Basic auto Mechanic tools


CL8
06-22-2009, 01:19 AM
If any of you mechanics had to choose the most important tools for most automotive maintenance (removing/cleaning a battery, oil change, etc.) what would be the top 5-10 tools you would want to have on hand, and what brand/make of those tools for the best quality and value would you choose?


Thanks cl8

MagicRat
06-22-2009, 02:17 PM
A Visa card!!! :)

It's tough to choose only a few tools. They are all important in their own way, and are like a chain. If you cannot complete a job because of one missing tool, then all your other tools are pretty useless.

I have bought or collected tools over the years. I have some tools that I use only once a year or even less because they are highly specialized. However, when they are needed, they have no substitutes and become the most important tool for that job.

For a beginner, doing basic work, I will cheat and suggest an entire tool kit or kits. Some decent retailers will sell a 200-300 piece tool set for a very decent price.
Typically these sets include a full set of standard and metric sockets (in both deep and shallow), from 4mm (or very small) all the way to 24 mm. In standard, 1/4 inch all the way to 1 1/4 is good. Also, 1/4, 3/8 1nd 1/2 inch drives are required, with corresponding short, medium and long extensions and swivel joints for each drive size. Allen and Torx sockets for the larger sizes are handy.

Add a set of quality slot, phillips (3 sizes for each) and Torx screwdrivers and a set of both metric and standard Allen wrenches. Additionally, both big and small examples of vice grips, slip-joint pliers, linesman's pliers, waterpump (Channel-Lock) pliers, side cutters, ball-peen hammers, wire brushes, pry bars, cold chisels, pin punches, flat punches, mill files, and adjustable (Crescent) wrenches.

A full set of standard and metric combination wrenches is good to have;

Other items include marker pens, tie wraps (various sizes) electrical tape, masking tape, wire stripper/crimper, C-clamps, sharp knife, worklight, floor jack and jackstands, strap and cup-style oil filter wrenches, grease gun, test light, multimeter, feeler gauge, tire pressure gauge, timing light, jumper cable, siphon hose, assorted funnels, drain pan

Imho all these tools are essential, even if you do not think you need them right away. Assembling a kit like this is not particularly expensive, either. There are many decent quality, affordable tools out there, far more than there was 20-25 years ago.

Cheap (often China or India sourced) tools have flooded the market. Some are okay, especially for light-duty work. Some simply are fakes.
I would stick to tools sold by major chain retailers, especially ones with a lifetime replacement warranty. I have found that Sears sells affordable yet excellent tools.

I have bought some very good tools with odd, unknown brand names, at auto swap meets. I have also bought absolute crap from similar sources, so just be careful.

curtis73
06-23-2009, 02:09 AM
IMHO, get way more than you need for two reasons; 1) you will discover that you will not use the extras all the time, but when they are needed, they are absolutely indispensible (like MagicRat said), and 2) buying the big kit is cheaper than buying the small kit and then having to buy 5 extra pieces you need later.

I'm a big fan of Craftsman, not so much because they are the best, but mostly because they are excellent and the warranty can't be beat. All of the "good" tools on the market today are made by one of three very reputable forges and then machined and stamped with different names, so you won't go wrong with Kobalt, Husky, Craftsman, Great Neck, Mac, Snap-on, etc. Where you will find big differences is with price and product support. Tools like Mac, Snap-on, and Matco are great, but they are crazy expensive. You are paying for the tool plus the truck, the fuel, the commission for the driver, the marketing, etc. Also, if you need to have something replaced, you have to either wait for the truck to show up, or mail your tool in for a replacement. Tools like Kobalt and Husky are available at the local home improvement store, but many times their lifetime warranty involves mailing in a part, filling out a form, and waiting 4-6 weeks for a replacement on which you pay shipping.

At least for now, Craftsman is the clear winner for me. With the retail market being shaky like it is, I don't like dealing with a big retail store like Sears, but here is the major perk... if you break a craftsman tool, you take it to a Sears store (or anywhere that sells Craftsman) and hand it to them. They will walk over to the shelf, pull down a new one and hand it to you - no forms, no mailing, no questions. Instant solution. That's my kind of tool.

I have owned a craftsman tool set since my dad bought me one in about 1985. I have worked at hot rod shops, repair shops, and used it in my own garage since then. I have had to replace one 1/4" ratchet that I dropped in the lake and retrieved after it rusted, and one 3/4" socket that exploded when I used it with an impact wrench. That was before I knew that you shouldn't do that, but I carried the pieces into Sears in a Ziploc baggie and they gladly handed me a new one with apologies that the original had failed.

I recently split a 10mm deep well socket that will need to be replaced, and that will make the third tool in 26 years of hard use that I have to replace.

I will list my choices for basic tools. Most of them will overlap with MagicRat's recommendations, but here is what I suggest:

-sockets for 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2" drive that range from 1/4" up to at least 1", and 4mm up to 27mm. I strongly suggest getting mostly 6-point sockets. 12-point sockets will work on regular hex-heads, but they won't grip nearly as well. If you have a stubborn bolt or nut the chances of rounding it off are much greater with the 12-point socket. There are, however a rare few times that you might encounter a 12-point bolt, in which case you'll need a 12-point socket. But, given the rarity of those bolts, wait until you encounter it and then just get a cheap socket set at the discount store :)
-short, medium, and long extensions in both straight and wobble, as well as universal joints for all three drives.
-box/end wrenches in the same basic range of sizes. If you're feeling saucy, the awesomest thing to do is to get the ratchet wrench with the swivel head. One end is an open wrench, and the other end is a ratchet wrench. Not needed for the weekend maintenance guy, but sure is handy when you need it.
-obvious screwdriver assortment
-I like to have torx and allen sockets instead of having them as individual drivers. That way you can use them on a ratchet, or on a hand-driver. Instead of having 30 individual allen wrenches and torx wrenches, you can have sockets that work with ratchets or with a 1/4" drive screwdriver handle.
-pliers... tons of pliers. For basic needs, the pliers that come with a kit are more than enough; side cutters, needle nose, channel locks, etc. If you need any other specialty pliers, get them cheap since you'll only use them infrequently.
-vice grips. Handy.
-adjustable wrenches
-multi meter
-a good jack and jack stands!
-strongly consider a torque wrench. Until you get more confident with bolt torque values, its nice to have. For instance, if you get done with a brake job and want to torque your lug nuts, or if you replace an intake and you need to torque the bolts to 33 lb-ft, it adds confidence to the job if you have the actual wrench. I'm kinda at the point where I use my arm to estimate torque values, but there was a time when I used my torque wrench for everything.

Everything else, go to Harbor Freight or something similar. Top needs I would consider are a battery terminal brush, wire brushes, pry bars, tape measure, grease gun, oil filter wrench, and any other tool you see that applies to your maintenance needs. Hammers are good; a small steel hammer, a rubber mallet, and a plastic deadblow hammer are nice for dislodging stuck brake discs and the like.

I've known a lot of pro mechanics who only settle for whatever the Snap-On truck brings. The literally loan money from their paychecks and pay off the truck-driver every month. I've also known guys like me who use mostly high-quality stuff, but fill in with super-cheap chinese tools from Harbor Freight and get by just as well. Their tools break every other year and they have to wait for a replacement. Mine break every other week, and I drive down the street and pay $5 to replace it. Kind of a wash if you ask me.

MagicRat
06-23-2009, 02:25 AM
Well, I think for tools, (EDIT: uh, that does not sound quite right) Curtis and I are living parallel lives. FWIW I agree with all his comments (partly because they do not contain the words "diesel-powered" :) ) but mostly because I have done exactly the same thing. The tools he mentioned and I didn't all are ones I actually have and use, and all are useful for the beginner.

I also agree, and buy some pretty cheap tools that are for occasional use only and work quite well.
FWIW these lists look pretty extensive and scary. But this kind of a kit is not particularly large and all items (except for the jack and stands) will fit in a mid-size mechanics tool chest.

CL8
06-23-2009, 03:00 AM
Thanks for the thorough replies M.R. and Curtis!

Last Christmas my boss gave me a $30.00 gift certificate from Sears,
I haven't used yet. I will go there and look for one of those Auto mechanic tool kits.
would the 200-300 piece set include all those pliers and vice grips as well?

MagicRat
06-23-2009, 08:49 AM
Thanks for the thorough replies M.R. and Curtis!

Last Christmas my boss gave me a $30.00 gift certificate from Sears,
I haven't used yet. I will go there and look for one of those Auto mechanic tool kits.
would the 200-300 piece set include all those pliers and vice grips as well?
There may be different types of kits available. Some will, some won't. If you have no tools right now, the choice is easy.... buy the set that's on sale. :)

toddman67
06-23-2009, 09:16 AM
Being in the automotive/truck repair business for over 30 years, I have acquired over $75,000 worth of tools. I can only suggest getting the basic set of hand tools from craftsmen or harbor freight and see what you use the most. You will find that most of these tools will perform well for a DIY guy but will not hold up to everyday rigerous work out that a shop requires. Many Mechanics start out with the less expensive tools, then over time replace them with high quality Snapon, Mac tools because they perform well and don't break or wear out as easily. Yea high priced tools come at a premium, However when removing a rusted bolt with a less expensive tool and the next thing you know you're bleeding, You would be thankful if you had a quality tool that would not only remove the bolt, But no pain or band-aids either.
Start cheap....then move up to quality as needed.

Blt2Lst
06-24-2009, 02:04 PM
I agree with the other posts for basic tools.
I still have my craftsman set my parents bought me in 1975.
I worked as a mechanic for a few years and aquired some snap-on and mac tools during that time and i still use them often.
I realize that snap-on and mac are cost prohibitive for most weekend mechanics.
I would take craftsman over harbor freight stuff unless it is something you may only use a few times.
If there is one tool I would add to the list, it would be a flex head 3/8 drive long handle ratchet. It is the first snap-on tool i bought and i find it indispensable. Great for changing plugs and the snap-on has a smaller head than the craftsman making it easier getting into tight spots.

Collecting tools is a lifetime proposition IMO, good luck

:smokin:

CL8
06-24-2009, 02:05 PM
Well I went to Sears yesterday and bought the 53 piece mechanics socket wrench set
including two open wrenches and hex keys.
What part of a vehicle would require using hex keys?

And Toddman, so you disagree with Curtis and Magicrat that Craftsman is the way to go?
How can you beat their lifetime warranty?

toddman67
06-24-2009, 04:23 PM
I don't necessarily disagree with Curtis or MagicRat. I havent boughten any Craftsman tools in 15 years. All I can say is that years ago, Craftsman tools did not hold a candle to the Snapon and Mac tools. Perhaps they have changed over the years. Mac and Snapon come into my shop every week so it works well for me. They too, carry a life time warranty. Some day you may come to that point when you go to use your less expensive tools and they will just strip or break apart. Then get a higher quality tool and see if they dont change your mind.
It has been said that there are only a few foundries making these tools for all kinds of people and brands, However there is a company, Lake Erie Cap and Screw, that make hardware for many companies as well. The thing here is that not all products are made the same nor is the quality the same. Different materials go into these tools and bolts etc that do not all conform to the same standards.
Experience, time and personal preference all play a role in these choices. For me it is the expensive tools because I use them daily and they work!
Do some web surfing and maybe you'll come across a tool comparison.
As always, this is just my opinion.

toddman67
06-24-2009, 05:27 PM
I use "Dogpile" for my home page which uses google, ask, yahoo, live search ETC. I entered "snapon vs craftsman tools" and was amazed at the number of articles pertaining to this comparison. TAKE A LOOK.
It appears that Craftsman has done thier home work and upgraded thier tools over the years. Too late for me though, I'm all set.

Blt2Lst
06-24-2009, 06:18 PM
Some other less expensive brands that work well are:
Williams
Proto
SK

Just try to stay away from the chinese stuff, unless you are getting egg rolls :iceslolan

IMO :2cents:

MagicRat
06-24-2009, 07:55 PM
Some other less expensive brands that work well are:
Williams
Proto
SK

I have used Proto and SK before.... good stuff, and usually available through auto parts retailers.
KD Tools fits into the same group too. Good stuff, except I barberpoled several of their Torx T-50 sockets once.

toddman67
06-24-2009, 09:15 PM
I too have used KD, SK-(slip & kill), proto, williams and so on. Fortuneatly I have an independent tool dealer who frequents my shop weekly. Once again it is the guy comming to me and payment plans are attractive. At times it is difficult to shell out $300. bucks at a time, Thats why it is easy to pay for tools over a period of time. It's part of the service.
Craftsman should get some trucks and salesmen out there to provide these kind of services and establish a working relationship with Mechanics.
Hmmm, what a concept.

MagicRat
06-24-2009, 09:55 PM
What part of a vehicle would require using hex keys?

These things have been very popular on motorcycles over the years, but pop up in odd places..... small power equipment (chainsaws, weedwhackers, etc), snowmobiles etc.

Newer (<20 years) cars have them, often, but not all the time. For lack of a better explanation, either a car has none or lots of them, it seems....

For older American cars, they show up on disc brake caliper slide pins.

BTW often, Torx fasteners are used in place of hex keys. They look like hex, but are quite different, and require their own sockets.

It seems Torx are more popular for body components, and hex for mechanical components (engines, transmissions etc).... just my general impression.....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torx

curtis73
06-24-2009, 10:54 PM
Well, I think for tools, (EDIT: uh, that does not sound quite right) Curtis and I are living parallel lives. FWIW I agree with all his comments (partly because they do not contain the words "diesel-powered" :) )

ha ha... we have parallel tools :)

I did find a great use for diesel that you would appreciate, though. I mix it half and half with used motor oil and it makes a great penetrating lube.

MagicRat
06-24-2009, 10:58 PM
ha ha... we have parallel tools :)

I did find a great use for diesel that you would appreciate, though. I mix it half and half with used motor oil and it makes a great penetrating lube.

That's a good one :)

Back in my construction days, my crews used diesel as a 'release agent' to stop hot asphalt from sticking to their..... um....... tools.........

Blt2Lst
06-25-2009, 01:15 AM
KD Tools fits into the same group too. Good stuff,

I have a few KD tools in the box also...
Come to think of it, I do need a bigger box..:smile:

curtis73
06-25-2009, 10:30 PM
Come to think of it, I do need a bigger box..:smile:

Too many potential jokes :headshake

MagicRat
06-25-2009, 11:27 PM
Too many potential jokes :headshake

I vote we move this thread to COT so we can tell a few :)


For starters, let me change my User Subtitle.........

CL8
06-26-2009, 03:25 AM
I use "Dogpile" for my home page which uses google, ask, yahoo, live search ETC. I entered "snapon vs craftsman tools" and was amazed at the number of articles pertaining to this comparison. TAKE A LOOK.
It appears that Craftsman has done thier home work and upgraded thier tools over the years. Too late for me though, I'm all set.

Well that make me even more glad I bought a craftsman tool set, the other day I was using my new Craftsman socket wrench to get to my air filter in my Caravan.
I couldn't figure out where it was, I went to my neighbor who has a Caravan also. (I just didn't unscrew enough nuts and bolts)

He had his Craftsman socket wrench in his hand too!:lol2:

daral
07-06-2009, 05:39 AM
I am a millwright by trade and backyard mechanic by chose . I use my tools my tools on a daily basis and under very tough conditions. I have craftman and snap on as well as many other brands and these days I find that as long as a company is willing to back their tools with a life time warranty they will be of good quality. Most tool failures I have had have come from years of over use.
this is my opinion Daral

CL8
07-07-2009, 01:49 AM
I am a millwright by trade and backyard mechanic by chose . I use my tools my tools on a daily basis and under very tough conditions. I have craftman and snap on as well as many other brands and these days I find that as long as a company is willing to back their tools with a life time warranty they will be of good quality. Most tool failures I have had have come from years of over use.
this is my opinion Daral

Just curious, how many Craftsman tools over the years have you had to replace?

And welcome to the forum!

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