- A socket wrench
Plain and simple, a solid socket wrench will be your bread and butter when working on vehicles. Whether you are changing oil or undertaking a big project, you’ll thank yourself for buying one of these multi-purpose tools.
- A tire tread depth meter
You can diagnose a lot of things with just a simple tread depth meter, and will only cost you a few dollars. You can get a good idea the health of your tires and determine you are filling your tires with the correct amount of air. You can also get a good idea about your vehicle’s alignment by comparing the tread depth between tires; a large difference in a single tire is a sign your alignment should be checked out.
- Jumper Cables
Jumper cables are just a good idea to have in your vehicle at all times. Whether you battery dies or someone else needs jumped, having a set of jumper cables on hand is always a good idea. Jumper cables are overlooked more often than you’d think, and when you or a friend needs them in a pinch, you’ll wish you had them!
- Tire iron
Another simple one that everyone should have in case of an emergency. Most vehicles come with one, but some are lost throughout the years. Some also tend to rust or generally get old, so be sure the one you have is in good working order.
- A jack
Continuing the theme of good things to have in an emergency, keeping a jack in your vehicle at all times is always a good idea. Be sure it is easy to use on your specific vehicle, and you know how to use it. After purchasing one, or if you already own one but have never used it before, I would go ahead and do a test run with it and be sure you know how to use it in case of an emergency.
Okay, so this one may be stretching the definition of a “tool” a little ways. However, it is an extremely easy to use fuel additive (just put it in your gas tank) that does a very good job of clearing carbon deposits and keeping your engine running at 100%.
- A flashlight
This one may seem like something you would have anyway. But it’s always a good idea to keep a spare in your vehicle, you never know when you might get a flat tire at night, or have to inspect your vehicle with less-than-ideal lighting. Make sure it’s durable, reliable, and bright. Again, you don’t want to be caught in a pinch without the right tools!.
- Oil filter socket, claw, or band
If you plan on doing your own maintenance on your vehicle, or anyone else’s, you are going to want to invest in an oil filter socket set, claw, or band, depending on what kind of vehicle(s) you are working on. For many oil filters, these are not a requirement to remove the oil filter, you simply just need to twist it off. However, having one of these tools can make that a much easier process, and save you a lot of time and strain on your hands.
While you have a jack for emergency situations to lift your car, I recommend having a set of quality ramps to lift one end of your car for repairs or maintenance. Ramps are not only easier to use than a jack, but are often much safer as well. Depending on your kind of vehicle, you may not have enough clearance to get on too steep of ramps, so keep that in mind when shopping for ramps. It may go without saying, but make sure the ramps have a weight rating high enough to support your vehicle!
- Cordless impact driver
This is one of those tools you don’t know you are missing until you have it. During my time working at a dealership, I used mine every day and it saved me loads of time. A quality impact driver may run you a good chunk of change, but the time and headache saved is well worth the investment.
- Air impact wrench
Another more costly tool, but one that will save you a lot of muscle strain and a ton of time. Air impact wrenches will make tire rotations, brake jobs, and many other would-be lengthy jobs a walk in the park. The downside being to make good use of it you will have to invest in the next item on our list.
- Air compressor
If you plan on using any air compression based tools, you for sure need a solid air compressor. My advice is simply shop around and check as many reviews as you can. A small one under $200 is normally all you will need for most garage-based projects. Just be sure it is compatible with any air tools you own!
- Breaker bar
Breaker bars are essentially heavy duty, longer socket wrenches designed to get off(or “break”) the toughest of nuts. I would advise against tightening anything with this wrench, however. With this much leverage you can easily over-torque whatever you may be tightening. So as a rule of thumb, only use these beasts to get nuts off.
- A torque wrench
Having at least one torque wrench is a must-have in any garage. Making sure every nut is properly torqued is what separates crappy DIY jobs from a well-done task. Having a torque wrench will save you from worrying about a brake caliper coming lose while driving (if that example seems specific, that’s because it happened to me after a brake job on my car) or over-tightening lug nuts, potentially damaging the parts involved.
- A set of pry bars
These come in handy much more often than you would think, and save you a lot of replacing tools that shouldn’t be used to prying, that you eventually will try to anyway. We’re looking at you, screwdrivers. Over time, certain metals like to fuse together or become corroded messes that just won’t come apart simply by pulling at them with your hands, so having a solid set of pry bars on hand will be quite useful.
- Rubber mallet
A rubber mallet is another easily looked-over tools. In many instances it seems like an average hammer would do the job of a rubber mallet better. But having a rubber mallet lets you apply a little extra force without worrying as much about damaging what you’re whacking at. I find myself using a rubber mallet much more often than a metal hammer.
17. Bungie Cords
Bungie cords are another one of those tools where you don’t ever have or need a specific job in mind for them, but always seem to come in handy when you least expect it. Most often I use them to suspend certain components, like brake lines or to temporarily hold an exhaust in place. They are inexpensive and it’s always nice to have them as an option.
- Brake cleaner
I may have only ever used brake cleaner on actual brakes a handful of times, but I’ve easily used it a hundred times on everything else. Brake cleaner is a non-flammable fast-evaporating spray that can be used to clean almost any component on your vehicle. It makes dozens of clean up jobs much easier and take way less time. I always have multiple cans in my toolbox at the ready for any job.
- Any and every socket you can find
You can never have enough sockets. Impact, standard, metric, flex, 12 point, 6 point (6 is better, don’t @me), it doesn’t matter, at some point in your automotive escapades you will be happy to have that socket you never thought you will use. And, of course, curse at yourself when you don’t have the ONE socket you need. Whenever I see anyone selling some used sockets for cheap, I snag ‘em up as quickly as I can. Sure, I have some duplicates, but I’m alright with that because I’ve broken my fair share of sockets.
- OBD II Scan tool
Easily one of the most useful tools on this list, an OBD II scanner is a must-have for trying to diagnose almost any mechanical issue with your vehicle. A good scan tool will not only tell you that your car’s computer has logged an issue, but also potential causes of the issue. Whenever I start diagnosing any vehicle, I always check for codes first thing, as that will drastically narrow down my search for the issue.
Well, there’s 20 must-have tools for any aspiring mechanics out there. Hope you found this useful and I wish you the best of luck!