DIY Wrenching

Hone your skills to avoid the bills

It's been a long time since I did any bodywork, for reasons including not having work space. However, the detached garage that sealed the deal when buying a home here reminded me of a friend and cultural icon, the late Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, who said, "Forget the house. How BIG is the garage?!"

From his garage north of Long Beach, Calif., Ed created an empire, with characters like Rat Fink, show cars including the Beatnik Bandit, Mysterion, and Tweedy Pie, and a plethora of T-shirts, model kits, and artwork that still lives on. Introduced to Ed through a mutual friend and gearhead, Dr. Marc Weller, when I later edited Drive! magazine, he was a columnist along with Pete Chapouris of So-Cal Speed Shop, Boyd Coddington, and NHRA champ John Force. Heady stuff, all those industry insiders.

With thoughts of Ed and what he did in half the space I have in my new garage, any excuse for not repairing the '03 Corolla that had been running around for a year with a cracked front fascia and duct tape holding it together was a lame one. Rather than taking it to a body shop and having it fixed, I went online and found a replacement front bumper cover.

Despite ordering the right part, partsgeek.com accidentally sent the rear bumper cover. Oops! A few days later, "brown" (UPS) delivered the correct one. Checking it over, was there a difference between the factory part for an additional $500, and what I received? Some of the mounting holes weren't drilled, and no reinforcements, bolts, or retainers were included.

With the old bumper cover removed, I found bolts that had rusted and weren't coming out without a fight. Thankfully, I had enough Craftsman sockets, wrenches, and extensions to take it apart with hand tools, as I've yet to invest in floor jacks or a lift. The former owner of the house didn't see a need for electricity in the garage, another item on my to-do list.

Despite those automotive TV shows where they rebuild an entire car in a half hour, it took quite a few days to work on the car, find a Toyota dealer to get clips used on the fender splash shields, and to go to Lowe's for nuts and bolts that had apparently freed themselves upon impact.

The front fascia is on, a new cabin air filter installed, the windshield wiper fluid refilled, and the Corolla's road-ready again. It took a little longer to do it myself, but nowhere near as long as it appears it'll take for the economy to bounce back. My guess is that UPS will be busy delivering a lot more parts! m

Not heading to the NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis over the Labor Day? The Knights of Columbus and O'Reilly's Auto Parts presents the 3rd Annual Labor Day Car Show on Monday, September 5th, at Camp Columbus, in Hixson, Tenn., to benefit the Oncology Clinic at Children's Hospital. For more information, call 423-842-7011, or e-mail campcolumbus@gmail.com. Tell 'em Knox On Wheels sent you.