Now with self-isolation and so much extra time on our hands, thousands of do-it-yourselfers are working on the different systems in their rigs, and I’m reaching out to see if any of you have problems with the righty-tighty, lefty-loosey concept, or is it just me?
Becoming a DIYer
I think my dad was the first person to share this mantra with me. I’m sure he thought it was a helpful tip, but it has driven me nuts for the last 50 years. I grew up in a family where everyone was handy. I think that’s why I enjoy tinkering and fixing things.
Being able to tackle DIY projects was also helpful as a business owner because I spent many long hours working alongside our employees troubleshooting and fixing the machinery that was crucial to our business. Now, I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. I have a good education and years of life experience, so why am I completely bewildered by this righty-tighty lefty-loosey DIY tip?
Certainly, being left-handed and dyslexic hasn’t helped. But for years I’ve been reluctant to admit how frustrating and unhelpful this handyman’s mantra has been, because I believed it must be me, and for some reason, I am just not able to understand it. But now that I’m a full-time RVer with lots of extra time on my hands, I’ve taken the time to study this principle in all different types of operations, and frankly I don’t think it’s my lack of understanding that makes this saying less than helpful. I believe, in some DIY projects, it actually makes the task harder.
Of course, when I’m working on a project on a workbench right in front of me, and I’m trying to insert a screw, I can clearly see that turning the screw clockwise results in tightening the screw. I guess turning something clockwise constitutes righty-tighty, but that seems to be the limit of this tip’s usefulness, and in that situation, I don’t really need a reminder.
Where it starts to get tricky is when I’m lying on my back, with my head and half of one shoulder crammed halfway under the sink, with the edge of a shelf digging into my ribs, reaching up to a nut I can’t see, that is rusted and corroded to the bottom of the faucet fitting, when I need a useful and accurate reminder of which way to turn the nut to loosen it. And it’s in that position, that I find the righty-tighty lefty-loosey tip to actually be a detrimental mental exercise.
I hear myself thinking lefty-loosey, but then I begin to wonder, what part of this connection needs to go to the left? I try to move the wrench counterclockwise and wonder if that is “lefty.” The nut doesn’t move. Am I tightening this even further and making it impossible to ever loosen? I doubt the slogan. I doubt myself. Am I thinking about the nut correctly? After all, I am upside down. So, I try going in the opposite direction, but now it seems like I’m defying the principle.
Clockwise and counterclockwise
The bolt and the nut are circular, and the only direction that even begins to make sense to me with circular objects is clockwise or counterclockwise. But even that isn’t helpful, because if I view the nut from the bottom (where turning it counterclockwise loosens it) then viewing that same nut from the other side (the top side) loosening it, would only be possible by turning it clockwise. So it depends on your physical orientation to the object being tightened or loosened.
When you attach a nut to a bolt, the bolt head may be going to the right (righty-tighty) but the nut is going in the opposite direction, it’s turning to the left. Now if I turn that whole operation around, so I’m facing the nut side of the connection, the bolt head is going left and the nut is going right to make the connection, and the reserve is true to disconnect it. Again, it all depends on your orientation to the connection.
Further complicating my understanding of this principle is my awareness that all things circular, like nuts, bolts, and hose fittings, when they are turning, actually go in both directions at the same time. I imagine a clock face and think of moving my finger around the clock in a clockwise direction. When my finger is moving from the 9 to the 3 it’s moving toward the right, but as soon as I get to the 3 and start moving my finger around the clock toward the 9 my finger is moving toward the left.
So, the righty-tighty principle depends on if I’m referencing the top of a circular object, which is easy to determine if I’m looking at a clock on the wall, but not so easy to determine if I’m feeling a nut on a hose fitting on the underside of the faucet.
Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey for screws that are right in front of me makes perfect sense, but for nuts, bolts, hoses, screws on the backside of anything, and almost every other DIY project, this mantra seems to be more mental torment than a helpful reminder. I’m not sure; is my angst the product of being left-handed and dyslexic, or am I correct in thinking that there are definitely exceptions to this well-known mantra?
Does anyone else have problems using righty-tighty, lefty-loosey in your real-world DIY projects? Please comment below, and let me know if you too struggle with this concept.
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com