Car tools are, of course, a necessity for making a proper car repair.
Other jobs demand that you have at least the basic tools.
In this article and since this is a car DIY oriented website, we’ll be talking about what tools you’ll need to make the basic car DIY repairs.
Other, professional tools will be left aside. If you need professional tools then the repair probably exceeds the DIY realm.
Not that it can’t be done, but it demands a higher level of skill and a significant amount of money.
Also, in this article you can find more useful tips on how to properly work with tools, not lose them and more.
LET THE REPAIR DEMAND WHAT CAR TOOLS YOU’LL NEED
When you make a decision to do a car repair, try to make a conclusion what tools you’ll need.
Do this before taking the car apart.
One of the most common reasons for failure when making a car repair is the lack of tools in the middle of a repair.
Inform yourself well before you actually start.
Observe the whole mechanism: what size are the nuts, screws, bolts: take a look at the connections (what kind of clamps), is there a seal between the parts and so on.
Try to sort it out in your head and make a picture of the repair at hand.
If the car repair seems more complicated, search the internet for a tutorial or ask someone who had similar problems.
This will all help in getting a good idea of what car tools you’ll need.
Also, try to understand how the mechanism works and how it’s intertwined with the rest of the car system.
This is also a key element on this part.
More on understanding how to make a car repair in a separate article you can read by clicking here.
WHAT CAR TOOLS WILL YOU NEED TO MAKE A CAR REPAIR?
With car repair, the more tools you have the better.
If you’ve visited a mechanic, you’ll know what I mean. Tools are counted by the hundreds.
Mechanics are professionals thus having all those tools are a necessity for that line of work. They can’t choose between simple and complicated car repairs and they must have it all.
But in the realm of car DIY repairs, the basic tools will do, in most cases.
Most of these tools you probably already have around the household and use perhaps for other hobbies.
For a basic car repair you’ll need:
Basic car tools set
Car tools sets like these are standard and can be bought almost anywhere.
Classified as hobby tools.
These car tools sets contain mostly everything you’ll need for a basic car repair (ratchet, sockets, screwdrivers, basic wrenches etc).
Useful to have around the household, besides doing car repair.
Basic set of screwdrivers
Besides the ones found in the cars tools set, a basic set of screwdrivers is good to have at hand.
The ones in the tool set may prove inappropriate as they have a socket system which sometimes can’t reach places that you’ll have to repair.
Couple of small and medium-sized flat-head and cross-head screwdrivers will do the job.
Mainly the combined ones: with these you’ll probably be able to do most of the work (twist turn, grip, cut etc.)
Basic set of wrenches (combined ones would be best)
As you’ll see the cars have standardized nuts, screws and bolts (standard sizes).
I’m going to talk in centimeters so the most common will be 6,8,10,13,17,19,22,24 cm. Anything under or above this exceeds the probability of DIY car repair.
If possible, buy a set of combined wrenches with these sizes.
Most sets include the standard sizes anyway.
Adjustable or crescent wrench
The adjustable wrench is more of an option then a necessity.
Comes in handy, although hard to wield around, in most cases.
Anyway, it’s not meant for precise jobs rather for places where excessive force is needed.
This mainly means the famous OBD scan tool but also includes tools like a multimeter, basic electric tester and else.
OBD scan tool is a must-have on today’s cars as it gives you fault codes and a good hint what may be wrong. Also, most of them enable you to erase the fault codes (errors) once you’ve finished the car repair.
If you have the time, read a great explanation on OBD tools on Wikipedia.
Most of these tools, if you don’t have them, can be bought pretty cheap. At least the ones you’ll need for a basic car repair.
Just to clarify, some repairs can be done without these, but diagnostic tools are a big help for solving a car repair, saving time, money and your nerves.
Most DIY enthusiasts don’t have a car lift or car canal.
These are simply too expensive to own if you’re going to do just simple car repair and maintenance.
Nevertheless, you’ll have to get under the car a lot of times to make a car repair.
This is where the car jack comes in as it gives proper clearance under the car.
There are different types of car jacks: for DIY repair I would advise the one with small wheels on it. Easy to operate and move around.
If you don’t have this one, the basic type will do (the pillar type, only has one standing foot).
Even a car jack that comes with the car, for changing a spare tire, will help although you have to be more careful.
The point is to gain enough clearance for proper movement of hands and car tools.
Be careful to mount the car jack on parts of the car floor and undercarriage that are reinforced for this purpose.
Otherwise, you can damage the floor panels and rust (corrosion) can appear over time.
Once the car is raised, put the jack stands in to place.
Make sure you put
the jack stands in to the proper reinforced place on the undercarriage or floor.
If you put the jack stand in a wrong position, the weight of the car (once the car is lowered), can damage the undercarriage or car floor. The floor is especially sensitive.
If the protective coating cracks or the metal bends, car rust (corrosion) will appear over time leading to repairs you don’t want.
After putting the jack stands in to place and lowering the car, give the car a small budge. Just to be 100% secure that it won’t fall of.
MAKE SURE THAT THE CAR IS 100% SECURE!!! DON’T GO UNDER IF THERE IS A SHADOW OF A DOUBT!!
You see, when working under the car you’ll sometimes be using excessive force (tightening, loosening, hammering perhaps) which leads to the car slightly swaying and rocking.
If the car isn’t secured properly it can fall on you while you’re under it.
Don’t want to talk about the consequences on that one.
Other tools and accessories
As mentioned, the more the better. You can never have enough car tools.
Except if you’re a passionate tool collector, just buy what you need for the repair at hand.
Over time, if you persist in car DIY repairs, you’ll gather a collection of tools that you’ll need for the repairs and maintenance you mostly do.
These are car tools like an oil filter wrench, an oil pan, funnel, trim tools, spark plug tool, curved wrenches, coolant testers etc., the list is pretty long.
These tools are a onetime investment that will always come in handy and pay themselves off over time.
The more you have the less probability of running in to trouble.
More on buying other tools that you don’t have or may need lower in the article.
Worth mention are other accessories like anti-rust sprays (WD-40, for instance) various cleaners, protective tapes, plastic straps, scalpels etc. that will certainly make life easier.
For the next part of the article you’ll find a few tips that I hope will help when working with car tools:
ONCE YOU’VE FINISHED THE REPAIR, GATHER AND RETURN ALL THE CAR TOOLS IN TO PLACE.
Very important step after finishing a car repair although many people neglect this.
Skipping this step can lead to losing or forgetting car tools around the car which can be annoying, costly and dangerous.
Once finished, check the whole working place. Also check under and around the car.
Make sure to remove all obstacles around the car also (car jacks, jack stands etc).
Having a special place for tools is the best method for gathering and returning car tools.
This varies from a tool panel in your garage to a tool box. Important here is to know immediately when something is missing (just by taking a look).
For instance: if you have a basic car tools set, predefined places for the tools will let you know immediately that something is missing ( a “hole” in the car tools set).
Have in mind that proper gathering and returning car tools will:
Ensure safety: for instance a forgotten socket, extension, screwdriver left under the hood, may fall in to the engine bay and cause damage beyond belief.
Save money: tools forgotten mostly means tools lost. Think about your hard-earned money as every forgotten tool means a visit to a store for a replacement.
Save time: lots people tend to spend more time trying to find car tools than actually repairing the car. Don’t get in to this trap. If needed, spare a whole day and sort out your tools so you know by heart where everything is. It will pay off, trust me.
CLEAN THE CAR TOOLS ONCE YOU’RE FINISHED
Once you’ve gathered all the car tools you’ve used, make sure to clean them up.
Especially if you’ve done a repair around the engine, exhaust or other dirty places.
Dirt, grease and other filth is a common part of the car working environment.
These are all aggressive substances towards metal and can cause the appearance of rust overtime.
Also, moist is an arch-enemy of all tools. Throwing tools back in to the car tools box while they’re still wet will cause rust to appear.
A simple rubbing with a clean cloth will do but best use de-greasing substances and clean them thoroughly.
This goes double if you’re not going to use those car tools for a prolonged period of time.
If this is the case, also apply a thin film of grease or oil in order to avoid rusting of the tools.
All of these procedures will keep your tools in good shape and useful for a long time.
HOW TO PREVENT LOSING CAR TOOLS?
Think of car tools as extensions to your hands.
Would you neglect your own hands, leave fingers around the place or forget a hand under the hood?
Of course you wouldn’t. I ask of you to think about your car tools the way you think about your hands.
You’d be surprised at the amount of tools that are lost over the years.
What I’ve found to work over the years (at least for me) is:
Remember or even make a list of tools before starting to use them. Re-check or re-think the list once you’re finished. Even better if you use car tools sets. As mentioned, a hole in the set means you’ve lost a tool.
Take your time. Hurry is a big helper in forgetting tools. Putting around tools carelessly will lead to forgetting them. Just give it a thought for a millisecond before you lay the tool down.
Avoid resting tools in crescents, holes, any places that can trap tools out of sight. Try to use clean and visible surfaces and rest the tools there. This goes double for working around the engine bay.
If possible use some sort of container (pan, box etc) that you can put in the working spot and lay down the tools in. Also very useful for small parts like nuts, screws, washers or else.
If you’ve lost a tool, be persistent in finding it. It won’t evaporate in to thin air, it is still somewhere.
This means that it can fall off, in to, or on to places you wouldn’t want.
Especially if you’ve worked around the engine bay. As mentioned, car tools falling in to the engine can cause a lot of damage.
Finding the missing tool simply means being more secure and sleeping calmly, so to say.
HOW TO PREVENT INJURIES WHEN WORKING WITH TOOLS?
You have to be careful when using car tools, especially if you’re not accustomed to this line of work.
If you have DIY experience, this won’t be much of a problem. But even in this case people injure themselves.
Most common injuries vary from pinches, bruises, to more serious ones like burns or severe crushing of fingers.
Injuries mostly come from ignorance, impatience and lack of knowledge of the job at hand.
Knowing and understanding the repair will give you a good head start to avoid injuries.
For instance: working with coolant-wait till it cools down, rusty screw or bolt-put some anti-rust spray and wait, very tightened bolts, use a bigger wrench with better grip and so on.
Also, understanding the repair will let you make a quality choice of tools which will make the repair easier. This significantly reduces the chances of injuring yourself.
Impatience is a good path to hurt yourself while using car tools. Take your time, don’t stumble around the car and think through every step.
Make sure that every wrench, screwdriver, spanner or else properly “sits” on the screw, nut, bolt or other. One of the most common injuries are slipping wrenches.
Also make sure that you have enough space to use those tools. Many times you won’t have that much space, but then you have to be extra careful to save your hands.
A lot of time you’ll be using excessive force and if it isn’t directed the right way, you’re hands will pay the price.
For instance, when using pliers, you can seriously pinch yourself to the point of bleeding. The grip simply fails and it happens in a second. It takes a month for the hand to heal.
Use also quality tools and ones that haven’t been damaged.
When applying force, these can break and fly towards your body or eyes.
Watch where you put your hands and fingers and how you use them.
Think before using as the lack of thought, in this case, is to be paid by your own body.
WHAT IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL CAR TOOLS?
The repair will demand the car tools, as mentioned previously in the article.
If you choose to go down the car DIY road more often, your skills will improve over time and with that, the number of tools and accessories for repairs.
When this time comes you’ll have to take a few things in to consideration, mostly:
Economic justification (is it worth the money)
Most professional car tools are pretty expensive and simply cost a lot to own. Professional mechanics buy these as they do repairs with these tools on a regular basis.
So, if the repair at hand demands additional tools, always ask the repair price from the mechanic first.
Sometimes, the price of the tool will cover the whole repair bill from the mechanic.
This goes double for repairs that aren’t that often (like a dual mass flywheel replacement).
Giving a lot of money for a professional tool which will sit in your garage for the next couple of years doing nothing is not a smart move.
Instead, you could’ve had a cup of coffee while other people do the repair for you and for less money
How much are you going to use the tool
This part is in tight connection with the economic part.
Only buy what you’ll use. If you do basic maintenance or simple repairs, focus on that part and build up your tool collection towards that.
If you want to buy professional tools, only buy what you need at least once a year. Understand that every tool you buy has to pay off for itself.
Either through saved time or saved money.
If you’re decision is “NO” to buying additional car tools, but you still want to go through a more complicated repair, there are alternatives:
Renting car tools
In most developed countries, this is normal for decades. People have shops for renting professional, expensive equipment.
This is great as it allows you to make a repair without worrying about the price of the tool.
Mostly resembles the long-lost days of video cassette renting. Watch, pay and return.
Who ever thought of this one is a genius.
Borrowing car tools
Well, also a good option but less than renting, in my humble opinion.
Mostly because of the possibility of damage or losing. To me always resembled borrowing a car.
While, when renting you can pay some fee or insurance for these cases, if you lose or damage someone’s tool, you’ll probably have to buy it.
Knowing this makes you even more nervous using it, thus increasing the possibility of losing or damaging the car tools. Unless you’ve borrowed it from a parent or sibling.
These are the only ones that will forgive such a blunder.
I’d advise borrowing tools that are not that expensive or rare. If you have to, ask the owner to help you around the repair and let him use his tool.
Buying and selling afterwards
This option is good if the price of repair is high and you can’t rent tools.
Mainly the labor price (the parts aren’t that expensive but the labor is).
For instance: if the price of labor is the same or similar as the price of the tool needed, go ahead and buy it.
You see there are some jobs involving car repairs that are fairly simple to do but are pricey because of special tools.
Through high price of labor, that garage or mechanic will get a return on the tool over time.
This is where you jump in.
First inform yourself about new and used prices on the tools you’ll need.
New tools are great, but take in to consideration the price depreciation once used (about 30 percent or more).
Best look for a used one. Professional tools for special usage tend to be well-preserved.
Also, after the repair is done, you’ll probably get the same or similar amount of money you spent.
Sort of a more complicating renting.
But better than buying an expensive tool that will lay around for nothing.