10 Must-Have Tools for the DIYer

You’ll definitely use these 10 must-have tools on a regular basis whether you’re a professional or new to automotive repair jobs. With the right toolset, the projects that you can handle in a good workspace are almost endless. Plus, everything goes that much more smoothly when you’ve got the right tools for the job. For this reason, knowing how to outfit your garage can often mean the difference between a feeling of accomplishment and a job that stretches out over an entire weekend!

What tools, exactly, should you put in your toolbox? Check out these essential tools that should be in every DIYers garage:

Oil covered hands working on transmission with socket wrench

1. Wrenches & Sockets

These are the most important of all the must-have tools. Nuts and bolts are what holds your vehicle together, and it’s rare to run into a project that won’t require you to turn a wrench or spin a socket. You’ll want to make sure you pick up a set that covers the most commonly encountered metric and SAE sizes. Not only that, your first socket wrench set should be a 3/8-inch drive since it’s the most popular size in the auto repair industry. However, you should also consider getting yourself a 1/4-inch drive and 1/2-inch drive socket set. Similarly, you should have deep and short sockets, while wrenches that offer open crescent on one end and closed on the other will provide you with maximum versatility. Depending on how much space you have to work with, you might need various wrench lengths and different socket extensions.

Ratcheting wrench and sockets tool set

2. Floor Jack & Jack Stands

These are must-have tools if you want to change a tire, bleed your brakes, or change your brake pads! A floor jack is essential to raising your car or truck off the ground, but make sure that your floor jack is capable of lifting your vehicle! Every floor jack has a lifting capacity, typically ranging from 1 ton to 3 tons, and heavy-duty jacks can lift even heavier vehicles. For vehicles with less clearance, low-profile floor jacks are available to offer a bottom height low enough to get underneath a lower vehicle and lift the vehicle. Also, make sure that you also pick up a set of jack stands to place underneath your vehicle for safety before you crawl under yourself. Make sure that your jack stands lifting capacity matches your vehicle’s weight as well!

Floor jack lifting a vehicle and jack stands

3. Multimeter

If your car is giving you electrical problems, a multimeter is a necessary tool. Is a light bulb burned out or not receiving current? How many volts is your battery putting out? A multimeter can answer these simple questions. With a multimeter, you can test, diagnose, and troubleshoot electrical components by measuring several electrical properties. By determining voltage (volts), resistance and continuity (ohms), and current (amps) you can identify electrical issues your vehicle may have.

Person using a multimeter on their car to measure electrical components

4. Torque Wrench

This all-important tool makes all the difference between finger tight and tight enough to be safe on the road. Even something as simple as bolting on a new set of wheels requires you to be precise about how tight your lug nuts are. Otherwise, you risk potentially damaging your car or truck due to a loose wheel. Almost every nut and bolt on your vehicle’s powertrain and drivetrain required the manufacturer’s recommended torque specification to ensure proper installation of parts. A torque wrench is the only way to be sure exactly how well-secured each bolt on your project actually is.

Person using a torque wrench to tighten engine bolts to torque specification

5. Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers are another set of must-have tools, just like sockets and wrenches. A set of screwdrivers will go a long way towards disassembling and reassembling a host of automotive components. While you’ll need the basics like Philips and flathead tips, you should also invest in a set of Torx heads, Hexagon heads, and Robertson (square) heads to avoid frustration when working in the engine bay and interior of your vehicle.

6. Impact Wrench

This must-have tool will help you remove stubbornly rusted and seized nuts and bolts. Such as wheel lug nuts, it is a lot easier to remove them when you’ve got a force multiplier like an impact wrench to help you. Different from an impact wrench, an impact driver, which has a 1/4-inch hex opening, whereas a standard automotive impact wrench can accommodate 1/2-inch sockets. An electric impact gun, air or corded or cordless, will speed up any number of DIY projects!

7. Rubber Mallet

Though it is simple, it is essential to this list of must-have tools! A rubber mallet has many uses and it can assist you when trying to hit off a stuck part, act as a safe driver for a chisel, or simply wedge a component into place. Compared to a steel hammer, a rubber mallet will weigh much less, making them easier to use, and is often preferred since they don’t cause any damage to the part that is being hammered or of the surrounding area.

black rubber mallet

8. Rotary Tool

This much-needed power tool rotates at different speeds and has a rotary tip that accepts different types of attachments. That is, it can be used for several tasks depending on what attachment is attached to it! If you attach a cutting wheel, you can cut through small pieces of metal. Otherwise, by attaching a wire wheel you can brush away and remove rust from metal. Next, with a buffing bit attached and some wax, you can polish metal surfaces. With all these different attachments, this tool has many uses and can often help you out of a jam when working on your car!

Rotary multitool with assortment of attachments designed for different tasks

9. LED Lamp

Lighting is a necessary tool so that you can see what you’re working on! Especially if you’re creeping under your vehicle’s chassis, or rummaging behind the dash. Head-mounted, free-standing, and magnetic  LED lamps are available at NAPA! Moreover, their small form factor and long battery life make it easy to ditch the cord and see what you’re doing!

black LED flashlight that is shining bright white light

10. Pliers

Sometimes overlooked, pliers are a set of must-have tools. They are made in several shapes and sizes, intended for various tasks. Some pliers are used to grip metal surfaces, some are used for cutting, twisting, or crimping wires, others are used for a combination of different tasks. Pick up a full set of pliers because they are extremely useful for holding parts in place, removing and inserting fuses, and fitting into tight spaces to hold clips, twist and turn hoses, or simply reach for that 10mm socket you dropped in the engine bay.

Different kinds of pliers in a row on a white background


There are so many tools to choose from and not having the right ones can turn a two-hour DIY auto repair job into a two-day nightmare! This is why these are the essential tools we turn to time and again for general upkeep and specialized jobs! We guarantee that each of these tools will earn its keep in your toolbox! By consulting the experts at your  NAPA Auto Parts store, you’ll have no trouble identifying the time-saving auto repair tools you need.

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