Common tools you need for car repairs

21 Tools You Need to Work on Cars

If you plan on car repairs but don’t know what tool you need, read the instructions below to know the important tools you need for repairing your vehicle.

YOUCANIC provides hundreds of easy-to-follow DIY auto repair guides. All you need is a few tools and a willingness to get dirty. We will show you how to get your tool arsenal for about $100-$300.

Pliers

TOOLS YOU NEED TO WORK CARS PLIERS

You most likely have a set of pliers in your house, but it’s worth having a complete plier set. Pliers are one tool we find ourselves using quite frequently when working on a car.

Torque Wrench

torque wrench tools you need to fix cars yourself

Tightening bolts to the recommended specification is often overlooked, even by some mechanics. Unfortunately, over-torquing a nut can cause the bolt to shear off.  If the bolt doesn’t strip, you will make it harder to remove the bolt the next time.

When using a torque wrench, set the required torque setting and tighten the bolt until you hear a click. Stop tightening once you hear that click.

Do not use a torque wrench to remove nuts and bolts. Use your ratchet or, if necessary, a breaker bar. Otherwise, you will damage the torque wrench or mess up the calibration settings. Be sure your torque wrench has the same drive size as your socket set. If you need help with choosing a torque wrench, make sure to read our article on:

Combination Wrench Set

open end box wrenches are used very frequently for fixing cars

You may be thinking, why do I need an open wrench set if I get a socket set? Spacing space constraints, sockets can’t get to all the nuts and bolts.

Bestseller No. 1
EPAuto 1/2-inch Drive Click Torque Wrench + 4 Pieces - Impact Socket Adapter
EPAuto 1/2-inch Drive Click Torque Wrench + 4 Pieces – Impact Socket Adapter
This bundle includes:; EPAuto 1/2-inch Drive Click Torque Wrench, 10~150 ft./lb, 13.6~203.5 N/m
$42.98

If you change a control arm, window regulator, or ball joint, you will need a wrench set to counter-hold a bolt. We like the Craftsman open-ended wrench set with a ratcheting box end. This saves time because you don’t need to remove the wrench every time.

Screwdrivers

tools needed to fix cars, screwdrivers

Editor’s Pick: Craftsman Screwdriver Set Phillips + Slotted

You already have a few screwdrivers around the house, right? That’s a good starting point. As you build your DIY auto repair skills, you may need even more screwdrivers.

You will need large flathead screwdrivers to use as a prying tool. You will also need small screwdrivers for electrical car parts.

Rubber Mallet

surprise you need a rubber mallet to fix cars

You may be surprised to see a rubber mallet on this list, but a rubber mallet can come in handy. You can use it to push that bumper dent out or smack that rotor refusing to get out.

Breaker Bar  

breaker bar must have tool for diy auto repair at home

When you start with DIY auto repair, you will come across bolts that you can’t break loose at some point.  Don’t be discouraged. It is not that you need to be strong to fix cars; you need to be smart.

Use a breaker bar instead of the ratchet, and you can loosen any bolt. Even the CV joint bolts are meant to be removed with a breaker bar.

Car Ramps and Floor Jack

car ramps needed to fix cars

Ramps are a must. Period. If you plan to change the oil, ramps make this task easier and safer. We recommend ramps because they are safer to use than a floor jack, especially when you start fixing your car. You should still secure the vehicle with jack stands even when using ramps, plus use wheel chocks to prevent the vehicle from rolling back.

SaleBestseller No. 1
FloTool 11912ABMI RhinoRamps MAX Vehicle Ramp - Pair (16,000lb. GVW Capacity)
FloTool 11912ABMI RhinoRamps MAX Vehicle Ramp – Pair (16,000lb. GVW Capacity)
Portable automotive ramps with a rugged and structural design; CoreTRAC non-skid base helps reduce slippage
$74.99

Rolling the car up on the ramps is easy, fast, and quicker than using a floor jack. The added benefit of using ramps is that you are less likely to damage your driveway or garage floor, a common issue with floor jacks.

Editor’s Pick: RhinoGear Vehicle Ramp, which has a capacity of up to 12,000 lb.

Jack Stands

tools needed to fix cars jack stands

Whether you have a jack under the car or the car on the ramp, you should always use jack stands to secure the vehicle. Make sure to have the vehicle in park. Move the shifter to Park as well. This should not be taken lightly; it is the most important tip you should get from reading this article.

Bestseller No. 1
BIG RED T43202 Torin Steel Jack Stands: 3 Ton (6,000 lb) Capacity, Red, 2 count (pack of 1)
BIG RED T43202 Torin Steel Jack Stands: 3 Ton (6,000 lb) Capacity, Red, 2 count (pack of 1)
Adjustable height ranges from 11-1/4″ to 16-3/4″ with a 3 ton (6,000 lb) load capacity
$34.41

Get a reliable set of jack stands with a good base to protect your life. No kidding. No amount of money you save from doing your car repair is more important than your life.

Editor’s Choice: Torin 3 Ton Lift Capacity Jack Stands

Oil Drain Pan

oil drain pan on of the most common tools needed to fix cars yourself

One of the first jobs DIYers like to do when they start home car repair is to change the oil themselves. If you spill oil all over the garage or the driveway, you will end up with a big mess in your hands.

Make sure to slide a large oil pan under the car every time you change, drain and top off fluids.

Oil Funnel

oil funnel for diy auto repair

No matter how good you are at pouring liquids, if you don’t use an oil funnel to add, for example, engine oil, you will end up spilling oil on the engine block.

SaleBestseller No. 1
FloTool 10714MX3 Super Funnel Trio
FloTool 10714MX3 Super Funnel Trio
Ideal multi-purpose tool constructed with innovative and sturdy design; Features no mess splash guard
$5.99

Not only will your engine get dirty, but it will also start to smell like burned oil once the car engine warms up. If you have to add transmission oil or power steering fluid, you will need a funnel as these aren’t right on top of the engine but are typically much lower.

Editor’s Pick: Engine Oil Funnel with flexible extension

Work Light

Editor’s Pick: Rechargeable LED Work Light

You will be surprised how often you may start working your car when the sun is out and before you know it’s so hard to see under the engine. That’s why we recommend you have a good working light on standby and fully charged. Sometimes you may need to use a flashlight in the middle of the day to find that bolt that fell between the engine and the firewall. (flashlight recommendation)

Latex Gloves

gloves for working on cars

Don’t buy mechanic’s gloves. Seriously!

If you buy a mechanic’s work gloves, you will soon find it hard to work with a thick clock on your hands. You can’t feel what you are doing with your hands, but even more importantly, they get dirty quickly, and you will never want to use them again. Instead, we would recommend that you use thick latex gloves. They allow you to control the parts and tools better, but most importantly, you can start each DIY job with a new set of gloves.

Hand Cleaning Solution

Editor’s Pick: Gojo Hand Cleaner Orange

This is not a tool that will help you fix your car, but every car owner just starting with DIY auto repair needs to have it. Even though you wear gloves when working on cars, you may notice that your face, hands, or pants will get dirty. Dish soap isn’t capable of cleaning your hands enough. A good grease cleaning solution such as Gojo works miracles on both hands and clothes.

Jumper Box

tools needed to fix cars, must have a jump box

A jumper box with a built-in air compressor can come in handy, not just in emergencies. As a DIYer, you will soon learn that you drain the car battery more than once as you work on the car.

To get your car back up and running.

Digital Multimeter

digital multimeter used to fix cars

A multimeter is one of the most useful and easiest tools that can help you troubleshoot car problems. You can use a multimeter to check blown fuses or test circuit continuity. It’s ok if you don’t know how to use one. We can show you here (link)

Editor’s Pick:  Mastech Auto Range Multimeter

Penetrating Oil

penetrating oil needed to break loose and replace old rusted car parts

When you think of penetrating oil, WD-40 comes to mind, but there are better alternatives based on our experience. WD-40 is a penetrating liquid, but it is not a lubricant and can be easily washed away by water.

  • PB Blaster
    It works better than WD-40 and can penetrate rusted bolts, nuts, or car parts.
  • Liquid Wrench
    If you have squeaky car parts, spray some Liquid Wrench, and it’s as good as new. The liquid wrench works much better than WD-40 for lubrification purposes. When you are spraying Liquid Wrench on car parts, you are spraying lithium grease.

Mechanic Tool Set

tooset

Every car owner must have a mechanic toolset.

The basic toolset needs a 6mm to 19mm socket, extensions, ratchet, and Allen keys.  You will be using it every time you work on your car. No kidding. If you don’t have a socket set, we highly recommend investing in a good set, as it will pay in the long run.

SaleBestseller No. 1
DEWALT Mechanics Tool Set, 1/4' & 3/8' & 1/2' Drive, SAE/Metric, 205-piece (DWMT81534)
DEWALT Mechanics Tool Set, 1/4″ & 3/8″ & 1/2″ Drive, SAE/Metric, 205-piece (DWMT81534)
Anti-slip driver handle provides maximum comfort; Housed in a durable carrying case with metal latches
$149.99

Here are some of the best mechanics toolsets that you can get for the money.

  1. Fat Max Mechanic’s Tool Set
  2. Crescent Mechanics Tool Set

Please look at our in-depth article on Choosing the best socket set: Choosing an Auto Mechanic Toolset.

OBD-II Scan Tool

diagnose car with obd2 scanner

One of the most important tools you will need to fix your car at home is an OBD2 scanner. They are inexpensive and easy to use, even if you have never touched one. All cars made since 1996 have what is called an OBD-II port. It stands for Onboard Diagnostic.

The OBD2 port is located under the dash above the brake pedal.  You can plug an OBD2 scanner into the port to read and erase fault codes (also called Diagnostic Trouble DTC).

obd2 port scan diagnose car problems tool

OBD2 scanners cost anywhere from $15 to $2000. The cheap units can read fault codes, provide the code, and clear the check engine light’s fault codes. The more expensive diagnostic scanners cost between $150-$2000. They can troubleshoot not just the check engine light but also the transmission, ABS, SRS, Airbag, and transmission, to name a few.

turn phone into an obd 2 scanner

An OBD2 scanner is a must if you plan on doing your auto repair. We will soon have an in-depth article on choosing the best diagnostic scanner for you.

Specialty Tools

This is a list of common tools you will need if you work on cars that are European cars or are a mechanic. Most of these tools are specific to the job that you are working on. There is no point in buying these tools unless you plan on doing that repair.

Front End Service Set

Editor’s Choice: OTC Front End Service Set

If you dive into a DIY auto repair, you will soon learn that a front-end service set is a must-have tool. This set is used to remove ball joints and tie rods. You need a universal kit with multiple tools, such as a ball joint puller and tie rod puller. If you start with the DIY auto repair or are not planning on replacing ball joints or tie rods, you should skip this kit.

You can rent a front-end service kit for free if you have an Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts near you. These auto part stores allow you to borrow tools if you return them. A deposit is required to loan tools for free but is refunded when you return the tools.

Cordless impact wrench

tools needed to fix cars impact wrench

While having a cordless impact wrench is not required to start the DIY auto repair, it can make fixing cars easier and faster. If you walk into any auto repair shop, you will see that the mechanic is probably using an impact wrench. While car repair shops often use an air impact wrench, you can get the same benefits with a cordless impact wrench.

Once you get some experience, you can upgrade to an impact wrench, which helps speed up any job.  Our favorite impact wrenches daily are the Dewalt 20-volt impact wrench.

Ball Joint Pickle Fork

must have tools for diy car repair Pickle Fork Ball Joint Separator Set

This inexpensive tool can come in handy if you plan on working on the suspension. You often will need to disconnect the tie rod. You can use a fork (also called a pickle) to separate the tie rod if it is replaced. Don’t use a fork to damage the tie rod rubber boot if you need to disconnect and reconnect.

Coil Spring Compressor

diy car tools Coil Spring Compressor Tool Set

A coil spring compressor is handy when replacing or upgrading the coil springs. They come in handy if you replace the strut, not the coil. Or if you are trying to change the coil to lower or raise your car.

Conclusion

A few basic tools will empower you to fix a car yourself. Even if you don’t have any experience fixing cars, you can still perform a few maintenance items yourself. Such as changing a blown fuse, burned low beam light bulb, or even changing the oil.

Reading the codes is so simple that you can better understand why your check engine light is on in a couple of minutes.  As you build confidence in fixing your car and doing simple repairs, you will eventually change brake pads and spark plugs. We think that most of the tools listed here are home mechanic essentials.

For each car repair, you may need specific tools for that particular fix. However, in each of our online repair tutorials, there’s always a list of tools you’ll need for that specific job, so be sure to check that before starting work on your car. Note that the tools needed to fix cars at home aren’t the same as auto mechanic tools.

Start saving money on car repairs by gathering these tools and repairing your vehicle. Use the section below to let us know what tools you use the most.

We hope you find the 21 Tools You Need to Work on Cars guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your vehicle.

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