16 Tools to Get You Started Working on Your Own Car

Whether you’re restoring an old Jeep or you’ve got brand new Prius, you can eschew the dealer or auto shop for some tasks and start doing your own car maintenance. You’ll find working on your own car saves time and money—and if something breaks you’ll have the confidence and know-how to fix it.

That said, you can’t just drag your basic around-the-house toolbox out to the garage. An auto mechanic’s tool set differs from woodworking and general DIY tool you may have already accumulated; here are the basics you’ll need to get started.

Socket Set
A socket set is arguably the tool you’ll need most in order to work on your car. A proper mechanics tool set will include standard and metric sizes and 3/8-inch, 1/4-inch, and even 1/2-inch drivers and sockets. Extensions and thin walled sockets are also useful for certain situations.

Pliers and Wirecutters
There are a ton of electrical projects you can take on with a vehicle, such as, installing a stereo head unit, speakers, or wiring new headlights. You’ll need pliers of various sizes to achieve this, as well as wire cutters and wire strippers.

Torque Wrench
Setting nuts to the proper torque is often over-looked by beginner mechanics. Over torquing a nut can cause the bolt to shear off and also makes it much more difficult to remove when needed. Use a clicker-type torque wrench to ensure you are tightening to the proper specifications. To adjust the torque simply turn the bottom handle and align the top of it to the specified torque which is imprinted on the tool. Tighten until you hear two-clicks and then you’re done.
Never use a torque wrench to remove lug nuts, instead use an impact wrench or breaker bar—you risk screwing up the settings on your torque wrench otherwise.

A wrench set is an invaluable addition to any mechanical tool box. 

A screwdriver set is as useful around the house as it is in your garage, but you may need to expand out what you already have. Get a complete set that includes a larger flathead which can double as a small prying tool, and the very small screwdrivers delicate enough for electronic work.

Dead Blow Mallet
A dead blow mallet is many times the only solution when it comes to removing stuck bolts. A few smacks with this hammer—and maybe a little heat—will loosen almost anything.

Work Light
Working into the night is common during the winter, and you need a good work light to prevent losing parts and to spotlight your project.

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