If you plan on car repairs but don’t know what tool you need, read the instructions below to know the essential 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.
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.
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 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 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
You may wonder why I need an open wrench set if I get a socket set. Spacing space constraints, sockets can’t reach all the nuts and bolts.
If you change a control arm, window regulator, or ball joint, you 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.
Editor’s Pick: Craftsman Screwdriver Set Phillips + Slotted
You already have a few screwdrivers around the house. 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.
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.
When you start with DIY auto repair, you will come across bolts you can’t break loose at some point. Don’t be discouraged. It is not that you need to be vital to fix cars; you need to be innovative.
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
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.
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.
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.
Get a reliable jack stand set 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
One of the first jobs DIYers like 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.
Slide a large oil pan under the car whenever you change, drain, and top off fluids.
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.
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
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 an excellent 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)
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 cloth 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.
A jumper box with a built-in air compressor can be useful, 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.
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
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
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.
Here are some of the best mechanics toolsets that you can get for the money.
- Fat Max Mechanic’s Tool Set
- Crescent Mechanics Tool Set
Please review our in-depth article on Choosing the best socket set: Choosing an Auto Mechanic Toolset.
OBD-II Scan Tool
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 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.
One good example of a reliable all-around OBD-II scanner is the YOUCANIC Full System Scanner. This Powerful device can have many features that can help you quickly diagnose your vehicle. It can read and clear fault codes from all the systems, perform bi-directional tests, perform maintenance and repair resets, and many more.
This is a list of standard tools you will need if you work on cars that are European 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
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 wrenches.
Ball Joint Pickle Fork
This inexpensive tool can be useful 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
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.
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, a 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 few 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.
Have questions about your car? Get assistance in our newly launched forum section. We’re here to provide support!