It’s commonplace for people to bring their automobiles into a mechanic at the first sign of trouble. Whether it’s a “Check Engine Light” that has mysteriously clicked on, or a sound coming from the under the hood that just doesn’t sound quite right, the mysteries of the combustion engine are as about as daunting as anything can be to the average person. To most people, mechanics work miracles, without which they would be left, very literally, sitting on the curb. While there is no doubt mechanics have the experience and know-how to mend all things mechanical, there is more to these “miracles” than just the man wielding the wrench; the wrench itself plays a big part.
A big part of what makes a mechanic’s job possible are their tools. Wrenches have, and most likely always will be, a mainstay in the toolbox, but in this day and age they are just one player in a much larger cast. With advances in technology making new things possible across all fields and industries, the engineering that goes into making automobiles is becoming more and more advanced. As cars become more sophisticated, leading to engine blocks that are almost indistinguishable from those of the early 40s and 50s roadsters, so too are the tools used to work on them. Computer integration, automated systems, and a slew of proprietary parts have made it necessary for the mechanic’s arsenal of tools to expand in kind.
An expanding toolbox hasn’t completely changed the basics of tool use though, and most still rely on a skilled operator and a good amount of elbow grease to be used effectively. Here are some of the types of tools that the modern mechanic has at his disposal when he pops the hood:
● Air Tools: These handy tools work just the way they sound, using air. A common air tool found in any workshop is the blow gun, which can be used from tasks as important as cleaning out a carburetor, to cleaning up the shop floor.
● Power Tools: Tools that use electricity for power fall into this category. In many cases a power tool is simply the powered version of a similar hand tool (such as an adapter for a power drill that can take off the lug nuts of a tire). These tools are essential for ensuring quality repairs in a timely manner though, and provide some of that elbow grease needed to get the job done
● Hand Tools: Yes, just like air and power tools, hand tools are used in just the way they sound... with hands. More specifically though, hand tools are hand powered tools, such as wrenches and screwdrivers. With all of the technology that goes into making cars (such as automated robotic arms), it is easy to imagine that these types of tools have become obsolete. Not a chance. Hand tools are still the backbone of a mechanic’s toolbox.
● Proprietary Tools: Tools that fall into this category might actually fall into one of the others as well. This type of tool is a product of the modern car industry, and the technological and modernization of cars. Unlike the good ‘ole days of auto maintenance, where modifications and replacement parts could be made and found at will, modern cars are practically hermetically sealed. The packaging and arrangement of the engine compartment is different from car maker to car maker, and with different computer systems, specialized parts, etc. in each auto, companies often provide special tools for working on their models.
The above list is just a general overview of the types of tools mechanics use to perform their mechanical miracles. How mechanics are able to keep track of the shear volume of tools at their disposal is the real miracle. Furthermore, all of this talk about tools shouldn’t detract from the effort put into using them. While the tools of the trade undoubtedly make the job of servicing broken down automobiles easier, it is the hands wielding them that makes it possible.