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Lights! Camera! Action!

That smartphone’s not just for talkin’, ya know.

Ever had to replace and rewire a brand-new bilge pump? One that dwells in the depths of a shower sump, enjoys a symbiotic relationship with a float switch and is controlled via an inexplicably remote, panel-mounted three-way switch? You know, the kind that goes—auto, off, on? Instead of just—off, on?

Unless you’re a classical 12-volt genius, such a humble task can quickly morph into something that’s really difficult, frustrating and time consuming (while you struggle with unhelpful wiring diagrams and YouTube how-to’s). Especially if there’s stuff like errant 6-circuit terminal blocks on the scene, along with electrical components festooning unconventionally colored wires.

Here, however, is a helpful tactic—-although maybe you’ll think it’s too elementary and old hat to even bother with. Next time you’ve got to tear something apart and then correctly reassemble it, take a few moments, or seconds, or even minutes, pull out your smartphone, tap into the camera function and snap some prior-to-discombobulation shots.

Okay, you’re a little too close to the terminal block, so ease back and shoot another photo.

Okay, you’re a little too close to the terminal block, so ease back and shoot another photo.

And don’t snap just one or two. Snap a bunch. From a variety of angles. With a decent light source. Because if you don’t, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that, with the certainty of yard bills and taxes, there will ultimately come a time in your very own DIY-or-die future when one picture, whether due to poor lighting, poor focus or some other freakish foible of fate, will not do the trick. And there you’ll be, stuck, scratching your head, wondering if it’s the damn red wire or the hot-purple one that gets screwed into that iffy terminal.

One last thing. A boat company engineer recently told me that, before every boat show, he ventures into the engine room of every boat that will appear at the show and creates a video with his smartphone. He makes sure to shoot virtually everything that’s mechanical-, electrical- or plumbing-related, from battery cables to fuel-hose hookups, and then emails the works to his laptop so he can save it on a succinctly labelled memory stick.

“That way,” he explained, “if somebody calls me from the show with a question about some engine-room issue, I can just pop the appropriate memory stick into the ol’ laptop and see what they’re talking about.”

This idea got me to thinkin’, of course. Wouldn’t it make sense to shoot my very own mini-movie prior to my next component replacement? From a variety of angles, maybe with a little voice-over and some modest finger-pointing? And wouldn’t such a thing ultimately save time and avoid heartache? Well, hmm ... Mr. Spielberg–move over, buddy!