You don’t need to have the same kind or amount of tools as a full-service repair shop to keep your daily driver in good running condition. What you do need is to keep these auto-maintenance essentials in your garage.
Mechanic’s Tool Set
Invest in the best set you can afford so you don’t have to constantly replace easily damaged tools. Ideally, your tool set should have at least three quick-release ratchets of ¼, ½, and 3/8 inch drives, 116 sockets, universal joints, 6 combination wrenches, 12 nut drivers, 40 screw bits, and 40 hex keys all in their own carry case to avoid misplacing them. Get a good set that comes with a lifetime warranty.
Drill and Drill Bits
Your garage should have a good drill and a set of drill bits to go with it. Get a drill that can give you at least 500 in-lbs (41.67ft-lbs) of torque, and offer 450 rpm in the low setting, and 1,800 rpm in the high setting. Don’t forget the required drill bits, hex bits, Philips bits, slotted bits, square bits, Pozidrive bits and nut drivers so you don’t have to borrow from the neighbors.
Whether it’s an LED flashlight you clip to your shirt pocket, a portable work light or 1000-watt, twin-head adjustable work light with tripod, be sure to have enough light to see what you’re doing when working with the engine or inspecting the undercarriage. Invest in the light best fits your needs and your budget.
Hydraulic Jack and Jack Stands
When you’re changing rims or tires or putting new brake pads on, a hydraulic jack with a 3-ton capacity should be part of your garage essentials. Have at least two jacks and two jack stands to lift and support your car securely. Read your car’s manual to know how much weight the jack should be able to support.
Note that a hydraulic jack can only bring your car up so high; if you need to check for leaks or do a lot of work to the undercarriage, it’s safer to go to an auto repair shop that can inspect and work on your car using a mobile column lift.
Important parts like the lug nuts that keep your wheels and the engine head bolts securely in place need different and specific amounts of torque. To tighten them with the right torque, there’s no other tool you should use other than a torque wrench.
When you need to inspect the undercarriage, forget about laying down on cardboard, plastic, or your kid’s skateboard. Get a decent car creeper to make it easier to roll in and out from under your car. It makes sense to get one, as you won’t need to lie directly on the garage floor and avoid throwing out your back.
If you’re one of the many people who can’t change a tire, you should learn and practice simple auto maintenance in your garage. Being able to change a flat tire, jump-start a battery or find and patch up leaky hoses are skills that can come in handy, often at the most inconvenient of times.