12 Must Have Tools for Every DIYer

DIYers vary in terms of skill levels and skill sets, but one thing the majority of them share in common is tool box and usually a very-universally common set of tools. Open up any avid DIYers tool box (or chest) and you’ll find socket sets, ratchets, extensions, an assortment of pliers, cutters, screwdrivers, hammers, combination wrenches, and that 60 year-old pipe wrench passed down from grandpa. There are some specialized tools that often get overlooked tools that folks simply don’t know about that can save you a ton of time and frustration. These 12 items are tools very DIY’er should have, or add to their tool box. They will save you time, effort, and a lot of frustration.

Must Have Tools for DIYers

1. OEM 3/8” Mighty Compact Drive Impact Wrench (24411)

There’s a good percentage of DIY’ers that use some form of a pneumatic impact wrench – usually a full-size, 1/2” impact to bust loose lug nuts or other big jobs. The OEM 24411 is an amazing variant of the “compact” or “micro” impact wrenches that hit the market several years ago. Super small in size, this impact still packs a ton of gusto at 250-300lbs of loosening (or tightening) power. It’s small, lightweight, fits in tight corners, and is a super handy tool for saving time constantly using the hand-ratchet. Also, at the near-$100.00 price point, it’s very affordable for a quality pneumatic impact.

2. Chain Wrench (DL PN 56-630)

You won’t know you need a chain wrench until you are trying to take off an oversize plumbing fitting, oil filter that won’t budge, or trying to gain leverage on something large. Chain wrenches grip, and they won’t let go! Plus, the length of chain allows you to fit around large fittings or objects you either wish to move, or keep from turning by holding steady with the wrench. The Duralast 56-630 is a fantastic tool to have in your arsenal.

3. Knipex Wire Cutters (Knipex PN KNP7401200)

This isn’t just about owning a set of wire cutters – just about any toolbox contains something that can cut wires. This is about owning THE set of wire cutters. Simply put, Knipex makes pretty much the best pliers and cutters in the industry. Made in Germany, you can search youtube for tons of videos of Knipex cutters cutting nearly anything. Having a good set of wire cutters that cut quick, easy, and less fatigue on your hands is a must. The KN7401200 aren’t cheap, but you absolutely get what you pay for.

4. Multimeter (Great Neck ESI480A)

A multimeter may sound simple to most mechanics, but you’d be surprised how many folks either don’t have one, don’t know how to operate one, or have one that doesn’t function properly. A multi-meter even for the very average DIY’er can check a battery, check voltage when troubleshooting basic wiring, and even be used in the house doing AC electrical work. Purchasing a quality multi-meter that can perform all AC and DC functions is a must-have. The ESI480A fits that bill, and will test AC, DC, and Continuity, which is what you want. If you’re unsure exactly how to use a multimeter properly, or all its features, there are a multitude of Youtube videos that you can learn from.

5. Snap Ring Pliers (OEM 25012)

You won’t realize you need snap ring pliers until you are suddenly faced with removing a snap ring, often times when doing a brake job on a 4WD truck. Without them, you are stuck hoping a pair of screwdrivers or picks will do the trick, as you launch the snap ring 20 feet to the other side of the garage to disappear forever. Invest in a good set of snap ring pliers like OEM 25012. You won’t use them often, but when do, there is no other way around getting them off and on.

6. Hose Pinchers (OEM 25250)

At some point in time, you’ve had to remove a fuel line, oil or hydraulic, or coolant line, only to find out that overnight while your work was sitting, that line was oozing liquid all over the garage floor, or worse, all over the engine compartment. These OEM Hose Pinchers go over the hose and block off flow, keeping things where they should be and saving you the trouble of fluid slowly leaking everywhere. Sure, you can use a pair of vice grips, but the rough edge of the grip jaws can often damage the hose.

7. Torque Wrench (DL 51-220) or (OEM 25686)

If there’s one thing you should have every time you take a wheel off and put it back on, it’s a torque wrench. They are not just for precise engine and machine work. Torque wrenches guarantee that nuts and bolts have one thing – consistency. Most lug nuts, depending on vehicle, should be torqued between 85 and 95 ft-lbs. If they are torqued under, you run a risk of nuts loosening, and worse, a wheel-off. If you torque too tight by using your favorite impact to blast the nut to 400 ft-lbs, you risk never getting it back off next time, or worse yet, when you are on the road with a flat tire. Even if just buying a torque wrench for lug-nut work, it’s worth it. You want to stick with a ½” size to get you higher torque readings for lug nuts, which you’re bound to use the tool more often than anything for.

Both the 1/2″ Duralast 51-220 and the 3/8″ OEM 25686 can be solid choices, depending on what size you need.

8. Digital Torque Adapter 3/8” (OEM 25684)

When it comes to small torque readings you need to achieve, whether it be 10 ft-lbs, or something in inch-pounds, often times a mechanical torque wrench is not the best answer. Digital Torque adapters like the OEM 25684 are fairly new, but their reviews are great and their usage is quickly growing. These devices go directly in between your ratchet and your socket, and/or extensions. They give a digital measure of the torque you are applying, and also have an alarm setting to indicate when you have reached the desired torque. Now, if the OE says your oil pan bolts need to be torqued to 7 ft-lbs on your car – you can do it easily! It’s a fantastic tool

9. Hook and Pick Set (OEM 25940)

You quickly realize that you need a hook and pick set when you don’t have one. When sourcing one, it’s a good idea to get a heavy duty set like the OEM 25940 that will withstand the test of time. From removing pesky o-rings, grabbing small parts (think carburetor rebuild), interior and electrical work, a hook and pick set will be used for a multitude of other small jobs and functions that otherwise would force you to use tools like screwdrivers, or making your own make-shift tools that never work as well.

10. Test Extension Wires (Dorman 84610)

In the world of automotive and 12V electrical, having a handy pair of test wires or test leads is a far cry better that some tangled birds-nest of old speaker wire that you use to test stuff. These handy Test Extension wires from Dorman come in a 10 foot retractable spool, with 2 sets of wires – 4 clips, and a magnetic back to stick in the engine compartment, on your toolbox, etc. They roll up easily and provide an endless possibility of troubleshooting what you need to test off voltage, continuity, etc.

11. Test Light (Innova 3410)

When it comes to simplicity in electrical troubleshooting, sometimes a test light like the Innova 3410 is the way to go. Clip off to ground, and use the pointed probe to check voltage at connectors, wire ends, or even use the probe to pierce through wiring insulation to check voltage. Pro-tip – don’t stab your finger while doing this as many of us have! If you’ve got DC voltage at the wire or connector you’re testing, the light will glow – it’s as simple as that. Couple the test light with the Dorman test leads and a multimeter, and you are an unstoppable force for troubleshooting electrical!

12. Spark Plug Socket Set (DL 62-130) and (DL 62-135)

While this one may seem all too easy, it’s amazing how many folks change spark plugs with a standard deep-well socket.

A spark plug socket has several things going for it – it has a rubberized or magnetic insert that holds the spark plug in position for those tough-to-reach spots when you are putting a plug in. Its design results in less wobbling or twisting action in the socket when you’re tightening at odd angles. With a regular deep well socket, you can crack the porcelain housing of the plug, leading to a really mad person who has to return to AutoZone for another spark plug. Another feature is the hexagon end of the socket. This is made for really tight areas where you cannot get a ratchet on the socket, you can use an open-ended wrench on the end of the socket to turn the plug. (If you’ve done plugs on any LT1 or LS1 Camaro or Firebird, you know the struggle!)

It’s good to buy a spark plug socket set like Duralast 62-130 or 62-135, but also to look at some of the odd sizes that your small equipment can have on it. Some small equipment now use the 14MM socket, so it’s important to check all the sizes you may use and plan accordingly!

These are our picks for must have tools, but if you’d like some more variety, check out our full selection of our tools online or in one of our stores.

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Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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