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Essential tools for D.I.Y car maintenance

Updated on January 17, 2012

Welcome to the world of home mechanics

So you've decided to throw on the overalls, rolls up the sleaves and crawl through the murky corners of your engine bay in the adventures of the home mechanic. Good on you! But before you grab the family hammer and roll of electrical tape while hoping for the best, make sure your toolkit includes most of the following to make your car maintenance much easier and hopefully hassle free.

A full kit like this can come in handy but you might need some extras along the way.
A full kit like this can come in handy but you might need some extras along the way.

The essentials

You're really not going to get to far without a few of the following:

♦ Clothes you don't mind getting dirty. Because in a nutshell, you're going to get dirty. And the longer you work on your own car, the filthier you'll become. So wrap yourself in a decent set of overalls or old t-shirts and clothes usually reserved for painting the house. Ones that you won't mind getting soaked in oil, grease and grime that you'll be quite happy to throw away (or burn) at the end of your work.

♦ Adjustable wrenches or sockets or ring spanners in various sizes. Sure most size wrenches can usually be tightened to fit just about any bolt/nut but usually the deeper into your engine bay you go, the less room you'll have to move your wrench around. This is when smaller handled wrenches or the right fitting ratchet socket/ring spanner with smaller handle becomes much easier to use. Ratchet sockets and ring spanners are also essential for not stripping away stubborn bolts. Make sure you have as many sizes as possible for all applications.

A screwdriver set of various sizes. Phillips head AND flat head. If they're magnetized it makes things easier retracting the screws from the bowels of your engine bay.

♦ A very bright led torch. It's dark in there and you'll need it when you go hunting for stray bolts, screws and well hidden parts. One that doubles as a lamp you can hang from your hood is a bonus.

♦ A can of WD40. Essential for loosening what's been locked for many years.

♦ A tyre iron with the correct fit for your lug nuts. Essential for getting your tyres off.

♦ A quality jack rated for your cars weight if you're planning to change your tyres. Don't rely on just a jack if you're planning on getting under the car, invest in a quality pair of car stands instead for safetys sake.

♦ A tray to drain fluids into. Don't dump it in the gutters or your garden. Make sure it holds a lot, you'll be surprised how many fluids there are in your car.

The optionals

Here's what you might need to add to your toolbox depending on what you're working with.

Brake piston realighnment tool. Usually a specialised socket that pushes back your brake piston. Only used when replacing your brake pads, you can also use a pair of pliers in a pinch.

♦ Pliers in various sizes. Handy when your fingers just won't fit into tough places/ picking up dropped bolts.

♦ Hand pump/drill pump attachment. Useful for getting fluids out that don't have a release hole hand (IE coolant).

♦ Spark plug puller. Depending on your car, some deep sockets will do the same job.

♦ Multimeter. Handy when trying to isolate electrical problems.

♦ Fuse tongs. Depends on how small your fingers are pretty much as some fuse boxes aren't easy to reach.

Handy but not necessary
Handy but not necessary

The useless

Here's what you won't need

Sledgehammer. Well I guess if all else fails...


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    • aidensdada profile image

      aidensdada 5 years ago

      Great article, I was going to write something like this myself to accompany my other articles and Voted up!!

    • Al Shield profile image

      Al Shield 5 years ago from Bendigo, Victoria

      Thanks Ed - I had one instance where I didn't tighten the oil filter enough after a change and the 4 litres of brand new oil spewed out of the thread when I started it up. Wish I'd still had that container in place just in case...:P

    • Al Shield profile image

      Al Shield 5 years ago from Bendigo, Victoria

      Yeah I wouldn't advise the sledgehammer on anything you wouldn't race in a demolition derby :D Thanks for dropping by!

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      My favorite tip is a container for fluids, please don't dump them in the drains or garden. It surprises me how many people actually do that :( Welcome to HubPages Al, and congrats, keep up the good hubs :)

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I want that sledgehammer, Sir (lol)! This is very useful and thanks for tipping me about car maintenance.

      COngrats on the nomination.:D

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Gosh I know how to drive but don't know how to maintain my car...huhuhu...but this list might come in handy. I better keep a copy of this. :D

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To read and vote, this way please Enjoy the Hubnuggets!

    • Al Shield profile image

      Al Shield 5 years ago from Bendigo, Victoria

      Oh wow, thank you so much! That's awesome news! c:

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on your HubNuggets nomination! This is a good listing of tools, not that I would know. I think I have one of those toolkits you pictured.

    • Al Shield profile image

      Al Shield 6 years ago from Bendigo, Victoria

      Thanks Luis, pleasure to be here.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Welcome to HubPages. Not bad advice, good topic