12 Non-Negotiable Tools Every Home Mechanic Should Own

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home mechanic

Are you tired of taking your car into the auto shop only to deal with expensive repairs?

It can be really annoying. Especially if you have enough automotive know-how and savvy to do some of those repairs yourself.

But you also need to have the right tools. So if you have some home mechanic aspirations but don’t want to break the bank buying tools, then start by stocking your garage with the following dozen:

1. Damaged Stud/Screw/Bolt Removal Set

If you’re committed to doing your own repairs, it’s inevitable that you’ll come upon seized bolts that have completely snapped off. A set of these tools will take care of that problem.

After drilling a hole into the broken bolt, these have a reversed thread that cuts right into the bolt. Stick with the longer type of extractor though, as the shorter ones don’t always do the trick.

2. Creeper

You might think you’re content to slide flattened cardboard boxes or carpet pads under the car. But you’re not going to have much (if any) mobility going that route. And your old skateboard isn’t going to cut it either.

Save your back and your joints by investing in a padded creeper with an adjustable headrest and rotating caster wheels. It’s going to make your work more comfortable and that much easier.

3. Diagnostic Tool/Code Reader

Don’t be a dummy when it comes to dummy lights. When that “check engine” light comes on, rather than tool around under the hood trying to figure out the problem, diagnose the problem yourself with a code reader.

As long as your car wasn’t manufactured in the Dark Ages, you simply plug it into the on-board diagnostic port under the dash near the steering column. And in no time, you’ll have a smartphone screen-sized readout of the problem.

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4. Tap and Dye Set

You’re going to have to clean and repair threads for nuts and bolts. But sometimes you’ll need to create new threads too. You need to use a thread gauge on the bolt in question to determine which tap or dye to use. This is another type of home mechanic.

You’ll also have to look up a drill-tap size chart to figure out the best size drill if you’re creating a completely new thread hole for a bolt. That way, you have the exact sized hole ready for creating new threads.

5. Impact Wrench

Every garage needs a tool that can blast loose heavily corroded or resistant parts. An impact wrench can handle the job.

Battery-powered impact wrenches are gaining in popularity. But for the money, an air-powered impact wrench will give you serious power. Plus, because there’s no issue with dead batteries, it’s also reliable. You’ll likely find that a one-half-inch drive size is enough to tackle most of your DIY mechanic jobs.

6. Torque Wrenches

Torque wrenches are essential for every mechanic. If you’re not in the market for a full set, then start with a 1/4″ size for smaller bolts, and a 1/2″ for higher torque requirements. Also, if you’re buying them new, be sure they have a certificate of calibration.

7. Vice Grips

Technology is great. But there’s nothing that beats the twisting and clamping capabilities of old-school vice grips locking pliers. Because when you have a stripped screw or a rusted nut that just won’t turn, technology isn’t going to save the day.

Your best bet is to pick up a set that has a pair of 10-inch curved jaw locking pliers, as well as needle-nose pliers and some smaller vice grips thrown in for good measure.

8. Grinder

In a perfect world, everything would fit. The hole would be the perfect size and the part you ordered would fall into place like a puzzle piece. But since this isn’t a perfect world, you’ll need a grinder. A simple lightweight grinder whose motor spins at 10,000 to 20,000 rpm will provide you plenty of power to correct your sizing mishaps.

9. Lights

Sometimes all you need is a simple flashlight to shed some light on the problem. But other times, you’ll require more than that. You could opt for strip lights, but that can be an expensive option. Especially if you have a large garage.

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Consider instead a 5-in-1 bulb splitter fit with super bright LED bulbs. Headlamps are another solid investment, as well as under the hood magnetic light bars for when you need to work on the engine.

10. Slide Hammer Bearing Puller/Remover

A slide hammer bearing puller removes bearings and other difficult-to-remove parts from cars and trucks. It is comprised of three parts – a long metal shaft with an attachment point at one end, a heavy weight that’s able to slide along that shaft, and a stop for the weight.

Blind bearing pullers are typically used for removing bearings that are set into a casing such as an engine. With these, the attachment inserts through the inner bearing hole where a nut tightens and expands the attachment. Open bearing pullers, on the other hand, are utilized on bearings with a visible outer race.

11. Parts Washer

It would be great if you could get a powerful parts washer like the kind manufactured by Sanritsu America. But it’s a good idea to start out smaller. For now, at least.

Restore the condition of your parts with a simple benchtop parts washer. They’re inexpensive and feature a flexible fused lid stand that will snap shut in the event of a fire. You can even fit a heating element to aid in cleaning.

12. Cable Ties/Zip Ties

Okay. So these aren’t technically tools. But these simple plastic ties are an absolute necessity. If you don’t have a bag of them handy in your garage, it won’t take long before you wish you did.

Begin Your Home Mechanic Odyssey

It’s important to understand that there is a wealth of automotive tools available. But investing in the above twelve tools is a great way to start building your home mechanic workshop.

So pop the hood and start exploring.

And if you’re looking for more great articles on all things cars and trucks, keep checking back with our automotive blog!

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