Cars (like almost everything else it seems) are just not ‘built to last’ anymore. Or so they say. These are monumentally expensive machines though that most of us simply cannot live without and as such, when most of us sniff even a hint of engine trouble, we’re on the phone to the mechanics in minutes. In truth though, a fair amount of the time, most minor engine problems can be solved at home with very little effort. Just a little elbow grease, the requisite knowledge and the right tools.
Without a decent toolkit you might as well be blindfolded so here we’ll take you through the essential tools that will help turn you from a butter fingered no-hoper, to a confident, amateur mechanic.
There’s no ‘maybe’ about it, if you’re working on your car, you’re going to get dirty, so you’re not exactly going to want to be dressed in your Sunday best for the occasion. A decent set of overalls, set aside specifically for your maintenance work would be ideal but not necessary. Any old shirts or torn jeans that you don’t mind getting covered in oil and grease will suffice.
There are so many different kinds of wrench available to the modern hobbyist mechanic that can be used to loosen and tighten various engine parts on your vehicle. Most wrenches can be tightened to fit the majority of nuts and bolts but if you plan to be delving quite deep into your engine, you’re going to need a smaller handled wrench. It pays to have as many different sizes and styles of wrench as possible. When it comes to car maintenance there is no such thing as having ‘too many’ wrenches.
Always make sure you at least have a flat, and phillips head screwdriver to hand as they will be amongst the most versatile tools in your arsenal. If you fancy making the job a little easier, you can try magnetised screwdrivers, which makes the job of unscrewing engine parts feel like a far less torturous affair.
If you intend on doing any serious engine work (hunting for errant bolts and screws can be spectacularly difficult without adequate illumination) then you’ll need a relatively high strength torch (preferably LED) which can easily be clipped to your tool belt or on a headband.
No not your mate Jack, an automotive jack that you can use you prop up the car in case you need to get underneath it. It’s absolutely vital that you remember to use a jack stand though as due to the hydraulic nature of most jacks, they are liable to fail without adequate support and being crushed to death by your own car is not a nobel way to go.
A deceptively versatile tool that most homes will have lying around somewhere, a hammer can be used to fasten, secure, pull out and pry apart various engine parts. The most common hammer used in the automotive trade is the ‘claw’ hammer, but in theory, any good hammer can be fit for purpose.
Tools that are not essential for most minor jobs, but might prove useful if you plan on regular car maintenance include a multimeter (for diagnosing problems), pliers (for when a space is just too tight for your fingers), a hand pump (for releasing fluids) and a can of WD40 for loosening parts that have become rigid and locked together over many years of wear.