Welcome back, everybody! I decided to write a post on the tools that every mechanic should own. Whether you are just starting out, looking for a gift, or want to fill in some of the gaps in your kit of necessary tools, this post is an attempt to help you out!
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I keep a running list on my phone of tools that I need to acquire, these include tools I end up borrowing, or jobs I can’t do because of not having the correct tool, etc. And it then occurred to me that over the years I’ve acquired quite a hodgepodge of random tools from a variety of sources, and it always amazes me the tools that I go back to again and again.
Obviously, there are some tools that are just used more often (depending, I suppose, on the type of job you do most), but there are others that I reach for time and again just because they are either higher quality or have some sentimental value.
Just make sure that whatever tools you end up acquiring, go with quality over quantity.
There are other tools that just feel good in the hands (mechanics know what I’m talking about)! For those, I’ll dig through a drawer of 40 screwdrivers to find the exact one!
Anyway, a list like this can never be comprehensive, there is just too much out there. So, I would consider this a starting point, a base, if you will, for the tools to come! These are in rough order of what I use the most.
So, whether you are buying kit for your son or daughter as they prepare to leave home, or just want to fill in the gaps in your own set, I hope you find this list useful!
Basic Level Tools
The following tools will run you in the lower price ranges.
#1. Screwdriver Set
A good set of screwdrivers is a must for just about every project around the house. From electrical work (don’t forget to turn off the circuit breaker) to replacing the batteries in your kids’ electronic toys, a nice variety of sizes and styles (flathead and Phillips) comes in very handy.
The sizes of screwdrivers vary from 00 for the very small stuff (like repairing glasses) up to 4 for the very large stuff (why is the Honda XL motorcycle fly-wheel cover held on with Phillips-head screws?). Make sure you get a set that spans the range you need.
#2. Pliers Set
Pliers are great for making those jobs where your fingers just can’t get a purchase, and it is so satisfying twisting off a zip-tie head with a pair of pliers!
Pliers are like mechanical fingers, always have a pair handy!
I used to scoff at these as toolboxes for pansies, until I got one. Now I have 4. Carrying around a 30# metal toolbox is great if you are trying to put on a show for someone, but if you have real work to do, get a few appropriately sized tool bags.
I have one for English wrenches and another for metric wrenches, which reduces the amount of searching I need to do for the right size.
Ultimately, I’d like to have a bag with all the necessary tools for a given job, that always stay in the same bag. Oil changes, for example, that way I can save time finding and putting away tools for specific jobs.
#4. Torque Wrench
I got along for years without a torque wrench, just reefing down on every nut and bolt as tight as I could, until I heard about a guy whose lug nuts kept flying off while he was driving. Turns out the threads on the studs were so deformed from overtightening over the years that they could no longer hold on the lug nuts.
Every nut and bolt on your car has a proper torque setting. For optimal performance, find out the torque spec and get a torque wrench to tighten connectors properly.
This is pretty much a no-brainer, but everyone should have access to a hammer. A claw hammer is especially useful, but a hammer set can be nice to have. If you’re short on money, bypass the ballpeen hammer; I can’t remember the last time I used a ballpeen hammer head for its intended purpose!
Hammers are good for nails, obviously, but also demolition, and also tapping things into place instead of using the back of your cordless drill, for example…
For hard-to-reach places, a nice set of socket extensions can be a lifesaver.
#7. hex wrench set
A set of box-end wrenches come in handy when space will not allow for a socket wrench. Tight places and akward angles make these especially useful.
Crawling around underneath your car while working on a project is the quickest way to make you hate it! Invest in a quality creeper and make moving around down there a breeze. This is one of those shop tools that is worth its weight in gold!
Search through your set of sockets enough times and you’ll see why a few socket label stickers are worth a couple bucks. Saving time and energy, these labels make every project go faster and get you up and running more quickly.
While not as glamorous as an impact wrench, a good set of jack-stands can literally save your life! When that scissor jack made from sheet metal that came with your car buckles, you’ll be glad you invested in a pair of these.
The following tools will run you in the mid-level tiers.
As a kid, I hated these locking pliers. It seemed like they were never set to the right size, they seemed to flop about all the time, and also seemed like a cheaper version of a Crescent wrench.
As I got older, I grew to appreciate these things. The fact that they grab on and never let go is like a dream for something that needs to be gripped but is evading your grasp!
I once knew a farmer who had a small vise-grip attached to the blade-engage cable on his decrepit riding lawnmower, permanently. It was the new handle. Genius…
#12. socket set
The socket set is a must for every mechanic. Invest in a good quality one, and you’ll have it for the rest of your life, eventually handing it down to your grandchildren.
I honestly have no idea why I didn’t invest in one of these earlier. For reasonable price you can easily diagnose any Check-Engine-Light in any vehicle! I have friends and family who call me asking if I can bring my “device” over to their house to tell them what is wrong with their car.
I think they think this is like a multi-hundred-dollar computer (there are some that cost that much), but for the basics, a cheap one works just fine.
#14. Hydraulic Jack
Please don’t use the jack that came with your car for any real maintenance. Those things are so wobbly and weak. The VP of sales at your car manufacturer’s Global Product Planning meetings held annually got a big bonus for saving a couple bucks on every car by making the metal on that jack as thin as possible.
Invest in a hydraulic jack that is nice and sturdy. These also save time. Three or four pumps of the handle, and your car is a foot in the air.
These tools are in higher tier.
#15. Shop Lights
As you get older, every year that passes, the lights in your shop get dimmer. Light it up like the sun and invest in a good set of very bright shop lights. Being able to see makes every project more fun!
A step up from regular box-end wrenches, these ratcheting wrenches are pretty sweet. For extra enjoyment, get a set where the head can pivot.
#17. Cordless Drill
Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized cordless tools. Drills are no exception. If you don’t have one yet, get one, you will not be disappointed. This could possibly be the best investment you make this year.
These tools will run you a little more but are definitely worth the extra cost!
A place to keep all your tools so they are not cluttering around on a table or the floor, a tool chest indicates you mean business.
#19. Circular Saw
If you do any amount of woodworking, even putting together a quick workbench, you’ll want to have a circular saw.
If you want something a little higher quality, invest in a well-made workbench. This can make all the difference between dreading working on projects, to having repair projects be a delight.
#21. Impact Wrench
An air-powered impact wrench makes your shop sound like a real mechanic, plus it speeds up every project. The torque these things put out is amazing. Impact loose stuck and rusty nuts. Also useful for changing the anode rod in your hot water heater.
Feel free to let me know if I missed something in the comments section… I’ll try to add tools as I think of them. Check out these top 17 best Christmas Gifts for Men!
Thanks for reading!