Why You Should Have Auto Repair Tools in Your Car
When you think of working on your own car or truck, one of the first things that comes to mind is the filled tool box you’re going to need to assemble before you even get started. This can be a really overwhelming task. Opinions on tools for car repair are as varied as you can imagine, with lots of points of view backed up by what each person will see as that one piece of information that cannot be argued. Spend too little money, and you’ll either be without the tool you need for the next job or, even worse, your tools will break as you try to use them. Spend too much on your tools and you might find yourself remorseful at the amount of money that’s sitting in your tool box, not to mention a massive feeling of guilt if you end up having to drop your car off at the shop for a repair that you might have been able to perform at home if you had the time. (I won’t even get into the comments other members of the family will throw your way if your expensive tool box starts gathering dust!)
Before you embark on your journey into the realm of do-it-yourself auto repair, be sure your tool box has what you need to make your repairs easy, pain-free, and safe. There are some really great kits out there if you want to make things easy. Craftsman offers a nice selection of mechanics’ tool assortments to fit lots of budgets. You can choose from small starter kits to very expensive sets that would make even a seasoned wrench-turner give an affirming nod.
Every mechanic has his or her own list of “the most important tools,” but we’ll offer you a basic starter list to get you going. Let’s get it together. For more information on any item, click on it and you’ll be taken to the details.
A socket set is arguably the tool you’ll need most in order to work on your car. A proper mechanics tool set will include standard and metric sizes and 3/8-inch, 1/4-inch, and even 1/2-inch drivers and sockets. Extensions and thin walled sockets are also useful for certain situations.
Pliers and Wirecutters
There are a ton of electrical projects you can take on with a vehicle, such as, installing a stereo head unit, speakers, or wiring new headlights. You’ll need pliers of various sizes to achieve this, as well as wire cutters and wire strippers.
Setting nuts to the proper torque is often over-looked by beginner mechanics. Over torquing a nut can cause the bolt to shear off and also makes it much more difficult to remove when needed. Use a clicker-type torque wrench to ensure you are tightening to the proper specifications. To adjust the torque simply turn the bottom handle and align the top of it to the specified torque which is imprinted on the tool. Tighten until you hear two-clicks and then you’re done. Never use a torque wrench to remove lug nuts, instead use an impact wrench or breaker bar—you risk screwing up the settings on your torque wrench otherwise.
A wrench set is an invaluable addition to any mechanical tool box.
A screwdriver set is as useful around the house as it is in your garage, but you may need to expand out what you already have. Get a complete set that includes a larger flathead which can double as a small prying tool, and the very small screwdrivers delicate enough for electronic work.
You may be surprised to see a rubber mallet on this list but a rubber mallet can come in handy. You can use it to push that bumper dent out or just smack that rotor that’s refusing to get out.
When you get started with DIY auto repair one of the feelings you quickly have is I can’t get that bolt loose. Don’t be discouraged. It is not that you need to be strong to fix cars, you need to be smart. Use a breaker bar instead of the ratchet and you can get lose any bolt you like. Even the CV joint bolts which are meant to be removed with a breaker bar.
Car Ramps and Floor Jack
Ramps are a must. Period. If you are planning on changing the oil yourself, ramps not only make this task easier but also safer. We recommend ramps because they are a lot safer to use than a floor jack, especially when you are just starting out with fixing your car.
Rolling the car up on the ramps is easy, fast and quicker than using a floor jack. The added benefit of using ramps is that you are less likely to damage your driveway or garage floor which is a common issue with floor jacks.
No matter if you have a jack under the car or the car on the ramp, you should always use jack stands to secure the vehicle. Make sure to have the vehicle in park. Move the shifter to Park as well. Get a reliable set of jack stand that has a good base to protect your life. No kidding. No amount of money you save from doing your own car repair is more important than your life.
Once again, this is a tool you need to buy in two different sizes. You need a small one and a big one. The big one is used to remove drum brakes, ball joints and tie rods or whenever something doesn’t go as plan and you need a little convincing. The small one is used for all those other jobs where a hammer is needed but you don’t want to break things. Just get two hammers you’re comfortable working with. You’ll use them a lot so don’t buy cheap ones.
You’ll also need a small pry bar. Once again, I suggest you buy a quality one because cheaper models will bend and won’t be of any use. Don’t buy a full kit if you can’t afford it but instead, buy only one good multi-use pry bar. Small pry bars are very versatile and will help you perform numerous tasks. They are perfect to remove calipers, wheel caps, drive shafts and drum brakes but also to give you a hand whenever you need to pry or break something in place. You’ll never realize how much you need a good pry bar until you have to work without one. Trust me.
You may also need a bigger one for removing ball joints and control arms but I suggest you wait before you buy it. They tend to be expensive and you can still borrow one from a co-worker in the meantime. Sometimes you’ll have to work beside a pro mechanic who thinks he knows it all and won’t lend you their tools and be a bitch about it but most mechanics will be more than happy to help the new guys out. I still remember how it was when I started. I didn’t have much money to buy all the tools I needed and all I had was an impact gun and a toolbox the size of fishing bait box. Thank God, I was lucky enough to have a pro mechanic willing to help me out working in the stall beside me. Never underestimate the help you can get from more experienced guys working with you.
Door Trim Removal Tool
This tool is not absolutely necessary. I decided to include it for two reasons: 1- it will help you remove plastic clips without getting frustrated and 2- it will prevent you from breaking trims and upholstery which doesn’t really look good when you start working somewhere. Trims are super expensive and your boss will hate you if you break lots of them. I broke my fair share of trims in my early days, especially in winter when you work on frozen cars. These things tend to break like glass…. or frozen plastic. You can find a good trim removal tool almost everywhere and they are pretty cheap. Just buy one and save the hassle of sticking a screwdriver through your finger and remove clips and trims like a pro from the start!
What Are Some Common Tools Used to Repair Vehicles?
Some of the most common tools used to repair vehicles can be found in your home used for regular home maintenance. They include things like screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, wrenches, and socket sets. Other standard tools that can be used to repair vehicles include a jack, jack stands, funnel, multimeters, fuses, torque wrenches, breaker bars, socket adaptors, clamps, and more. Many of these tools are affordable for someone interested in a career in automotive repair.
What Are Some of the More Advanced Ones?
There are of course more advanced, and often, more specialized tools that are used in automotive repair shops that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with for your future career. These include things like laser thermometers, scanners, and computers that can be used on automobiles to run diagnostics on problems that need to be repaired.
Specialized testers, like an ignition spark tester or a cylinder compression tester, are additional advanced tools you could work with in the future. Heat guns, angle grinders, video scopes, rethreading tools, impact sockets, calipers, and rotary tools are also more advanced tools that are used for automotive repairs.