By Cory Yeakel
Whether you’re building a project car for the track or you simply like to do your own work on your daily driver, one thing all DIY car people can agree on is the importance of a properly setup garage. The garage is our sanctuary for everything automotive, and if you’ve ever spent an hour elbow-deep in an engine bay, you know it pays to have the right tools for the job.
When most people setup their garage, their minds gravitate towards obvious accessories like toolboxes, work benches, and air compressors. However, there a number of other essentials that most people overlook which can provide serious benefit and convenience.
What’s the first thing you do when you walk into the garage? Flip on the light switch. Having proper lighting cannot be stressed enough when it comes to garage work, whether you’re working on your car or any other DIY project for the house. If the light is too dim or there are too many shadows, mistakes can be made, and mistakes can be costly (not to mention, painful).
Unless your house was built in the last decade, most garage light fixtures are outfitted with a standard pair of fluorescent tube lights. Fluorescents can be good, but LED’s have proven to be the future – not just for their energy efficiency, also for their impressive brightness and directional lighting. Simply replacing your current fluorescents with LED’s can do a number to improve visibility, but adding another fixture or two on top of that can really transform your image while working.
Pro tip: if you do plan to add more fixtures to your current lighting setup, install them over areas you know you’ll be working often. We have one directly over our work bench that provides so much light, the sun can’t even keep up! Needless to say, it makes working on small parts much, much easier.
Most of us turn to old bath towels or beat up T-shirts when we need a new shop rag. While these materials can handle their basic purpose, they have nothing on the cleaning efficiency of microfiber towels. Microfiber, for those who don’t know, is a synthetic material whose fibers are much smaller and denser than other common cleaning materials like cotton or nylon. In simple terms, this allows them to clean dirt and grease more efficiently because its smaller fibers can pick up even the smallest particles. In addition, microfiber is more absorbent, lighter weight, and lint free, among other benefits, which is why they’ve become the preferred detailer’s towel.
And the best part? Microfiber towels are a heck of a bang for your buck. A pack of a dozen can be bought online or from your local auto parts store for less than $20, and since most of them are good for roughly 500 wash cycles, it’ll be years before you need to invest in another set.
Whether it’s a small drawer in your tool box or a full-size storage bin, everyone has at least one spot in the garage that is completely unorganized and filled with a bunch of oddly shaped tools that wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. This is where pegboards come in handy. Pegboards are not only a tool organization life saver, but they can help free up precious floor space by taking advantage of empty wall space that wouldn’t otherwise be used.
Pegboards are available in plenty of sizes and styles, and there are unique hangers available for nearly every type of tool or product from hammers and rakes to step stools and hoses. If you have the time and like custom jobs, you can even make your own. There are dozens of DIY guides to follow online, and it’s a relatively easy job to follow even for beginners.
Every garage has a few power outlets built into its walls, just like any other room in the house. However, compared to a kitchen or living room, there’s usually many more things that require power in the garage (lighting, tools, chargers, etc.), and a standard set of wall outlets can be limiting both in number and location.
Picking up a few power strips and extension cords will not only give you the freedom to plug things in wherever you need them, but it will also increase your outlet count ten-fold. Even if you don’t need them right now, you will inevitably need them in the future. We’ve all had moments where we need to plug something in but every outlet is taken, or we need power in a specific spot but the nearest outlet is 10 feet away. The next time you’re faced with one of those moments, you’ll be happy you have extra power supplies on hand.
Pro tip: when shopping for power supplies specifically for use in the garage, try to find products with metal casings as these are much more durable than the average plastic power strip. In addition, look for products with surge protection to prevent your gear from potential damage caused by unexpected power spikes.
Many people forego safety gear – some because they think it’s unnecessary for the job they’re doing, others for the “tough” act. Here’s a quick tip from those with experience: no matter what the job, when you walk into the garage to work, leave your ego at the door. Being well-protected is far more important than losing an eye because you didn’t think the job warranted glasses.
Proper safety starts with the basics like wearing hand and eye protection while working, followed by keeping other equipment in close proximity such as a first aid kit and fire extinguisher. No one can predict when an accident is going to occur – but if and when one does, you’ll want all the necessary safety gear to prevent injury to yourself or damage to your house.
A garage is never finished. there are always more tools to add to make your work easier, faster, or better. No one can argue that a new power tool set is overwhelmingly attractive, but before you start upgrading things you already have, make sure you’ve got the essentials in place. As we’ve heard most of our lives, it’s the littlest things that can make the biggest difference.
Cory Yeakel is an automotive enthusiast who’s been fascinated with cars since before he even learned how to drive. He loves everything on-road and off-road, but his truest passion is exotics.