Working on your own car can be cost-saving and fulfilling, but only if you have the right know-how and the right tools. Automotive knowledge takes some time to learn, but you can get started building your toolbox right away.
Having the right tools to work on your car is important for any car owner. No matter what your current level of knowledge may be, most gear heads started learning by tinkering with tools in their garage.
Owning the right tools — and knowing how to use them — can help you save money on minor repairs and help you be a more independent person. Plus, many tools that are used on cars will be helpful around the house as well.
Here is a list of 10 common car tools you will need to get started:
A good set of wrenches is the foundation of every mechanic’s toolbox. Make sure to get a range of sizes for different needs. Once you’ve got a solid set of wrenches, it’s likely to last a lifetime.
In addition to standard wrenches, you may also need:
- Torque wrench – to adjust nuts to just the right torque
- Impact wrench – to remove lug nuts in an instant
The next tool you’ll need is a ratchet. There are three standard sizes or drives for ratches: ¼” small, ⅜” medium, and ½” large. Mechanic’s ratchets tend to be heavier and feature anti-slip grips and recessed quick-release mechanisms.
You may also need:
- Ratchet extender – to reach into tight places
- Bent-handle ratchet – to create more leverage, even from difficult positions
Sockets, like the corresponding ratchets, also come in three standard sizes. Some argue that a good socket set is the tool you’ll need most for working on your car.
You may also need:
- Socket extension bars – for hard-to-reach areas
- Flexible sockets – sockets with a shorter profile for inaccessible places
Electrical projects abound when working on your car. You’ll need a set of pliers and wirecutters to do the job safely. Pliers are available in long and short needle nose form.
You may also need:
- Out-of-sight pliers – to prevent your hand from blocking your line of sight
- Spark plug pliers – to prevent damage when handling plug wires
Here’s a tool that’s useful around the house, in the garage, and pretty much everywhere. You won’t regret getting a complete set of screwdrivers, which include various types and lengths.
Screwdrivers are multifunctional tools. For example, a large flathead screwdriver can also work as a small prying tool. You can also use a torx screwdriver when you need some extra driving force.
At some point while working on your car, you’re going to need to get under it. A jack (and jack stands) can help you raise the car to access the area you need.
A jack can also allow you to remove the wheels of the car when doing break work, for example. Just remember to always use jack stands to support the car while using a jack.
A multimeter is an important tool that will give you information about the electronic systems of your car. You can use it to identify a hot wire as well as how much juice is running through it.
Multimeters can be cheap or very expensive. Whatever model you choose, make sure it can read amperage (A).
Have you given any thought to the environment in which you’ll be working on your car? In many cases, garages have terrible lighting. Regardless, there are so many dark nooks and crannies in a car, you’re going to need a reliable light source.
The light source you choose is up to you. Some mechanics prefer headlamps, while others rely on LED flashlights, clip-on lights, or floodlights.
Dead Blow Mallet
Sometimes the only way to knock something loose is by whacking it with a mallet. Make sure you have a mallet around to remove stuck bolts if all else fails. Just remember to use a rubber mallet or a mallet with a special coating if you want to prevent damage to metal surfaces.
A pry bar — also called a crowbar, wrecking bar, or pinch-bar — is another tool to use to knock things loose. You can use a pry bar to create leverage to break apart almost any component. Try various lengths to find the leverage you need.
Bonus: Duct Tape & Electrical Tape
It’s never a bad idea to have a couple rolls of duct tape and electrical tape lying around. Duct tape is the answer to just about every problem. Just ask McGyver. And your local gearhead.
While this list of car tools is admittedly incomplete, keeping these tools in your garage provides a great foundation for basic car maintenance.