Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
5/12/09 10:55 a.m.

The main problem with grease is that it is so messy. As a result, most people don't take advantage of it. However, if you buy a standard tube of grease, cut it in half, and use an acid brush to apply it sparingly, you'll eliminate 95% of the mess and gain a valuable tool.

Using your brush and a tube of grease, you can lubricate parts and linkages you'd otherwise leave bare. Door latch mechanisms, seat slides and hinges all work much better with a thin application of grease. If you're careful and stingy when you apply it, the grease won't make much of a mess at all--even on a concours-quality car.

But lubrication isn't all you can do with grease. If you live in a part of the country where things rust, you'll find ways to use grease to prevent oxidation; plus, it makes a very good anti-seize compound. A swipe of grease on the threads of any bolt or nut will keep it clean and free for years. Paint the inside ends of coolant and vacuum hoses with grease, and they'll come off much more easily in the future. Grease even works well to keep electrical contacts from corroding.

The biggest secret about grease is its gasket-sealing ability. Water pump and thermostat gaskets coated with grease won't leak and are reusable many times. Carburetor-to-intake manifold gaskets love grease.

A wonderful trick uses grease on the valve cover gasket. Attach the gasket to the valve cover with silicone, and grease the side that touches the head. It won't leak, and you can pull off the valve cover many times without wrecking the gasket.

Don't use too much grease--just a thin coat is needed. After all, it is messy and will collect dirt. If you're gobbing it on too thick, wipe off the excess with a rag. It will most likely work just as well, with very little mess.

Where shouldn't you use grease? Stay away from high heat areas, like exhaust manifolds and headers. It won't usually catch fire, but it sure will stink. Stay away from brake parts and belts. Some suspension bushings don't like grease, either. (This is usually a problem with the low-grade parts made from recycled rubber.)

There it is: one of the greatest low-buck tools. Duct tape and mechanic's wire will always have their place during emergencies, but grease is useful all the time.

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