DIY Mechanic Essentials: The Barebones to get started
Lots of people like to do their own work instead of paying an arm and a leg at a shop and having to wait days to get your car back for a job that supposedly only takes a couple of hours. For those weekend warriors, having the proper tools for the job means everything. We don’t have the luxury big shops have with access to hundreds of parts and tools laying around at our disposal. We’ve compiled a list of the DIY mechanic Essentials every at home mechanic needs with some links to most of these on Amazon as they are quite readily available and fairly cheap.
This probably goes without saying and could cover all of the bases by itself, but a good set of whatever tools you use for work is essential! Having a set of cheap tools that constantly break or those wrenches that just round nuts and never grip anything. A proper set of tools would save you time and headaches later on. A good basic tool kit should at least consist of: A Reliable socket wrench with a full set of sockets, screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead both short and long), pliers, allen keys, a knife or cutting tool. Keep in mind you should get relevant tools for your vehicle, lots of people make the mistake of using american tools on Japanese metric cars and vice versa. Along with a good oil filter wrench these are indespensible. These are enough to get most people started with basic mechanic work. The caveat is getting a set of reliable tools. Buying a $50 400 piece tool set may seem like a steal but you’re going to get what you pay for. Having a small set of good tools that wont break or bend at the slightest sign of force is much better than having every iteration of every tool imaginable that you just cant seem to trust. In short, good tools are an investment that pay for themselves over many years and will save you money by lasting much longer than buying dozens of crappy ones over time.
“Safety Third” This can’t be stressed enough. Anything could happen while working on a car and it’s best you’ve got your bases covered. At a bare minimum you should have your eyes covered. If shrapnel, vehicle fluid or metal shavings get into your eyes, you’re gonna have a bad time. If you want to be safe and look cool while wrenching on your ride, even wearing sun glasses would offer you far greater protection than nothing, but a good set of protective shatter resistant goggles is fairly cheap and easy to come by. You can get a set at any hardware store or even online for cheaper like the ones here. As for gloves. If you’re working with fluids or anything thats going to get really dirty, a nice box of latex or nitrile gloves is perfect for this exact instance. The thin gloves provide a bare skin feel like you’re working with just your hands without covering them in the gunk that doesn’t come off for days and are easily disposable. These would be perfect for quick and dirty jobs. For those seemingly “simple” install days, you may end up working around rough or sharp edges along with having to deal with any residual heat the car has, you want a thicker set of heat resistant mechanic gloves. These gloves are a little bit thicker than latex or nitrile gloves and do a much better job at preventing burns and cuts due to the tough fabric they’re made out of. These wouldn’t be for working with lots of fluid as the fabric could soak into the gloves leaving a…desirable smell. Dirty Clothes This should go without saying but you’re going to get dirty and so will your clothes. Wear that old shirt from high school it’s not socially acceptable for you to wear anymore or something, but nothing you’d cry over if you got oil all over it. Also a couple of extra shirts are great for cleaning wheels and scraping off general crap.
If you’re going to be doing any work on your car at home there is a good chance you’re going to need to lift it at some point. A good jack and at least two stands would be a good start and four total jack stands would be ideal. Just a reminder also when lifting your car please use jack stands. A jack is enough to lift your vehicle and hold it but it could also easily slip and to be completely safe jack stands are needed.
When working on your car you’re going to end up working in some nooks and crannies and some extra light would definitely help in those situations. A good stand alone or portable light would also be idea for illuminating your whole work area if you’re wrenching after dark because a single overhead garage light isn’t going to cut it most of the time. You’ll know you need a headlamp when you catch yourself sticking flashlights in your mouth without a second thought.
Most people can’t think of why they would need a rubber mallet for anything, until they need a rubber mallet for that one thing. This is just one of those cheap and reliable tools that comes in handy way more often than you’d expect and it would be better just to have one handy at all times. Just trust me on this one.
You’re going to make a mess, clean it up. Keeping some supplies handy not only to clean up your messes but also yourself is essential. A good set of shop towels work much better than regular paper towels at cleaning up liquid messes and they’re a little thicker than regular ones also. To clean your hands soap doesn’t always do the best job so getting a scrubbing balm of some kind like Fast Orange or another automotive cleaner would work. Something to pick up all those fluids you spill is also very crucial keeping a receptacle to catch any spills is ideal but it’s not always in the right place. In that instance cat litter would be your next best friend. It’s super absorbent and fairly easy to clean after it has assimilated whatever liquids you’ve poured it on, oil included! Anything comparable or specialized in this task would also work but you don’t need to spend extra money buying something “specially formulated”. You’re also going to need drip pans for your oil if you change your oil at home and receptacles like old cups or plastic tubs for any other fluids you might be working with.
Depending on how deep you’re getting into your vehicle or if you’re just the guy with that really weird one year only Saab or Honda model, a good set of extensions and swivels will come in handy when getting to those bolts in the really awkward places. Also because short and long bolts just aren’t enough sometimes and you don’t wan’t to be 2 hours into a job and realize you just needed an extra couple of inches to reach that last bolt.
Extra 10mm Bolts!! You’re going to lose them so it’s best you just get a sacred set of extras now.