By on March 10, 2011


The Home Depot-ization of all forms of hardware retailing continues unabated, as I found out this afternoon. I needed a pair of 7″ long 1/2″ Grade 8 bolts, today, so that I could get my Dodge A100 Hell Project back on the road. Easy, right? Maybe ten years ago it was. Not today.

It all started when Ununquadium Legend of LeMons winner Rich offered to help me convert the A100 from its pre-1967 better-hope-nothing-leaks single-circuit brake system to a mandated-by-meddling-nanny-state dual-circuit system. That part went fine (more on the project later), but I figured I’d install new shock absorbers while I had the thing up on stands with the wheels off.

See the difference between the lower mount on the old shock versus the new one? That meant that the mounting bolt wasn’t going to fit. Just get one that’s 3/4″ longer and everything will be fine.

My van has an aftermarket sway bar installation (as far as I can tell, Chrysler didn’t put factory sway bars on any A100s), which uses a long bolt through the axle beam to mount the shock absorber on the rear side and the sway bar end link on the front side. I suspect that the sway bar installer used shocks with a narrower bottom mount in order to make his sway bar hardware fit… oh, and he also used crappy bolts that got bent and corroded over the years. Ack! So, I headed down to the Ace Hardware in downtown Denver, confident that I’d find what I needed. As it turned out, Ace no longer stocks nearly as extensive a selection of Grade 8 fasteners as it once did (though the store did have quite the assortment of shiny chrome bolts), and I could find only a handful of 1/2″ shoulder bolts in Grade 8, none of which were anything close to the required 7″ length. Fortunately, the hardware guy at the store knew where I might find what I needed.

Less than a mile away, AAA Metric turned out to be just the old-school hardware supplier I needed (sorry about the crappy cellphone-camera photo). A tiny office in an industrial neighborhood in the shadow of I-25, AAA Metric (which also stocks non-metric stuff, despite the name) is staffed by real parts guys, and they hooked me up with just what I needed in a matter of minutes. Two G8 bolts, two G8 nuts. $8.06, and I’ve got what I need. I hope that a few expert-staffed, independent places like this manage to cling to life. Otherwise… well, not every retail problem can be solved by a resentful $6/hour “associate” who knows how to push the button with the picture of the hamburger and nothing more.

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47 Comments on “Welcome To The Future: Needle In a Haystack, Long Grade 8 Bolt In Denver...”


  • avatar
    Jimal

    Since the demise of the local hardware store (though technically we still have one nearby here in Bristol, CT) I’ve learned to get my more archaic hardware needs fulfilled by McMaster-Carr. They have a comprehensive catalog and I get what I need in a day or two.

  • avatar
    bolhuijo

    I’ve had good experience with Fastenal.  They have always been very helpful.  But yes, McMaster and the other large industrial supply houses can also come up with anything you can think of.

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    I hope that a few expert-staffed, independent places like this manage to cling to life.
     
    Actually, there are dozens of fastener distributors such as this one all over the place, they do quite well for themselves and they aren’t going anywhere. They sell to manufacturers, industrial end users and don’t market themselves to consumers. And there’s always Grainger or McMaster-Carr too. If those two guys can’t get it, ‘it’ doesn’t exist.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Grainger, and the few surviving fastener specialists around here, are B2B only.  Even if you have a business account, they are not happy with anyone looking to buy single pieces of anything…it’s usually a full box or nothing.

      Last year I needed a belt for a prehistoric attic fan, no one around here had the size I needed….the local Sears parts place that I patronized in the past has long since vanished.  I found the belt on eBay.  Interestingly enough, it was shipped from the local Grainger place, the same Grainger location that told me they don’t do retail sales!!  WTF?

    • 0 avatar
      Ian Anderson

      Last time I needed weird thread brass screws for a traffic signal I was restoring (that’s not important right now) I used Grainger, went through my school shop’s account.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Well MM, go figure. It appears that fewer and fewer people (me included) don’t work on cars much anymore, so naturally, as the cars themselves have gotten to be pretty much unservicable for the average Joe, this is what happens. Kind of like TV repairmen, eh? But I sympathize with you. Last summer I visited an old friend in Missouri and we always tinker around with the vehicles(?) he (tries to) drive. Parts like simple fasteners are getting real scarce to find new, so he keeps a large supply of junk that he can improvise and make work. He’s one of those guys who can do anything and has most of the tools to do it. I always have a good time and we both laugh our heads off. I reviewed my last visit on your Jeep “Junkyard Find” some weeks ago.

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    Bangor has a similar place, in business since 1855 or so: http://www.nhbragg.com/index.php?cat_id=220 That’s where I’d be heading for something like that.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    There’s a place just down the road from me called Ottawa Fastener Supply.  It is a huge self-serve operation that’s housed in a former lumber yard.  They have all kinds of weird-ass stuff and are even open on Sunday for amateurs.  http://www.ottawafastenersupply.com/

  • avatar
    parkwood60

    That’s nothing.  Oddly enough this happened when working on a first Gen Econoline a few years ago in L.A.  Somehow the bolts that hold the clutch pivot shoot loose and fell out.  No problem I though, they’re 7/16″ course (IIRC), I can get those everywhere.  Well I tried the nearest home depot, which had recently opened, but apparently when they were setting it up a page went missing of the order.  They had not a single bolt in that diameter in any length or grade!  Hopefully they have rectified this, but on the west coast I always go to O.S.H first.

  • avatar

    Darling Bolt
    http://www.darlingbolt.com/index.htm
    They probably still stock wentworth sizes.
    Growing up a tinkerer son and brother of tinkerers, living in the Detroit area it was easy to get used to the idea that if it had something to do with machines, you could get the part around here and if you couldn’t get the part, you could find someone to make it. Today there are only two retail stores where you can buy electronics components (well, beyond the usual stuff at Radio Shack) in the entire Detroit area. Lots of those small machine shops where you could get parts fabricated (working on my brothers old Mini I found a shop that fabricated new rocker panels, another that hard plated and machined a corroded brake caliper piston) have folded.
     

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    I recently replaced the rotten bed wood in my ’78 chevy C10 with diamond plate. My pops steered me to a True Value Hardware store in the worst part of Long Beach, near wilmington, here in LA..they had everything I could think of, and the guy working at the store actually knew what the fuck he was talking about.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      The best places to find odd parts (whether hardware or auto parts, or…you name it) always seem to be in the worst part of whatever city you’re living in. My dad used to cart me around in his ’60 Chevy pickup on Saturdays, running whatever errands he needed to run for home repairs, car repairs, etc., and I saw places I’d never seen and wouldn’t go back to now except under duress (this was in Nashville). Must be that a lesser proportion of the cost of running the store goes toward rent, and a greater proportion toward inventory and expertise.

  • avatar
    jjd241

    For us here in Olympia WA we have a 100+ year old hardware store (http://www.olympiatruevalue.com/). It is a TrueValue store, but is still in an old building and is run like an old school mom and pop store.

  • avatar
    cammark

    In my line of work (the manufacturing industry) if you can’t buy it you make it from scratch… In fact just this morning i drew up and had an oddly sized shoulder bolt made because Mcmaster-Carr didn’t carry it. Although i do always check there first because it sure it cheaper than paying a machinist!

  • avatar
    esr

    In the Denver area, there’s always McGuckin Hardware (http://www.mcguckin.com/) if you’re willing to make the drive over to Boulder. The have nearly everything that could remotely be called “hardware”, and lots more on top of that. Plus, they’ll let you bring your dog inside!

  • avatar

    Thats great! SAE shock bolts on a ’67 Dodge van in rust-free CO are finally tooo Fdup to use. I dont know how hardware stores stay in business either.

    Prez JC does not get enough credit for trying to get this backwardass country METRICFIED. Mythbusters need to do a show on how much time, space, fuel, memory, brains are wasted trying to teach immigrants, 7-year olds and the world that 5/16 = 8 and 3/4 = 19, let alone WTF 25/64ths is. Finally seeing metric/inch tape measures at the home stores though.

    BTW, those bolts look suspiciously metric.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Look metric? Because of the chromate (golden) finish? Since cadmium is too toxic (but so is chromium), zinc plating is supplemented with a chromic acid dip. Maybe because the hardware on Japanese vehicles have been finished this way for decades they look metric to you.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Try McGuckin’s in Boulder — they have everything.

  • avatar
    EyeMWing

    Fastenal, Grainger, McMaster Carr. If you can’t buy it at one of those places, it doesn’t exist.
    Unfortunately they keep banker’s hours at best.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      And Grainger’s business model is business to business only. I needed baking soda for blasting, they were the only one’s in town which had any, and I couldn’t buy any because I’m Joe Homeowner.
      Luckily a nice siding contractor fella was nice enough to let me use his account number.

    • 0 avatar
      EyeMWing

      I thought everybody had a quasi-fake ‘Business’ that they used to do business with B2B suppliers.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Tacoma Screw.
    I walked in needing 1″ gutter flashing screws w/grommet, 2 1/2″ tamper-resistant sheet metal, half-height jam nuts, and two other really odd ones. Got them all.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    If it’s PVC you need and they make it,  McLendon’s Hardware has a bin full of it.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I save all the hardware from old motorcycles I part out. Try and find a Grade 7 35mm M5 bolt with a proper shoulder and threads far enough on the shaft but not too far. Anybody working on old stuff these days needs their own virtual junkyard

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Sway bars are overrated anyway. Glad you found your fasteners.

  • avatar
    bluetick

    I’ve found myself in similar jams during motorcycle restoration and repair here in Memphis.  Several times, I’ve gone to a such a local business called Active Bolt and have walked out with the fasteners I needed for FREE!

  • avatar
    Motorhead10

    I’ve found that larger car shows/swap meets (Carlisle, PA in the summer) will usually have one or two automotive fastener vendors on the grounds. I usually surrender a few $20s and grab a variety of more unique looking pieces – figuring I can get the standard stuff at Lowe’s Depot. Past few seasons, I’ve found it important to accumulate the door panel, inner fender well, air dam push-pin type jammies – as my wife frequently pulls forward too far into parking spots and undoes the factory configuration upon departure.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    Last Summer, a piece of hardware that holds the seat onto the seatpost of my bicycle came loose while I was riding-  couldn’t find it in the grass and gutter of the road I was on.  I had a big riding week planned as I was off work and the weather was nice, but no way to attach the seat back to my bike.  This is an italian component on a racing stlye bike, so going to a bike shop would have probably meant a special order for replacement parts and at least a weeks wait.

    What I needed was basically an inch long barrel nut, I wasn’t sure how common something like that was, so I went to Lowes and Home Depot- nothing.
    Went to Fastenal, they didn’t have one that matched exactly either.  So the guy working there took out some steel bar, hollowed it out, and tapped it for me.  A perfectly fabricated part, all I had to do was wait an hour and hand over five bucks.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You wouldn’t believe the parts department for bicycle parts I keep in my workshop.  Learned long ago that even the worst condition (bicycle store, not WalMart) bike is a treasure trove of parts.  And if it’s pre-80′s European, all the better.  The big problem is the rapid drop off of available parts for components that date before the mid-60′s.

    • 0 avatar

      A good hardware shop (not a Lowes/Home Depot) will have a selection of specialty fasteners including barrel nuts.
      As for replacing seat hardware, any decent bike shop would have seat posts, clamps and seats in stock and you wouldn’t have to wait to get a clamp shipped from Campy in Italy. I don’t think the problem was as big as you make it out to be. Sure, you might not have been able to get the right part right away, but you could have easily gotten a replacement component. You might have had to spend more money than just on a fastener, but you could have gotten back on the road.
       
      The thing I hate is when I break something on my bike on a Sunday. The only bike shop around here that’s open on a Sunday is run by a gonif who won’t stand behind the probably hot merchandise that he sells.
       
      My problem is that my fat ass breaks saddle rails. I’ve even busted a saddle with titanium rails.
       
      BTW, Mavic probably has the world’s worst warranty support. I once broke a $300+ wheel (high zoot, straight pull hub, red anodized aluminum, got it in a barter deal with the store where I bought my Litespeed) and Mavic simply said I was too fat (@195 lbs then).

    • 0 avatar
      ringomon

      Ronnie- I actually worked at a bike shop at the time and new they wouldn’t have it.  I went to the local hardware shop too but they had very little in the Metric sizes common on bikes.
      The bolt that fell out was off a Thompson- (sorry in the original post I was thinking of the Fizik saddle as being Italian- not the post) and I believe is unique to their set-up.  From my experience very few bike shops carry much in that nature of spare parts for expensive components on hand.  Not enough retail space and the needs too Niche to do much more than special order for small parts.  I could’ve have ordered the part on Amazon or throught the store- but I had a 5 hour ride planned the next morning.

      You’re right, I could have bought a whole replacement seatpost-  but the point is I found a solution much cheaper than doling out -$50+ bucks on a replacement seatpost or waiting it out.

      Still ride that Litespeed?  I’m on a Litespeed classic right now… inherited it from my Gramps…

      Mavic is one of those companies that sells additional no questions asked insurance, which works, but if you don’t have it, good luck with ‘em…

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, I figure I’ll be on the Litespeed by the beginning of April, unless it keeps snowing. Doesn’t ti ride silky smooth? The frame is complimented by a Rock Shox Ruby road suspension fork. With soft rubber the bike handles like it’s on rails. If I can ever afford to replace it, I’ll go with a Seven or some other custom fitted bike. I have short legs, a long trunk and relatively long arms (kind of simian). My Catalyst is 51cm (they didn’t make anything smaller when I bought mine), and I ride with the seatpost almost all the way down, with a longish handlebar stem.

  • avatar
    discontinuuity

    Minimum wage in Colorado is $7.36.  Ask me how I know.

  • avatar

    I went through the same thing trying to find four 2″, 10mm grade 8 bolts/washers/nuts for new ball joints in my GTV6. I ended up having to order them though, as I could not find a retail shop, even speed shops, that had the metric pieces I needed.
     
    It’s not gonna be OEM NLA bits that kill these older cars, but the death of the specialty hardware retailer.

  • avatar
    Syke

    In Richmond, it’s Pleasants Hardware.  If they don’t carry it (or can’t get it quickly) it doesn’t exist.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    The Orchard Supply Hardware stores have a excellent selection of bolts in both SAE and Metyric.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    The Nut Place in Houston.  I can call him on the phone and they deliver to my work place on their regular delivery.  Also tractor supply are good for hardware too.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    http://www.boltdepot.com
    for all your 1/2″ hex bolt needs in galv, stainless,steel in grades up to 8, silicon bronze and chromed grade 5.
    I used them for fasteners for a timber frame house. 3/4″ x 10″ galv lags. Put one of those in by hand while on a ladder and you know you’ve done something. Of course I prebored them – I ain’t Superman. Packed and shipped promptly, too.

  • avatar
    parkwood60

    http://www.fastenerbarn.com/
     
    I haven’t used these guys for automotive or motorcycle stuff, but if you work on really old cars with wood interiors and dashes, this is the source for nickel plate slot head screws.  They collect, sort and count hardware from sources all over the country.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    Dorman products supplies a lot of automotive hardware plus good cross reference availability online
    I liked the a/c condenser by-pass idler wheels for serpentine belt car engines particularly.
     
    Metric and Multistandard for odd fasteners: http://www.metricmcc.com/.
     
     
     
     

  • avatar

    I’ve usually had good luck at Farm & Fleet, Tractor Supply Co. and other ‘farm’ stores.  Buying specialty bolts and nuts for my race car has been quite a challenge!


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