Whether you are working in a large shop or spend your weekends tinkering with your classic Mustang, there are certain small hand tools that are essential to ensuring that every job gets done right the first time. While there are many automated tools and computers that can help you identify problems and potential trouble areas, this technology can’t help you actually fix the issue. You’ll need a standard set of tools that you can access quickly and easily.
Here is a list of 10 essential tools to keep on hand for working on cars, no matter how big or small the job may be.
1. Socket and Wrench Set: Look for a good quality set (don’t get something from the dollar store!) A good set will have at least 75 pieces and will be durable enough that they won’t break with some tension applied to them. Look for sets that have both imperial and metric measurements, because some vehicles require both. Look for a lifetime guarantee as well.
2. Floor Jacks: Quality floor jacks will lift vehicles quickly and easily, and offer the ultimate in safety as well. Make sure that the weight rating for the jack is higher than the standard size vehicle. You may want to purchase more than one, with different weight ratings. This is not something you want to leave to chance, or risk someone getting seriously injured.
3. Screwdrivers: You will need a variety of Philips, Robertson and flat head screwdrivers. A multi-tip screwdriver will certainly come in handy, but having a strong flat driver will be very useful for those times that you need to pry something or apply some serious pressure.
4. Pliers: You can’t go by the ‘one size fits all’ theory here. You’ll need a variety of sizes, or you will find that some things won’t grab properly and others won’t grab at all. Again, look for strong, quality pliers that will last.
5. Shop Towels and Hand Cleaners: While not a tool, per se, these are just as essential as your wrenches and screwdrivers. Regular hand soap will not work to get rid of all the grease on your hands at the end of a long day. You’ll need a supply of shop towels to use throughout the day to wipe your hands and tools as needed.
6. Chisels: This is a versatile tool that can be used for many different tasks. Make sure you have a good selection, in various sizes. Make sure you buy the right type – don’t buy a chisel made for cutting wood if you plan on using it to cut steel. These need to be kept sharp in order to work properly, so sharpen it regularly.
7. Air Tools: A selection of air hoses, air grinders and other tools can save you time and effort. Again, look for quality tools that offer a guarantee of some kind, and don’t buy the least expensive brands on the market; saving a few dollars up front can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run.
8. Drill/Drill Bits: Having a varied selection of drill bits will ensure that you are prepared no matter what the job requires. Changing drill bits takes only a few seconds and will add efficiency to any task.
9. Lockout Tools: We’ve all done it at one time or another – locked our keys in the car. With lockout tools, you can have the door open in seconds, with no damage done to the vehicle. These are great to keep both at the shop and in your garage at home.
10. Antenna Radio Tools: Testers, repair tools, extractors and cutters are sure to come in handy when you need to fix an antenna. The styles of antennas have changed dramatically over the years, but one thing hasn’t changed: they can still get damaged going through a car wash!
Over the course of your career, you will likely add many more tools to the list. These will give you a good start and will help you establish yourself as an expert in your field. As a mechanic, you are required to purchase your own tools, and these can be expensive. Remember, though, that when you buy quality tools that help you do a great job, you’ll have repeat customers that will keep you in business. They will refer their friends and family, keeping you busy for years to come. Your customers entrust you with their vehicles, which is a large expense for many; you want to make sure that you earn that trust by giving them the satisfaction they’re looking for.