Often, the toughest challenge to fixing your car isn’t insufficient knowledge or poor patience but the lack of essential tools. While the Internet can now walk you through when changing your oil and oil filter or replacing a flat tire, you can’t work on your car for routine maintenance tasks or emergency problems without a properly filled toolbox. It’s either you’d be in a delay and make ends meet with whatever is present in your home or garage, hoping that you won’t encounter another snag should you be lucky to get it fixed.
All that is to say: it’s vital that you have the right toolset to make your repairs easy, safe, and pain-free. However, that one can even be an overwhelming task with the wide array of tools available to add to your arsenal. To help you out, we’ve rounded up a list of the essential tools that every home car mechanic needs. From wrenches to jack stands to pick sets, here are the tools that you shouldn’t live without.
1. Wrench Set
Without any doubt, wrenches are one of the most useful tools to have in your toolbox. Nearly all mechanical jobs involve utilizing one to two wrenches, which is why you must invest in the best quality ones your budget can afford. Wrenches are available in both imperial and metric sizes and you should be having both. If you need to choose one, you can get the metric ones first. Be sure to have a set that ranges from 6mm to 24mm in size to tackle different automotive applications.
2. Screwdriver Set
Pretty obvious, too. You need a full set of quality screwdrivers. Like your wrench set, it’s a basic hand tool that you’ll use very often, specifically in removing clamps, clips, or other types of fasteners where a certain type of screwdriver is required. Thus, it’s crucial to your screwdrivers ready to make the work hassle-free.
While it might be convenient for you to buy one screwdriver at a time and build a set, be wary that it’s cheaper and more practical to purchase a complete set. See to it that the screwdriver heads are magnetized, so you won’t have a hard time picking screws should you drop them in inaccessible gaps. It’s also great to have a big flat-headed screwdriver. It’s an amazingly handy tool that can save you when nothing else works.
3. Plier Set
Most automotive jobs also require different pliers, and for that, it’s another essential tool you should have in your home. You need them to compress materials, unhinge nuts, and cut and bend wires. Pliers come in different shapes, lengths, and models, making it hard to choose which ones to get. For the very least, you will need a pair of regular pliers, wire-cutting pliers, and long-nosed pliers. Get those three first and you can get the other ones, such as needle-nosed pliers and pliers with an adjustable-sized jaw, later on.
4. Impact Wrench
Also known as an impact gun, air wrench, air gun, windy gun, or rattle gun, an impact is a handy tool for removing and replacing extremely tight bolts, lug nuts, and fasteners from car areas vulnerable to rusting, such as the caliper bolts and bolt joints. Doing them can be back-breaking, but an impact wrench can help you get the job done in a breeze. It can be your best ally when working on any task involving your car’s engine, steering, or suspension. A quick tip: avoid getting an impact wrench with a metal finish on the handle. You surely won’t likely love working with seemingly a frozen bag of goods in your hand.
5. Jack and Jack Stands
A car jack and jack stands are other must-have tools in your home. You need it to lift your car off the ground to handle tasks like changing a flat tire or replacing the front and rear brakes. Check the curb weight of your car first and get ones that have a sufficient load rating to handle your vehicle. Experts recommend that the curb rating should at least be ¾ of your car’s weight. For instance, an average SUV weighs around 5,000 pounds. So, you need to have a car jack with at least a rating of 3,750 pounds.
6. Torque Wrench
A torque wrench may appear like a regular wrench, but the difference is that it allows tightening bolts to a specific torque level without going over it. It’s particularly handy when working on a car’s transmission or the engine or installing spark plugs, as over-tightening them can result in damage. That also leads to wasted time and money, which could have been prevented in the first place if you had invested in a quality torque wrench. Torque wrenches are available in various sizes. Ideally, you should be getting a ¼” size and ½’ size for handling smaller and larger bolts, respectively.
7. Flashlight & Work Light
It’s difficult to do repairs in a dark garage or under the engine. Having a reliable flashlight and work light ensures that you can see things properly and complete any task correctly. Some important features to consider include type, light output, battery, and cost.
LED flashlights and work lights are more energy-efficient, which entails longer battery life. It’s also ideal to get rechargeable models with manual cranks, USB ports, or solar panels against having AA or AAA battery-operated units. Then, decide on the light output you need and the model that suits your budget.
You need two hammers: a small one and a bigger one. The small hammer is for working on lighter tasks where you need a hammer but don’t want to break parts or other things. For instance, you can use it on fixing misalignments or rectifying sight bumps. Meanwhile, the bigger hammer is essential for removing ball joints, tie rods, drum brakes, or at times when the only solution left is a whack of a hammer. Always choose the ones that you’re comfortable with.
9. Car Multimeter
A car multimeter is a requisite when diagnosing electrical problems by measuring the resistance of a car component or circuits, such as the car horn, ignition, alternator, and sender units. It also allows you to keep an eye on the amperage and voltage of the battery, helping you keep it optimally charged or preventing a scenario of a dying battery.
10. Air Compressor
Perhaps, the most basic air tool that you need to get is an air compressor. Having one enables you to fill up your car tire with air when needed, and maintain the recommended air pressure. It’s a good investment, as you can also use it for other tasks like blowing out fuel passages, operating impact wrenches, or simply removing dirt or dust in your garage.
11. Tire Pressure Gauge
Along with the air compressor, you also need to get a tire pressure gauge that can help you get accurate readings of the pressure of your car’s tires. While it may seem not to hold much importance, remember that under-filled or over-filled tires can result in poor control and increased damage and wear. Thus, compromising your safety. As such, it’s vital that you routinely check your tire pressure before leaving home and release or add air as necessary for a safer trip ahead.
12. Ratchet and Socket Sets
Ratchets and sockets are other essential tools that shouldn’t miss your home car tool kit. They are handy when it comes to removing tightly-secured nuts and bolts in hard-to-reach locations. Ratchets are available in three different sizes: small (¼”), medium (⅜”), and large (½”). Meanwhile, socket sizes can range from 6mm to 32mm. Luckily, there are available ratchet and socket kits that already contain all three ratchet sizes and the basic socket sizes you will need.
13. Hex Wrench Set
Many car manufacturers now use Allen head bolts to secure a variety of vehicle components. What can be more annoying than needing to unscrew them, but not having the right tool to do so? With that, you also need to get a hex wrench set to tackle the job. Unlike normal screwdrivers, these wrenches have a recess that is designed to fit the hexagonal shape of the Allen key bolts.
14. Vice Grip
Vice grips serve as an extra set of hands that every home car mechanic needs. It allows you to lock or keep a solid grip on something, securing it tightly in place as you make a measurement, a cut, or free a stripped screw. Such a clamping feature is handy as you can significantly apply more force, making the task pretty easier. Also called locking pliers or mole grips, vice grips are available in different types and sizes, and are a helpful addition to your toolbox.
15. Oil Filter Wrench
Replacing oil on your car is among the first things a home car mechanic learns to do aside from replacing the windshield wipers or changing the tires. The catch is that the job isn’t that easy, especially since these smooth cylindrical spin-on style oil filters can be covered with oil and get very slippery. Therefore, you must invest in an oil filter wrench to help you hold the canister securely and make the oil filter replacement quick and efficient. Without one, expect to spend more of your precious time removing the oil filter during oil changing sessions.
16. Spark Plug Pliers
Though you won’t be utilizing the spark plug pliers that often, they are an invaluable tool given the time, money, and effort you need should you damage or break one. Note that it’s very easy to tear the clip inside. That’s where spark plug pliers can help you do the job through their specifically designed and padded jaws that give a better grip when extracting and replacing a spark plug.
Forget cardboard boxes, carpet pads, or your kid’s favorite skateboard. Invest instead in an undercar creeper, a wheeled platform that can help you slide in and out of your car’s underside with ease and perform inspection, repairs, or maintenance. Trust us, you’ll enjoy working on the engine, changing oil, and doing other necessary tasks when you have maximum mobility and are comfortable.
18. Jump-Start Kit
Emergencies strike anytime. So, be prepared and get yourself a jump-start kit. Also called battery jumpers, jump boxes, or battery boosters, these devices store ample electrical energy to provide the needed amperage in cranking your engine and jump-starting your vehicle. They usually come with a good set of jumper cables that are linked directly to the kit to keep your car battery going.
19. Zip Ties / Cable Ties
Every DIY person knows how zip ties or cable ties are possibly one of the greatest inventions ever created, the same way a home car mechanic should think, too. These are simple yet very useful tools that you can use for marking car components, fastening parts, securing hubcaps or wheel covers, keeping wires in place, and a whole lot more. You’ll be thankful to have them in your toolbox.
20. Pick Set
Pick sets are inexpensive and useful for a wide array of applications. Whether it’s picking up an oil seal, marking metal pieces, or removing door handle locking pins, you’ll be surprised how handy these small picks can be. So, don’t hesitate to buy a set as they’re cheap. You won’t regret it.
21. Mechanic Gloves
Lastly, don’t do any automotive work without protecting your hands. Wear mechanic gloves to keep your hands clean from dirt and safe from chemicals that are bound to get onto your hands. Not to mention there are also other dangers like getting your finger lopped off, cutting your palm, or scraping the skin off your knuckles. So, never gamble by working with bare hands. Wear mechanic gloves to keep yourself safe while on the job.
Running a car effortlessly entails spending some in inspection, maintenance, and repair. By having these essential tools in your home or garage, you’ll always be ready to tackle any basic DIY automotive task at hand and have a wonderful experience taking care of your beloved car.
You can also check out our Guide to Picking the Only Toolset You Will Ever Need for more ideas.