Whether you’re an occasional tinkerer, or whether you get serious about your automotive repair projects, everything goes that much more smoothly when you’ve got the right tools for the job at your fingertips. Knowing how to outfit your garage so that you won’t be scrambling to your local NAPA store at the last minute when you realize you’re missing a crucial tool can often mean the difference between a feeling of accomplishment and a job that stretches out over an entire weekend.
What, exactly, do you need to stock on the shelves of your own personal repair space? Check out these 10 tools that should be in every DIY mechanic’s garage.
1. Wrenches and Sockets
Nuts and bolts are the glue holding 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. For sockets, having long and short options is good, too, while wrenches that offer open crescent on one end and closed on the other will provide you with maximum versatility.
2. Hydraulic Jack
You can’t change a tire, bleed your brakes, or change your pads if you can’t lift your vehicle at least a little off the ground. A low-profile floor jack is the key to raising your car or truck even in tight spaces – but make sure that you also pick up a set of jack stands to place underneath for safety before you crawl under yourself.
Is that bulb burned out, or is simply not receiving any current? How many volts is your battery putting out at the terminals? These simple questions are a lot more complex to answer if you don’t own a small, portable multimeter that can read out amps and volts and help you diagnose electrical issues with your vehicle.
4. Torque Wrench
There’s a difference between finger tight, and tight enough to be safe on the road. Even something as simple as bolting on a new set of rims 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. A torque wrench is the only way to be sure exactly how well-secured each bolt on your project actually is.
5. Screwdriver Set
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 traditional stalwarts like Philips and flathead tips, you should also invest in a set of Torx heads to avoid frustration when working in the engine bay and interior of your vehicle.
6. Impact Driver
Removing wheel lugs is a lot easier when you’ve got a force multiplier like an impact driver to help you along. Also good for spinning rusted-on bolts, an electric impact driver – whether corded or cordless – speeds up any number of DIY projects.
7. Rubber Mallet
It might seem like a simple tool – and after all, you most likely already have a regular steel hammer – but a rubber mallet can assist you when trying to tap off a stuck part, serve as a safe driver for a chisel, or simply wedge a component into place without doing any damage to the part or the surrounding area.
8. Rotary Tool
A rotary tool can polish, cut, or sand, depending on what attachment you’ve snapped on to the end. Useful in so many roles, and small enough to fit almost anywhere, a rotary tool and a broad set of attachments can often help you out of a jam when working on your car.
9. LED Lamp
You can’t fix what you can’t see, and that’s especially true if you’re poking around in the nooks and crannies underneath your vehicle’s chassis, or digging below the dash. Both head-mounted and free-standing LED lamps are available, and their small form factor and long battery life makes it easy to ditch the cord.
10. Plier Set
The first time you drop something in your engine bay and realize your fingers are a little too big to reach in after it, your needle-nose pliers will have paid for themselves. Better pick up a full set of pliers, though, because they are also extremely useful for holding parts in place, removing and inserting fuses, and fitting in to tight spaces to twist and turn what needs to be done.
By Benjamin Hunting