By Shell on Jul. 15, 2020
To become an effective home mechanic, you’ll need to be willing to educate yourself, be patient and know your own limits. If you’re in any doubt, always hand the job over to a professional. But if you’re keen to attempt more simple tasks, here are six tools to get you started:
1. Floor jack/jack stands
A standard car jack will get a corner off the ground, but it’s not particularly stable and its twirling lifting mechanism tends to be fiddly and time-consuming. In contrast, a trolley jack allows you to safely raise a car with a few easy pumps of a handle. Combine it with jack stands and you can get all corners of a car off the ground in minutes, bringing tyre rotations and other jobs within reach.
2. Socket/wrench set
Cars have a lot of bolts and nuts of different shapes and sizes, and if you’re going to start playing around you’ll need the right-sized wrench or socket for each one. While you could buy individually on a needs basis, investing in a complete wrench/socket tool set will be more convenient and cost you less over the long haul.
3. Torque wrenches
Different bolts and nuts require different amounts of torque (ie. tightening) to be fixed to manufacturer’s specifications. Rather than risk damaging something, use torque wrenches and get it right. These allow you to specify a maximum torque – a mechanism prevents further tightening. A ¼-inch tool for smaller bolts and another ½-inch one for higher torque requirements will be sufficient for most DIY requirements.
4. Adjustable wrenches
While you often need the exact-sized wrench or socket, these can be more convenient, allowing you to tackle differently sized bolt heads with the same tool. Get a few in different sizes, but don’t skimp on quality – the best have zero play in the jaw mechanism when tightened, reducing the chance of rounding bolts head off.
5. Vice grips
Sooner or later you’re going to encounter a nut or screw that is rusted, stripped or simply won’t turn. This time-honoured tool – also called ‘locking pliers’ and available in different sizes to suit different-sized challenges – gives you the clamping and twisting power to get out of these kinds of jams.
6. Power drill
Some bits of a car are bolted together, others are screwed in. If you’re going to be tackling the latter, a power drill with a selection of drill, Phillips, hex and other bits will save you a lot of twirling and fumbling.
Other essential items
- Torch: A car’s many dark, shadowy and cramped spaces can make it difficult to see what you’re working on. Rather than use a regular torch and work one-handed, get a mechanic’s torch – these have a magnetic base and adjustable lens, allowing you to attach it nearly anywhere, focus the light and get to work with both hands.
- Gloves: Working on a car is tough on your hands. Get some nitrile ones for when you’re specifically dealing with toxic chemicals and fluids, as well as traditional nylon/polyester gloves for general scuff-and-grime protection.