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December 2009 Willie's Workbench

Posted in Features on December 1, 2009
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One of the things that I inherited from my Dad was being what he called a "prankster." He and his fishing buddies used to pull all sorts of practical jokes on each other. While I don't fish much anymore, I sure four-wheel a lot, and there are plenty of chances to pull a trick or two on these guys. Keep in mind that a good prank leaves both the "do-er" and the "do-ee" with a smile and a laugh. It's important that your prank doesn't do physical harm to anyone or a vehicle or to the point of lasting embarrassment.

Ok, let's get started with some simple ones and work up to what I think is one of the best.

* Zip-ties are great for a lot of uses. Tie a heavy-duty one around a driveshaft and leave a long tail so that as the shaft turns, it bangs against the frame or exhaust pipe. Do I need to tell you the noise that it makes?

* If anyone you know actually has hubcaps on his 4x4, then he deserves this. Put some small rocks in them. Sounds just like a wheel bearing or axle shaft has broken.

* This one takes a bit of time to do, but is well worth the effort. Make up a 6-foot-long jumper wire with alligator clips on the ends. Hook one end to the horn and the other to his brake light switch. Yep, you got it-every time he hits the brakes, his horn honks.

* This one will really drive a guy insane. Lots of early Fords and AMC vehicles use a firewall-mounted starter solenoid. There may be two small wires on the front side of it. One is the activation wire from the ignition switch. When the key is turned to "start," the solenoid contact closes, and battery power is sent to the starter. The second wire is a resistor bypass wire, so don't worry about it. Just switch the wires, or if there is only one, just pull it off. The starter will not activate at all. You can play with the driver's mind all day with this one.

* You'll want to try this one when you stop after a trail ride to air up and are on your way home. Catch someone with their hood up and away from their vehicle. Place a block of Limburger cheese on the intake manifold where he won't notice it. It will take maybe 15 minutes before it really starts to smell bad. Be sure you're long gone.

* Your buddy got a new set of fancy wheels and is really proud of them. Get prepared beforehand with some bright-colored poster paint. You want the water-based stuff that will easily wash off-not latex house paint! Paint the wheels at night when on an overnight trail ride. His first reaction will be that his wheels are ruined, not knowing that a simple blast from the garden hose will wash the paint right off. When he stops chasing you with that jack handle, you can tell him that it will just wash off with water, but he will have to live with the bright color until he gets to a car wash or home.

As with any practical jokes, be prepared to get paid back.

There are some things that should never be done, such as unlocking hubs or even one hub. First off, it could result in a broken axle shaft, or secondly, could put the vehicle in a dangerous situation if the driver was anticipating power to the wheel. Don't cross or disconnect spark plug wires. A cylinder not firing at the proper time could damage a valve, backfire through the air filter and cause a fire, or excessive fuel could damage the catalytic converter

And, finally, let me leave you with this one. A few years ago a couple of guys decided to have some fun on the Internet. They made up a story that was so bizarre that it seemed that it must be true. It got sent through a made-up Hotmail address to just about everyone they knew (including shop owners and magazine editors) and then they sat back and laughed until they cried.

They put together what looked like a press release that was allegedly from a group calling them "Clean Air Moab," and the subject dealt with dirty air the four wheelers were leaving behind there as a result of airing down their tires.

Supposedly, during the next Easter Jeep Safari Week, vehicles entering Moab would have to stop, empty the air from their tires into a special collection tank, and refill the tires with "clean" air. This was to prevent contaminated air from outside of the Moab area polluting Moab's clean air.

You would not believe how many people got caught up in this. The pranksters received irate e-mails from people who should have figured out it was a hoax from the start. In particular, one well-known magazine editor was ready to contact the Moab Chamber of Commerce and file a formal complaint. Several editors actually wrote editorials on it. It was posted in shops, and one went as far as to start a petition to prevent it from happening. Yet another tried to find out what hours the air station would be operating, so he could tell all his friends to arrive when it was closed.

Naturally, the culprits never came "clean."

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