Tools Every DIY Mechanic Should Have

Buying Guide To DIY Tool Kit

Maintenance is an essential part of owning a vehicle and to fix it successfully you need three things: knowledge, ability, and the right tools. No matter how knowledgeable you are, if you don't have proper tools and equipment on hand, you will not be successful at working on cars.

Before you roll up your sleeves and get dirty, it is imperative to get some basic knowledge of car repair tools and the types of equipment you will need when working on your rig. This guide will help you understand all the automotive tools necessary for vehicle maintenance if you are a car enthusiast, DIY mechanic, or professional.

1. Magnetic Pick-Up Tool

It might be quite difficult to work in a small space with difficulty in access to certain parts. Perhaps the bolt that you’re holding on with one finger and attempting to fix in place may even slip down to the engine’s deepest realms. You can simply use this magnet to move around those hidden spots until the missing bolt sticks to the magnet. This can save you time.

2. Fender Protector

The paint and body panels are not only expensive but they are also very hard to repair in case of damage. One common way of damaging the body panels is when we are working in the engine bay. There is a chance we might bump into the fender with our belt buckles, tools, or any other metal object on our person while leaning into the engine bay and scratch the body panel and also spoil the paint. To prevent this and to protect the fender from damage, it is necessary to use a fender protector. These are magnetic vinyl covers that conveniently stick over the fender or any body panel and stay there as you work without worrying about damaging the paint or body. They are essential in every garage to prevent unwanted repairs.


3. Tire Inflator

A tire inflator is a small handheld air compressor that is used to inflate the tires on the vehicle. The tire inflator allows you to keep your tires inflated at the right pressure. The use of pressurized gas eliminates the need for rigorous pumping to fill your tires with the correct pressure. They either use the vehicle’s 12 volt supply from the battery or have an inbuilt battery backup that can be recharged. You can find them in all shapes and sizes. Being a simple tool, the tire inflator is portable and easy to carry around. Owning a tire inflator can help you in unforeseen situations like in case of a breakdown where you don’t have to wait for a mechanic. You can get the job done by yourself.


4. Brake Cleaner

Brake cleaner is a magical spray that removes all kinds of gunk. As it removes all forms of dirt or grease in a matter of seconds, it is one of the most used consumables in any workshop. While using the brake cleaner, make sure to use gloves as they contain chemicals like Tetrachloroethylene, Acetone, Carbon Dioxide, and Heptane.

5. Lug Wrench

A lug wrench does exactly what the name implies - fasten and undo lug nuts found on the wheels of the vehicle. They make it very easy to open the wheel lug nuts because they allow for more torque to be applied. The torque generated also depends on the length of the lug wrench. Lug wrenches are available in different styles. The most common one is the cross-shaped universal lug wrench that has four different socket sizes, one on each end. The L-shaped lug wrench is not as popular as the other due to its lack of versatility.


6. Tire Pressure Gauge

If you are a mechanic or even a vehicle owner, having a tire pressure gauge can be helpful as it makes it easy to keep the tire pressure in check. The tire pressure gauge can be digital or analog. Maintaining proper tire pressures on your vehicle provides better fuel economy and handling. Checking your tire pressure regularly is a good habit because different factors like weather and altitude can affect the tire pressure and it is an essential piece of equipment to have in the garage or even your car trunk. 


7. Torque Wrench

An essential tool for every mechanic is the selection of good quality torque wrenches that range in sizes. A torque wrench is a tool that is used for tightening a nut or a bolt at a specific torque. Each vehicle comes with specific torque specifications for each part set by the manufacturer. Not only the wheels but the engine, suspension, brake components, etc. should be tightened to the specified torque recommended by the manufacturer. This is important for the safety and performance of the component. Overtightening the bolt can induce unnecessary stress on the bolt, nut, and component thereby risking failure. Always use a torque wrench when tightening down the bolts in your vehicle. 


8. Impact Wrench

An impact wrench helps loosen or tighten bolts and nuts with little to no effort making it an ideal tool for any garage. The impact wrench is capable of generating high torque which makes it easy to remove or tighten the bolts. Impact wrenches are offered in different torque capacities, sizes, and chuck types and you can choose among these factors depending on the job you need to work on. These wrenches, assisted by an air compressor or electric motor, have more power than your hands and are very easy to use.

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9. Oil Filter Wrench

Perhaps one of the easiest, most cost-efficient operations that we do for our vehicle is doing an oil change. Oil filters tend to be hard to remove as they are round and are found in places that may be hard to access. You cannot remove them by hand. The oil filter wrench allows the user to carry out the task efficiently. Pliers and wrenches are also used for removing the oil filters. Oil filters come in various sizes and diameters, designed to work on oil filters of all sizes, and it is very beneficial to have this tool in the garage if you have several vehicles with filters of different dimensions or service your own oil filter regularly. 


10. Feeler Gauge

Mechanical assemblies are built by mating several parts that are designed to work within a specified tolerance. To ensure reliable operation and optimum performance, these tolerances and clearances have to be checked and maintained periodically. This keeps the engine away from excessive damage and wears and increases the life of an engine. A feeler gauge is very popular amongst mechanics and it is an essential tool to have in the garage for vehicle maintenance. They are used to measure minute or intricate clearances or tolerances between two objects. It helps to measure the gap width between two objects that are close together.

11. Riveters

Riveters are common in automotive garages and in situations where fast, convenient, and powerful fastening is required. They are used for metal fabrication, fixing broken panels, and much more when it comes to repairing vehicles. Riveters, also known as rivet guns, rivet tools, or riveting tools, are offered in various types like hand rivet guns, heavy-duty lever riveters, pneumatic rivet guns, cordless battery riveting tools, etc. Hand rivet guns are operated by hand and require a significant amount of pressure to install rivets, but are very cost-effective. Heavy-duty riveters offer extra leverage and are able to do everything a hand riveter can't. Battery riveting tools are powerful and are ideal for working with rivets on job sites. Pneumatic rivet guns are easy to use, lightweight, and very precise but they require a compressor and can only go far as the hose takes them. 


12. Jacks

Jacks are designed to help you lift the vehicle and are essential equipment in every automotive repair garage. Jacks are necessary if you work as a professional mechanic or carry out your own vehicle repairs. Most major repairs will involve the removal of large vehicle components and do that you will need jacks of various sorts to carry out the job safely. High-quality, durable jacks and axle stands are very important safety features while working under your vehicle. Jacks are of two types: mechanical and hydraulic jacks. Mechanical jacks are usually rated to carry much lower loads compared to hydraulic jacks. For jacking up the entire vehicle, it is recommended you use hydraulic jacks. Mechanical jacks like scissors jacks are good for quick remote jacking like when changing a tire. They are operated by manually cranking a lever that pushes up and supports the load. Most vehicles come with scissor jacks in the car. High-lift jack is another type of manual jack mostly used by off-road enthusiasts.

Bottle and floor jacks are the two most common types of hydraulic jack stands. Bottle jacks are small, which makes them very useful in restricted spaces. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and powerful. Floor jacks are heavily capable of lifting heavy weights and are very easy to operate. It is necessary to have all these types of jacks in a garage as all have their own advantages and are used together when working on any vehicle.


13. Repair Manual

A repair manual can be the most useful guide for working on your car. This manual contains all the exact details for your make and model vehicle from diagrams on how to work on specific vehicle components to maintenance periods, diagnosing and troubleshooting, and torque, tire, and other specifications.


14. Funnels

It is a very common thing to spill oil all over the garage floor while performing oil changes on the vehicles. Therefore, it is important to invest in good funnels to get the job done neatly and professionally. Funnels make it very easy to get fresh oil into the vehicle effectively. They are simple equipment that cost very little but they are very helpful as they are offered in various types to suit different vehicles. They are offered in various sizes like a 2-quart funnel, 3-quart funnel, and types like capped funnel, adjustable and extendable funnels. Make sure to get a few different sizes. Keep the one you use for water or coolant different from the one you use for oil. 


15. Fluid Drain Pan

Apart from the plethora of tools and equipment a garage should have, some tools are very basic and essential for vehicle maintenance. A fluid drain pan is one of them. 

The oil change is the most basic routine maintenance procedure that is carried out by mechanics and vehicle owners. The vehicle has to undergo oil change periodically and an oil drain pan comes in very handy in such situations. They help you in collecting the used oil and keep the garage away from oil spills. You’ll be handling about 2-3 gallons of used oil based on how much you use your vehicle if you’re following the right engine oil change interval. Always make sure to dispose of the used oil in the right place!

16. Creeper

It is difficult to reach the undercarriage of the car while carrying out routine maintenance. A good creeper allows you to get under the vehicle by supporting your weight. It allows you to reach the tough spots. Creepers make it comfortable for a mechanic to work by providing ergonomic support. Though creepers offer you good support, you’ll still need to jack your vehicle to a certain height. 

Creepers are offered in various types and designs. Some are provided with headrests and extra padding, some are contoured according to the body shape for better support, and some are foldable that can transform from a creeper into a chair. They are essential equipment to have in an automotive garage.


17. Jump Starter

A dead battery is a common issue that can occur in any vehicle and makes it impossible to start and drive. This is where, jump starters come into use. Portable car jumpers can get your car started without any help from another vehicle. These jump starters can be small enough to fit in your glove box and are an easy solution to start your vehicle in case of an emergency. 

Portable jump starters have gained popularity in recent times because they can be carried easily and do not require an outlet to be plugged into. They do not recharge your battery but provide the necessary power to start your vehicle. Some jump starters are also provided with USB connections to charge other devices. Jumpstarters, also known as power chargers, are valuable pieces of equipment to have in your garage or emergency kit. 


18. Multimeter

Multimeters are diagnostics equipment that helps you test and detect issues in the electrical system of your vehicle. The various electrical components and circuits in a car can go wrong because of many reasons like broken wires, dead fuses, water damage, etc. As the car has many wires, these issues might be extremely hard to locate. In order to troubleshoot these electrical connections and circuits, a multimeter is used. A multimeter is a useful addition to every DIYer and mechanics toolset. They are offered in analog and digital variations. Analog multimeters are simple in construction and can measure restricted quantities like resistance, voltage, and current. Digital multimeters can measure voltage, current, capacitance, diode values, and much more. They are smaller and display precise readings on the LCD screen in numerics. 


19. Mechanic Stethoscope

A mechanic's stethoscope is similar to a doctor's stethoscope, but it is used for examining noises within an engine. This helps a mechanic to isolate problems and locate the source of sounds coming from the engine. A stethoscope helps to pick up slight noises and vibrations that can't be heard by using just the human ear alone. They comprise two attachments: a metal probe and an amplifier. An automotive stethoscope can be very useful in diagnosing vehicle problems and is a piece of must-have diagnostic equipment in your toolbox. 


20. Code Reader And Scan Tools

Code readers and scan tools are used to read the car's onboard computer to identify or troubleshoot problems. A simpler version of the scan tool is the code reader as they perform basic scans for errors, resetting car check engine light, etc. Scan tools are more advanced and along with reading and displaying the engine codes, this device is also able to give solutions and reasons for the issue to occur. Professional OBD scan tool is used only by dealerships and manufacturers as they have features like ECU reprogramming, emission control, etc. that are not directly relevant to the average DIYer.

Code readers are cheap as compared to scan tools and are very convenient for mechanics or car owners who want to read and clear the error codes. Scan tools are used by professional mechanics and technicians to carry out the task efficiently. With the advancements in automobile technology, modern cars have been equipped with electronic systems and these diagnostic tools are very helpful in finding and resolving errors, making them an essential tool for vehicle maintenance. 

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Everyone loves working on their cars. As a DIY’er your tool collection will never be truly complete. There are always many other tools you can add to your collection to get the job done better and faster. But, we still recommend having these tools in your garage so that, if your vehicle faces any issue or if you need to carry out any repairs, these tools can help you fix them. 


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John Framigllia
Technical Writer
Our technical writer is known for simplifying automotive parts and services. Intuitive with various vehicles and manufacturers, he knows how to simplify complicated problems.