When it comes to working on your own car, the phrase “work smarter, not harder” is very relevant. Having the correct tools for the job can save you hours as well as making this go much more smoothly without causing damage.
As you can imagine, there is thousands of tools available for working on cars but finding the correct one for your requirements can be difficult. So we have divided the tools to the type of work that is associated with the tool to help on your way.
Wheels and Tires
The wheels on your car is the only contact you have with the road and its vital that they are safe. The only things that are holding the wheels on are of course the wheel bolts and they have to be correctly torqued to avoid them falling off. This will require a torque wrench, which will indicate with a click when the torque has been reached.
If you are removing the wheels from the car (or even using a oil filter wrench), the bolts can sometimes be a pain to remove. However, with a cordless impact wrench, you can effortlessly remove them. You can also put the bolt back on the wheel with the impact wrench but be sure to check the torque afterwards to be on the safe side. For heavier duty tasks that require more torque, you can use an air impact wrench, which offers more power than the cordless alternative. If you intend on tackling lighter tasks such as fasteners, an air ratchet will be the better option as they are more versatile.
Before you remove all the bolts completely, you will want to jack it up in the air once you have loosened them so that they are “finger tight“. To jack the car in the air, you have various options that include the bottle jack, OEM jack (usually found in the trunk) and the best option, which of course is a floor jack. The floor jack comes in a range of types that include heavy duty and low profile with various weight capacities.
There are other jacks available that include a transmission jack, which is designed to make the removal or install go smoothly. Another type is a farm jack, which is designed for off-road use or the bottle jack, which is suitable for heavy loads.
Moving on to the tires that come in a range of forms, they have various tools associated with them. However, the majority of car owners will not own a tire fitting machine as this is normally professional done. The most common tools that are related to tires include a portable tire inflator, that will pump air into your tires and a tire pressure gauge for checking the pressures of your tires.
With most modern cars, you may notice a feature known as the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). This serves the purpose of ensuring your tire pressures are at a safe level and will output a warning if they are not. It is a great feature but the sensors inside the tires do eventually require a replacement. Once you have the replacement sensors, you will be require to reset the fault and allow the ECU to relearn that there are new tire pressure sensors installed. In order to do this, you will require a TPMS tool, which can be used to relearn, reset and activate the sensors.
Not all roads are defect free and tires do become damaged easily. From slow punctures to blow outs and the majority of time, it will happen when you least expect it and be a real pain. However, there are tire repair kits that help deal with these sorts of problems and can be a life saver if you have no access to a tire shop.
Nuts and Bolts
From removing bumpers, headlights to interior trim, you will encounter a wide variety of nuts and bolts. In order to remove these, you will want the best socket set possible that will ensure you have every fitment to remove them. Not having the correct socket can be an absolute nightmare and you may have to resort to grinding a bolt off or using a hammer and potentially causing damage.
Whilst you are tightening or loosening nuts and bolts, you may also want to lubricate certain contact spots. Using a grease gun is the best option as it will allow you to get into the majority of areas without having to remove components.
They are available as a manual, air or cordless unit but choosing between the different types depends upon your budget. If you choose an air operated model, you will require a portable air compressor to use it.
The Cars Electronic System
Malfunctioning electronics can cause a number of other components of a car to fail. This includes various sensors such, wiring harness, door locks and a number of other components. Luckily, as technology has improved over the years, finding these issues have become much easier. With the use of an OBD2 scanner, you are able to simply plug the diagnostic tool into your cars OBD port and find out what is wrong with it in minutes. Older vehicles (pre 1990’s) this was simply not possible and electrical problems would sometimes be solved with trial and error.
However, more manual methods of electrical fault finding with the use of an automotive multimeter is still a very effective way to solve a problem. Simply use the probes and touch the wires to see where there is power and where there isn’t.
Many electrical problems do begin with the car battery and not having enough power will simply cause other parts of the car to breakdown. From a weak starter motor to faulty speakers, the battery of your car could be the main cause of all your issues. For this reason alone, we highly recommend that you get the best car battery possible to avoid any issues.
A flat battery is a very common problem that many car owners face and is caused by using too much electricity whilst the car is not running. This can be anything from leaving the headlights or stereo on. This can leave you stranded but you can kick start the battery by using jumper cables if there is a running car nearby.
However, having a running car nearby will be quite rare without flagging other motorist down. But there is an option if you own a portable jump starter as you can jump start it yourself without another vehicle.
To avoid having another flat battery next time you start your car, its highly advised to put the battery on charge with a car battery charger. Many will have a “fast charge” option that will get it to an adequate level but if you have the chance, its always worthwhile doing a longer charge to get it back to its full capacity.
Letting your battery run flat on a regular basis is not good for the battery or your car. Eventually it will cause the battery to become damaged and if you check the condition of it by using a car battery tester, you may find it does not perform as expected.
If you find that there is no physical damage to your battery such as a short or open cell, you may be able to revive it by using a battery desulfator. It uses a range of high frequencies to dissolve the hardened sulfate that have built up on the lead plates.
If you own multiple cars and store them in a garage, we highly recommend hooking it up to a battery tender that has a float mode. This will keep the battery constantly topped up without overcharging and causing damage. It also benefits from using very little electricity for those worried about domestic bills.
For those with ignition problems, you may want to invest into a timing light. The purpose of this device is to diagnose and fine tune the ignition system. It used to determine whether the spark plug is firing at the correct time to ignite the fuel and air.
Underneath The Car
Working underneath your car requires certain tools to make the job far easier. For example, whilst performing an oil change, using an oil drain pan to catch the dripping oil saves time, makes it easier to recycle the oil and reduce the risk of spillages.
However, you can completely reduce the risk of spillages by using an oil extractor to vacuum all the old oil. You simply place the hoses down the dipstick and then vacuum the old oil. It takes a matter of minutes and produces zero mess.
Another potentially messy job can be changing your brake fluid, which require bleeding of the system. However, you can work more efficiently and alone by using a brake bleeder kit, which works via a vacuum or pressure.
Modifying or upgrading your suspension setup with shock absorbers, springs or coilovers is very popular. You will require a coil spring compressor in order to safely remove the springs. Other suspension parts such as the ball joints, anti roll bar, drop links and other components are fairly easy to remove with various socket sizes.
Not every car that you work on is going to have the ability to move itself freely. This can make working on the vehicle in question much harder but there are ways around it. We highly recommend that you get some heavy duty tow straps as a starting point to move cars. You can either use brute force to pull the car or attach the strap to another vehicle in order to drag it to where it needs to be.
If you are transporting a car via a trailer, you will need to secure it correctly. We highly recommend that you purchase some ratchet straps that have exceed the load capacity of the vehicle for maximum safety.
One of the best ways of moving any vehicle is by using a set of car dollies, which you place each wheel onto and use it as a skate. Once they are on the dolly, moving the vehicle is very easy and you can do it by yourself.
Whilst working on your car, you will comes across areas that have poor lighting. This is either due to the fact you are working in the dark or that components of the car are blocking natural light. Whether you are working on the engine, wheel wells or even inside the car, quality lighting is essential.
There are various types of work lights that are available but only some are suitable for garage use. For example, a work light for mechanics needs to be able to withstand impact, moisture and chemical damage due to the work environment.
Considering that majority of the work carried out on your car is within the engine bay, some manufacturers offer an underhood work light. These will span across the hood and provide the best form of lighting whilst working on your engine.
Considering that 99% of the vehicles on the road are made of metal, when it comes to repairing the metal, you will often require a welder. There are several different forms of welders that include MIG, TIG, Stick and Flux Core.
The MIG welder is the most common and easiest to use for beginners. It also offer higher welding speed, better control on thinner metals and cleaner welds.
Using a TIG welder allows you to perform high quality and precise welds that you can make look aesthetic pleasing. They often come with a foot controller that allows you to adjust the heat input to fully control the weld.
A flux core welder uses similar equipment to the MIG welder but is a gas-less alternative. It is suitable for stick, dirty of rusty material and provides deep penetration for welding thick section.
Finally, the stick welder is one that is better suited for those working outside in windy conditions. It is more forgiving than the alternatives and great for thicker materials.
If you simply wish to combine two metals, a soldering station may be the best option. It is far cheaper and easier to use and suitable for repairing a range of electronics.
Along with most welding projects, you will often need to cut through metals with a plasma cutter. They produce heat up to 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit that can cut through metals of a range of thicknesses with ease.
Depending upon where you are working, you may not be able to find a power supply. If that is the case, you will need to use a welder generator that will exceed the power required for your welder to work correctly.
No matter which welder that you use, you will require various piece of safety equipment to avoid injury. The most important is protection for your eyes and face. Whilst welding, you will be looking at blinding light and may have flying materials flown near your face. To avoid injury, you will want to use an auto darkening welding helmet.
Just as close to the action are your hands, which also need protection from the radiation, sparks and splatter. There are multiple welding gloves that are suitable for each type of welding application, which differ in thickness and style.
AC and Vacuum
If you are attempting to measure the vacuum, gases, moisture or other elements, you will need the correct gauges. Most commonly used within the automotive industry is an AC manifold gauge set. However, if you require a much higher resolution, using a micron gauge is the best alternative.
The number of tools that can be used to fix a car can range into the thousands. However, not having the right tool for the job can be a real pain and make the job twice as hard and much more time consuming.