I own a couple of Wera Zyklop ratchets and two small socket sets, and use them fairly regularly on smaller projects. I use them mainly on things like mechanical assemblies and the such, and have grown to really like them. These ratchets are shorter than “standard” sized ratchets, but the ability to lock them in at a couple of angles between 0 and 90° is quite convenient.
The other day I went through a dry run to remove my car battery. I haven’t yet decided if I would bring a replacement battery home in my wife’s car, or if I would jump my car and have the new battery installed at the parts shop (they do it for free). So I just wanted to make sure I could get the old battery out quickly.
Removing the battery didn’t take much – a 10mm shallow socket, deep socket, and combo wrench.
I already had a Zyklop 1/4″ ratchet and mini socket set out for something else, so I brought it and a couple of sockets out to the car.
One of the bolts was easily removed, the other securing fastener was a nut that had longer travel along a threaded stud. I only brought a shallow socket and wrench for the battery cables, and knew I needed a deep socket for the nut. Since I was losing light, I figured I would come back to things in the morning. I started to tighten things back up.
I realize I’m going to get chided for this, and I probably should, but I place half blame on the ratchet, and half blame on myself.
I needed to change the ratchet angle from “spinner mode” to regular higher-torque 90° position. What I forgot was that the flex-head angle and quick release mechanisms are controlled by the same button when the ratchet is in its inline position.
When the ratchet is set to any other angle, the quick release button and angle locking button are in different positions. When at 0°, the angle locking button pushes into the quick release button.
And so this is how my 10mm socket fell into the engine bay.
I heard a thud, which is not good. The socket didn’t bounce around to the ground, it hit a non-metallic part in the engine bay and got stuck there.
I knew I should have used my Gearwrench Roto Ratchet, or a plain Jane non-flex-head ratchet. But nooooo, I had to use my Zyklop. My Wera ratchets have seen plenty of use, just not in an engine bay.
I then spent maybe an hour and a half trying to find the darn thing. Worse, I lost daylight and had to find the socket in the dark since I don’t have a garage or even a driveaway. I clipped a Zebralight LED light to the hood clasp, and it lit up the engine bay enough to not give up and wait until morning.
I couldn’t find my Extech inspection camera, and ended up using a General Tools PalmScope. The PalmScope worked reasonably well. Its narrow camera head and cable was a plus, but its floppiness made routing and angling the camera head a little challenging.
I finally found the socket wedged between the chassis and two white hoses, and picked it out with my fingers.
If it turned out that I couldn’t find the socket, I knew it was far enough from any moving components to not pose a substantial hazard, but I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like to leave things like this unresolved.
In hindsight, I should have used a different ratchet. Any other ratchet. I am far from blameless, as I should have remembered that quick release mechanism is toggled when changing ratchet head angles from the 0° position. I could have also been more careful.
The Wera Zyklop is a great ratchet for industrial and mechanical applications, but I’m not so sure it’s very suitable for auto work. Zyklop ratchets are also shorter than typical standard-length ratchets, and their handles are harder to clean oil, grease, and grime off of.
A quick Google search shows that I’m not the first or only person to ever drop a socket in an engine bay, although that doesn’t make this situation any less embarrassing.
Right now I don’t do much of my own auto maintenance, but that might change when I have a garage, backyard, or more controlled setting than a shared parking lot. When the time comes for me to anything else in the engine bay, this lesson – to avoid ratchets with too-easily-toggled quick release buttons – is one I am not likely to forget anytime soon.
Have you ever dropped or lost anything in your car’s engine bay?