Last week I took the radiator off my Model A Ford because the fan broke and cut a hole in the back of it. Yeah, I was pretty happy about that. I had known for a while that I needed a new ratchet nut for the crankshaft pulley on the front of the engine, so I ordered a new one a while back. I was just waiting until the next time I had the radiator off to install it. Now I had my chance.

There is a special tool that you can buy to remove the ratchet nut, but I figured that I could get it without the tool once the radiator was off. It turns out that I was wrong. The ratchet nut is nestled into the concave center of the pulley, and you can’t reach it with a normal crescent wrench. Besides that, the old nut on my car is actually a different size, so the special tool wouldn’t have worked anyway. My two options as I saw them were to go out and buy an expensive tool that I would probably never use again, or go over to the garage across the street and see if one of their guys might come over and pop the nut off for me.

I went over, talked to Ernie, and told him I was having trouble trying to get a part off of my old car. Initially he wasn’t all that friendly, he told me that they don’t do any mobile service, and it seemed that I might be out of luck. The ratchet nut is a really odd-looking little item, it’s kind of like a regular bolt, but it has four shark-fin shaped teeth in a circle sticking out of the top. I had brought it along on purpose just in case I needed it to help me out in my task. I pulled it out of my pocket and showed Ernie when he asked me what I was trying to take off the car. He looked at it, very puzzled, and said, “What the hell are you working on?”

“A 1930 Model A Ford.”

There was a long pause. “Well… let’s see what I’ve got in here.”

I didn’t actually know what he was getting at since he had already told me that they weren’t going to come over. He started digging through some filthy, grease-covered tool drawers that no longer opened very well, and pulled out some enormous sockets. It took quite a while for me to fully get across to Ernie what I needed since the new ratchet nut was 1 3/8″ and the one I had to remove was 1 5/16″, and it took even longer for him to find them, but eventually he had the tools I needed. I suspected at this point that he was going to let me borrow the tools, but I still wasn’t really sure because mechanics NEVER let anyone borrow their tools. As he handed them to me he said, “I gotta respect anyone who will work on a car that is that f***ing old.” I offered to leave my license as collateral, but as long as I was quick about it, he wasn’t worried. But he did ask me not to tell anyone that he loaned me tools.

I went back to my garage, and found that I had to take even more stuff off the car just to get the socket to fit into the pulley, but it was the right tool for the job. I had hoped that I would just be able to pop the old nut off right away, and be back with Ernie’s tools in a matter of minutes, but of course, I couldn’t get the stupid thing off. To make it worse, the ratchet nut is on the end of the crankshaft, so that when I would torque the wrench the car would start to back out of the garage. It was very frustrating, and since this wasn’t working, I truly didn’t know what else I could do. I was sweaty, tired, and my hands hurt from cranking on the wrench so hard. The only other option was something that Devin had suggested. He thought that it might take the sudden force of an impact wrench to get the nut loose, but I didn’t have one, and there was no way I was going to go and drop that much cash. It was extra frustrating because I was under the gun to get the car running again before the upcoming car show that weekend.

I finally decided that improper use of tools and violence was my only option… don’t tell Ernie. I put the socket and wrench in place on the ratchet nut, got out my 2.5 pound Deadblow mallet, and gave the wrench handle a few good whacks. That did it. In fact, it worked so well, and so immediately, that it seemed like maybe this was what I should’ve done from the get go.

I wanted to thank Ernie for his help. Of course I could offer to pay him, but I didn’t have much cash, and that didn’t feel like the right way to repay the favor anyway. Instead I went into the fridge and got out a couple of ice-cold Spotted Cow micro-brews that I brought down from Wisconsin (for someone else… heh) and brought them with me back over to the garage. Ernie was very pleased with the arrangement.

When I told Devin the story, he was amazed that Ernie actually let me borrow tools, but he said, “It’s the car man! It just makes people want to help you out!”

“I know!” I said, “If I were a hot girl, with that car I’d be unstoppable.”