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Help! Dropped a bolt in the engine bay, what now?


NAXJA Forum User
I recently got a really nice (to me) 2001 Limited XJ. I'm new to doing my own maintenance, but wanted to change spark plugs by myself and did a dumb thing.

Just finished installing the new plugs, I dropped a bolt as I was reinstalling the throttle cable bracket. :tears:

I could not find it last night. I checked all around the throttle cable bracket and under the vehicle.

I don't have a telescoping magnet, but am ordering one today. Are there any other tools I should have to help find it?

Everything was closed up, no disconnected hoses or anything. But is there a risk of the bolt working its into a place where it could do damage?

I'm going to go out and look again in a few minutes, but I'm wondering how big a deal this is? I'm hesitant to drive until I've found it.

I will double check the Haynes manual, but this looks like the bolt I need, can someone confirm?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
Found it! Sunlight, patient eyes, and a telescoping magnet to the rescue. It had fallen into a small pocket towards the front of the bay, just in front of the drive belt.

Hopefully, this is the only time I ever do this. Thanks for listening.
Oh, this won't be the only time. Not if you keep wrenching.

A few months back I dropped one of the thermostat housing bolts. It fell down behind the water pump pulley. I could get a magnet to the bolt, but because the steel bolt was in contact with the steel pulley the magnet couldn't pull the bolt away from the pulley. I had to remove the belt and pulley in order to retrieve the bolt.

I have dropped my ratchet into the oil drain pan. I suppose that helps keep the gears lubricated.

I am grateful for electronic ignitions. Those save me from dropping those short screws for mounting the points (I am sure it is getting to where there are fewer and fewer folks who remember those).

My experience with dropping things has not been entirely wasted. I have learned to stuff a rag into those cavities which would lead to engine disassembly. And I have slotted my CPS (yes, and the spare too) so that I don't run the risk of dropping those bolts into the bellhousing. But I have no doubt I will still spend plenty more time looking for dropped hardware.
Yeah, this experience taught me a few lessons for sure.

Thanks for commiserating. And I am sure you are correct, this will happen again. :)
My telescoping magnet is well-used for sure.
I also have a 'Grabber' tool that will pick up
non-magnetic items. The telescoping mirror
and focused beam flashlight get frequent
workouts too...
I had a piece of an inspection camera break off in the engine recently which led to removing the head just to get the stupid piece. So all of my other dropping things are nothing in comparison to that one.
I have nightmares of this very thing, every time I pull my camera out. (Shudders)