What Was Your Greatest Wrenching Success?

This is your chance to tell us about the bolt you miraculously extracted.

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A person works beneath a car on a lift
Photo: Dmitry Racer, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Wrenching on a car can be an absolute blast. You get some friends together, throw on some good tunes, and get to work fixing or modifying a motor vehicle. But at the end of your day spent in the Fast and Furious world, it’s nice when a project is actually done — when you have a working, driving car to show off alongside the empty Corona bottles.

Today, we’re talking about those wrenching success stories. From a simple tire change to a drawn-out battle with rusted, stuck-on bolts, the difficulty of the project doesn’t matter. What we want to know is how you pulled it off.

1978 Honda CB400 motorcycle, in a state of disrepair
Photo: Steve DaSilva
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My favorite wrenching project was likely my first motorcycle — despite it being a far more in-depth project than I’d planned. The bike was a 1978 Honda CB400, one that had been modified to within an inch of its life by prior owners. It was covered in painted-on rust (alongside some actual, real patina), and the handlebars were uncomfortably low, but it ran great — until I stuffed it into a UHaul van and took it home.

Then, suddenly, the oddest problem developed. When cold, with a bit of choke, the bike would fire right up — only to die as soon as I got my gloves on to ride it. Then, it would refuse to start until I let it sit for more time. The bike had fuel, air, compression, and spark, but only after a long nap.

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The issue turned out to be the bike’s petcock. Rust inside the tank had been shaken loose by UHaul suspension and Rochester roads, only to settle in the petcock and nearly block it. The thin dribble of fuel that made its way past wasn’t enough to run the bike — but it was enough to fill the carburetors during an overnight sit, allowing the bike to fire right up in the morning.

It’s not any incredibly technical fix, but diagnosing and repairing that odd fueling issue stands out as a wrenching success. I’m a child of the fuel injection era, and my experiences with carburetors — tuning, adjusting, rebuilding, re-jetting — have historically not gone great. Working out a fuel delivery problem, on an old-fashioned gravity feed, was finally a success in an area where I’d spent so many years beating my head against a carbureted wall.

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But that was my success. What’s yours? Give us the tales of your greatest wrenching escapades, and we’ll collect our favorite answers tomorrow afternoon.