Tools you need to work on cars

By YOUCANIC on Jan 14, 2019

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. Also, this article is a great resource for those who are looking for gift ideas for someone who works on cars.

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.

Tools You Need To Work On Cars

Check out our list of the most commonly used tools for fixing cars and DIY auto repair.

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 to have 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 on yourself to remove the bolt the next time. 

Here's a Tip: 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. Also, if you are going to change a control arm, window regulator or a 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 just 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 one of the feelings you quickly have is:

I can't get that bolt 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 get lose any bolt you like. Even the CV joint bolts which 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 not only make this task easier but also safer. We recommend ramps because they are a lot safer to use than a floor jack, especially when you are just starting out with fixing your car. 

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 which is 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

MUST HAVE - Never get under a car that isn't supported by 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. (You want to brag to your friends or spouse, we understand.) 

If you spill oil all over the garage or the driveway, you may not be able to brag anymore. 

Instead, you may have some explaining to do. 

Tip: You can take your old oil to any facility that sells oil regardless of where you bought your engine oil. All facilities that sell motor oils are required to recycle old oil free of charge. 

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. (Standing light recommendation)

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 some thick clock? on your hands. You can't feel what you are doing with your hands but even more importantly they dirty quickly and you will never want to use them again. 

Instead, we would recommend that you use latex gloves. They not only give you the ability to have better control of 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 is going to help you fix your car, but every car owner that is just starting out 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 emergency situations. As a DIYer, you will soon learn that more than once you drain the car battery 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 based on our experience there are better alternatives. WD-40 is penetrating liquid but it is not a lubricant and can be easily washed away by water. 

  • PB Blaster
    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. 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 toolset. Basic tool set needs to have 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 you invest on a good set as it will pay in the long run. 

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

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

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

OBD-II Scan Tool

tools for diy car repair 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 and 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 fault codes related to the check engine light.

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 for the Home Mechanic

This is a list of common tools you will need if you work on cars frequently or are a home mechanic. Most of these tools are specific to the job that you are working on. There is no point on 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 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 that has multiple tools such as a ball joint puller, tie rod puller. If you are just starting with DIY auto repair or are not planning on replacing ball joints or tie rods then you should skip this kit. 

If you have an Autozone or Advance 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 back. 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 as it will 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 fuse, burned low beam light bulb, or even changing the oil.

Reading the codes is so simple that in a couple of minutes you can have a better understanding of why your check engine light is on.  As you build confidence fixing your car and doing simple repairs, you will eventually be able to 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 exactly the same as the tools that auto mechanics need. 

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. 

Comments

Ahmad Cendana, 2017-06-14

This is a very useful article. Sure, it also promotes some specific products but the recommendations are good. I've done DIY with my car before and can attest here that the compiled list here is made by someone who knows what he's talking about.

Amy Anderson, 2017-07-03

All the products which you show in this article were very useful for anyone who has its own car or any type of vehicle to use these tools you can easily point out any type of fault in your car.

Nice list of tools car that is essential for car repair. Being knowledgeable about the right tools to use for any car repair activities will be beneficial on the outcome of the activity. This basic tool will definitely help in fixing the car by ourselves. Being familiar with car repair tools will allow us to better understand what to use on a certain car repair we will perform to our car. DIY car repair is a crucial activity as to which a small mistake could lead to a huge problem in the car and can cost you plenty of dimes. DIY car repair can save some money when executed properly following the accurate procedure as well as using the right tools.

Plain text

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type='1 A I'> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id='jump-*'> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Only images hosted on this site may be used in <img> tags.