The right tools make all the difference for a car project—determining whether a task is a breeze or a major headache. A good set of assorted hand tools, a solid shop bench, and safety precautions like a fire extinguisher are great first steps. But we also suggest these tools as essential for any gearhead.
Wireless Impact Wrench
Are you even a little envious of a professional garage’s air-powered impact wrench to remove stubborn lug nuts? Well, those days might be over. Cordless impact wrenches ditch the need for a compressed air source from the equation, instead relying on rechargeable battery power. Not only are they easy to add to your arsenal, they’re also as portable as any hand tool. They give you the speed and ease of use of an impact wrench.
Portable Work Light
Even in well-lit garages, there always seems to be a task that’s tucked away where fixed overhead lights can’t reach. Usually, you can get away with dim lighting, but considering the time you’ll waste fumbling around for that hidden bolt head (as well as the inherent dangers of working in a shop environment without a clear picture of what’s going on), a portable shop light is a great investment.
One cool thing about the new breed of LED lights is that they don’t heat up the way those lamps do, so they’re safe to touch (and move as needed) while you’re working. They also consume less energy while offering similar illumination to halogen counterparts.
Full Sized Three-Ton (Or More)
Sure, you can get away with a cheap floor jack for simple stuff. But after a few involved jobs with different vehicles, you’ll see that smaller jacks don’t have the range to properly lift the tires of most modern SUVs and pickups. They also don’t have the grunt to lift the front end of most vehicles off the ground, regardless of ride height.
You’ll still want to use a set of jack stands even with a full-sized floor jack, but the time you’ll save trying to make smaller, cheap floor jacks is worth the price. Besides, with two tons of steel perched above you, do you really want cheap stuff holding it there?
This one is a no-brainer. Of course, it’s easy to simply tighten things as much as you can and call it good enough. But there’s a reason that manufacturers have suggested torque ratings on different bolts. Without a torque wrench, you run the risk of stripping bolt heads, warping components, or not tightening a fastener enough to keep it secure. For as little as $20, there’s no excuse to hope for the best every time you tighten something.
A Cheap Internet-Connected Computer
Service manuals are a great resource, but the Internet is almost always more useful. It’s invaluable to have the ability to search within posts for a particular step of a problematic job. The number of walkthrough videos available for most common repair jobs is astounding. If you have an outdated laptop laying around gathering dust, set that puppy up in the garage to have a formidable resource at your command—without having to go back and forth into your house to use your regular machine. And if you don’t have an extra machine at your disposal, Internet-capable beater-laptops are readily available for around $100. It sure beats trying to use a smartphone while wearing gloves.