How to Share Shop Space Without Killing Each OtherS

Most crapcan racecar builds involve some form of shared shop space, be it with other teammates or with other amateur racing types who have a shop. Here's some advice on how to finish your car while keeping your (and their) sanity intact.

See, when you buy a hooptie racecar, you need a place to work on it. When teammates get involved, you have to share your work space. When you're on your last nerve with a bolt that won't come loose, you feel like stabbing things. When you stab your teammates, you end up in jail with "Big Bertha" as a cellmate and the slipperiest soap-on-a-rope you've ever seen. Don't stab your teammates, and don't drop the soap.

Sharing space for a crapcan build is complicated by the grieving proce—err, five stages of project car work:

  1. Denial: "I have all the time in the world to get this done! I polished the little chrome hood ornament and ordered some missing parts off the Internet, so I feel like I got a lot done today."
  2. Anger: Everything is frustrating, and everything can only be described in terms that can't be repeated to your mother. You sound like you have Tourette's. Hammering things is a soothing activity.
  3. Depression: "Every thing I set off accomplish never gets done on time or at all. I can't physically do half of this stuff because I'm a wuss. People who said they'd help rarely show up or stick with it. Everyone's taking a dump on everything I say about this car because it still hasn't moved. I'm a joke. No one likes me anymore because I've been swearing at an immovable car for the past six months. I am never going to get this stupid thing done."
  4. Bargaining: "I will buy you the six-pack of your choice if you help me get this timing belt on. Please don't say Westvleteren 12. Err, you know what? Fine. I think I know someone in Belgium. PLEASE HELP."
  5. Acceptance: That borked thing is never going to run 100% right. If it runs at all, you're lucky. Congratulations. Just go drive it until it breaks again.

#2 and #3 are hard to deal with even when there's not a car involved. #4 reeks of desperation, seeking to share the misery with other folks.

I've discovered that I am a very angry person. I'm sorry. I'm going to hide in a corner and hug Fluffy Bunny until it all goes away.

The various 944s I've had have all seen a number of different work venues: the track garage at Harris Hill, Rob Curtis's yard, my carport (my landlord didn't like this), and Brianne Corn's shop space/wide world of broken Subarus. First off, if you've had to put up with this thing in your space, I'm sorry, and thank you. The stupid thing wouldn't almost be done by now if I hadn't had anywhere to work on it.

Secondly, to say that I haven't violated every piece of advice I'm about to give is the biggest understatement of the century. Oops. Writing is easier than doing, obviously.

How to Share Shop Space Without Killing Each OtherS

Know the rules of the shop.

This is the first thing you need to ask about when your car shows up: the rules. Hours of operation, shareable tools, alarm and key location and use, acceptable storage areas for spares, etc., etc.

A good example is the track garage at Harris Hill. Part of that garage is SoulSpeed's space for providing trackside services, mounting tires and doing other useful, convenient things. That's a business. Nothing in their cordoned-off space or any of their large machines are touchable, ever, under any circumstances. If there are customer cars in there, you have to stay out of their way. No exceptions. People paying for stuff to be done in that space get priority. Most of all, a highly competent car setup guy is the last person in the world you want to run off from a shared garage.

Unless you're working in your own space, the owners, managers and/or staff of the place where you're beating your ChumpCar with a hammer have the final say on what you're allowed to do, use and borrow. You're a guest in that space. Be polite in every interaction you have with them. If it's a public space, you might want to find a private corner to have your bout of vehicle-induced Tourette's.

For example, Brianne's shop also has certain toolboxes that belong to other people and areas that are works-in-progress that don't belong to you. Moreover, the owner of the land has a corner of unborrowable tools, projects and other things. Don't touch them. This brings me to...

How to Share Shop Space Without Killing Each OtherS

If it ain't yours, don't touch it.

This piece of advice is particularly true for shared work environments such as the Land O' Subarus or the Rat Hack Shop, although it also applies to anywhere you've got other peoples' projects or possessions in the same space. Not yours? Don't touch.

While I tend to keep my things in one self-contained pile to hedge my bets against someone else accidentally running off with them, there are many times when people put something down and expect it to be in the same spot when they come back. This is especially true if they're in the middle of working on something. I can't keep everything in my pile when I'm working across the room on something else.

Say someone's pulled a torque wrench that you need to use. Don't just grab it because it's out. Ask who's using it and ask that person if you can borrow it for a second. Someone might have stepped away for a second from a really frustrating task and they'll want to throw said wrench at your face if they can't find it when they get back. Yes, even if they're the nicest person ever. Horrible cars can make nice people do bad things.

People often bring their own sets of tools, too. Know which boxes are shareable and which ones aren't. Never go use a tool without knowing whose it is and if it's fine for you to borrow it.

Of course, if you're borrowing someone else's tools, put them back in exactly the same place (or exactly where they tell you to put it). Leaving borrowed items all over the shop is a good way to be banned from ever borrowing other peoples' tools again.

How to Share Shop Space Without Killing Each OtherS

Clean Up After Yourselves

Keep your own stuff organized, too. It's easier to share things when the place where your tools "live" makes some kind of organizational sense. I love being able to put someone else's tool back into a missing "hole" in a set that's lined up by size in the drawer. That makes life so much easier. It's also easier to go back and find the right one quickly that way, too.

Inevitably, you will buy tools to work on this car even if you're working in a space that has a lot of tools already. One smart thing that the United America Wrenchers crew did was spray paint their tools so that they knew which set belonged to which person just by the color.

Keeping things neat and tidy helps when you finally need to pack up and go to a race. One big mistake I've made with the Porschelump build is leaving parts all over the place. I have parts at Rob's house that have long overstayed their welcome, parts at Harris Hill, parts in my living room floor, parts on my bedroom table and parts at Brianne's. (Sorry, everyone. Really. Geez.)

We're going to have a miserable time packing.

How to Share Shop Space Without Killing Each OtherS

Frequently offer help.

Knowing when to ask for help is one thing. Knowing when to offer help is just as important. No one wants to be around someone who's perpetually stuck on the same task and seething with rage about it.

This helps everybody's projects move forward. If you help other people out in the same space, it's easier to get them to help you out on your own impossible tasks as well.

Furthermore, if you're using someone else's space and can help the shop's owner out with random tasks, that's a good way to stay in their good graces, too.

How to Share Shop Space Without Killing Each OtherS

Bring items to share.

Every shop has consumables just like your car does: trash bags, food, tape, drinks, zip ties, fluids, cleaning supplies, awesome gritty orange soap, shop towels, etc., etc.

Food always goes the fastest, so if you know what munchies that others who frequent the space like, bring extra. Finger foods like tacos, kolaches, cookies, chips and pizza are easy to share, cheap and plentiful.

Water should be bought in bulk. Yes, wrenching on your car is a physical activity. Sneak in some actual water between your beverage of choice and you'll be a much happier, healthier and less achey person.

If you have extra tools or fluids that you're not planning to take with you, offer them to the shop to see if they'd want to keep it on hand.

Even tools are somewhat of a consumable item—ratchet wrenches lose the ability to lock in one direction, screwdrivers break, floor jacks wear out, drill bits snap in half. If you break it, always offer to replace it. If something is missing and needed by a bunch of people, offer to get it.

Yeah, yeah, sharing is caring. I think I missed that day in kindergarten, but I definitely learned it working on the stupid LeMons car.

How to Share Shop Space Without Killing Each OtherS

Most of this probably sounds like common sense. Don't leave your stuff strewn all over central Texas, don't yell too loudly in public, mind the owners' rules and don't be a bunghole.

It's easy to go full bunghole when you're stressed and coming up to a race date, though. So, try to start with the hardest tasks and work your way down so that the smaller, easier stuff is left for when you're down to the wire. The last thing you want to do is go insane trying to fit in a nine-hour 944 clutch job the day before you leave—especially in a space shared with other people.