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March 2011 4xForward

Posted in Features on March 1, 2011
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Tools are one of those special joys for most guys in our sport. When we first start out, the tool collection is a few screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, and maybe a socket set. As we get more into the depth of our machines, we find the need for special tools and special equipment. And with advent of new technology the need has never been greater. For instance, the auto scanner/scan tool has replaced the dwell meter and engine diagnostic center of years past. If you have an OBD-II vehicle (onboard diagnostics), troubleshooting without a scan tool is next to impossible. You know the cartoon: Three guys are standing around the open hood looking at the engine while holding their beers. One of the guys says to the others, "I used to know how to fix this."

Like anything else, technology and change can be good and bad. Sure, it's frustrating if you don't know how to use a new tool, but don't you remember finally figuring out which way the lever goes on a Craftsman ratchet? In many instances you can make do without special tools, and that's good to know too, but the right tool properly used can save you time, money, and grief.

Three of my favorite examples of cool new tools are: (1)The ratcheting box-end wrench. At first I thought this was just a gimmick no real mechanic would ever use. OMG, was I ever an idiot. Those wrenches rock!
(2) Texting and smart phones. Of course no one really needs a smart phone or the ability to text, but after calling enough of my friends with smart phones to help me, I finally got a not-dumb phone. And as u cn c I'm getting appropriately lazy as well.
(3) Finally, as much as I detest the GPS culture because of its blind reliance on a machine, I know that it's a great tool if properly used. The problem is relying on these gadgets without a background in maps and map reading. If you don't know where you are, you probably shouldn't be there. Two recent trips in a rental equipped with a "Neverlost" proved my point. My first trip using the GPS was in the dead of night in a completely unfamiliar area. With rain and snow lashing down, I put my complete faith in the gizmo, and it safely got me the unknown 400 miles I needed to travel. The following sunny day on my next 400-mile trip, the GPS led me far astray. I had a map by now and couldn't understand why it wanted me to go in the wrong direction. But I acquiesced to the oracle and blindly followed the directions to doom. Halfway there I reconsidered and took back the reins, relieved that I wouldn't be wasting two more hours on top of the 11/2 hours I'd already blown.

This shows that a tool is only as good as its user. Had I known how to program the GPS better (or that it had more features to program), maybe I would have been more adept with the tool, as a tool is only as good as its user. Just like the ratcheting wrench, if your GPS doesn't work the right way, turn it around and use the other end.

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