How Vibration Can Actually Help a Mechanic

Vibration Can Actually Help a Mechanic

Vibration damage or the damage caused by excessive vibration is no stranger to any mechanic.  Causes can range from something relatively minor like bad spark plugs to something major like damaged engine mounts (have fun pulling everything apart for a weld job).

Over time, especially on old bikes (particularly Harley’s), vibration can wreak havoc on all sorts of things around your bike.  Literally, the excessive vibration of these old engines can slowly shake or rattle things loose.  Hence, the introduction of methods to mitigate these problems, like the introduction of thread lock, locking nuts, and safety wires.

Before I go too far down the road with all the ways that vibration is bad, I actually came here to right a post about how vibration can actually help a mechanic.

I deal with stuck fasteners a lot.  I guess that is just what happens when your 45 year old motorcycle was neglected or mickey-moused by the prior owners (how many prior owners before me is anyone’s guess).  Looking back at my old posts, I see how often I am talking about some challenging nut or bolt, here or there.

Okay so going back to the basics of stuck fasteners, there is leverage (aka breaker bar), chemicals (aka penetrating oil), and heat; but the often forgotten method for stuck fasteners is vibration.  Trust me here, vibration can actually help a mechanic.

Let’s imagine a stuck brake line bleed screw.  This is a good example as it is sticking out of the caliper and allows you to grab onto it with a pair of vice grips.

how vibration can actually help a mechanic

Make sure the caliper or part you are working down is locked down good in a table vice as you are going to need both hands for this.  Take your vice grips and lock onto the bleed screw.

vice grips

So, picture it now……..right hand on the vice grips ready to turn and left hand you have a hammer.  Ready?…..one, two, three…….whack the top of the bleed screw vertically (like you are actually trying to hammer it into the hole).  This is where I give the most important piece of advice in this article – do not be afraid to give it a good whack.  Hit it two or three times and then try and turn the screw using the vice grip between whacks.  Okay, so the method is: whack, turn (or attempt to turn), whack, turn…….

You are trying to turn the bleed screw while the vibration is occurring.  The vibration has the effect of loosening the part a little, as well as breaking any bonds created by rust or old thread-lock.

My mistake in the past has been to be too afraid to really hit the part I am working on hard with the hammer.  I think the key is that you are hitting the bolt, bleed screw, or whatever directly on its head.  Essentially you are hitting it in tension and truth of the matter is that you are not going to damage the part in that direction.  Some of us are strong (not me, per se), but not strong enough to damage a decent bolt in the tensile direction.

That’s it folks.  That is how vibration can actually help a mechanic.  Honestly, I have been ready to break out the blow torch and then been amazed watching someone break a part loose with this method.  Each time it actually works I get a stupid grin on my face because I simply can’t believe it actually worked.  It is like someone just did a magic trick in front of me; but truth is, it works more often than you think.

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