In our culture, a garage often gets described as something much more than merely a place where you store your car. That’s too boring for the media, so they romanticize it. They make it into some sort of sanctuary for masculinity packed with must-have garage tools and with an unwritten “No girls allowed” sign on the entrance door. Of course, it’s awesome to have a hobby which makes you feel special. But such sanctification of garage activities has one huge undeniable drawback.
Not all people can associate with the “manly man” image of a mechanic who hangs outs in his garage 24/7, so they go to the opposite extreme. They get reluctant even to try and begin to understand what’s going on inside their cars and what all those essential garage tools are for. Instead, they will go to mechanics and trust the job of fixing even minor problems to the “pros.” In practice, it means not only that you go and pay for something you could do yourself, faster and for free. Raise your hand if you’ve never been late to an appointment just because your car didn’t start. Chances are that you could easily fix it yourself with a few must-have garage tools and be there on time, but you didn’t, and you weren’t. All because you decided that you’d better trust a job like this to pros at all times.
If you recognize yourself in our last few sentences, then this article is for you. Your garage doesn’t have to be that sanctuary where you’d have to devote yourself 24/7 to a hobby you couldn’t care less about. It can be just a place where you store your car and have a tool box with tools to fix some small problems that might occur. So, if that’s what you want but don’t know where to start, we have a basic tool kit list for your garage that’s just a garage.
We must warn you that our basic tool kit list may seem somewhat extensive and full of unfamiliar terms. That’s why we’ve decided to stick merely to listing must-have tools for your garage, without going too deep into how to use them to diagnose and fix all possible problems with your car. Also, extensive as it may seem, you’ll be surprised to find out how little it really is once you get all those must have garage tools at the hardware store.
This must be the most obvious item, essential for any tool box set. When thinking about garage activities, this must be the first tool that comes to mind. But how to pick the right one? Of course, the most obvious choice is to get a set of those and use whichever suits best for every given situation. But, there’s always a risk that the consultant at the store will treat you like some clueless muggle. Then, you may end up with an extensive set of ratchets most of which you will never use or won’t be able to use.
To avoid such disappointing upsell, it’s better to have an idea of what ratchet(s) you will most likely use on your car. 3/8 inch is the optimal size that will fit anywhere in most car models. A flexible head and a bent handle will add to the penetrating ability of your ratchet. Usually, a set of three detachable heads will suffice for almost any task.
2. NEEDLE SCALER
This is a handy tool to scale off the old paint or rust before re-painting your car. As a more mundane purpose, it may also clean your car from large bits of dry dirt with it. It’s essential to have a set of needles that hammer off anything unnecessary from the surface of your car. Various models have different amount and size of the needles, but 15-20 1/8-inch needles should do the trick any time. Normally, you should be able to adjust your needle scaler’s speed of operations to make the blows softer or harder.
If your vehicle is prone to corrosion, don’t expect the scaler to solve this problem altogether. It’s not a tool for altering the humidity of the environment or the material from which your car is made. It is, however, effective to get rid of the rusty bits.
3. SOCKET RENOVATION SET
Changing the sockets in your car may be a tricky task, especially when this car isn’t too big and the engine area is too crowded. The sockets that need to change may be difficult to reach, but it doesn’t mean that they are difficult to change. You can do it just as good as a mechanic if you have the best hand tools:
- 20-inch extension bars. Those allow snapping the socket out and back in. Also, you don’t have to bend yourself to reach the socket that needs changing. It’s handy to avoid overstretching your back or hands.
- Locking extension bars. Lock those on your ratchet to reach the socket that doesn’t want to come out above the bolt head. Reach the socket with this bar, lock it, – and there it goes.
- Flexible sockets. Snap them onto your car’s sockets and go like this. This is particularly handy for sockets located in crowded or remote parts of an engine area.
4. PNEUMATIC WRENCH
When screwing bolts in or out, don’t rely on your own force, – you know the mechanics don’t. Not only will the wrench allow screwing the bolts in properly, but it’s also particularly helpful when you need to screw out the bolts that got somewhat rusty. It’s possible to buy two different torque wrenches for different impact (for different sizes) or use a digital adapter that adjusts automatically.
## 5. PRESSURE TESTING KIT
When you suspect a leakage, use this to detect it. It comes with a vacuum pump and all the necessary sensors and motors. Of course, you can also detect leakages manually by plugging the vacuum to each end and using a gauge. When you spray on the suspected leakage area, the gauge will react correspondingly.
6. SET OF SCREWDRIVERS
We’ve mentioned that when one is not experienced with garage activities, a sales consultant might try to upsell you some “must have mechanic tools” that you will never need, so be wary. One might assume that it’s the same with screwdrivers and that it’s possible to go with only two screwdrivers that you surely have somewhere (flathead and Philips’ head), but it’s not the case. You are sure to need different screwdrivers of various thickness, too. Still, it doesn’t mean that you should buy all the screwdrivers in that hardware store. Here are the ones you’ll need:
- Subdued screwdriver – for removing sensors and operating in tight spaces.
- Normal-length – for general purposes.
- Heavy-duty flathead – the one you can hit with a hammer to boost your pry bar.
- Long and skinny one – to reach a remote place or break something.
- Small flathead – for holding the intake throttle while tuning up.
You’ll need these top tools to open your car hood. You will need to do that for working with the brakes, the electric connector, and for changing horses. For all of these jobs, the following pliers should suffice:
- Regular – the most commonly-used type.
- Long- and short-need – those can be used for an extended amount of works but are interchangeable for the most part.
- Vice grip – these are extra comfortable for the hand.
- Out-of-sight – those mark the movements of your fingers, which makes them particularly handy for clips, clamps, and retainers.
Those are arguably the most testosterone-infused garage items. Someone inexperienced might think that such brute force is not used in the repair works today, but it very much is. For instance, it’s often necessary to knock a stuck component – a rotor, for example. Here are the hammers one may need:
- Ball pein – for general hammering works, including break work
- Rubber millet – for gentle knocking that’s supposed to leave no scratches or dents
- Framing hammer – made from lighter materials to provide less shock with the same impact
- Various bars – for loosening the bolts without denting anything
- Extension bars – for reaching remotely located bolts that need loosening
- Pry bar – of course, to be used as a pry. Here, pick the size which would be ultimate for your vehicle.
9. JACK WITH STAND
This one is a no-brainer. Today, pretty much all jacks are automatic, which is good. A stand is necessary at all times: we don’t recommend relying on a jack alone. Also, always remember to take two wheels off the brakes when you need to use the jack.
10. GARAGE LIGHTS
Even if you have windows in your garage, you cannot always rely on the daylight – just like you don’t rely on it at home. To give your car a little fix (which, you must know, will never be a perfect moment), you must take care that the room is well-lit. It’s essential to be able to see effortlessly when you do such a job.
But – obviously – the lamplight, no matter how strong, will not reach everywhere you need it. That’s why a LED flashlight or LED headlamp is also essential. Even in the daytime, you will surely find them useful. A headlamp is particularly handy because it sets both your hands-free.
11. TOOLS FOR REACHING REMOTE PLACES
Any car is full of places that one can’t reach with regular must-have tools for garage but need to reach nevertheless. That’s why you’ll often need smaller essential garage tools like:
- An additional set of screwdrivers, the small ones
- A set of ratcheting screwdrivers
- A magnetic flex driver
- An additional set of smaller ratchets, or
- A mini-ratchet with detachable heads: star, square, screw, and hex
- A mechanics creeper
12. SCREW PITCH GAUGE
When you look at any bolt caliber (or any other detail where it’s applicable), it will come in either Imperial or metric system. Sometimes, you can see the difference with a naked eye, but that’s not always the case. Besides, one can’t always see it on the item itself, but it’s always critical to know whether it’s 8mm or 1/8 inch. That’s why a screw pitch gauge should be in your basic tool kit list.
A FEW BONUS TIPS: ORGANIZING YOUR GARAGE TOOL BOX SET
When you’re not a car enthusiast, you will barely find the time (or desire) to fix up your car until it’s an emergency. To make that quick fix quick, you’ll need to have all your essential garage tools at hand. For us, muggles, even the most orderly garage with all the best garage tools, a mechanic’s pride, will often look like a total mess where one couldn’t possibly find any must have mechanic tools easily. Well, mechanics do always find all the top tools, and there’s no magic to that. With a little advice, so can you.
If there’s a sporting goods store where you’ve been more than once, you may have noticed how easily they can rearrange their space according to seasonal display needs. You may also have noticed those vertical slats with numerous hooks and bins. Well, it’s not some secret technology to which only store owners have access. You can implement this system for your tool box set. And then you can effortlessly experiment with it all you want until you find the right “Feng Shui.” Eventually, you’ll come up with an optimal solution for your best garage tools, and – trust us – it will come sooner than one would imagine. Admittedly, your tool box with tools might still look somewhat messy, not too aesthetically pleasing, but quite functional nevertheless.
Also, when you’re not a car enthusiast, the best garage tools that we’ve listed here should suffice. Even when you get all those top tools, your tool box set still won’t take up much space. It may get tempting to scatter them all over your garage. It’s even more tempting to store all sorts of junk you barely ever need in the garage, – like so many of us do. The elephant in this room is that it’s best to keep all your best hand tools in one place, close to each other. Find a spot which you feel is the most comfortable for all your must-have mechanic tools and have them located there at all times.