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Co-authored by Cory Mercer and Martin Banks
Are you fully equipped with DIY mechanic tools? When most people set up their garage, their minds gravitate towards accessories like toolboxes, work benches, and air compressors. However, there are a number of other beneficial and convenient DIY mechanic tools most overlook.
Whether you’re building a project car for the track or simply like to do your own work on your daily driver, all DIY mechanics can agree that a proper garage set-up is important. The garage is a sanctuary for everything automotive. If you’ve ever spent an hour elbow-deep in an engine bay, you know it pays to have the right tools for the job.
Equipping Your Garage
You need more than parts and instructions for the job. You’ve got to have the right tools too. They might seem expensive at first. However, it’s worth it, considering the right tools can prevent injury and save you money in the long run.
Begin with the basics. You won’t be performing body-off restorations in your garage on day one. So put a pause on buying extremely specialized tools. Get a quality workbench, a tool chest and some wall mounts to keep things organized, and ensure you seal your floor so it’s ready to get dirty.
Ensure You Have Proper Lighting
What’s the first thing you do when you walk into the garage? Flip on the light switch. When it comes to garage work, lighting is essential whether you’re working on your car or any other DIY project for the house. If the light is too dim or there are too many shadows, mistakes can be made, and mistakes can be costly (not to mention, painful).
Most garage light fixtures have a standard pair of fluorescent tube lights. While fluorescents can be good, LEDs have proven to be the future. This is because they are energy efficient and have impressive brightness and directional lighting. Simply replacing your current fluorescents with LEDs can do a number to improve visibility. Adding another fixture or two? That will really transform your image while working.
Pro tip: If you do plan to add more fixtures to your current lighting setup, install them over areas you know you’ll be working on often. A light fixture over a workbench can provide so much light and it makes working on small parts much, much easier.
Microfiber Towels to Clean Your Car
Like most people, you may turn to old bath towels or beat-up T-shirts when you need a new shop rag. While these materials can handle their basic purpose, they have nothing on the cleaning efficiency of microfiber towels. Microfiber is a synthetic material with smaller and denser fibers than other common cleaning materials like cotton or nylon. These fibers can pick up even the smallest particles, which effectively cleans dirt or grease. In addition, microfiber towels are absorbent, light weight, and lint-free which is why they’ve become the preferred detailer’s towel. If you want to protect your car from scratches and water stains, use microfiber towels.
And the best part? Microfiber towels are a heck of a bang for your buck. You can buy a pack of a dozen online or from your local auto parts store for less than $20. Most of them are good for roughly 500 wash cycles. So it’ll be years before you need to invest in another set.
A Pegboard to Organize Your Tools
Everyone has at least one disorganized spot in the garage. Maybe you filled up a small drawer with oddly shaped tools. Or a big bin with stuff that wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. This is where pegboards come in handy. Pegboards are a tool organization lifesaver. They also help you free up precious floor space by using empty wall space.
Pegboards are available in plenty of sizes and styles. There are also unique hangers available for nearly every type of tool or product, from hammers and rakes to step stools and hoses. If you have the time and like custom jobs, you can even make your own. There are dozens of DIY guides to follow online, and it’s a relatively easy job to follow even for beginners.
The Essential DIY Mechanic Tools
Once you have the beginnings of an organized garage in place, it’s time to treat yourself to the mechanic’s bread-and-butter toolset with essential tools like a screwdriver set , a drop light and a good set of sockets and drivers. Cars use different types of fasteners from those you see in drywall. This means you may need to invest in specialized sockets and drivers for the task.
There are a few specialized tools you might not think of if you’re new to DIY. For example, a torque wrench is essential for working on cars because it has a readout to indicate how much twisting force you are applying to a fastener. Additionally, an air compressor can be valuable for driving tools and helping speed up your work.
You’ll also want to have a few things on hand specific to your car. This means having an extra change of oil and filter around, replacement light bulbs and a spare battery. You will thank yourself in future when you need them, particularly the battery. Give yourself enough time to find good deals on these wear parts to make the most out of your money.
Last but not least, a service manual for your vehicle can be a lifesaver. Especially if you find yourself in over your head. You can purchase these from third-party authors or your car’s manufacturer.
Every garage has a few power outlets built into its walls, just like any other room in the house. However, compared to a kitchen or living room, things like lighting, tools and chargers require more power in the garage. A standard set of wall outlets can be limited both in number and location.
Pick up a few power strips and extension cords to increase your outlet count tenfold. While you have enough now, you will inevitably need more in the future. No doubt you’ve had moments where you needed to plug something in but every outlet was taken. Or, you needed power in a specific spot but the nearest outlet was 10 feet away. The next time you have one of those moments, you’ll be happy you have extra power supplies on hand.
Pro tip: When shopping for power supplies for use in the garage, try find products with metal casings. Metal casings as are much more durable than the average plastic power strip. Additionally, look for products with surge protection to prevent your gear from potential damage caused by unexpected power spikes.
Many people forego safety gear. Some do it because they think it’s unnecessary for the job they’re doing, others do it to put on a “tough” act. However, no matter what the job, when you walk into the garage to work, leave your ego at the door. It’s important to protect yourself and have good safety habits.
Proper safety starts with the basics like wearing hand and eye protection while working. You also want to keep the first aid kit and fire extinguisher in close proximity. No one can predict when an accident is going to occur – but if one does, you’ll want all the necessary safety gear to prevent injury to yourself or damage to your house.
Top-Shelf or Bargain Basement?
As a new mechanic, you might be curious about how much to spend on tools. You can find DIY mechanic tools at a multitude of different price points, but is there any value in paying more?
As with most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to tools. It’s wise to skip the absolute cheapest tools you find because they can break easily or need replacement more often. You can also rule out expensive professional-grade tools too since they might have unnecessary features or standards higher than your applications require. Every tool is different, so read reviews and ask your friends for recommendations.
A good set of tools will last a long time if you use them properly, so take good care of them and expect others to do the same.
Fixing up cars is a lot of fun and saves you money on trips to the mechanic. It may even become a source of income in the future. For ultimate success you need the right tools. You also need to know how take care of them once you have them. Doing so will help ensure your projects go smoothly, keep you safe and help you produce quality results.
Get These DIY Mechanic Tools
A garage is always a work in progress. There are always more tools to add to make your work easier, faster, or better. While a new power tool set may seem attractive, make sure you’ve got the essentials in place before you start the upgrades. As you’ve probably heard most of your life, it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference. Start with these DIY mechanic tools!
Originally posted 9/11/2017 — Updated 10/9/2023