The Nut Cracker... Sweet!

I think sometimes us gearheads get so impressed with ourselves and our tool collections, that we become closed minded to some of the old school options that exist.  The tool below is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

In case you don't recognize this thing, it's called a nut splitter. 

The first time I ever saw one of these was when I was reading a book about tools, way back when I was a kid.  I remember thinking that these must be for old guys that were too cheap to buy an acetylene torch, and I kept thinking that for about another 35 years.

An acetylene torch is a great thing.  There are few things more satisfying than hearing the sound a red hot nut makes as you twist it off of a rusty bolt.  I think the greatest thing about it is the fact that you know you're going to win the battle before you even begin.  

Almost every time I use the hot wrench, I think back to the days before I had one.  The struggle, the agony, the defeat, and the disappointment that always went along with dealing with rusted fasteners and bolts broken off flush in blind hole.  It makes me appreciate the luxury of having a torch.  Success, every time.  Well just about every time.  There have been occasions where I have gotten a little overzealous and accidentally melted something.  Like I said before, the main disadvantage of having an acetylene torch is that it can make you blind to other (sometimes, better) alternatives that are out there.

That's the reason I never had a nut splitter, until last fall when I was repainting my Pro Wings attachment for my snowplow.  See those black things on the edges of that snowplow below?  That's what I'm talking about.  Someday, I might write a post about them.  In my opinion, they are the best accessory you can buy for a snowplow, followed closely by a rubber snow deflector like the one on the top of the plow in the picture below.

You may or may not be able to see in this picture, but the Pro Wings have a heavy rubber (about one inch thick) cutting edge that is held in place with two 1/2" X 2" carriage bolts.  Well, I needed to remove those cutting edges to paint the wings.  Of course the nuts were rusted to the bolts, and the bolts just spun around with the nuts when I tried to remove them.  None of this surprised me.  Those bolts had been getting a salt bath for years, and there was no way that rubber is strong enough to hold the bolt from spinning.  How the hell was I going to get the nuts off?

Automatically, my first thought was, "Get the torch", but I didn't want to melt that rubber cutting edge.  That's when I remembered the nut splitter that I read about so many years ago.  I went to Auto Zone and picked one up for about fifteen bucks, and did it ever work sweet!  I couldn't believe how fast and easy it was!  

I would recommend one of these nut splitters to anyone who does any amount of mechanical work at all.   They're inexpensive enough that the price wouldn't be an issue to even the cheapest car guy.  It will cut right through a 1/2" nut (a 1/2" nut takes a 3/4" wrench, so they're relatively large) with no problem at all.  Even if it's tightened right down on a steel plate.

It solved my dilemma with my Pro Wings.  I think it would also be great for removing nuts from a carriage bolt that you can't get off because the bolt is spinning in the square hole.  It could also be useful when you don't want to mess around with setting up and adjusting your torch in a situation where you only need to free one rusted nut and  it could be a life saver in the event of being out of acetylene or oxygen.

One last piece of advice.  I found it useful to use a socket and long extension for a handle to rock the nut splitter back and forth, after I split through the nut.  It widened up the nut just enough to make removal from the bolt quite easy.

Best Battery Charger/Jumper Ever

The car dealership I worked at was founded in 1926 and was selling many times more vehicles in the ‘80’s than it did in the first half of the twentieth century.  Even with expansions from purchasing adjacent properties over the years, vehicles were still crammed into the lot, sometimes four and five cars deep.  

When a customer wanted to test drive a particular car, it was invariably buried behind at least two others, and chances were, that least some of these vehicles had dead batteries.  That’s just what happens when even a brand new car, sits for weeks without being driven.  What the heck do you do then?

How do jump start one of those cars in the center rows?

The obvious answer is to give the vehicles with dead batteries a jump start, right?   Well, there’s a couple of problems with that.  First of all, since the longest jumper cables are about 25 feet, jumpstarting a car that is blocked in by two or more others is all but impossible.  I suppose you could move the line of cars next to the car you are interested in getting out, so you could pull a vehicle with a good battery within reach of it, but that would involve moving more cars (at least some of which also will have dead batteries) in what is very congested area to begin with.  This not only creates a circus, it takes a lot of time, and makes the customer impatient and question the reliability of your product.

Car dealerships need a way to start cars with dead batteries without making a scene.  Enter the Volt Wagon.  (If you wanna see one, You're gonna have to click that link because I couldn't find any pictures.)

 With this, one person can easily maneuver between rows of cars and jump start any vehicles necessary.  There is a drawback though.  The price.  The ridiculously high price.  $40 - $50 per month?  Are you kidding me?  That’s about $500 to $600 per year.  Notice how they don’t mention that you can just purchase one.  Maybe you can, but they’re obviously pushing the lease, so they can keep on charging the customer indefinitely.  

The dealership I worked at, leased one of these things and it was a godsend, but the monthly charge was outrageous. I think it was just about the same, way back in the ‘80’s as it is today.  The dealership could easily afford it, but they didn’t like the idea of being overcharged.  After all, overcharging people was supposed to be their gig, so they started looking for alternatives.  They experimented with making their own “volt wagons” out of a hand truck, small battery charger, and a set of jumper cables with the clamps cut off of one end and hooked up to a car battery.  These worked OK, but they looked kind of crude.  Eventually we came across these:

You can still get one of these for about $450.  Why would anyone pay $40/month or more for a Volt Wagon?  It looks like they still need the modifications I made to mine about 25 years ago.

They looked more professional and didn’t cost much more than a homemade unit.  In fact, they were so cheap that I bought one myself.  I got it with the idea that it would be the ideal thing to jump start my boat.  After all, you can’t just drive your car out on a pier.  To this day, I have never had to jump start my boat, but the Kwik Start has been invaluable to me in so many ways over the years.

Here's the one I got.  On either side of the ammeter, you can see the indicator light and on/off switch I added.  I also slid a rubber hose over the steel handle.

If you look at the upper left of this picture, you can see the relay that I added.  I also turned the front panel into a door that's hinged at the bottom for easy access to the battery. 

For the sake of convenience and safety, I made it so I can turn off the power to the positive cable by adding a continuous duty relay.  I also added an indicator light to let me know when the cable is “hot”.  This way, I never have to hook up a “hot” cable to a battery, and I can turn on the juice a safe distance away, virtually eliminating the possibility of a battery blowing up in my face.  

It’s the ideal thing for jumpstarting a car that’s parked in a garage where there isn’t room to pull another vehicle along side.  It’s more convenient than conventional jump starting, because you only have to deal with one vehicle, and hooking up cables to one battery.

The battery charger component of this unit is mainly for maintaining its on-board battery, however it still can be used for charging other batteries, in fact, I usually use this unit for charging all my batteries since that charges the on board battery simultaneously.  Since this unit contains its own battery, it delivers many more amps than any conventional battery charger, even those with the highest boost capacities.  The on-board battery also allows you to jump start cars that are farther away from the nearest electrical outlet than all of your longest extension cords.  

It’s also handy source of twelve volt power for bench testing electrical automotive components, like starters, wiper motors, lights, horns, etc.  Finally, it’s great for lighting cigarettes when you can’t find a lighter.  Just hook up a short piece of steel wire between the cables, flip the switch, and it instantly becomes red hot. Turn off the switch before you melt the wire, and you got yourself one hell of a redneck lighter.

For the money, this is one of the best specialty tools I ever purchased.


The Car Chooses You

I remember asking my mother when I was very young, how we happened to get the particular dog we had.  She replied, “He picked you”.  That made me feel all warm and fuzzy, thinking that a little puppy was somehow drawn to me, more so than any of his littermates, like it was meant to be.

The truth was certainly something quite different, and things probably went down something like this: There were a bunch of puppies that all looked the same to my mom, so she just said, “We’ll take that one”, pointing to the one that I happened to be playing with at the time.

Unless you’re lucky or rich, it’s the same way with cars.  Before we had our driver’s licenses, my friends and I would talk about what kind of cars we were going to have once we could drive.  Of course, the vehicles mentioned were the expected mix of Fords, Mopars, and GM products, but they all had one thing in common.  They were all cool.  There was never any mention of four doors, six cylinders, three speeds, or automatics, and issues like rust, dents, and mechanical problems were never even discussed.  When it’s just a fantasy, choosing the car you will own is easy.

Well, time passes and reality sets in, and the first of what will be a series of never ending disappointments for the young car enthusiast occurs when he realizes that his first ride is not going to be anything like the car he had been describing to all of his friends for years.  

A kid’s older brother may have had a ‘69 Dodge Super Bee with a 383 and a four speed for five years, so of course, he was going to get a ‘69 Dodge Super Bee, 383 four speed.  One problem, it’s only 1978, and they’re already almost impossible to find.  Sure, his brother got one in 1973, but five additional years of salty winter roads, cars being turned into race only machines, and major accidents have taken their toll on the supply.  Less than ten years after they rolled off the assembly line, prices of roadworthy examples are already beyond the reach of the average sixteen year old.  

How about a ‘71 Plymouth Satellite, 318 auto?  Close enough?  It’s gonna have to be unless he wants a Duster or a Demon with a slant six.  That’s what’s out there that’s affordable.  Still, any of them are cooler than his friend’s four door AMC Hornet. What he finally ended up was determined much more by external forces beyond his control than his own desires.  He took what he could get that was closest to what he had in mind.

 Fate decided what your first car would be.  It’s kinda like in Transformers (except your first car probably wasn’t as good and couldn’t transform) or with the puppies.  You didn’t choose your first car, the car chose you, and less you somehow come across a shitload of money, this never changes.  

Last words on the battery charger questions

"B", from The Middle of the Right has the final say on the difference between the Battery Tender and other battery chargers.  I'd like to thank him for straightening me out.  Check out what he had to say by clicking here, and scrolling down to the comments section.

Update on battery charger post.

For those of you who care, click here and scroll down to the end of the post.

Introducing "Outside the Box"...

...a new series of posts about some of my favorite tools that don't come in your basic starter sets.

I don’t have to tell anyone what kind of basic hand tools to get.  Anyone who has even the slightest interest in working on cars, already knows what he needs.  Look in any gearhead’s tool box and you’re going to find pretty much the same thing every time.  Almost everyone who has been wrenching for more than a few years has everything pictured below in his toolbox and more.


What separates the men from the boys is the stuff that’s not in their toolboxes.  Stuff that’s either too big or used too seldom to take up valuable toolbox real estate.  I’m talking about stuff that might sit around for years between uses.  Stuff that gets stuffed high on to top shelves or crammed into cabinets behind more commonly used things.  I have doubles of some speciality tools because I forgot that I already owned them when I purchased the duplicates.

The very fact that such tools are used so infrequently is what makes them so glorious.  These tools are the life savers.  The ones that get the job done when nothing else will.  The ones that get you out of a jam late at night or on a Sunday evening when you couldn’t go out and buy one if you wanted to.  The ones your friends ask to borrow and obligates them to bring the beer next time.  The ones they wish they had, but will never get.  The ones that make you succeed where others fail.

Speciality tools are expensive, especially when you figure their cost on a per use basis, but they are often cheap when compared to farming work out to a professional that has them.  Often the cost of having someone else do a repair will be equal to or greater than the cost of the special tool required.

Speciality tools are very expensive compared to the cost of tools sold in basic tool sets because of their low production and the mere fact that they are not included in tool sets.  Imagine how expensive a complete set of sockets would be if you purchased each piece individually.  I have much more money invested in speciality tools than in basic hand tools.  In fact, my first 400 piece Craftsman tool set that I got way back in 1980, was only about $200. They’re only about $400 now.  I have some speciality tools that cost over $400 by themselves.

Almost everyone who builds or repairs things, struggles with deciding whether or not to buy tools they will not often use, and that’s why speciality tools are so, so...  special.  People who own speciality tools have more invested in them than just the money it cost to buy them.  Most of the speciality tools I have are the result of suffering for years without them, the painful decision process of buying them, and the regret of not buying them sooner.

I can’t tell you how many times I wished that I had a certain tool, tried to get by without it, and ended up wasting time, damaging equipment, and/or injuring myself in the process.  More often than not, I end up eventually buying the tool and at that point, all of that suffering instantly becomes pointless.  If the end result is buying the tool, I might as well have spent the money in the first place and avoided all the grief, but at the same time, I can’t just go out and buy everything whether I need it or not.  My only comfort is knowing that everyone else who gets their hands greasy, goes through this too.

Each of every gearhead’s speciality tools represents a hard earned victory.  If you ever need to borrow one, make sure you bring it back ASAP, along with at least a twelve pack of the lender’s favorite beer.  If you find yourself needing to borrow the same tool again, perhaps you should consider buying your own.

Next time - We're gonna talk about battery chargers.

What I learned about battery chargers

Authors note: I already spent a lot of time and about $30 on this post. If you think I'm gonna spend one minute proofreading it, you're crazy. Now read it, because I would like to hear your input, and maybe you can point out the spelling and grammar errors.
I learned very little, but I think I have an interesting story here.
A few days back I saw this post at The Feral Irishman about the Battery Tender brand battery maintainer.  It got me thinking about a few things that I have wondered about for years, but never spent the effort to find the answers.  Well, for some reason, reading that post finally gave me the motivation to try to find some answers.

The first I ever heard of the Battery Tender was about ten or twelve years ago while watching those car repair/customization shows on cable TV.  I always wondered why this Battery Tender was any better than a regular old trickle charger.  

You might wonder why I even bother to care about such things.  Well here’s why.  About 16 years ago, when I moved into my current home, I wanted a radio for the kitchen.  Now that was a problem because virtually all radios for the home at that time sucked, and for the most part, they still do today.  Most of them still have old school analog tuning, no station presets, staticy AM reception that is susceptible to interference from the use of other electric appliances, aren't loud enough, and have terrible sound quality.  Now they do make some units that don't have these problems, but they are either very big (home stereo receivers) or very expensive. (Bose wave radio)

I wanted something that was free of all these problems, and fortunately, I had the solution - a car stereo, in my house.  Think that’s crazy?  I challenge you to come up with anything else that has all the features of a car stereo and comes in such a compact size for even twice the price. Remember, I went through all this well before the age of ipods and smartphones, and since I’m one of those dinosaurs that still doesn’t have a smartphone, this option remains perfect for me.  The nice thing about it is that it doesn’t take up much space, and since I mounted it inside of a cabinet, you can’t even notice that it is there.

photo 1 (3).JPG
At first I thought I could hook this up to a twelve volt DC power transformer,

photo 3 (2).JPG

but that caused static on the AM band, so I was forced to use a twelve volt battery.  (I looked on Youtube, and noticed that some guys are using a PSU robbed out of an old computer for this purpose, but for a number of reasons, I felt the battery was a better way to go, and I’m not going to go off on that tangent right now.)  The garage is on the other side of our kitchen wall, so I just drilled a small hole in the wall to allow the power and antenna wires to pass through.  The battery and antenna are located in the garage. 

photo 3 (1).JPG

I often thought of mounting the antenna outside, but the reception was good enough with it in the garage, so that’s where I left it.  The speakers are located on top of the kitchen cabinets.  They’re so close to the ceiling, that no one notices that they are there.  The system worked so well for me, a couple of years later, I installed a similar one in my wife’s hair salon.

photo 2 (5).JPG

Now, I needed some way to keep the battery charged and this is where my question about the Battery Tender comes in.  Would the Battery Tender be better for this application than regular old trickle charger?  The answer is: Maybe, but not a whole lot.  The advantage of the Battery Tender is that it is a float charger, which means that it does not constantly charge the battery so it doesn’t boil all the water out of it, however, I just checked the battery in the picture above for the first time in 16 years and the battery fluid level was just a little low.  (About a shot glass low in each cell.)

Here’s the chargers that I have been using for over a decade, still with the original batteries.

photo 5 (5).JPG

Here’s how the manufacturer describes their current model which appears to be similar to the ones I have...

The Schumacher SE-1-12S Fully Automatic 1.5-amp Onboard Battery Charger is an AC powered automatic trickle charger / maintainer for use with 12 volt lead-acid batteries. The unit features an automatic charge cycling process that allows charging to turn on and off automatically as is necessary, and its "onboard" design and included hardware makes for easy, convenient mounting adjacent to batteries both inside and away from vehicles. I’m thinking, how much better could the Battery Tender possibly be? What 's the difference between this and a "float charger"?
Here’s what the Battery tender folks have to say.
I set up these home car stereo systems before I ever even heard of the Battery Tender, so didn’t think twice about using the Schumacher units.  My memory was that the Schumacher trickle chargers were much cheaper than the Battery Tender, but I just checked out the prices of each, and comparable units appear to be about the same price - right around $25.  

Now, how much energy do they use?  After all, if you buy one of these units, you are probably going to hook it up to a battery, walk away, leave it on 24/7, and not look at again for a few months.  Not the kind of thing you want to do with something that consumes a lot of electricity.  Well, it's kind of tough to answer since these units do not charge continuously, even if they are constantly plugged in.

If they were 100 percent efficient and they were charging at all times, they would be using about 180 watts at any given time. (1.5A X 120V = 180W)  In this case they would cost about $186 per year to operate.  (180W/1000 X 8760hrs/year X .12/kWh)  However, they are not 100% efficient and they do not charge 100% of the time. For determining the energy useage for something that runs intermittently (like a battery maintainer), without you knowing how long or how often it is actually running, doing this type of calculation is just about useless, so I bought this thing:


The problem with this thing is you must use it for several days to get a realistic idea of how much energy an appliance that runs intermittently uses, and that’s not going to do any of us any good right now.

So after all this, what’s the bottom line?  What’s better a Battery Tender or the Schumacher trickle charger?  Is there really any appreciable difference?  After all this, I can honestly say, “I don’t know”. but since they are about the same price, I think the Battery Tender might be better.

What do you think? Should I switch to the Battery Tender? Is my whole car stereo in the home idea stupid or dangerous? I'd love to hear any of your thoughts on the subject.

I'm not done talking about battery chargers yet. Look for an update once I get some usable data from this Kill A Watt power monitor thing and look for a more automotive specific post about battery chargers coming soon on "Right Side of the Road".
UPDATE!  UPDATE! - After monitoring the power consumption of my trickle charger for about 10 hours, the Kill A Watt meter says that it's energy use varies between 5 and 9 watts at any given time and has a projected energy cost of $7.88 per year.  How much cheaper could the Battery Tender be to operate?  It's probably still too soon to get a truly accurate reading, and the possibility exists that I am using/reading the Kill A Watt meter incorrectly.  I will be more confident about my results after I use it more and thoroughly read the directions, but that's what I have so far.   

It's just that easy...

...and that's the main reason I'm a Chevy guy.

I found video below at It Aint Holy Water.  Usually people watch videos to see something new, but for me, there's also something very comforting about viewing a process where I intimately know every part and procedure (except for the machine work) involved.  

A small block Chevy is like an old friend. Over thirty years of interchangeable parts to choose from, and it bolts right up to almost every bell housing/transmission used in Chevy rear wheel drive cars and light trucks.  That's why us Chevy guys' cars are up and running while the Ford and Mopar guys are running around looking for compatible parts. 

How do they make the fan spin at the end of this video?

This ain't this motor's first rodeo.  You can tell by the blue paint on the timing cover and full metal cam sprocket, that it has had its timing chain replaced at least once.  If the intake manifold is original, it is probably a 1968 or newer.  If the remnants of orange paint on the block are original, it's probably a 1976 or older.   If the exhaust manifolds installed in the end of the video are original, that would indicate it's from the '60's.

It looks like they are using header gaskets rather than stock exhaust gaskets.

The Liberal Challenge

You've all seen videos about how Detroit has gone to ruins.  There's hundreds of 'em.    

My challenge to liberals is this:  Show me one video/blog post/news article that demonstrates the success of liberal policies over past several decades and has produced a healthy, vibrant city.  That's right.  Show me just one. 

 Who knows, maybe you might be able to come up with one, but for every one that would certainly take you hours to find, I can come up with 100 like the one below.  

A Little Help Please

Go to Feral Irishman and read read this post.  I asked some questions in the comments section and I would like to hear your answers to them.

Captain Capitalism at His Finest

Note: This is must watch material and will be on the exam.

I've been meaning to write a post about this for quite some time, but Captain Capitalism does such a good job here, I'm going to leave it up to him.

This means ANYTHING I do is OK

By now, you all know what I think a car should look like.

Ooh it's a killing machine it's got everything
Like a driving power, big fat tires, and everything

Some of you might not agree with me.  Some of you may say that I'm an idiot, but you know what?  Most of the cars I've had have been low budget rides.  If it weren't for me, many of them would have ended their lives years before I finally got rid of them.  I always felt that this gave me a license to do pretty much whatever I wanted to the cars I have owned.

One thing's for sure:  You take all the air shocks and spring shackles I added, all the holes I cut in dashboards to install cheap gauges and stereos, all the bald 50 series tires and rusty and/or pitted mismatched wheels I've installed, all the homemade, flex pipe, dual exhaust "systems" I've created, all the holes I hacked into perfectly good hoods and covered with tin box hood scoops, and all the gallons and gallons of bondo I used over the years... take all that combined, and it still doesn't even come close to the crime that was committed here:


The brand-new $150,000 Camaro rat-rod

There are hot rods. There are rat rods. Then there's this: A new Camaro SS that's been speed-rusted and deglossed into junkyard condition while getting a 1,000-hp supercharged engine — and it only cost $150,000. Long Island hot rodders Dave Sherer and Anthony Musilli often show off their well-restored rides during Hot Rod magazine's annual Power Tour. For this year tour with the 2010 Camaro's owner Bill Rombauts, Sherer said they wanted something no one would expect.
For the entire story and more pictures, please visit:

Speed rusted?  Are you kidding me?

As if that wasn't bad enough, someone else thought that this was a good idea too.

source: GM Authority

Fortunately, this is just simulated with vinyl wrap.  

Unlike another rat rodded fifth-gen, the Chevy Camaro you see here didn’t undergo days’ worth of sanding and other forms of abuse; instead, this car — seen at the 43rd annual National Street Rod Association Show in Louisville Kentucky — wears a wrap to furnish it with a look that gives off the impression that it’s been to hell and back… even though it hasn’t.

Read more:

All of this evil already happened years ago, but this is the first I've ever heard of it.  

I Automatically Think You're a Pussy...

...if your ride has no clutch pedal.

It was well past twilight of the era of the mounted corn picker when I got my first job at a farm implement dealership.  We still occasionally serviced such machines, even though the last new one sold at the establishment was well over decade before.  It was easy to identify the area where we stocked parts for such machines.  The cast iron gears and chain sprockets, and the flat detachable drive chains harkened back to the earliest days of agricultural mechanization.

By the end of ‘80’s, such machines were virtually extinct.  Rarely seen, except for on hobby farms or at antique machinery shows.  There was hardly any evidence that they ever even existed, except for one thing, the farmers themselves.  Back before the turn of the twenty first century, it was a common sight at farm auctions, livestock sales, or any other place where groups of farmers might be expected to be found, to see men with missing body parts, usually hands and arms.  If it weren’t for the way they were dressed, you might have thought that you were on the set of a pirate movie.

I can remember many times, having to hold down a three layer, carbon copy, sales ticket on the parts counter, so a one armed farmer could sign his name on the bottom without having it slide around.

Once, a man from a few counties away, came in to pick some parts from us because we were the nearest outfit to have them in stock.  He had a prosthetic right arm and creepy looking pincher thing made a fingerless left hand.  We had his parts waiting for him on the counter by the time arrived.  He scooped up his bag of parts from the counter and clenched them between his chest and mechanical arm while I held the ticket that he signed with his lobster claw.  On his way out, he saw the my boss.  They must have known each other because they started in on a conversation.  At that point, I looked out the window at the truck the man had arrived in.  Just out of curiosity, I went outside to check it out.  Being both surprised and not surprised, all at the same time, I noticed his truck had a four speed transmission.

Now that's a real man's truck.  Bonus points for no radio.

Imagine that, driving halfway across the state (as well as most the rest of his driving), shifting gears with a fake arm.  That’s back when men were men.  I had always suspected it before, but from that moment on, I realized that automatic transmissions are for pussies.  (You hear that, all you dudes think you are such bad asses with your brand new diesel pickup trucks with sissy shifters?  You’re pussies!  Any guy who’s got three pedals above the driver’s side floorboard, even if he’s yanking on the branch of a three on the tree, in a rusted out truck with a straight six, is more of a man than you are.)

Where did all the manual transmissions go?
This might explain it:

If the customer is always right...

... then McDonald's should listen to me,
and certainly not the government, the fat police, or guys like this:

source: Forbes

Panos Mourdoukoutas Contributor
I cover global markets, business and investment strategy

When McDonald's Rise Again, Will It Still Sell Burgers And Fries?

McDonald’s will rise again. But it may no longer sell burger and fries, at least not the kind of burgers and fries it has been selling for years — learning a lesson or two from Shake Shack and Chipotle.
Investors focusing too much on McDonald’s recent history of sluggish sales reports—including one thisweek–are missing out on the company’s several competitive advantages: scale, scope, networking, and location, as discussed in previous pieces here.
These advantages will help the company rise again, provided that its leadership comes up with the right menu to address emerging consumer trends.
That won’t be easy, however . It will require a radical change in the company’s business model, beginning with the way it prepares and serves its traditional menu of burgers and fries.
Here the company can learn a lesson from Shake Shack and Chipotle.
Alright McDonald's here's some advice from a real customer:
First of all, no American business should ever listen to a guy with seven (count 'em) vowels in his last name.  Hell, the entire alphabet only has six, counting the letter Y.  Saying that McDonald's  could "learn" from Shake Shack or Chipotle is like saying that Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky could have learned from a rookie at the height of their careers. 
 I have never eaten at (or for that matter, even noticed a Shake Shack or Chipotle's), but I don't know anyone who hasn't eaten at McDonald's many times.  There are people who say they have never eaten at McDonald's, and those people are called liars.  I used to frequently eat at McDonald's but now I seldom do.  Making the changes that I suggest below is what it would take to win me back as a regular customer.
Don't listen to anyone who doesn't eat burgers and fries, or more specifically, fast food burgers and fries.
Accept the fact that things are never going to be like they were during the '60's through the end of the twentieth century.  That era will be remembered as the easiest period of human existence and will more than likely, never be repeated.  During those good times you were able to try to be all things to all people and it worked, for a while.  Now, be happy with the money you made back then, and make the necessary adjustments to survive in the future.
Stop listening to anyone who complains about the healthiness and nutrition of your food. There isn't one fat person in this world that wouldn't be fat anyway if you never existed, and the hairy armpit, lesbian vegans were never going to eat at any of your establishments anyway. (Lucky for you.)  Go back to serving the market niche that allowed you to become the nationwide giant you are to begin with.  
Cut costs. Simplify your menu.  Eliminate at least half of it.  If Dave Thomas were alive today, that is exactly what he would tell you to do.  Get rid of the salads and multiple chicken entrees.  Close down your least profitable locations.  Increase automation to head off those who favor ever increasing the minimum wage.
Take those savings and pour them into increasing the quality of your food.  Focus on making great tasting burgers and never give one thought about their fat or calorie content.
Adopt an "In your face, we don't care" attitude and direct it towards anyone who ever criticizes you.  It should be patently obvious by now that none of the people blaming you for making fat slobs, fat, were offering constructive criticism.  They only want to see you fail because they envied your success.
Bring back the foam boxes which you used to serve your food in - just to piss off the people who didn't like it.  Once again, they weren't customers of yours anyway.
Market yourselves towards traditional Americans.  There are plenty of others willing to cover the nontraditional American market.
Finally, either get rid of Ronald McDonald, or at least, make him less creepy.  Burgers and fries will never go out of style, but clowns were passe by the 1960's.