Naturally, without the proper tools and equipment it is impossible to properly service your vehicle. Of course, it would be unwise for the amateur to rush out and buy an expensive set of tools on the theory that he/she may need one or more of them at some time.
The best approach is to proceed slowly, gathering 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, 6-point sockets, and fine-tooth or radian-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, rounded fasteners and mangled knuckles.
Begin accumulating those tools that are used most frequently: those associated with routine maintenance and tune-up. Engine and transmission type will certainly have an impact on helping you to determine which tools are most essential. In addition to the normal assortment of screwdrivers and pliers, you should have the following tools:
Wrenches/sockets and combination open end/box end wrenches in sizes from
in. (3-19mm). Most socket sets incorporate one or more special spark plug sockets, but plugs come in a number of sizes so check to ensure you have a socket that will fit.
If possible, buy various length socket drive extensions. Universal-joint connectors and wobble extensions can be extremely useful, but be careful when using them, as they can change the amount of torque applied to the socket.
Jackstands for support.
Oil filter wrench.
Spout or funnel for pouring fluids.
Grease gun for chassis lubrication.
Hydrometer for checking the battery (unless equipped with a sealed, maintenance-free battery).
Containers for draining oil and other fluids.
Absorbent rags for wiping up the occasional mess.
Fig. All but the most basic procedures will require an assortment of ratchets and sockets
Fig. In addition to sockets, a good set of wrenches and hex keys may be necessary
Fig. A hydraulic floor jack and a set of jackstands are essential for lifting and supporting the vehicle
Fig. An assortment of pliers, grippers and cutters will be handy for old rusted parts and stripped bolt heads
Fig. Various drivers, chisels and prybars are great tools to have in your toolbox
Fig. Many repairs will require the use of a torque wrench to assure the components are properly fastened
In addition to the above items there are several others that are not absolutely necessary, but handy to have around. These include Oil Dry® (or an equivalent oil absorbent gravel-such as cat litter) 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 your list of tools.
After performing a few projects on the vehicle, you'll be amazed at the other tools and non-tools on your workbench. Some useful household items are: a large turkey baster or siphon, empty coffee cans and ice trays (to store parts), a ball of twine, electrical tape for wiring, small rolls of colored tape for tagging lines or hoses, markers and pens, a note pad, golf tees (for plugging vacuum lines), metal coat hangers or a roll of mechanic's wire (to hold things out of the way), dental pick or similar long, pointed probe, a strong magnet, and a small mirror (to see into recesses and under manifolds).
Fig. Although not always necessary, using specialized brake tools will save time
Fig. A few inexpensive lubrication tools will make maintenance easier
Fig. Various pullers, clamps and separator tools are needed for many larger, more complicated repairs
Fig. A variety of tools and gauges should be used for spark plug gapping and installation
Fig. Inductive type timing light
Fig. A screw-in type compression gauge should come with a range of fittings and hose adapters
Fig. A vacuum/pressure tester is necessary for many testing procedures
Fig. Most modern automotive multimeters incorporate many helpful features
Fig. Proper information is vital, so always have a Chilton Total Car Care manual handy
A more advanced set of tools, suitable for tune-up work, can be drawn up easily. While the tools are slightly more sophisticated, they need not be outrageously expensive. The key to these purchases is to make them with an eye towards adaptability and wide range. A basic list of tune-up tools could include:
A torque wrench. Necessary for all but the most basic work, since proper torque on fasteners is critical to safe operation of the vehicle and often to avoid damage to complex assemblies. Beam-type models are inexpensive and normally adequate, although the click-types (breakaway) are easier to use, but are usually more expensive. Also keep in mind that all types of torque wrenches should be periodically checked and/or recalibrated. You will have to decide for yourself which type better fits your pocketbook, and purpose.
Spark plug gauge/gapping tool. Even new plugs should be checked before installation.
Feeler gauges for various clearance adjustments.
Compression gauge. Be sure that fittings and hose extensions are suitable for your engine.
Manifold vacuum gauge.
Tach/dwell meter suitable for your engine (4,6,8,10 cyl.)
12-volt test light.
A multimeter or volt/ohmmeter (VOM)
Induction ammeter. 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.
Timing light. Although ignition timing on these vehicles is controlled by the on-board computer, a timing light has some uses in maintenance operations. The choice of a timing light should be made carefully. A light which works on the DC current supplied by the vehicle's battery is the best choice. It should have a xenon tube for brightness. Inductive timing lights are preferred.
An impact driver,
inch drive. Very handy for breaking free large and/or rusted fasteners.