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Tools You Will Need To Work On Your Own Car – A Starter Set

Updated on January 19, 2014

There are not a lot of tools that one needs to perform basic car maintenance. Rather than buying lots of items that you may never use, you should concentrate on buying high-quality tools that will be sure to give you good service. Many of the better brands offer a lifetime warranty, which you will come to appreciate when a socket cracks during intense use. Once you have the basic items you need, you can get specialized tools or tools specifically designed for your car and its components.

The first thing you’ll need is a socket set. Socket sets consist of a ratcheted handle (often referred to as simply a ratchet) and a number of sockets in different sizes. The sockets are available in metric or SAE (fractions of an inch) sizes, most cars today use metric although many older American cars used SAE. A given ratchet handle will work with metric or SAE sockets; in the US and Canada, these handles (and the sockets that attach to them) typically come in two formats – 3/8”and ½”. The ½”sockets and handles are beefier and typically come in larger sizes. Sockets also come in standard or “deep well” types; there are also a number of adapters, extensions, breaker bars, etc. that are available. To start out, though, most do-it-yourselfer mechanics will want to get a metric 3/8”, standard-depth socket set and buy additional pieces as they go.

The next thing you’ll need is a set of screwdrivers in various sizes. You should get flathead and Phillips types; it’s also a good idea to get various lengths. The best screwdrivers have hardened tips such that they won’t get damaged on particularly difficult seized screws. A set of wrenches in various sizes (metric or SAE, depending on your car) is also a must; nowadays one can get wrenches with built-in ratcheting mechanisms, but this is not necessary. It is more important to get good quality wrenches than ones with lots of features.

You will also need a torque wrench. This tool allows one to tighten nuts and bolts using a specific amount of force; many automotive repair and maintenance tasks require specific amounts of torque be applied to certain fasteners. Torque wrenches come in beam type (which have a scale mounted perpendicular to the wrench itself and have a dial showing the amount of force applied) and conventional style (which have rotary adjustment dials or a digital display that lets one “dial in” the amount of torque desired, which is indicated by a clicking noise when the setting is reached). Torque wrenches are used with the sockets from your socket set, and thus come in 3/8”and ½” sizes, with larger-sized wrenches having higher indicated amounts of torque that can be applied. A 3/8” conventional style torque wrench with adjustment up to 200 or 250 foot-pounds of force is great to start with; some maintenance tasks are easier to accomplish with a beam type torque wrench, so you might consider getting one of those down the road.

The last item you’ll need is a toolbox – a place to keep your stuff. This is mostly a matter of personal preference, but keep in mind you’ll want to get something big enough to hold the tools you no doubt get in the future.

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    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks, my husband knows a lot about cars.

    • Hardwire profile image

      Hardwire 6 years ago from United States

      This is a good and informative article. If you are like me and don't really like to get your hands dirty while working on your car try using latex gloves. Your local auto parts store will usally have them in stock with more options than just latex incase your allergic.