Fishing in the Piston Pot
Thought I'd share this interesting anicdote both as an amusing story and a warning! I am currently finishing of a rebuild of a 1.8 TS that was stripped down due to zero compression on Cylinder 2 (turned out to be a chipped valve). Anyway, having fitted a new head gasket, head, inlet and exhaust manifold, camshafts, cambelt et all and timed it all up I had spent the best part of a weekend putting it all back together (and the best part of 2 weekends previous taking it appart and cleaning everything up).
So I'm at the point of putting the cam cover back on and tightening up all the bolts. I just finish the last bolt when the torx bit drops out of the end of my ratchet, down the spark plug well and into the combustion chamber. It takes me 2 seconds to realise where its fallen, at which point my heart sinks and many words which shall not be repeated are said. I pack up my tools, close the bonnet and leave it for the day.
As is the case I spend the next day or so thinking non stop about how I'm going to resolve this. The thought of taking it all appart again and forking out for another head gasket do not appeal! The obvious choice is a magnet, but finding a tiny little magnet won't be easy and if I stick it to the end of a screw driver or something I feared it would come un stuck and i'd have a magnet and a torx bit in my engine! A quick hunt around and I find a magnet on the end of a flexible pole on ebay for a couple of quid, worth a shot I think! A couple of days later it arrives, but no joy. I can get it down to the piston, but because the engine is tilted slightly it has fallen to the front of the chamber and I just cannot angle the pole around to get to it.
So back to square one... My next idea is a magent on a piece of wire. If I can lower it the piston it will fall with gravity to the same point as the torx bit (fortunately the piston isn't steel). Trouble is where do I get a magnet small enough to fit down the spark plug well that I can tie a piece of wire too. Fortunately I lucked out there, my other 1/2 works in the Materials Dept at a University and made some enquiries and returned with several tiny but very strong ring magnets. So I tie them to a piece of wire and the other end of the wire to a pole (in case a lose grip on the wire I didn't want to end up with magnets + wire + torx bit down there). I lower the magnets on the wire down the spark plug well but these magnets are so strong as soon as they enter the chamber they stick to the valves! At this point the Mrs comes outside and says "It looks like your fishing in the engine!". Anyway fishing alone isn't going to cut it, so I resort to pushing the magnets down (still on wire) with a screw driver until they are clear of the valves and then removing the screwdriver and lowering the magnets to the bottom. 2-3 attempts latter and i've caught me a torx bit! In true fisherman style I have to say it was THIS big (holds arms aloft)!
Anyway the lesson here is as soon as that head is on, get those damn plugs in!