For most car enthusiasts, working on your own vehicle is a big part of car owning experience. Wrenching, repairing, or modifying is a pretty rewarding way to spend a Sunday afternoon in your garage. However, even if you have all the knowledge and skills, you still need proper and reliable tools. That is why we have compiled a list of 20 most important tools and equipment which you should have if you are an active gearhead. You can buy most of the things on our list in any car part store and they can fit even in the smallest garages. Some are more expensive but still obtainable and extremely useful. So, here we go:
A good tool chest is one of the basics - the larger the better. It is simply a tool cabinet where you can store and organize all your wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, and pliers. There are numerous options on the market like Craftsman and they come in different shapes and sizes, but you want one that is big enough for all your tools and it is easy to organize with lots of drawers and usable storage solutions. Also, you definitely want one which is movable since you will move around your garage and close to your car.
- Craftsman 4 Drawer Chest with Large Top Compartment - $95
- Giantex 2pc Mini Tool Chest & Cabinet Storage Box Rolling Garage Toolbox Organizer - $74.99
- WEN 74606 26-Inch 6 Drawer Rolling Tool Cabinet - $358
You may not consider this piece one of the essentials, but in fact, there are dozens of different ways you can use a pneumatic compressor in your garage. You can use it to pump tires, use power tools or for cleaning parts. Also, some compressors can be used to power paint guns, so you can do your own paint job in your driveway. There are hundreds of different compressors on the market and you don't need expensive professional ones, but just a smaller piece that is easy to store and will suit your needs.
- BOSTITCH BTFP1KIT 1-Tool and Compressor Combo Kit - $149
- Central Pneumatic 2.5 Horsepower, 21 Gallon, 125 PSI Cast Iron Vertical Air Compressor - $165
- 1/3 Horsepower 3 Gallon 100 PSO Oilless Pancake Air Compressor by CENTRAL PNEUMATIC - $48
OBD diagnostics set
Since the early '90s, OBD diagnostic has been standard in all cars and it is an easy and accurate way of determining if anything is wrong with a car's engine and electrical system. Just plug in the diagnostics tool into OBD socket and read the codes. Then look up the codes and see what is wrong with the car. This is an extremely useful piece of equipment which saves you a lot of time when you notice that something is wrong. It takes away much of the guesswork, and you'd be able to address issues as they come instead of being taken by surprise one day and coming to the sudden "it's time to junk my car" realization.
- Actron CP9190 Elite AutoScanner Pro Diagnostic Code Scanner Kit - $359
- Actron CP9690 Trilingual OBD I/OBD II Elite AUTOSCANNER Pro Kit - $199
- KOBRA OBD2 OBD Scanner Professional Diagnostic Car Scanner Tool and Car Code Reader - $19
If you actively work on your car, there is a chance that you use drill bits a lot. Eventually, they will get worn out and become unusable and even dangerous. So, what to do? The best thing is to get one of Drill Doctor's sharpening tools which are very useful and easy to use. You can sharpen your own drill bits, make them even better than new and save on buying new ones every few days.
- Drill Doctor 750X Drill Bit Sharpener - $139
- Drill Doctor DD350X 350X Drill Bit Sharpener - $49
- Drill Doctor 500x Drill Bit Sharpener, Professional Design - $99
Portable spray booth
In the last couple of years, there have been several manufacturers that produced portable inflatable spray booths big enough to fit a full-size car or truck. Those booths are not cheap at around $1,500, but they come with ventilation systems which makes them almost as good as professional ones. If you are in DIY paint jobs or you want to get into that line of work, this is the perfect way to start. Since those booths are easily movable, you can carry them with you and do great paintwork in the middle of a field, basically.
- Inflatable Spray Paint Booth with Filter System Portable Car Paint Booth - $1,599
- Inflatable Spray Booth Custom Tent Car Paint Booth Inflatable - $1,499
- Annatto Inflatable Spray Paint Booth with Filter System Portable Car Paint Booth - $1,899
This item is the logical next step if you are planning to start painting cars yourself. You already bought the air compressor, portable spraying booth with ventilation systems and all you need is a proper spray gun. As you expect, there are dozens on the market and for just $40 you can get a decent spray gun. You can invest more in sets with several different nozzles and pressure regulators, but for basic use, this is more than enough. If you put some time into practicing, the results could be amazing.
- Neiko 31215A HVLP Gravity Feed Air Spray Gun - $38
- TCP Global Complete Professional 9 Piece HVLP Spray Gun Set - $78
- PowRyte 20 Oz HVLP Gravity Feed Air Spray Gun with Regulator - $25
Sure, you have a small car jack which comes with the car as mandatory equipment, but if you are a car enthusiast this will not do. You need proper heavy duty hydraulic car jack which can support up to three tons and it can hold the car lifted for hours. The good ones are $100 and more but they will last a lifetime and they are practically indestructible. There are several types and dimensions on offer and if you need this piece of equipment, you should check them out. You can even get a version with two lifting points for added usability.
- JEGS 80006 4000lb Low-Profile Aluminum Floor Jack Garage Car Truck - $159
- Arcan XL20 Black Low Profile Steel Service Jack - 2 Ton Capacity - $138
- Liftmaster 3 Ton Heavy Duty Ultra Low Profile Steel Floor Jack - $158
Jack stands are a pretty universal item and one of the things you need in your garage. Let's say you are working on a long-term project car, or you need your vehicle lifted at all times. In that case, jack stands will provide what you need. Easy to mount, jack stands come in several different sizes and deliver safe and firm lifting, not only for project cars but also if you want to preserve your classic car over winter. They are usually sold in pairs at around $50, but you should get as much as you can since jack stands are quite useful.
- JEGS 6-Ton Jack Stands Ratcheting Adjustable - $24
- Pittsburgh Automotive Set of 2 Jack Stands - 3 Ton Heavy Duty - $15
- Performance Tool W41022 3 Ton Jack Stand Set - $37
Even though car jacks and jack stands can help you various situations, there are still some in which those items are totally impractical. This is when you start thinking about a car lift which could be mounted in your garage and can lift vehicles up to 3.5 tons. We are sure that you know it, but car lifts can be expensive. However, if you are a serious car aficionado or a part-time mechanic, it is a valuable piece of kit. There are dozens of lifts on the market but we suggest you always invest in a high-quality product since you don't want to save on reliability, safety, and durability of this piece. Expect to pay around $3000 for entry-level products.
- Stratus Single (1) Post 5,500 lbs Capacity Car Lift Auto Hoist - $3,175
- TRIUMPH NT-9 9000Lbs Two Post Floor Plate Lift - $1,675
- Dannmar 2-Post Asymmetric Wide Lift - 10,000Lb. Capacity - $2,699
Ever thought of doing an engine swap? Or you did change the engine on your project car. Well, if you did, you know how difficult it is to actually pull the engine out of the car. With engine crane, a simple but effective piece of equipment, you just bolt on the block on the crane and lift it from the engine bay in no time. There are several types for you to choose and most common ones will set you back around $200. It is totally worth the investment since it makes engine swaps much easier to do.
- 2 TON FOLDING CHERRY PICKER HD 1 TON ENGINE HOIST CRANE - $250
- Torin Big Red Steel Engine Hoist/Shop Crane with Foldable Frame - $375
- Wimmer 1 Ton Shop Crane Foldable Engine Motor Cherry Picker Hoist Lift Swivel - $129
If you do engine work or if you just want something to put the spare engine on, an engine stand is a great thing to have. For just around $50 you can own a reliable and sturdy contraption that will support most engines and be a reliable basis for you to work on. This is a practical proposition since it is easy to store, can be used for various engine types and sizes and has built-in wheels so it can be easily moved around the shop or garage.
- JEGS 80040 Red Engine Stand 1000 lbs Capacity - $48
- Toolsempire 1000lb Auto Engine Cradle Stand Chevrolet Chevy V8 w/Dolly Wheels -$38
- Sunex 8400 1-Ton Folding Engine Stand - $475
In the last several years, prices of MIG/TIG Welder Kits have been pretty affordable and you can get a decent set for a couple hundred dollars. This means that you can tackle more serious repair jobs and body repairs in your garage. If you know that body repair, cutting, welding and panel installing job done by professionals are pretty expensive, owning a MIG/TIG kit sounds like a good proposition. Be sure that you get a few lessons in basics and always wear safety equipment and mask.
- JEGS Performance Products 81540 MIG 100 Gasless Welder 110V AC-$111
- Goplus MIG 130 Welder Flux Core Wire Automatic Feed Welding Machine w/Free Mask -$102
- Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG Welder 115V - $497
So, you decided to try your luck in car body restoration. Well, after the welder kit, the next thing you need is a grinder. There are two main types, pneumatic and electric-powered grinders. The prices are affordable for both types; just consult an expert on what exact type you need, depending on your preferences. Grinders can be very useful for a number of jobs around your garage, but be sure to always follow safety instructions since injuries from the grinder can be very painful.
- PORTER-CABLE PC60TPAG 7-Amp 4-1/2-Inch Angle Grinder-$42
- BLACK+DECKER BDEG400 6.5-Amp Angle Grinder, 4-1/2-Inch-$22
- Makita 9557PBX1 4-1/2-Inch Angle Grinder with Aluminum Case -$79
Every mechanic needs a set of tools and we are sure that the tiny toolset that comes with your car is not enough if you have any ambitions. That is why you need a full, proper and high quality set with all wrenches, sockets etc. Always look at heavy duty, lifetime warranty sets from known manufacturers like DeWalt since they are an investment and they will help you get the job done. Expect to pay around $200 for a full 204-piece set but once you start using the tools you'll be glad that you did.
- WORKPRO W009044A Mechanics Tool Set with 3-Drawer Heavy Duty Metal Box-$193
- Crescent CTK170CMP2 Mechanics Tool Set, 170-Piece - $100
Split a Nut
Even if you're not an avid mechanic or repair guy, you probably had problems with stubborn nuts which don't want to come off. When WD-40, a bigger wrench or a hammer don't work, there is only one solution - Split a nut tool. For just $15 you will get an immensely practical piece which will help you take off even the most stubborn nuts. The great thing about this tool is that it will not damage the threads.
- Steelgrip 2265015 Nut Splitter Set, 2 Piece -$15
- TOOGOO Heavy Duty Nut Splitter Set Broken Damaged Screw Nut Removal Splitting Tools 4 Sizes - $38
Slowly but surely, impact wrenches are replacing classic ones. First, it was impact wrenches powered by air compressors but in the last few years, mechanics all over the country are reporting that battery powered ones are as good if not better since they are easier to use and maneuver around the shop or garage. The battery powered ones are a bit more expensive, but for around $200 you can get a very good set.
- DEWALT DCF899HB 20V MAX XR Brushless High Torque 1/2" Impact Wrench - $200
- TZTOOL 2200K 1/2" Composite impact wrench, Ultimate torque, Limited free lug sockets 17 19 21 22mm - $99
- AIRCAT 1150 Killer Torque 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench - $15
Bent Handle Flex Ratchet
Even though most car manufacturers try to make the job easier for mechanics, there are still plenty of spaces in and around the car which is extremely hard to reach. However, there is a solution in form of bent handle ratchets since there is a flexible connection between the socket and the handle. This means you can fit it anywhere and have no problem reaching those tight spots.
- Tradespro 835236 Tune Up Kit, 4-Piece - $17
- TEKTON 14962 3/8-Inch Drive x 11-Inch Flex Polished Ratchet - $24
- Genius Tools 383383P 3/8" Dr. Bent Handle Flex Head RATCHET - $43
Spark plug pliers
If you are into restoring older vehicles, you probably know how fragile old electric wires are and how it is easy to damage them while removing the installation from the engine. That is why you should invest into spark plug pliers, simple but effective pliers which will firmly hold a spark plug or any other wire and remove it without damaging the plastic. For just around $15 investment you will save hundreds on new installation connectors and possibly prevent fire from damaged electric wires.
- MAG-MATE PLS100S Spark Plug Boot Pliers Set (5 Piece) - $100
- Lisle 51420 Double Offset Spark Plug Boot Removal Pliers - $17
A lot of people forget this simple but very important thing, but having enough light under the car or under the hood will help you immensely in doing the job right. Even before you invest in expensive tools or components, buy simple LED light bars which can be found everywhere. Having as many sources of light in your workspace will be a game changer especially if you are into bodywork and paint. Simply, you need as much as you can find since you want to see every last detail on the paint.
- Bayco FL-407PDQ Professional Series Metal Shield Incandescent Utility Light with 16 Gauge Cord and Tool Tap - $16
- Designers Edge L14SLED 1000-Watt Twin-Head Adjustable Work Light with Telescoping Tripod Stand, Halogen - 38
- Bayco FL-301B4 Clamp Light with Grip-Tite Super Clamp, 8 1/2"- $1
Lubricants, cleaners and other chemicals
If you followed this list, you have assembled a pretty impressive garage which can do almost all kind of repairs and restorations, but you still need a good assortment of chemicals. You will need lubricants for mechanical parts, WD-40 for stubborn bolts and cleaning, brake cleaners and degreasers as well as heavy duty soap for your hands. The chemicals can be found in all auto parts shops as well as online and for just a couple of dollars per bottle, you can get yourself a practical set of items which will make your job much easier and cleaner.
- Maxima 70-749203-3PK Chain Wax Ultimate Chain Care Aerosol Combo Kit, (Pack of 3) - $24
- WD-40 Multi-Use Product - Multi-Purpose Lubricant Aerosol Spray - Industrial Size 16 oz - $10