Basic Tool Guide For a Car Tuning DIYer / Beginner Mechanic

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If you are into cars, chances are you want to accomplish a certain amount of work on your car by yourself.

It does not only save you money in the long run, but it is also incredibly satisfying and a valuable skill to possess.

This short guide will explain which basic mechanical and diagnostic tools your garage needs in order to accomplish as much work by yourself as possible.

Working on your car, SAFELY

Before we dive deeper into the selection of tools, we have to point out the most important factor, which is safety.

You would be surprised by the number of work accidents that happen while working on vehicle repairs.

Some of those injuries are also fatal, so before you start working beneath your car, make sure that the car is lifted safely.

Car jacks, Axle stands or Car ramps?

Car jacks are a necessary tool to quickly lift your car to a position in which you can inspect and fix certain problems.

They are a great tool for small tasks such as wheel replacements. However, if you plan on lying beneath your car, car jacks are not SAFE.

A much safer alternative are axle stands and high-quality car ramps. Car jacks rely on hydraulics to keep the car lifted, and despite their lift weight capacity, hydraulics can fail. And you do not want to be beneath a heavy vehicle once those hydraulics give up.

Securing your car with rigid steel axle ramps or a car ramp is much safer.

When it comes to lifting your car and safety, never buy the lowest quality products. Do not try and save money when it comes to your safety.

Car lift or a pit, what is better?

This is a tough question to answer, as both options have their pros and cons. Here is our breakdown:

Car lifts

Car lifts are a great option if you want flexibility and lower initial set up costs.

To fit a car car lift you must have a high covered work area with a solid concrete foundation. Fitting a car lift onto a poor foundation can lead to cracked flooring and instability which is incredibly dangerous.

However, if you change your workshop location, a car lift can be easily relocated, which is a big benefit.

Car Pits

Car pits generally have higher initial set up costs and they can’t be easily moved. However, they are much cheaper to maintain and will last you forever.

Pits don't need constant maintenance and replacement parts. A car pit also makes it possible to work beneath and above the car at the same time.

A car pit can also be installed in a garage with a low ceiling. Prefabricated car pits have awoken the popularity of car pits, so we would recommend you definitely consider it for your workshop.

Basic diagnostic tools for mechanics

Working on your car used to only be associated with wrenches and screwdrivers. With the advancement of technology, most of the work is done by analyzing the error codes your car reports back through the OBD port.

Here is why you need an OBD2 reader and error code finder.

Why do you need an OBD scanner diagnostic tool?

All today's vehicles are equipped with extensive electronics. Various control units monitor all functions.

The data can be read out and evaluated via the OBD2 interface with the appropriate diagnostic device.

Doing this by visiting a workshop can quickly become more expensive than an entry-level OBD scanner which will quickly and easily tell you why your check engine light is on.

All vehicles built from 2001 onwards have an OBD (on-board diagnosis) interface. To establish a connection between the vehicle and the diagnostic device, an OBD2 diagnostic device is required.

It is plugged into the corresponding output on the vehicle. These adapters usually have Bluetooth or Wifi connectivity and thus connect to the external device or an app on your smartphone.

A number of functions can be performed via the OBD interface and the adapter. Error codes, data on fuel consumption, torque or data on acceleration can be read-out.

But data can also be sent the other way around to the vehicle and re-encoded in this way. The OBD2 interface is the gateway of communication with your car.

What to look for when buying an OBD2 reader and fault finder?

When buying your first OBD2 reader, consider what is important to you and what is not. Prices of OBD2 scanners range from as low as 50$ and up to 7500$.

In principle, there are various differentiation criteria that can be applied in order to decide on the right device. Here are some tips to help you with your purchase:

The general range of functions

  • What diagnoses can be made?
  • Is the function for reading and evaluating real-time data possible?
  • How is the data processed graphically?
  • Can coding also be used?

The size and quality of the screen

  • Is the screen easy to read?
  • What's the resolution?
  • Do you want a touch function or do you prefer “real” buttons?

What is included in the package (extra cable, etc.)

  • What is included that applies to your car?
  • Do I even need all the accessories?
  • Are there connections and cables to rarer or older car models?

The price

  • What do I want to spend?
  • Is it worth the price?
  • What is my budget and what exactly do I need the device for?

The type of connection (via cable, via OBD, directly via Bluetooth or WLAN)

  • Do I prefer a wireless connection?
  • Can it also be by cable?

The recency of the system software/firmware (and the update conditions of the manufacturer)

  • Does the manufacturer offer free updates?
  • How expensive are later updates (software/firmware)?
  • Is the adapter also suitable for OBD2 diesel?
  • Can additional cables/adapters be purchased to suit older cars?

Basic mechanics tools

To help you get started on your journey of automotive self-reliance, we compiled an extensive list of basic mechanical tools a modern workshop needs.

Whilst much will depend on the jobs you plan to undertake, we feel we have covered most of the bases here in our list, and you should be equipped to handle most tasks.

Bear in mind that some cars use imperial threads and others use metric, so make sure you have this covered, you can easily sheer off a bolt with the wrong size socket. A decent socket set will provide both types and all sizes.

You don't have to buy all of these at once, you can slowly invest in tools that you need for certain projects and gradually fill your cabinets with high-quality tools that will last you for a lifetime.

Our list of essential tools and equipment for your garage, or workshop.
  1. Allen wrenches/hex keys: With these wrenches, you loosen and fasten screws with a hexagon socket profile and also cylinder head screws in various sizes.
  2. Puller: Some automotive components are pressed on and can only be removed with a special puller.
  3. Drill and cordless screwdriver: You need a drill or a cordless screwdriver to easily tighten many screws. A no-brainer. This will also come in handy for various projects around your house.
  4. Impact wrench: Use the high speed and torque of the impact wrench to loosen machine screws that are stuck on the car.
  5. Screwdrivers: A set with various common attachments allows it to be used for various assembly work on all types of vehicles.
  6. Torque wrench: You use the torque wrench when the tightness of screws and bolts is crucial. Torque wrenches are used by all mechanics that know what they are doing. They are used on all bolts and screws from the engine assembly to your wheels. Get one!
  7. Open-ended and ring spanners: Use this special type of wrench to loosen square or hexagonal screws or nuts. An essential part of any workshop.
  8. Spark plug wrench: Removing and fitting spark plugs require a spark plug wrench. Most spark plugs require a 5/8" (16mm) size socket.
  9. Socket wrenches: For more flexibility buy socket wrench sets with different drive parts and exchangeable sockets. Invest in a high-quality ratchet tool as well.
  10. Vernier calliper: For checking profile depths and brake disks as well as rim dimensions and other measuring work, this vehicle tool in different versions is a must-have in every automotive workshop.
  11. Test lamp: This tool functions as a voltage tester, when electronic components are to be installed, checked or replaced in the car.
  12. Assembly levers: These plastic levers are available in various designs and are a crucial tool for gentle assembly and disassembly of door panels, protective flaps or other small vehicle parts.
  13. Hammers: When nothing else works, you need a hammer. All jokes aside, a set of hammers always comes in handy.
  14. Car jack: A mobile trolley jack or hydraulic jack lifts the vehicle to the desired working height.
  15. Axle stands: They relieve the pressure off the jack and ensure a stable, raised stand for safe working.
  16. Pliers: Combination pliers ensure a firm grip. Use a wire cutter to cut through smaller wires and veins. If you decide to work on brakes, you will also need water pump pliers.
  17. Wire strippers: An essential when working on electric car components.
  18. Wire brush: Wire brushes with different degrees of hardness can be used to remove coarse and stubborn dirt.
  19. Oil filter wrench: Changing the engine oil of your car is most likely going to be one of your first DIY projects. An oil filter wrench is an inexpensive tool that makes the job much easier and cleaner.

Conclusion

Out of safety and comfort, we always recommend that you work on your car in a covered area, preferably indoors to prevent extensive moisture from entering the various components of your car.

Once you start buying tools for your home garage, keep quality in mind.

Buying cheap means you will need to buy twice, so it really isn’t worth it. Once you buy all these tools, make sure they are not lying around in the dirt and damp areas.

You can get high-quality tool storage trolleys or cabinets for decent prices these days. Well kept used ones are also a good option.

Take care of your tools, invest in your knowledge and enjoy the ride. Once you start working on your car, trust us, there is no going back!

Be sure to drop in our car forums where you'll find a friendly international community of like minded car enthusiasts, where you can ask for advice, swap tips and get feedback on your project ideas.

Check out my YouTube channel, we're regularly adding new content...


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