Skills You Need to Restore a Classic Car

Restoring a classic car can be a scary topic for some people. There are a lot of different types of work that goes into a classic car restoration and most people are not skilled at all of them. When you break the process down into the types of repairs that go into your classic car restoration, it’s easier to come to grips with what you really can or can’t do yourself.

An accounting of your skills can help you decide how much work you can do yourself, and how much of the restoration work you should get done by a professional.

Your classic car restoration can be broken down into a few repair categories.

  • Knowing your car,
  • Mechanical repairs
  • Electrical repairs
  • Interior or upholstery work
  • Sheet metal or rust repair
  • Surface preparation and refinishing
  • Auto body and painting
  • Trim or molding repair and refinishing

Some of these categories are self explanatory. Allow me to clarify the ones that aren’t so obvious.

Knowing your car

Cars have always been available with options like sport trim packages, air conditioning, V8, 6 cylinder, or 4 cylinder engines, and the list goes on. As the car gets on in years, some of these options get removed from the vehicle, replaced with something substandard, or never replaced at all. Option codes and shop manuals are generally available for most American classic cars that detail this information.

Mechanical repairs

This covers a lot of what makes up a car and would be most of the moving parts. You’ll find the engine and transmission will need rebuilding, as well as all the regular maintenance repairs like brakes and suspension, and rebuilding components parts like starters, water pumps, and generators. Other components that rarely get considered are the under dash parts like heater or vent controls, window parts inside the doors, hinges, and latches. I’m only touching on the subject, but you get the idea.

Electrical repairs

Electrical can be the scariest of them all. On an old vehicle the sheathing on the wiring can be dry rotted, and cracked and brittle creating the risk of an electrical short. Switches wear out and even fall apart. On some vehicle where these parts are impossible to find, you’ll need to be creative and improvise by using parts from another vehicle make.

Interior or upholstery work

Cloth, vinyl, leather, threading, and stuffing or padding materials all dry rot over time and need to be replaced. Colors fade really bad as well.

Sheet metal or rust repair

Any metal made with iron will rust, even aluminum will oxidize and even disintegrate under the right conditions. The body sheet metal will need to be replaced or patched. This means knowing how to work with sheet metal, how to weld, and even how to shape metal.

Surface preparation and refinishing

Other than the exterior of the car body, there is a lot of sheet metal surface that will need to be stripped of old paint and surface rust, then prepared so it won’t rust anymore, then painted again. This includes the car frame, suspension parts, differential, fasteners and more.

Auto body and painting

Aside from the sheet metal work the exterior of the car body will need to be smoothed and painted. This is an enormous amount of work which is why it can be so expensive.

Trim or molding repair and refinishing

Classic car trim and molding was made mostly from metals. There are steel chrome plated parts, chrome plated pot metal parts, aluminum, stainless steel and even brass or copper. until recently, some parts can’t be fixed and re-plated, pot metal is on of those. In extreme cases, you’ll need to weld new metal into your trim or moldings, grind and sand them down, polish them and get them ready for re-plating.

That’s a lot to know how to do.

Luckily there are some really good how-to DVD’s available that cover all these topics. Even still you might want to specialize in only 2 or 3 of these skills, and get a professional to do the others.

Learning how to do something like this can be entertaining. Even you if you don’t plan on doing some of this work yourself, you’ll want to know how the work is done so you can recognize a job well done.

Car Theft Solved by Private Investigators

From time to time, a private investigator might be asked to track down a missing car. A car can be stolen from a public place, private residence, or a car rental agency.

Types of Car Thefts:

During economically challenged times, car thefts increase. Some people try to steal cars from rental agencies by using fake IDs to rent cars, and then simply never return them. Some steal cars for their own use, whether for regular daily use or for transporting contraband and later abandonment. Some turn the stolen vehicles over to chop shops, where the cars will be used for parts. Some just want a car to take on a race or joyride, and will abandon the car after using it for a period of time.

Some will sell a stolen car to an unsuspecting person, who has no idea that he or she just purchased a stolen vehicle. Sometimes, the owner sold the car in good faith to a person who passed a bad cheque. In other cases, a couple may have surrendered their second car to a re-leasing company to cut down on expenses; however, the car may have been leased to a “customer” who disappeared. Thefts may be for convenience – the thief may have some stolen goods to transport.

No matter what the reason for the theft, it’s up to the private investigator to use his or her ingenuity to figure out what happened and track down the car. It’s always a good idea to file a police report first, but because the police might not be able to take the time to track down your vehicle, a good Private Investigator can come in handy.

How We Track Down the Car:

A private investigator will use tools such as phone calls, casual conversations, and interviews. A good Investigator knows how to word questions and statements to get the most cooperation. Most people are shocked if someone they know has stolen a vehicle, and they will want to cooperate. The trick is in putting all the pieces of the puzzle together and tracking down hard information that is admissible in a court case.

Investigators can use license plate scanners, GPS tracking that comes with certain cars, handheld devices, cameras mounted on cars, or interviews with anyone whose job requires driving around, such as delivery workers. PI Agencies in some countries might have memberships in professional organizations where information gathered from license plate scanners is stored in a database. Surveillance on public streets is generally legal and does not overstep privacy issues. One popular technique is keep a watchlist of all vehicles reported stolen by owners, and using the scanners to detect license plates of parked vehicles. Since thieves often switch license plates, it can take time.

The human element in the form of social media and community alerts can work wonders, too. Many people have assisted in recovering their own cars by posting pictures of their stolen cars on social media and asking people to share. It’s never a good idea for a friend to confront a car thief, but it can be really useful if they snap pictures or report sightings of the stolen vehicle without getting noticed by the perpetrator.

Clumsy planning on the part of the thief helps, too. Sometimes a thief will falsify an ID card to rent a car that they never return, but use a real address of someone they know. As we interview the person whose address was used, the person might recognize the description of the thief and give us clues as to where to find him or her. We can then conduct a surveillance and get videos of the perpetrator using the stolen car, which will be admissible in court. Once we have enough evidence to stand up in court, we can wait for the perpetrator to turn in for the night and immobilize the car with car boots before there is any attempt to make contact.

Over the years, Private Investigators form relationships with informants. Knowing how to befriend people who can supply information is golden. Cooperation from all sources is the most important key to solving crimes, and a good Private Investigator knows how to form those relationships.

Other sources of information, although not glamorous, are salvage yards, auto manufacturers, trash bins on public streets, and hidden cameras in public areas. We can also keep lists of vehicles with out-of-area registration tags on them, check on the vehicle registration for those tags, and track down the lienholder (lender) for the vehicle. That is public information and we can call the lender to see if the vehicle is stolen.

Another easy way to verify if a car is the one we’re looking for is to check the VIN number, which is often in plain sight on the driver’s side.

Repossession of the Car:

Once the car is located, it can be repossessed rather easily and the Private Investigator and client will agree upon the method in advance. Upon finding the car, it can be booted or disabled before the PI does one of three things depending on what the client wants: knocks on the suspect’s door and asks for the keys, notify the police, or notify the client. It is never a good idea for the client to contact the perpetrator, but the client could contact the police.

If the client is a business such as a rental car agency, the client may instruct the private investigator to repossess the vehicle. A team of two pis will drive to the location, boot the car, and explain to the perpetrator who they are and why they are there. They will cite to the violator the specific vehicle codes that were violated and the jail time or fines attached with such crimes. They will be firm but also very professional. Most perpetrators will hand over the keys without too much fuss once confronted. If not, a tow truck can be called to remove the vehicle. This should not be done without hard evidence and knowing the laws in your area.

How to Prevent Theft:

Most vehicles sold nowadays have key codes or tracking systems such as LoJack or Onstar. Some have microdots that tag individual parts of the car, so they can be identified if the car goes to a chop shop. However, even very sophisticated systems can be bypassed by professional thieves.

The best car theft prevention devices, such as ignition interlock and pedal locks, disable the vehicle so that it can’t be moved without the right key. If your car does not come with these devices, you can buy a self-setting immobilizer. Always lock your vehicle and park in the safest spots you can.

Unfortunately, car thefts are very common. Using reasonable security precautions and keeping a photograph and copies of vehicle registration information can help you in case of a theft. A good Private Investigator will work for your better interests in recovering the car.

The Pains of Doing Online Business in Africa

Take it or leave it, Africa is a great continent. It is my beloved continent with an estimated population of 1.216 billion people.

There are about 7 billion people with unique skills, talents, knowledge, and experience. God bless humanity.

So, if you think of the right market to sell your goods or services, come to Africa.

This is the optimistic part of this story. It is good to begin 2017 on a positive, optimistic level.

Now, let us come down to reality. The world has gone digital. But, Africa is still slow in moving from analogue to digital age.

Corruption, illiteracy, poverty, lack of social amenities, lack of trust, lack of knowledge on what it takes to run a business online, are some of the factors militating against Africa and Africans.

Internet penetration is 28.7 percent in my beloved continent. Compared to North America with 89 percent penetration level, this is a far cry.

This means North America with an estimated population of 579 million people is more digital than Africa. But, Africa has the market. In fairness, businesses are striving in the continent.

Lots of Africans know little or nothing about online business and think that people who do businesses online are either fraudsters or criminals.

This is not true. There are genuine and fake business owners everywhere, internet inclusive.

Trust has also made it impossible to do business online. With the world becoming a global family, business owners do not need to meet physically to transact business. There are no limitations in this digital age to running businesses.

Everything and anything could be sold online and money in local and foreign currencies transferred from one part of the world to the other.

But, my good friend in Lagos, Nigeria, who has masters degree from one of the oldest universities in our country know little or nothing about running an online business.

We were discussing yesterday and he told me bluntly that he knows next to nothing about online business.

So, he is comfortable moving his vehicle parts from one place to the other in search of customers.

This is the pains some of online business owners are going through in Africa with great potentials.

But, the pains of not getting enough customers from Africa for your business are a passing phase. Even as the Bible says, this will pass away.

Therefore, in 2017, I am positive that more and more business owners will overcome the pains of going from analogue to digital in Africa.

I get the feeling deep down that ten years down the line, the story will change for the better and internet penetration in Africa will rise.

Top 5 US Exports in 2017

Exports from the U.S. have grown from $448bn to $1.55tn over the last 25 years, but which export categories make the most money?

The United States has 248 export categories valued over $1bn, three times higher than a quarter of a century ago.

But aside from the stereotypical exports from The States like cotton and corn, medicines, meat and gold, which are the top export market categories that really rake in dollars?

Here are the top 5 U.S. exports in 2017:

Aircraft

Aircraft is far and away the largest export category in terms of monetary value from the U.S. – one-third more valuable than the second export on this list alone.

China follows in second but someway behind. One thing that’s certain is the likes of Boeing would not relish a trade war between the world’s two export powerhouses.

Gasoline

The value of the gasoline market has increased massively in recent years, despite the clamour from governments to turn to renewable energy sources and global businesses to be seen as green.

Last year, gasoline (including other refined petroleum products) raked in just under $77.5bn whilst Mexico holds 27% market share and Canada 11%.

Motor Vehicles

It’s estimated that this year foreign motor brands will produce more vehicles in the United States than U.S. firms will. Last year, a majority of these exports entered the Canadian, Chinese and Mexican markets with fourteen U.S. ports exporting more than $1b each throughout the year.

Motor Vehicle Parts

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the nations that lead in motor vehicle exports also makes a lot of money exporting individual motor parts. However, the motor industry is wary of potential NAFTA disruption which could change the face of the auto-exporting industry.

Computer Chips

The first ‘modern’ export to make the top-5 U.S. export categories is that of computer chips. Given the small size of the export, most of the product travel abroad via airfreight – 50% of which from just four airports in Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco and Cleveland.

What other products are also leading exports for the U.S.? Food, beverage and feed was the top value category when combined worth some $133bn. Soybeans made up $22bn of this, with meat and poultry just behind at $18bn.

In terms of services, travel and transportation ($136bn), finance and insurance ($76bn) and intellectual property sales ($49bn) account for the most.

Characteristics of a Good Automotive Repair Mechanic

Knowledgeable on various auto parts.

This is perhaps the most basic characteristic that any auto mechanic should have. Lots of different auto parts are out in the market today. And because we, as car owners, do not necessarily possess the sufficient knowledge when it comes to vehicle parts, we will inevitably depend on the expertise of our mechanic. A simple trick to determine if your chosen car specialist really knows his business is to ask him to differentiate a few parts and gauge whether he is confidently answering your question or is just making his way around.

Diverse background on automotive repair experiences.

Years ago when the makes of our vehicles were much simpler, any mechanic would have been okay. But with today’s high-tech and complex vehicles including family sedans, sports and luxury cars, SUVs, and pick-up trucks, we need someone who has a diverse background in automotive repair services. Mistakes have no room when it comes to automotive repair as these will only make things even more costly. Choose a mechanic who has certifications of training programs and classes that he has attended. The mechanic’s time spent in studying as well as in the actual practice of automotive repair is very advantageous for us car owners.

ASE certified to be an automotive repair professional.

Speaking of certifications, perhaps the most famous and widely recognized one, when it comes to professionals in the automotive industry is the ASE certification. Annually, an estimated 100,000 automotive technicians take ASE certification exams each May and November at over 750 locations.

With an ASE certification, we are assured that our mechanic has good background in all automotive services because an ASE certification requires a minimum of two years work experience in addition to passing a series of examinations that include Engine Repair, Engine Performance, Electrical/Electronic Systems, Brakes, Heating and Air Conditioning, Suspension and Steering, Manual Drive Train and Axles, and Automatic Transmissions for auto technicians alone. There are separate tests for those who want to be collision repair technicians, engine machinists, parts specialists, and others.

Furthermore, all ASE certifications have expiration dates which requires technicians to re-test every five years to keep up with technology and to remain certified.

Works in a reputable auto center.

Unfortunately, ASE certifications apply only to individuals and not to auto centers. However, an auto center with at least one ASE certified mechanic is allowed to display the ASE sign. Furthermore, an auto center that has 75% ASE certified mechanics among its employees are given the Blue Seal of Excellence from the ASE.

Aside from the ASE recognition, other signs that we should look for an auto center include neat and well-organized facility complete with modern equipment, courteous staff, and good policies (regarding labor rates, diagnostic fees, guarantees, etc.)

Highly recommended by family and friends.

Nothing can attest to the quality service that any auto center and mechanic can give than testimonials of our family members, relatives, and friends. Ask for referrals and recommendations. Local community organizations and business listings are also good sources of information.