If you've been into cars for any length of time, it's impossible not to have collected a pile of helpful little parts like wire, rubber fuel line, tubing, clamps, and used bolts. The (dis)organization of any small parts collection is best exemplified by a large plastic bin that weighs about 186 pounds and sits under the workbench overflowing with rusty/greasy/mangled bolts of all sizes and descriptions. And, of course, the collection is fully integrated, meaning the metric bolts are mixed in with the standard fasteners, making selection even more challenging. And despite the sheer numbers, the bolt you need is always the one you can't find. If you were to keep track (which no one wants to do), you might discover that each project demands a minimum of six trips to the auto parts/hardware store for all those little things.
If this description has vague overtones of your wrench-spinning efforts, allow us the luxury of a few suggestions. We can describe that scene because we've lived it many times over. However, we got tired of spending more time searching for fasteners and cotter pins than working, so we decided to improve our work space. Plus, we knew if we were to invest a few bucks to buy in bulk, we could avoid the pain of forking out $3.50 for three 5/16-inch stainless steel Allen bolts packaged in a cute plastic bag.
This pushed us into a quest to find a handful of reputable places where we could buy all those nagging little pieces at a better price, especially when we buy stuff in bulk. This means you may not need 100 feet of that trick woven wire covering. But if you enroll a couple of your car buddies to go in with you, the price becomes extremely attractive. Think of this as Costco for car freaks and you'll do just fine.
Bolts And Fasteners
Have you ever been in a professional shop with that giant wall of little steel bins full of brand-new bolts, nuts, and washers? Were you envious-like us? Our version is smaller but no less organized. If your idea of buying bolts is two or three at a time at the hardware or auto parts store, you're getting ripped off. The price markup on individual or prepackaged bolts is beyond ridiculous, which puts the solution at purchasing fasteners in bulk. We've found several places on the Internet that sell fasteners at a decent price that we will outline, but keep in mind that shipping must be included in the final price structure. We've also learned that having the company ship U.S. Postal Service can be cheaper, since its new shipping process is by the size of the box, not by weight. As an alternative to mail order, you may also be able to find high-quality fasteners at local aircraft-surplus outlets, especially if you live in or near large metropolitan areas.
As for the Internet locations we've found, two stand out. The first is a company called Bolt Depot out of Massachusetts that sells the typical fasteners, including Grade 5, Grade 8, and stainless. We only priced the national coarse thread pieces, but the fine-thread stuff is comparably priced. We've put together a little chart to show the prices at the time we did the research. We also found other cool things like 3/8-inch stainless washers for $7.00 for a box of 100 or 3/8-inch stainless nuts that go for $14.30 for a box of 50. The bolt lengths go all the way up to 7 inches, and you can find almost any metric fastener as well. We're going to have to add on to our current bolt bin to include the more popular metric fasteners now that we're working on the LS-series engines that are unfortunately all metric.