Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
November 12, 2015

All I wanted to do was disconnect the ground wire for the ECM on my 1990 Mustang. That’s it. Unplug one simple wire so the ECM could relearn after I installed a new performance chip. How could opening the hood, moving the plastic coil cover, and unplugging one wire cause me to bleed like a stuck pig? I still haven’t figured it out after nearly 30 years of wrenching on cars how the most mundane project will cut you, often without you even feeling it, as was the case with my Fox Mustang last week. It turns out the culprit this time was a stainless steel beauty cover on the coil cover housing that sliced my left middle finger deeply not once, but twice. It gave me a “beauty” of a cut, that’s for sure.

While not every job in my garage has put permanent scars on me, I do have a few, including one big one on my left arm from my brother’s 1965 Mustang hardtop when we were in high school. His Mustang had a 302 in it of some 1970s vintage, complete with the factory fan. Many of you may remember Ford had a problem with fans pitching their blades due to rivet failure and vibrations back then. The 302 in my brother’s Mustang had one of these fans with a broken blade and when trying to break free the oil pressure sending unit on the side of the block I tore open my left arm on this jagged fan blade on the down stroke of the ratchet handle when the sending unit’s death grip gave way. I’ve come to call garage incidents like this the car guy’s version of “ritual scarification”—a rite of passage into auto repair.

For many of us car junkies that live in the garage, the old blue shop towel and duct tape bandage is a time honored badge worn to prevent bleeding all over the freshly mopped kitchen floor.
It is, however, the 21st century and it may just be time to step up to a real first-aid kit. I relented a few years ago and this simple kit sits on the shelf over my workbench. Yes, it gets used often!

All grown up now and I’m still hurting myself. Lucky for me I have a roll of paper towels on the workbench and duct tape on the top of my toolbox. Oh come on, you’ve never made a paper towel and duct tape bandage so you could keep working (or to prevent bleeding on the wife’s carpet!)? Of course injuring one’s self doesn’t have to mean drawing blood. I’ve clocked myself on the head with numerous hood latches over the years, some of them enough make me have to sit down and wait until my vision cleared! I’m a little smarter now (only a little) and I put a tennis ball with a big slit in it over the hood latch as soon as I open the hood. It helps soften the blow if I do hit my head and if you get the bright yellow tennis balls it’s also a visual deterrent as well. There are some other good tips I’ve learned over the years, like when pushing on a ratchet handle do it with your open palm and not with your fingers wrapped around the handle to prevent busted knuckles. Why just the other day I thought I could hold a small bracket with my hand and drill a hole in it. Sure enough the drill bit caught and ripped the bracket out of my hand, taking a little sacrificial skin with it. Someday I’ll buy a vise before I have no fingers left to use it.

Did you also know that carburetor cleaner is an effective “cut finder?” Just in case you weren’t sure if you cut yourself or have a deep scratch, just spray a little on your hand and you’ll know for sure, trust me. If the wife sees me rushing into the kitchen and heading for the kitchen sink at anything more than my normal sloth like speed I get the ever so loving “what did you do to yourself now?” quip. Sound familiar fellow wrench-turners? The real fun is when you get to use power tools. Electricity—with fast spinning cutting implements—there’s real fun in those items let me tell you! And after all these years, short of one visit to the ER for a metal sliver in my eye, I guess I can still consider myself pretty lucky I haven’t done anything serious. What is your worst garage “oops?”

Share with us in the comments below!

The automotive equivalent of a Three Stooges 2x4 to the head—the hood latch. These darn things can really leave a mark. Slip a foam drink can koozie or split tennis ball over these darn things!
No, just don’t do it. You’re risking loss of knuckle flesh!
Yes, open palm that ratchet and when it breaks free you’ll be injury free!