Being your own auto mechanic can be a great way to save money and know the job’s been done well. Check out some of the tools below that can make any home mechanic’s garage as efficient as anything you’ll see in a professional environment.
Light it up
Having a magnetic light that you can aim in multiple directions is a must. Whether you’re working under the hood or under the car, spaces are tight and natural light is scarce. Making sure you can clearly see what you’re doing will help you work faster and make it less likely that you end up banging away on something best left alone.
Stick to it
Speaking of magnets, they can be a great way to help keep your tools, nuts, bolts, and other pieces and parts organized and handy. Magnetic strips can be mounted on pegboards or walls for uncluttered tool storage. You can also find magnetic belt clips that will allow you to keep various fasteners handier than ever.
Deal with it
We’ve all encountered broken fasteners and fasteners that just won’t budge. Many car models also feature small buttons and other trim pieces that can be hard to remove without damaging the surrounding area (think of radio buttons or trim on door panels). Small pry tools, like those designed for cell phone repair, can make this job easier. They can also open the plastic cases that often house electronics. A hook-and-pick set can work better than needlenose pliers for finessing the plastic pins and sliders that often lock together electrical connectors in newer vehicles. A nut splitter will remove any stuck nut without doing any damage to the bolt or stem.
Reach for it
A ratchet extender can help you get into the tightest places to easily tighten or loosen those out-of-reach bolts that can take up so much time and cause so much frustration. Flexible sockets can be pricey, but are also excellent at working in the tighter spaces that seem so much more common in today’s cars and trucks. If you’ve had to deal with a socket that stayed stuck on a bolt when you pulled your ratchet out, you’ll appreciate a locking extension bar, which will ensure that your socket never gets left behind again.
Mark it up
A scriber with a carbide tip can help you easily label parts as you remove them to help make it easier to put things back together again. Many seasoned mechanics understand the importance of making sure everything is properly marked (via whatever system makes sense to you) before parts are scattered on the floor or work table. If you have an older socket set with surface-etched labels that have worn down with time, you can find foil labels that are gas and oil resistant to affix to your favorite tools, making quick ID easier.
Scrape it off
If you’re trying to remove years of rust, dirt, paint, or other scaling, an air-pressured scaler could come in handy. It won’t do anything about any pits caused by the corrosion, but it will give you a clean surface on which to work. Just be sure to protect your eyes and ears (most of them are pretty noisy).
Cut it up
If you also plan to do any bodywork or other work that involves cutting metal, a good plasma cutter can be invaluable. These cutters produce way cleaner work than grinders. Just make sure you look for a model that will work with a standard 120-volt outlet unless you have a 240 in your shop.
Keeping your work area as organized as possible can make any job seem easier. Having tools that allow you to deal with tight spaces, small parts, and broken fasteners will actually make any job easier.