Whether your car is still under warranty or you’ve got a weekend track car to keep in working order, it’s easier than you might think to start doing your own maintenance and repairs. Not only does working on your car save time and money, it’s highly educational and gives you the confidence to tackle a problem when it pops up.
Along with the will to learn, you need to be equipped with the right tools for the job. Your household DIY toolkit won’t cut it for most automotive applications, so here are some of the basics to get you started.
- A Quality Socket Set – This is arguably the most important aspect of a well-rounded automotive toolbox, as pretty much any job will require using a socket and ratchet of some sort. A good mechanic-oriented set will include both metric and standard (SAE) sockets, as well as ¼-inch, 3/8-inch, and ½-inch ratchets to drive those sockets. Extensions, wobble-joints, and thin-walled sockets are useful additions, but are not typically included in a starter kit.
- Pliers and Wiring Tools – There are nearly as many electrical projects you can take on with a car as there are mechanical jobs, and having the proper tools can make what would otherwise be a nightmare or downright impossible, into a fun process. You’ll want pliers of various sizes and shapes, as well as wire cutters and wire strippers. Quality tool manufacturers like Craftsman, Milwaukee, Matco, or Snap-on offer full ranges of hand tools for any job.
- Torque Wrench – Both beginners and seasoned enthusiasts alike often overlook the importance of tightening nuts and bolts to the correct torque specification. Over-torqueing a bolt can cause it to break – often causing quite a headache for whoever has to extract it, and under-torqueing a fastener can cause critical components to come loose during driving. There are tons of options, but beginners should use a basic click-type torque wrench.
- Wrench Set – A good set of standard wrenches is right up there in importance with a socket set. A complete set should include both metric and SAE sizes. Many manufacturers are now making wrenches with ratcheting box-ends so there’s no need to remove the wrench to reset it after every turn.
- Screwdrivers – You likely have screwdrivers in your household tool setup, but you will probably need to expand that when you begin working on automotive projects. A range of flathead drivers are useful for fasteners as well as acting as small prying tools, and drivers with interchangeable heads are useful for specialty fasteners found on cars.
This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive list of tools to take on any car-related project, but it is a solid foundation on which you can continue to expand your tool collection to handle whatever comes your way.