All too often seasoned techs in the automotive field take for granted the tools they have and use on a daily basis. Recently, my shop hired a new lube tech and it got me thinking. What are the tools I use daily, and what tools should every shop tech or back yard mechanic have in their tool box? Sure, tools will vary amongst different skill sets, different variations of the trade and tech responsibilities. Here, I’ve come up with my “Top 10″ list of tools that I find myself using more frequently then others. This goes without saying, that I’m sure if your a already shop tech or back yard mechanic, you already own the basics, such as screw drivers, wrenches, ratchets etc. The following is my list of tools that I feel are commonly over looked and sometimes after thoughts only to be noticed when you don’t have them.
1. Eye and Ear Protection
Shops can be loud places and two of the most vital senses for doing the job are sight and hearing. Why put yourself at risk for future problems when you can prevent them now. This goes without saying that eye and ear protection is a must for any shop or back yard mechanic.
2. Magnetic Flashlight
With any job, you are almost certain that at some point you will need to be able to see better in a dark spot. A magnetic flashlight will come in handy when that third hand is needed for shedding more light on your work area.
3. Oil Filter Claw
There are many types or oil filter wrenches on the market, some good, some not so good. I prefer the claw type oil filter wrench over the band or cup style. The claw style oil filter wrench is adaptable to confined areas and can fit almost any size filter.
4. Flex Head Ratchet
We all know that you can’t turn a bolt without a ratchet or wrench of some sort, and most of us only have a straight handle style ratchet. My ratchet of choice is a flex head style handle and the one I use 90% of the time. Having a flex head makes gaining access to nuts and bolts in tight areas easy. A flex head can also help speed up removing nuts and bolts, similar to that of a speed handle.
5. Extendable Pocket Magnet
Have you ever been working in an engine bay and “Oops”, you dropped that small nut or bolt? You can see it, but just can’t get your finger on it? Well my friends, be glad that you read this blog and you now have your handy pocket magnet to reach that nut or bolt.
6. Air Pressure Gauge
Any good mechanic knows that a properly inflated tire helps reduce tire wear and increases gas mileage. Having the ability to accurately check and fill tires fast is extremely beneficial. Here is where a digital tire pressure gauge come in handy.
7. Tire Plug Kit
This particular tool isn’t used as often as the others, but you’d be surprised in use it does get. When a customer comes in with a nail in their tire and you can’t fix it, they may not come back to your shop in the future for other repairs. This is also great for any mechanic to have in their tool box, not just those of us in shops.
8. Quality Impact Gun
I prefer the quiet baffled impact guns, as it saves on noise pollution in the shop (see item 1. in list). This goes without saying that an air source of some sort is needed to be able to use an impact gun. More and more backyard mechanics are buying home compressors as the availability is so easy to obtain and benefits of owning are great.
9. Assorted Hammers
Having a variety of hammers in your tool box is key to finishing many jobs. Now remember, your an auto mechanic and not a carpenter, no need for claw hammers here! A ball pein hammer, a nice dead blow and a small sledge would be perfect options.
10. Digital Multi-Meter
This one starts to boarder on more advanced mechanics, but should not be forgotten for the novice. Having a quality DVOM (Digital Volt Ohm Meter) will give you accurate results for those pesky electrical issues that advanced mechanics deal with. It is also a great tool for the novice in diagnosing battery, starting and charging issues.