With the economy mired in a slow recovery, many are realizing just how much money they can save by handling some of the “light” repairs on a vehicle themselves.
In all honesty, it’s a great idea, as the labor associated with auto repair can get pricey in a hurry.
But, before you head out to the garage to tackle a headlight or radiator replacement, for example, you must ask yourself: Do I have the right tools for the job?
To help in this arena, we’ve compiled our “Auto Repair Toolbox Essentials” list.
Tools You CAN’T Live Without
First and foremost, let’s note one thing: You DON’T need to spend $300 on tools to get the job done under the hood!
Far too often, vehicle owners assume that an extensive tool collection is necessary to take care of random repairs that arise. Not the case! In fact, an all-inclusive set of tools (usually priced under $50) is all you’ll need for most repairs.
Let’s visit a few key items, shall we?
Sockets and Ratchets
Want our honest opinion? You’re reading, so we’ll assume you do…
Why are we still on Standard measurements in the United States?
Ok, we won’t digress, but in truth, we recommend a small socket and ratchet set as one of our key toolbox essentials. Most vehicles will use metric (10mm, for example) bolts, and a small set can go a long way when handling most repairs.
To get maximum mileage out of your socket set, why not add a 6” extension or flex-joint? We don’t sell tools (as of today), so don’t worry – we don’t have an ulterior motive here.
For those of you that are really trying to stretch a tool budget, you can snag a crescent wrench instead of the socket set. You’ll save a few bucks, and the adjustable head will allow you to handle most bolts. The drawbacks involve reaching bolts (no extension) and having to use good old fashioned “elbow grease” to loosen them…
You can’t omit screwdrivers. No matter what your repair is, you will encounter Phillips or flathead screws along the way. Don’t go overboard, though! Screwdrivers are inexpensive, and with just a couple of size variations, you won’t need much else.
Here’s where we’d normally tell you about the “cheaper” route to go, but if you’re getting a basic screwdriver set, there really isn’t one…
No toolbox is complete without a hammer or rubber mallet. The hammer will come in handy all around the house (not just under the hood), which is why it is a MUST. But, when it comes to auto repair, you’ll probably prefer a rubber mallet.
Some parts (alternators, starters) may require a bit of a “nudge” to separate them from the engine. This is where the rubber mallet comes in. There is a workaround however –
If you want to save a few bucks and just get a hammer, use a towel to wrap around the hammer’s head. You can now use the tool as a rubber mallet when necessary.
If All Else Fails…Duct Tape
What’s that you say? You lost the mounting bolts for your alternator? Duct tape.
Oh, you can’t find the retaining pins for your interior door panel? Duct tape.
Your radiator mounts have cracked, and now the component won’t stay in place? Duct tape.
This is a joke. Kind of… Duct tape.
Well, there you have it! There are quite a few tools that we left off of this list, but we’re simply trying to get you the bare minimum as a tool set. With sockets/ratchets, a couple of screwdrivers, and a hammer/mallet, you can do just about anything.
Oh, and don’t forget the duct tape!