How can one go about finding a very small part lost in the snow? — while working on my motorbike, one of the battery leads fell out and I can't find it. Buying a metal detector for the sake of finding a piece of metal less wide than my pinky finger seems a bit overkill.

Lost battery lead

  • 2
    Not a helpful answer, but next time try working inside a garage, or at least on a clear concrete surface. A clean white-painted concrete slab with no oilstains works well. Otherwise you might be up for a replacement part; fortunately its a glorified nut so shouldn't be expensive.
    – Criggie
    Dec 13, 2016 at 3:38
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    I feel your pain but is this on topic for this SE?
    – NULL
    Dec 13, 2016 at 14:05
  • Actually this happened to me and I had to wait for better weather, so this is a good question.
    – RedSonja
    Dec 13, 2016 at 14:53
  • lifehacks.stackexchange.com Dec 13, 2016 at 15:28
  • 2
    @NULL it's a problem many people around the world probably face when working on motor vehicles but not by so many people not working on motor vehicles, so how is this not on-topic? Dec 13, 2016 at 15:47

7 Answers 7


If the site of the tragedy is such that you can easily acquire water, use a hose (or a bucket) and simply run/pour water over the area to melt the snow.

Since snow is an insulator, running a propane torch will be an exercise in patience (and an exercise in buying a bunch of propane). Water is cheap, melts snow faster, and is less likely to burn your house down. Just beware of creating an ice rink on your driveway.

  • 3
    It started raining today, so it seems Mother Nature agrees with you. Unfortunately, it also seems that the piece might have washed away... Dec 13, 2016 at 19:48
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    Throw some salt down to help melt the snow and prevent the water from re-freezing into slippery ice.
    – StockB
    Dec 14, 2016 at 16:01
  • @StockB too late: the rain+slush is now a lovely icing underneath my bike. Next question will be how you take a bike off its kickstand and move it when the ground under your feet offers no traction... Dec 14, 2016 at 20:12
  • The big problem with pouring water is that it tends to wash away misplaced parts. Dec 16, 2016 at 10:11

Is it magnetic? if so, a big magnet (from a speaker for example) might help...

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    This works for me for anything remotely magnetic - I have a bunch of those earth magnets from Lee Valley ... damn strong suckers those things .. :) And resonably affordable :)
    – Ditto
    Dec 13, 2016 at 16:00

If the area you lost it in isn't too large, you could shovel the snow into a big bucket, bring it inside, and let it melt. This could be tricky if the area you might have lost it is large, or if the snow is deep. Any other way of melting the snow in place would also work if you have a portable source of heat. If you're in no rush, just wait until spring!


Install a metal detector app on your phone. Seriously. They work pretty well.

  • 1
    Nice low-hanging fruit to try!
    – JDługosz
    Dec 13, 2016 at 8:45
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    Wow - never heard of such a thing. Yet another use for my phone that has nothing to do with calls.
    – 3Dave
    Dec 14, 2016 at 15:50

What about salt?

When you add salt, that temperature drops: A 10-percent salt solution freezes at 20 F (-6 C), and a 20-percent solution freezes at 2 F (-16 C). On a roadway, this means that if you sprinkle salt on the ice, you can melt it.

From here.

Apparently you can buy cheap "small crystallized water softener salt", salt for ice & snow melt. You should find it on your local farm store. On a quick search on the internet, I found it for a little over 10 euros for 30 kilos (over 50 pounds) (aquaeuro.com).

  • This might work, but in view of the fact that the snow is deep enough to lose the piece, the amount of salt he would have to use would probably be exorbitant.
    – anonymous2
    Dec 14, 2016 at 16:00
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    Apparently you can buy cheap "small crystallized water softener salt", salt for ice & snow melt. You should find it on your local farm store. On a quick search on the internet, I found it for a little over 10 euros for 30 kilos (over 50 pounds) (aquaeuro.com).
    – Ivan Chaer
    Dec 15, 2016 at 22:08
  • Great share! This totally alters the validity of this post, in my estimation. I would recommend including this information in your answer.
    – anonymous2
    Dec 16, 2016 at 3:03

Get a Propane Weed Burner Torch (amazon keywords), and follow up with the magnet.

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    You posted this 2 hours after @Undo posted his, so it looks like you just didn’t read other posts first. You ought to detail why you have the opposite conclusion. Is this something you’ve done, or just a wild idea?
    – JDługosz
    Dec 13, 2016 at 8:45
  • 2
    @JDługosz 2 hours before, actually.
    – user7189
    Dec 13, 2016 at 19:59

Scan the area with a sensitive compass. Most cellphones have a magnetic sensor also. If the compass direction indicator moves, you may be near a magnetic part. Most steel parts have some magnetism intrinsically there, unless they have been recently degaussed.

The compass trick often works when the material lacks a high enough iron content to be picked up by a magnet, such as stainless steel fasteners.

You might have to move your bike away to scan the area, though.

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