Owner Working On His Car With Tools

The Essential Tool Guide for the DIY Mechanic

By Mark Iafrate - August 3, 2016

The Basics

Mechanics obviously require tools to work on cars. There are different kinds of mechanical tools available for working on different types of car engines. The majority of the required tools are available in packaged kits in different stores, but still there are some essential tools a mechanic cannot live without. Here are some tools that any mechanic absolutely needs.

Hand Tools

Some of the most essential tools needed by mechanics are hand tools. Hand tools are of different varieties such as wire cutters, wire stripping tools, hacksaws, pliers, hammers, utility knives, wrenches and screw Car ToolKit Necessitiesdrivers are essential parts of a toolkit.

Wrenches

Considered one of the handiest tools used by DIY mechanics, they are widely available in various sizes. Wrenches are available in different varieties, but there are two types of wrenches that are fairly indispensable in every toolbox: the air ratchet and Allen wrench.

Mechanical Tools

These include pullers of different varieties and sizes such as the bearing pullers, gear puller tools, ball joint separators, and slide hammers. Using pullers of different types will help to protect the parts of the vehicle that are actually removed.

Screwdrivers

The variety of different shaped screws makes a screwdriver set a must have. Screwdrivers of different lengths are necessary as well. Additional varieties of screwdrivers include the magnetic tipped screwdrivers and bendable screwdrivers.

Voltmeter

A voltmeter is used for checking batteries and identifying potential problems. It is also utilized to display the voltage and examine the problems of electrical mechanisms in a vehicle.

Scan Tool

This is considered one of the most valuable mechanical tools used for diagnosing problems in a vehicle. It can easily be connected to an on board computer to diagnose any problems a car may have.

Fluorescent Drop Cords

Other mechanical tools include fluorescent drop cords. These drop cords are necessary while you are working inside a car or under the hood. Compared to ordinary bulbs, drop cords are safer to use and seldom break or overheat.

Mechanics also require refrigerant leak detector and a battery charger and tester. All these tools are indispensable to a mechanic and can be bought from many online stores at reasonable prices.

Advanced ToolsOpen Engine Being Worked On

The tools listed above should give you a basic sense of the essential tools every DIY mechanic has at his disposal.

However, if you’re looking to go more in-depth and learn just how they are applied in a real-world setting, this section should shed some light on other, more nuanced tools as well as show you some of their applications for you to start using them right away.

Service Manual

Applies to: All maintenance procedures

Estimated Cost: $5 – $15 (can be higher for luxury models)

A very important, but frequently overlooked tool is the Car’s Service Manual. All of your car’s specifications are included in this manual. Specifications such as the engine oil level, coolant level, brake system fluid level, windshield washing system, and tire pressure are listed here, which is vital for any DIY mechanic or driver. In addition to this, there are usually some tutorials included inside the manuals. These manuals are much more reliable then Google or forums because they give car model-specific advice.

Lubricants and Cleaners

Applies to: Most maintenance procedures

Estimated Cost: £4 – £7

Liquid sprays are essential in lubricating mechanical and moving parts in a car. Brake cleaners can be used to clean contaminants near the brakes and ensure that there is no interference in the braking system. They are effective in removing oil and dirt from your car’s braking system as well as other metal parts. Rust prevention oils, such as WD40, are also essential in cleaning metal parts and removing rust. They are also very useful in freeing rusted or stuck bolts.

Socket Set For Every Do It Yourself MechanicSocket Set

Applies to: Most maintenance procedures

Estimated Cost: £30 –  £150 (Harbofreight.com)

This is one of the most important tools on this list as it can be used for various operations. Nearly everything you do no a car will include nuts and bolts – you need a socket set. A proper set includes standard and metric sizes with drivers and sockets. In addition, this is also useful in other DIY projects that also use nuts and bolts.

Wrench, Torque Wrench

Applies to: Most maintenance procedures

Estimated Cost: £45- £75 (torque wrench), £40 (wrench set), £90 (impact wrench)

It is critical to use a torque wrench when instructed to do so by the car service manual. By failing to stretch the bolt, the engine can be damaged or become loose while driving. Over tightening a nut may cause the bolt to chip or become more difficult to remove when needed. However, torque wrenches should not be used to remove lug nuts. A regular wrench or a portable impact wrench should be used for that procedure. Regular wrenches are also invaluable additions to any tool-kit as they can be used in an array of situations.

Pliers

Applies to: Electrical work

Estimated Cost: $6 (wire cutter), $12 – $25 (pliers set), $4 – $15 (wire stripper)

Wire cutters and pliers are essential in electronic projects on the vehicle. Whether it is installing new headlights or a new set of speakers, wire cutters, wire strippers, and pliers of various sizes are necessary.

Cable ties and Duct tape

Applies to: Most maintenance procedures (duct tape), electrical work

Estimated cost: ~£4 (cable ties), ~£9 (duct tape), £2 – £6 (electrical tape)

Cable ties are good for grouping wires together and placing them away from hot or moving parts. In addition, they help keep the car more organized, which helps in all maintenance procedures. Duct tape has so many uses that it is absolutely necessary in any tool-kit. Electrical tape is also useful to cover exposed wires or connect wires.

FunnelEssential Tool For The DIY Mechanic - Funnel

Applies to: Steering fluid replacement, oil replacement

Estimated Cost: £1

A funnel is very handy in maintenance operations such as refilling steering fluid, replacing oil, and radiator flushing. It prevents the fluid from spilling, contaminating your garage floor, and it makes it easier to pour fluids in. Most funnels are easy to clean and reusable after proper cleaning.

Multimeter

Applies to: Electrical work

Estimated Cost: £12 – £20

A Multimeter is key in any electronic procedures. It allows you to check for any short circuits and also the capacity of the battery of your vehicle. It is also sabest fe to use a Multimeter during all electronic procedures to prevent  electric shocks.

Floor Jack, Jack stands

Applies to: Most maintenance procedures

Estimated cost: £50 – £150 (hydraulic floor jack), $16 – $55 (piston jack), £12 – £30 (scissor jack), $15 – £20 (jack stands)

A floor jack is useful in providing additional ground clearance when working on the vehicle. Several common procedures include lifting the car up off the ground.  Floor jacks are simple to use. However, they are large and heavy, so they are practical for a home garage, but not for on the road. Scissor Jacks and Piston Jacks are more portable and space efficient. Scissor jacks are lightweight and are usually put in the trunk of your vehicle to change the tires on the freeway. Jack stands are essential to use in tandem with the floor jack for safety reasons.

Dead Blow Hammer

Applies to: Removing tight bolts

Estimated Cost: £8 – £12

A dead blow hammer is often used as a last resort when removing stuck bolts. A few hits with this hammer and the right amount of heat may loosen almost anything. A non-metal hammer is handy to prevent any metal damage on the vehicle.

Plastic Cover / Drip Pan

Applies to: Cleanliness of the work area

Estimated Cost: £20 (Drip Pan), £3 – $12 (plastic cover)

A drip pan is handy in capturing the fluids that excrete from the vehicle. This prevents stains on the garage floor or drips on the vehicle itself. An alternative solution is to place a plastic cover at the floor of the garage orwork space and place the car over it.

Light

Applies to: Organization of the work area

Estimated Cost: £18

A portable work light is useful in ensuring your safety, locating missing parts, and protecting your car. It is critical that you work in a well-lighted area because there are many electronic components in a vehicle and you may cause harm if a wrong component is altered or touched.

Conclusion

As a closing note, while having the right tools for your DIY mechanic operations, it is important to know that it takes a fair amount of know-how to diagnose, service or retrofit a vehicle. If you do not feel comfortable performing some intricate operations on your vehicle, simply do not do it; send your vehicle to a professional. Do not try a DIY project that may be too big for you to handle. This may cause injury or further damage to your vehicle.

On the other hand, when you are comfortable with certain operations like an oil change for example, understanding and utilizing the right tools while performing those operations can save you thousands of pounds during the lifetime of your ride, leaving both you as well your vehicle healthy and happy over the long run.

About the Author - Mark Iafrate

2 comments

  1. hi, i would like to purchase a repair manual from you, for an opel astra 1.4 petrol 2005. i hear haynes manuals are the best?..
    thank you
    derry

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