See Figure 1
Naturally, without the proper tools and equipment it is impossible to properly service your car. It would be impossible to catalog each tool that you would need to perform each or any operation in this guide. It would also be unwise for the amateur to rush out and buy an expensive set of tools on the theory that he may need on or more of them at sometime.
The best approach is to proceed slowly, gathering together a good quality set of those tools that are used most frequently. Don't be misled by the low cost of bargain tools. It is far better to spend a little more for better quality. Forged wrenches, 10 or 12 point sockets and fine tooth ratchets are by far preferable to their less expensive counterparts. As any good mechanic can tell you, there are few worse experiences than trying to work on a vehicle with bad tools. Your monetary savings will be far outweighed by frustration and mangled knuckles.
Begin accumulating those tools that are used most frequently; those associated with routine maintenance and tune-up.
In addition to the normal assortment of screwdrivers and pliers you should have the following tools for routine maintenance jobs:
- Metric and SAE wrenches, sockets and combination open end/box end wrenches in sizes from 1 / 8 in. (3mm) to 3 / 4 in. (19mm) and a spark plug socket 13 / 16 in. or 5 / 8 in. depending on plug type).
If possible, buy various length socket drive extensions. One break in this department is that the metric sockets available in the U.S. will all fit the ratchet handles and extensions you may already have ( 1 / 4 in., 3 / 8 in., and 1 / 2 in. drive).
- A hydraulic floor jack of at least 1 1 / 2 ton capacity. If you are serious about maintaining your own car, then a floor jack is as necessary as a spark plug socket. The greatly increased utility, strength, and safety of a hydraulic floor jack makes it pay for itself many times over through the years.
- Jackstands for support.
- A drop light, to light up the work area (make sure yours is Underwriter's approved, and has a shielded bulb).
- Oil filter wrench.
- Oil filler spout for pouring oil.
- Grease gun for chassis lubrication.
- Hydrometer for checking the battery.
- A container for draining oil.
- Many rags for wiping up the inevitable mess.
In addition to the above items there are several others that are not absolutely necessary, but handy to have around. These include oil dry, a transmission funnel and the usual supply of lubricants, antifreeze and fluids, although these can be purchased as needed. This is a basic list for routine maintenance, but only your personal needs and desire can accurately determine you list of tools.
The second list of tools is for tune-ups. While the tools involved here are slightly more sophisticated, they need not be outrageously expensive. There are several inexpensive tach/dwell meters on the market that are every bit as good for the average mechanic as a $100.00 professional model. Just be sure that it goes to a least 1200-1500 rpm on the tach scale and that it works on 4, 6, or 8 cylinder engines. A basic list of tune-up equipment could include:
- Tach/dwell meter.
- Spark plug wrench.
- Timing light (a DC light that works from the vehicle's battery is best, although an AC light that plugs into 110V house current will suffice at some sacrifice in brightness).
- Wire spark plug gauge/adjusting tools.
- Set of feeler blades.
In addition to these basic tools, there are several other tools and gauges you may find useful. These include:
- A compression gauge. The screw-in type is slower to use, but eliminates the possibility of a faulty reading due to escaping pressure.
- A manifold vacuum gauge.
- A test light.
- An induction meter. This is used for determining whether or not there is current in a wire. These are handy for use if a wire is broken somewhere in a wiring harness.
As a final note, you will probably find a torque wrench necessary for all but the most basic work. The beam type models are perfectly adequate, although the newer click type are more precise.