Product & Tools

10 Tools Every Home Mechanic Needs In His Garage

Jan 11, 2016

7 To Buy and 3 You Should Upgrade

You're a handy guy, right? Of course you are. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with changing your own motor oil, replacing your air filter, and replacing the headlights yourself. But there comes a point when every home mechanic decides to graduate to more challenging projects.

When that happens, you need a more sophisticated lineup of tools in your arsenal. Sure, you have a few screwdrivers, some duct tape, a pair of pliers or two, and an adjustable wrench, but you can’t expect to tackle the tough stuff with just the basics. From putting the winter tires on your daily driver to bringing your dream car back from the dead, this list was made for you, my friend.

01. Impact Wrench

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No more dealing with corroded lug nuts and finicky bolts—impact wrenches blast loose even the most resistant parts. Battery-powered impact wrenches have become increasingly popular, and they can be great if you’re prowling through a scrap yard for an elusive replacement part. But nothing beats the power and reliability of an air-powered impact wrench. No batteries means no downtime. And more torque at a lower price point makes an air-powered torque wrench a valuable addition to any garage. A one-half-inch drive size is sufficient to tackle most jobs. Check out the Central Pneumatic Earthquake. This sucker packs 700 ft. lbs. of torque. And if you’re wondering exactly how much that is, let’s just say the Cummins Turbo Diesel Engine—standard in many heavy duty Dodge trucks—packs 850 ft. lbs. of torque.

02. OBDII Code Reader

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It's time to show the "check engine" light who's the boss. It can cost around 70 bucks just to have your local mechanic run a diagnostic test. On the other hand, The Innova 3100 CAN/OBDII Diagnostic Tool allows you to diagnose the problem yourself. Plug this device into your car’s on-board diagnostic port, which can be found under the dash somewhere near the steering column. It tells you exactly what’s wrong on a screen that’s about the size of your smartphone. This code reader works on just about every car built during or after 1996. 

03. Creeper

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Forget carpet pads. Forget cardboard boxes. And forget your kid’s skateboard. Graduate to the major leagues with the Torin 4-Position Headrest Shop Creeper. This Cadillac of creepers has an adjustable headrest that keeps you at the perfect angle during work. The padded surface was designed to save your back and keep it comfortable. And the six rotating caster wheels maximize mobility as you move around the floor. Your girlfriend had trouble pulling you out from under the car before? Boy, she’s in for a challenge now.

04. Vise Grips

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We’ve all been there before: a rusted nut won’t turn, a screw gets stripped, or a flange bends. Despite all the emerging technology, nothing has come along that beats the clamping and twisting power of a pair of good old-fashioned Vise Grips locking pliers. You’ll get a lot of miles out of a pair of 10 inch Irwin Vise Grip Curved Jaw Locking Pliers. While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to pick up a set that comes with needle-nose pliers and a few smaller vise-grips for smaller jobs, too. 

05. Torque Wrench

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Everything from the lug nuts that hold your wheels in place to your engine head bolts requires a specific amount of torque. For tightening a nut or bolt just right, there’s no better tool than the torque wrench. The Snap-On torque wrench displays a torque range from 30 to 250 ft. lbs. on an easy-to-read laser-marked scale.

06. Grinder

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The project rarely goes as planned. Sometimes the part that’s supposed to fit doesn’t. Other times you need a slightly bigger hole than you thought. These problems can usually be fixed with a little metalworking from a simple grinder. Dremel leads this category. The Dremel 7700-1/15, 7.2V MultiPro Cordless Kit is a lightweight, cordless, easy-to-use solution to solve otherwise difficult problems. The motor spins at 10,000 or 20,000 rpm, which is plenty of power to conquer most jobs.

07. Hydraulic Floor Jack and Stands

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From changing your tires to installing new brake pads, you need to jack up your car for more than you think. The Powerzone 3-Ton Hydraulic jack is a simple and safe way to do just that. The aluminum frame means you won’t waste all your energy lugging the thing around your garage. And the lift range from 4 inches to 18 inches allows you to perform a variety of tasks. A solid set of 3-ton Torin jack stands makes a perfect compliment to the Powerzone jack. The 3-ton capacity means this jack and these stands are equipped to take some pretty heavy loads. Still, be sure to check the weight of your car in your owner’s manual before getting to work.

08. Flashlight

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If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it. A flashlight comes in handy even at high noon in a well-lit garage when you’re working in all those nooks and crannies. And keeping a reliable flashlight handy is essential for nighttime roadside repairs. Redline by Nebo is the perfect size to comfortably fit both in your pocket and in your hand. The high-powered 2185 LUX LED bulb has three intensity settings. The flashlight has an adjustable convex lens and a magnetic base, which can attach the flashlight to your car. Keep both hands free while receiving all the light you need.

09. Mechanics Tool Set 

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You’ll put some tools through the ringer over the years in your garage. A set of wrenches is one of them. Better to invest in a well-made, quality set now, like the Craftsman 230-piece Mechanics Tool Set. The package comes complete with three quick-release ratchets in 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch drives with 116 sockets in both metric and standard measures and 6 and 12 point. You get universal joints, two extensions bars, six combination wrenches in standard and metric, 12 nut drivers—standard and metric—40 screw bits, 40 hex keys, and a carrying case to keep everything organized. Everything in this package is covered by a lifetime warranty except for the screw bits.

10. Drill/driver and Set of Bits

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No garage is complete without a good power drill and a set of bits to accompany it. Milwaukee has thought of every possible challenge you might face, and they came up with a solution in one neat little box. Well, two boxes really. The M1 1/2" Compact Brushless Hammer Drill/Driver feels light-weight at 3 lbs., but one squeeze of the trigger reveals that it packs a serious punch. The motor delivers 500 in-lbs of torque and up to 450 rpm in low mode, and it delivers up to a whopping 1,800 rpm in high mode. The 95PC Drill and Drive Set comes with drill bits, hex bits, Phillips bits, Pozidrive bits, slotted bits, square bits, TORX bits, and nut drivers. Phew. All in—you guessed it—95 pieces.

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