In order to be an effective mechanic, you need more than just mechanical aptitude. You need knowledge and training, as well, but you also need the right tools. No matter how much education or shop experience you might have, you can’t do much without access to the right tools.
We’re assuming that you already have a set of standard and metric sockets, manual ratchets, and basic wrenches, of course. This list goes beyond those basics. What are the most important, must-have items, though? While every mechanic will have their own list of preferences, there are some that apply across the board and should be in every mechanic’s toolbox. What do you need to complete your repair arsenal?
An impact wrench is a vital consideration for anyone who’ll be removing wheels from a vehicle, or in other applications where plenty of torque is needed. Invest in a top-name in the industry, as a quality impact wrench will last you for decades if it is properly lubricated and cared for. Make sure you have sockets and adapters that will fit your impact wrench, too.
An air ratchet saves you time and effort, although you might still need to break those tight nuts loose manually. As with your impact wrench, buy a quality brand here, as it makes a difference in the long run. If you’re buying a larger 1/2 inch air ratchet, make sure you also get an adapter so you can use your regular 3/8ths sockets with it.
Cordless drills can be incredibly handy in almost any automotive maintenance or repair job. Whether you’re removing screws from a breather housing, attaching mudguards in a new vehicle inspection, or something completely different, a cordless drill with a selection of drivers and bits is a vital consideration.
Selection of Ratchet Extensions
Ratchet extensions are absolutely vital for any mechanic, whether you work on imports, domestics, or both. They come in a range of lengths, from short and stubby to very long (think 20 inches). They also come in a number of configurations. You’ll want to make sure you have a little of everything – locking extensions hold tight to your socket/ratchet, long extensions make reaching hard to access nuts and bolts simper, and flexible extensions mean you can tackle those awkward angles more easily.
Universal Nut Remover
Every mechanic has experienced the frustration and knuckle-busting agony of dealing with rounded off nuts and bolts. A tap and die set is one way to deal with those, but Craftsman has something else to offer. The company’s Universal Nut Cracker is designed to fit any sort of nut you might encounter and to remove it easily, all without damaging the threads on the bolt.
Soft-Touch Pry Tools
Whether you’re removing a bumper cover or dealing with interior trim, you need the ability to pry flat pieces of plastic apart without damaging them. Say goodbye to your rag-wrapped flathead screwdriver and hello to the right tools for the job. You’ll find soft-touch pry tools available singly or in sets, and available from a number of different tool manufacturers. These feature robust construction so you can pry with full strength, but are made of soft materials so they don’t damage delicate trim pieces.
If there’s one thing that all mechanics will face at one point or another, it’s a nut that can’t be removed with a socket, and must be removed with little room for a hand tool. Enter the crows foot wrench – these little beauties attach directly to your ratchet extension and allow you to get at nuts in tough to reach locations.
Extendable Mirrors and Magnets
We’ve all been there before – you’re hanging over the side of a fender, face-first in an engine, and you just can’t find the nut or bolt you’re trying to remove with your fingers. Or, you could be trying to inspect an engine for signs of an oil or coolant leak, but you’re stymied because of a snarl of hoses. An extendable mirror is the perfect tool for the job, featuring a telescoping handle that lets you adjust the length, and an adjustable mirror to get the perfect view. You’ll also find magnets with extendable handles and adjustable heads, which are perfect for snagging that bolt you dropped and now cannot reach.
We touched on flex-head sockets and other tools, but a flex head ratchet allows you to gain those benefits without having to invest in a full set of new sockets. Plus, it avoids the extra length that comes with the built-in extension on a socket. A flex-head ratchet can squeeze into tight spaces, and adjusts easily so you have the perfect angle every time.
Set of Ratcheting Wrenches
Ratcheting wrenches are nothing new, but you might wonder if you really need them in your toolset. The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Anyone who has ever spent far more time tightening or loosening a nut or bolt with a standard wrench knows just how frustrating the experience can be. Ratcheting wrenches let you get in, done and back out in record time, without having to constantly pull the wrench off, turn it, and put it back on just to repeat the process time and time again.
If you have ever done brake work before, you know it’s impossible to spread the caliper out to accommodate the new pad without the right tools. There are plenty of homemade options out there, including C-clamps and wooden blocks. Go it one better with an actual caliper spreader.
There you have them – some of the most crucial tools for your mechanic arsenal. While they might not be the only tools you’ll need, they certainly make your life easier.