter to the Editor". We regret that we cannot return your letter, so please make a copy of it for future reference.

How to Submit an Article

We anticipate two to five articles per issue, with issues coming out monthly. We look for articles that pertain to the Troubleshooting Process, or articles on tools, equipment or systems with a Troubleshooting slant. This can be done as an essay, with humor, with a case study, or some other literary device. A Troubleshooting poem would be nice. Submissions may mention a specific product, but must be useful without the purchase of that product. Content must greatly overpower advertising. Submissions should be between 250 and 2000 words long.

Any article submitted to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine must be licensed with the Open Publication License, which you can view at At your option you may elect the option to prohibit substantive modifications. However, in order to publish your article in Troubleshooting Professional Magazine, you must decline the option to prohibit commercial use, because Troubleshooting Professional Magazine is a commercial publication.

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Troubleshooters.Com reserves the right to edit any submission for clarity or brevity, within the scope of the Open Publication License. If you elect to prohibit substantive modifications, we may elect to place editors notes outside of your material, or reject the submission, or send it back for modification. Any published article will include a two sentence description of the author, a hypertext link to his or her email, and a phone number if desired. Upon request, we will include a hypertext link, at the end of the magazine issue, to the author's website, providing that website meets the Troubleshooters.Com criteria for links and that the author's website first links to Troubleshooters.Com. Authors: please understand we can't place hyperlinks inside articles. If we did, only the first article would be read, and we can't place every article first.

Submissions should be emailed to Steve Litt's email address, with subject line Article Submission. The first paragraph of your message should read as follows (unless other arrangements are previously made in writing):

Copyright (c) 2001 by <your name>. This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, version  Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999 (Available at (wordwrapped for readability at The latest version is presently available at

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After that paragraph, write the title, text of the article, and a two sentence description of the author.

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