21 Tools You Need to Work on Cars

If you plan on doing car repairs but don't know what tool you need, this article is for you. 

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
Figure: Pliers are must-have tools if you plan on doing your own car repair. 

 

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
Figure: Adjustable Torque Wrench

 

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 either 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 in the world do I need an open wrench set if I am going to get a socket set. Sockets can't get to all the nuts and bolts due to space constraints. If you are going to change a control arm, window regulator, or ball joint, you will most likely need a wrench set to counter-hold a bolt.

We like the Craftsman open-ended wrench set that also has a ratcheting box end. This saves time because you don't need to remove the wrench every single 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 find out that you need even more screwdrivers. You will need large flat head screwdrivers that you can 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 that's refusing to get out. 

Breaker Bar   

 

breaker bar must have tool for diy auto repair at home

 

When you get started with DIY auto repair, at some point you will come across bolts that you can't break loose. 

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 are planning on changing the oil yourself, ramps make this task easier and safer. We recommend ramps because they are safer to use than a floor jack, especially when you are just starting with 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. 

Jack Stands 

 

tools needed to fix cars jack stands

 

No matter if 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, and it is the most important tip that you should get from reading this article. (formatting)

Get a reliable set of jack stand that has a good base to protect your life. No kidding. No amount of money you save from doing your own 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 with 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. 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 fluid or power steering fluid, you will need a funnel as these aren't right on top of the engine but 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 many times 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 would recommend that 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 out that it is 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 give you the ability to better control the parts and tools, 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 and 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 tool set.

The basic toolset needs to have a 6mm to 19mm socket, extensions, ratchet, 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. 

  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 in your life. 

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, erase fault codes (also called Diagnostic Trouble DTC) codes. 

 

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 own 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 frequently, 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 particular repair. 

Front End Service Set

Editor's Choice: OTC Front End Service Set

If you are going to 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, 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. 

If you have an Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts near you, you can rent a front end service kit for free. These auto part stores allow you to borrow tools as long as 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 get started with DIY auto repair, it certainly can make fixing cars a lot easier and faster. 

If you walk into any auto repair shop, you will see that the mechanic is probably using an impact wrench. While at car repair shops, they 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, as it really helps speed up any job.

Our favorite impact wrenches that we use 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 pickle) to separate the tie rod if it is being replaced. If you need to disconnect and reconnect, don't use a fork to damage the tie rod rubber boot. 

Coil Spring Compressor

diy car tools Coil Spring Compressor Tool Set

 

A coil spring compressor comes in handy if you are trying to replace or upgrade the coil springs. They come in handy if you are replacing the strut but 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 a fuse, burned low beam light bulb, or even changing the oil.

Reading the codes is so simple that you can have a better understanding of why your check engine light is on in a couple of minutes.  As you build confidence fixing your car and doing simple repairs, you will eventually change brake pads and spark plugs yourself.

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 that 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 going to be the same as auto mechanics tools. 

Start saving money on car repairs by gathering these tools and doing your vehicle repair. 

Use the section below to let us know what tools you use the most. 

 

By YOUCANIC Automotive Experts
Nov 2020