So, you’ve decided to dive into your first automotive repair project. You saddled up and ordered that new oil filter or thermostat after doing your homework and confirming that what you’re attempting doesn’t require a master mechanic certificate. All that’s left to do now is dive in.
There’s only one problem. As soon as you pop the hood, you realize that oil filter, thermostat or spark plug you had intended to remove is tucked into a tight corner or fastened using an obscure bolt type you haven’t got a bit for.
Equipping Your Garage
To get the job done, you need more than just parts and instructions. You’ve got to have the right tools too. They might seem expensive at first, but the amount of damage you’ll do to your vehicle and your body trying to force things will cost much more — financially and physically — than a few reliable tools.
It’s important to know where to begin. You won’t be performing body-off restorations in your garage on day one, so don’t go out and buy extremely specialized tools that won’t be of use. Begin with the basics. Give yourself a space to work in with a quality workbench, get a tool chest and some wall mounts to keep things organized, and make sure your floor is sealed and ready to get dirty.
Tools of the Trade
Once you have the beginnings of an organized garage in place, it’s time to treat yourself to the mechanic’s bread-and-butter toolset. This includes a floor jack and jack stands, a drop light and a good set of sockets and drivers. Cars don’t use the same types of fasteners you see in drywall, so you may need to invest in a few specialized sockets and drivers to accomplish the task at hand.
There are a few specialized tools that you might not think of if you’re new to DIY. For instance, a torque wrench, which has a readout that indicates how much twisting force is being applied to a fastener, is essential for working on cars. An air compressor can be valuable for driving tools and helping speed up your work.
You’ll also want to have a few things on-hand that are specific to your car. This means having an extra change of oil and filter around, replacement light bulbs and a spare battery. You’ll be glad you planned ahead when you need them, particularly the battery. You should also give yourself enough time to find good deals on these wear parts, instead of rushing and getting skinned.
Last but not least, a service manual for your vehicle can be a lifesaver if you find yourself in over your head. You can purchase these from third-party authors or your car’s manufacturer, though it can be tough to find one if you have an obscure vehicle.
Top-Shelf or Bargain Basement?
As a new mechanic, you might be curious about how much to spend on tools. You can find tools can at a multitude of different price points, but is there any value in paying more?
Just like with most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to tools. It’s usually a bad idea to buy the absolute cheapest one you can because it could break and leave you needing a replacement. You can probably also rule out expensive professional-grade tools too since they might have features you don’t need or be built to standards higher than your applications require. Every tool is different, so read reviews and ask your friends for recommendations.
A good set of tools will last you a long time if you use them properly, so take good care of them and expect others to do the same.
Fixing up cars is a lot of fun and saves you money on trips to the mechanic. It may even become a source of income. You’ll only be successful though if you have the right tools and take care of them once you have them. Doing so will help ensure that your projects go smoothly, that you avoid safety issues and that you end up with quality results.