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Treasure Digger

Raiding second-hand machinery dealers to find stuff for your car and home workshop...

By Michael Knowling

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Second-hand machinery dealers might not be part of your regular travel itinerary, but there's good reason to venture off your beaten track every now and then - as you'll soon see there are mountains of gear that, with a bit of lateral thinking, is ideally suited to automotive applications. And, bugger me, this second-hand stuff is s-o cheap!

The number of applications for machinery equipment is limited only by your imagination. In this story we'll bounce around some ideas we came up with while visiting a few of Adelaide's second-hand machinery dealers - you might come up with some uses of your own...

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Spiral wound convoluted flex pipes such as this are used in a number of industrial applications - most typically dust extraction. You probably couldn't care less about that, but there's every chance your interest will increase when we tell you how easy this stuff is to make into a high-flow cold air intake. Unlike PVC piping, spiral wound flex pipe can be routed through cluttered inner guard areas so easily you won't even raise a bead of sweat on your brow. And you want cheap - how does $15 per metre (new) sound?

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The selection of gauges from used machinery is plentiful - and, given the price of brand new quality gauges, they are extraordinarily good value. These shelves are loaded full of gauge units that measure everything from pressure (positive or negative), temperature, volts, amps and more. For us, these second-hand gauges are a real draw-card to the machinery dealers - we make a beeline to them every time!

Let's illustrate some real-world uses for a couple of these gauges.

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First, we purchased this 0 - 60 psi positive pressure gauge with the intention of (temporarily) measuring exhaust back-pressure before the turbocharger on our '94 Subaru WRX. Ever wondered how much engine backpressure there is at different rpm and boost pressures? This will help you find out. Oh, and try buying another suitable pressure gauge for less than the $10 asking price!

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The second gauge we've purchased from a machinery dealer is this Magnehelic gauge (Dwyer Instruments catalogue number 2000-8 kPa C); this is an absolute gem. By changing ports on the back of the unit, you can switch from reading positive pressure to negative pressure (vacuum). The gauge reads from 0 - 8 kilopascals, which makes it perfect for measuring intake restriction (up to the equivalent of around 32 inches of water), comparing the pressure drop across various air filters and even obtaining aerodynamic pressures at various locations on your vehicle's body. The main reason we bought this gauge is to measure intake system restriction on various vehicles - it's a whole lot easier and more civilized than trying to fit a 32-inch vertical manometer in a car and going full-throttle testing!

Again, this gauge set us back just $10.

Pneumatics play a large part in many pieces of machinery - it makes sense, therefore, that you'll find heaps of pressure regulators, rams, valves and more...

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Either of these two pressure regulators can be used to form the perfect basis for an adjustable boost control system. Simply insert a regulator into the hose connecting to the wastegate actuator and, with a little adjustment, you can reduce the maximum pressure felt by the actuator - this spins the compressor faster and generates more boost. Note, however, it may be necessary to insert a different tension spring into the regulator body so that it will work in the appropriate pressure range. Expect to pay $15 or $20 for most small to medium size regs.

Another approach to an adjustable boost control system - using a more conventional bleed arrangement - can also be configured using one of the many stray adjustable valves and restrictions that can be found at a dealer.

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At one stage in our search we stumbled across this pile of new mufflers. Some of these appear designed for piston engine'd machinery, but the majority are intended for fitment on trucks. Seen here are mufflers 3+ inches in diameter and of straight-through design - great for a zero back-pressure exhaust on your streeter.

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One particular muffler - manufactured by the well-known Nelson truck parts company - caught our eye with its angled internal fins that obviously swirl exhaust gasses as they pass through. Very tricky. With an average price of $100 - for something brand new and 3 to 4-inch in diameter - such mufflers are certainly worth a look!

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While we're talking exhaust systems, these braided stainless steel flex joints - which, interestingly, have threaded end fittings - appear ideal to run as flex joints in your exhaust. In case you hadn't heard, a flexible length of exhaust is required on any transverse engine'd car - without the flexible joint, the pipework can knock against the body causing a variety of damage.

These braided flex pipes - which you'll notice are brand new - sell for about $140. Less second-hand, of course.

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With a little ingenuity, pneumatic ram such as this can be used as an actuator of sorts. Available in a range of sizes, the smaller ones could be used to alter the angle of attack on a racecar rear wing, it could drop down a front spoiler at high speed; heck, we've seen a guy use them to move his front number plate outa the way of a front-mount intercooler when on boost!

Price depends largely on the size of the ram, but - as an example - this one was marked at $25.

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While you may stumble across the odd heat exchanger core in a machinery dealership, these cooling tubes perhaps offer more potential in the role of a power steering cooler. Don't expect a huge drop in fluid temperatures - not as much as you'd get with a 'proper' core that thoroughly mixes cooling air with the fluid - but you are guaranteed some sort of temperature drop. A clear advantage over a core type cooler, however, is the lack of fluid restriction - you could fit this device to your steering system safe in the knowledge that pressures will be unaffected. Furthermore they appear strong enough to survive reasonably high internal pressures.

At a cost of $30 each, these cooling tubes make a very cheap suck-it-and-see experiment!

One thing that floored us during our tour was the quantity of equipment suitable to piece together a tidy home workshop...

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These galvanised storage chests - which are available in a huge variety of sizes - were brought in bulk at one Adelaide dealer. The biggest ones retail for up to $180, while the smallest versions (perfect for an in-boot tool kit) kick off from $30. Note that these are brand new prices.

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As you might imagine, you'll also find assorted specialty equipment such as compressors, welders, grinding and buffing wheels. This sort of equipment is generally available in both new and used form and prices vary accordingly.

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Depending on the niche of a specific dealer you might also find cheap fluorescent and tungsten lights, which are great for a large shed. Second-hand four-row flouro lights will set you back $20, while Tungstens hover around $80 each.

You can also keep your 'shop well ventilated (important when using toxic paints etcetera) using a large industrial fan or two. A heavy-duty centrifugal fan - about a metre in diameter - costs just over $100.

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Oh, and if you want to get something really special for your home workshop, you can't go past this simply humungous trolley jack. Rated at 5000 kilograms, this brand new $895 jack almost requires that you have a heavy vehicle licence...

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As we mentioned at the top of this story, second-hand machinery dealers have a hugely diverse range of gear on offer at very reasonable prices - what you use in what application is purely up to you. Now get out there and get creative!


Machinery Warehouse
+61 8 8347 7133

Redwood Machinery
+61 8 8346 2412

Paramount Browns'
+61 8 8260 6333

Note - if you're in Australia, you can find the dealers closest to you by looking under the heading "Machinery - Second-hand" in the Yellow Pages directory)

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