Tuesday, 31 July 2012 12:11

Ten Tools You Need in Your Garage

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If you have an old car, you'd better have a few tools, too. Even if you're not a shadetree mechanic, there will come a time that you'll need to turn a wrench or two, even if it's on something small like a loose belt or a flat tire. So you've finally bought that GTO or Road Runner. Now what tools do you absolutely need to have in your garage? 

I spent six years as a professional mechanic working on mostly American muscle and trucks, and in that time, I gathered a huge collection of hand tools for pretty much every possible situation. But you certainly don't need to spend a lot to get the job done. Here are ten items you should have:

1. A nice 3/8-drive ratchet.

Notice I didn't say socket set. No, the most important piece you'll use is the ratchet itself, and the 3/8-drive is pretty universal, both for small and relatively large jobs. Spend the money here and go with a Snap-On piece if you can, as they have much more intricate and strong ratcheting mechanisms than what you'll find in the no-name units at your parts store's checkout counter. Many also have flexing heads that have adjustable tension, as well as long handles for extra torque. 

2. SAE sockets, deep and standard.

No need to spend a lot here unless you're going to use them every day. You also probably won't need metrics, either. But you will need a deep set from time to time when dealing with nuts fastened to longer studs. Be sure to also get a couple of extensions while you're at it.

3. Decent screwdrivers.

Craftsman makes nice screwdriver sets that last forever, as long as you don't get crazy and use them as punches, prybars, or chisels. But you'd never do that, right?

4. Digital multi meter.

This will likely be more advanced than you need, but they aren't expensive, and they can tell you right away if you have a dead (or dying) battery or charging system. 

5. GearWrench or similar ratcheting wrenches.

These things are a mechanic's dream - a mix of wrench and ratchet. Some are reversible, and all are huge time savers when swapping out an alternator or carburetor. Get the biggest SAE set you can find, and make sure it includes 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, and 3/4-inch sizes.

6. Powerful LED flashlight.

Dump the D-cell plastic light your kids use for trick-or-treating. LED lights are cheap and lightweight, and they're exceptionally bright. Seeing what's going on is half the battle.

7. A good, reliable tire gauge.

Something with a dial is preferable - digital units are nice, but their batteries can go dead just when you need them most. 

8. A bench with a vise.

Unless you have three hands, you'll eventually need a vise to hold something while you tighten it, loosen it, beat on it, clean it, or paint it. And that vise will need to be bolted to a workbench.

9. Aluminum floor jack.

These lightweight units are great, as they can handle a lot of weight, most are low-profile for lowered cars, and you won't strain yourself moving them around.

10. Air compressor.

From running air tools to just filling up low tires, having your own compressor is a must. You won't need a shop-grade unit unless you're planning on running air chisels or cut-off wheels all day long. Just make sure you have the proper circuit for it in your garage.

You probably won't use all the things on this list every week, or even every month. But you'll be really glad you have them when the need arises. Have I left anything off this list that should be on it? Let me know in the comments below.



Jim Pickering

Jim Pickering is the Editor of American Car Collector magazine and has been the Managing Editor of Sports Car Market magazine since 2006. As proficient with Snap-On tools as he is with a keyboard, Jim began his career as a professional mechanic while still in college at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where he earned a B.A. in Creative Writing. He can often be found at Portland International Raceway at the Late-Night Drags, behind the wheel of his 12-second big-block powered 1966 Chevrolet Caprice. He is also currently restoring a 1972 Chevrolet K10 Cheyenne Super longbed in his spare time.