Overland Tech: Watch those dropped nuts!

Very early in my automotive repair days, my friend Jack Hinwood helped me rebuild the engine on my 1971 Toyota Corolla. The Corolla had a lively 1600cc hemi-head four-cylinder engine, which we modified with high-compression pistons, a ported head, a modified cam, a header, and the piece de resistance, Weber carburetors. The result, combined with Michelin XAS tires, shortened springs, and Koni shocks, was a fierce little sleeper—a nondescript economy car that embarrassed 240Zs and 2002 tiis in a straight line, and was the undefeated king of several midnight races up Mount Lemmon outside Tucson. 

I learned a lot from Jack during the rebuild, but one thing in particular stuck with me. At one point he was installing some part or another, and dropped a nut. Instantly he froze what he was doing, and his eyes locked on that nut as it bounced off the floor and under a rolling tool cart, whence it was retrieved with little delay in the proceedings. I noticed then that whenever he dropped some bit, he stopped everything, including talking, and watched and listened where it went. The habit saved who knows how much time chasing down parts or even losing them completely. 

It’s a good habit to make instinctive—especially if you’re involved in a repair in the field far from a source of replacements, and probably working over dirt. In such a situation, a dropped nut or other small part could result in a lot of wasted time—or a real problem if it simply can’t be found.