By John Gunnell
Sometimes you're forced to make your own tools. When it happens, it's always nice if you can come up with a tool that's simple to make, easy to use and costs less than a buck. One of our recent jobs required a special tool and we came up with one that met those three goals.
The job involved removing the chrome collar or bezel from a heater control knob on a 1948 Chrysler. The chrome knob was affixed to the D-shaped stem with a small spring clip. Prying around the clip with a small screwdriver finally got the knob to pop off the stem. Getting the stem out to slide out of the dash panel was another matter, but we remembered dealing with something like this year's ago on our first car.
That car was a 1955 Chevy Del Rey "post coupe" that Grandpa contributed to the cause in 1965. Dad helped us with repairs on that car. He liked to tinker, but he wasn't a trained mechanic. Dad had problems putting things back together the right way, but he was very good at taking things apart and he knew one technique for removing dashboard knob bezels.
Dad showed us that the threaded insert holding the heater controls to the collar had two tiny slots in it, one on either side of the stem. Now, there was probably some type of special factory tool, similar to a deep-well socket with a little tang on each side, that facilitated this job. Most likely, the tool slid over the stem and the tangs fit into the tiny slots so the bezel could be rotated. When you turned the socket with the tangs in the end, it moved the slots and this allowed the insert that held the D-shaped stem to be removed from the bezel.
Dad didn't have the tool, so what he did was catch the corner of a screwdriver or small chisel in one of the slots and hammer in a counter-clockwise direction until the bezel started to rotate. This worked, but the screwdriver or chisel chewed the bezel up a bit. Since the Chrysler was a customer's car, we certainly didn't want to do that!
We didn't think the counterman at the local auto parts store would be familiar with such a tool or have one to sell us. Looking for a special tool in a big box store would be even harder. Chances are, the bezel design used in the '50s is long gone anyway. There's probably some type of plastic gadget that fills the same role as a bezel today.
We began to search the entire shop looking for a tool that might do the job at hand. There were a few old sockets we could live without, but we didn't have a way to easily grind something like a socket into a tube with two tangs on it. We also did not have any tube stock of the right size lying around. The search was on for anything that might help us get the job done.
Eventually, we spotted a cheap "alligator jaw" style staple puller that cost under a buck. It definitely had possibilities. After drilling the tiny rivet out of the staple puller, we separated the two jaws and took one over to our grinding wheel. We ground the jaw end of the metal (and a little bit of the plastic) away until we had two tangs. Then, we test fit these tangs into the tiny slots in the knob assembly. They were a little too far apart to fit just right, so we squeezed them together a tiny bit with a pair of regular pliers.
With just the one simple modification, the tangs fit perfectly into the tiny slots on the dashboard bezel. The U-shaped jaw of the staple puller fit around the stem and the plastic part made to fit a thumb served as a nice handle. The modified staple puller worked great and allowed us to remove the bezel very easily. In a few seconds, the knob came out with the stem and the heater controls behind it were removed from the backside of the dashboard.
Bezel remover tool made from a jaw-type staple puller.
Grind lightly because the staple puller isn't very sturdy.
This is the knob we removed attached to a cardboard replica of the backside of the dash that we made to help keep things organized. (The bezel is circled).
The bezels from both of these holes had to be removed.