General Tips and Tricks

Axle Stands

The bigger the better.  I suggest the Harbor Freight 6 ton stands.  They cost roughly twice the 3 ton, but you can really get your car up in the air – just short of two feet up!  You will appreciate the extra room to navigate under the car.  Wait for a sale, where the price drops 30-40 percent.

Floor Jack

The Z is pretty close to the ground, so spring for a low profile floor jack.  I have the Harbor Freight 1.5 Ton Compact Aluminum Racing Floor Jack with Rapid Pump®.  I keep an assortment of thick wooden blocks nearby since this jack can’t reach high enough for the 6 ton axle stands without some help.

Digital Camera

Door Latch Components

Door Latch Components

Keep a digital camera with you at all times.   Make sure the camera as a macro (close-up) setting – I imagine most do, but check anyway.
Take LOTS of photos, before and during and after tear down.  You will be amazed how soon you forget how any particular widget was held in place.  Was it washer, bushing, spacer or bushing, washer, spacer?

Regardless, I have a can of parts left over.  Today you think “no problem, I’ll remember where this all goes”.  That is a risk that is just plain stupid in the era of ‘zero cost photos’.

More than once I referred to a photo of Item A because I needed to see something in the background – like how a hose was routed or where some wire went.

ESPECIALLY FOR WIRING  –  if you touch any wiring, take photos, from different directions.  Make sure you can see any colors and color coding.

I have over 2000 photos, in case you’re wondering.

Finally, having all the photos can come in handy for a ‘brag book’, to send to a vendor, to document your project and to add value when it comes time to sell.

[stextbox id=”alert” caption=”Take a lot of photos”]Seriously, having lots of good photos, from different angles will save your ass more than once. Take pictures.[/stextbox]

In the image below,  I took apart the windshield wiper mechanism in preparation for powder coating.  I carefully laid out all the bits-and-pieces in the proper order before I dropped them into a baggie.

Wiper assembly detail

Wiper assembly detail

Baggies, and lot’s of ’em


Don’t just put the parts in a coffee can.  I carefully put all related components into individual baggies and also put in a scrap of paper just what these parts are for.  “Bolts for Steering Wheel bracket” or “Spacer for door hinges”.  NEVER ASSUME YOU WILL REMEMBER WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOW all these parts go.  Especially if your build will take time.  Believe me, 9 months later, I could never have told you what these parts were for.

I switched from Sharpie on the baggie to paper in the baggie, since the Sharpie did not hold up to its permanent promise with the oils and chemicals and rough handling.

Understanding Spouse/Partner/Roomate/Parents

Very helpful, but not always an option.


Regardless of your budget or final goal, it will cost you more than you planned.  I kept an Excel spreadsheet of EVERY DIME (literally) that I spend on my rebuild.  It is a bunch.

Buy a Zinc Plating Kit

Yes, you can make your own zinc plating system, and feel free to do so.  They are quick and easy to use, and can restore a damn-nice finish to clean, rust-free parts.  Eastwood has one.  In my case, my neighbor had one.

If you lightly brush the plated part with a BRASS wire wheel, it comes out looking nice and shiny and new (if that’s the look your shooting for).

Do it right, do it once

This can often be a problem depending on your budget.  But if you can fix it right the first time, you can avoid messing with it again in the future.

Cool Tool – Threaded Insert Riveter

I prefer to have threads in sheet metal rather than use a sheet metal screw.  I just feel better.

However “threads” and “sheet metal” are not compatible.  I use a very handy tool that allows you to put a threaded insert ‘blind’ (where you have access to only one side) into sheet metal.  It works very much like a standard pop-rivet tool.

You can purchase the tool with inserts from Harbor Freight (Threaded Insert Riveter Kit).  Sadly, they do not seem to carry additional inserts by themselves.

Here’s the setup.    There are different parts depending on the size of the insert (e.g 6-32, 8-32 etc).

Below is a side view showing one of the threaded inserts placed into some sheet metal. You can see that the insert sort of “squashes” against the back of the sheet metal, just like a pop-rivet.  The black threaded portion of the tool protects the threaded portion of the insert from any distortion during the crimping process.

One place I used these on my Z was to replace the worn-out and over-sized holes for sheet metal screws that held down the front cowl under the windshield.

Door Damage Prevention

I have to share my garage with my wife.  To prevent door dinks and maintain marital harmony, I came up with this simple solution.  I found a cloth bag (a pillow case would work well too).   I position this so when her car door is open it will bump the foam rather than the paint.  Although I am constantly informed that this would never happen.


Inside I put a 1″ piece of stiff styrofoam.  I super-glued in two 3/4″ diameter rare-earth magnets (red arrows).  In my case, the magnets are inside where the draw strings go, so they are not visible here.  What is important is that there is some cloth between the magnets and the paint job!

DIY: Tricks for removing stubborn or broken bolts

Great video on