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35 Must-Have Set of Car Tools You Should Have if You Work on Your Own Vehicles

A man worker checking the car engine.

I grew up crawling under cars, helping my dad to fix them or just keep them running. As I’ve got older, I don’t work on my car anymore, but I always remember what Dad did, what tools he needed and how useful they were.

Following my dad’s example, here is what I consider the entire must-have set of car tools you should have if you work on your own vehicles.

When You Need To Get Under Your Car, Make Sure You Keep Things Stable

Jacks

Scissor jack

LEADBRAND Black Steel Scissor Jack, 1.5 tons (3,000lbs) Capacity, Oversize Base with Crank Handle

A scissor jack is one of the most common forms of jack that comes standard with a car. They are efficient and quite easy to use. You may find that you need a more substantial jack when you work on your car.

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Bottle jack

BIG RED T91003B Torin Hydraulic Welded Bottle Jack, 10 Ton (20,000 lb) Capacity, Red

A bottle or hydraulic jack works vertically, so the pressure of the car cannot fold it. This keeps the centre of gravity more steady than a scissors jack.

Trolley jack

Torin TORT825051 Hydraulic Low Profile Trolley Service/Floor Jack with Single Piston Quick Lift Pump, 2.5 Ton (5,000 lb) Capacity, Black

If you are really serious about working on your own car, then a trolley jack is your best bet. What is great about a trolley jack is that you can get it under the car without doing too much crawling about.

The hydraulic jacking system is strong and easy to use. A trolley jack will also usually lift your car higher than other jacks. It is also the best option with SUVs or high-wheel clearance vehicles.

Trestles (Jack stand)

Powerbuilt 3 Ton, Bottle Jack and Jack Stands in One, 6000 Pound All-in-One Car Lift, Heavy Duty Vehicle Unijack, 640912

You must have been told to avoid crawling around under a car when it is on a jack. This is why a set of trestles is essential as part of your tool kit. You can mount the axle of the car on a trestle, which will be steadier than a jack.

Wheel chocks

AFA Tooling - Set of 4 Heavy Duty Rubber Wheel Chocks w/Ez-Carry Handles | RV Chock Block for Front and Back Tires | Quick Grip Ribbed Design | Great for Your Camper, Trailer, RV, Truck, Car or ATV

Before you jack up your car, it is essential to put wheel chocks behind or in front of the other wheels. This will keep the car from rolling. A set of two is a basic must, but four may be even better.

Tarp

Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp - 8 ft X 10 ft, Dark Green

A strong tarp is a great thing to have in your toolbox. It is useful for when you need to sit or lie next to the car to work on it. A tarp is also essential for when you need to get down under the car, unless you have a trolley, that is.

Car inspection trolley

DNA MOTORING 40" L X 19" W Vehicle Repair Low Profile Automotive Creeper w/Padded Headrest (TOOLS-00005) , Red

When your car is up on trestles or a jack, you may need to get underneath to work on the engine. This is why you need to have a car inspection trolley on hand.

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You can pick up a very basic model, with a flat wooden deck on wheels. The other option is a molded plastic model that is longer and even sculpted to suit your body more comfortably.

How Would You Manage To Wrench a Nut or Bolt Free Without a Spanner?

Ratcheting socket wrench set

40 Piece Ratcheting Socket Wrench Set - Metric and Standard 6-Point Hex Socket Organizer Kit with Combination Torque and Insulated Handles

When you work on your own car, a set of socket wrenches is essential. A good set includes wrenches with both metric and standard (imperial) sizes.

It will have a range of sizes, including the most common sizes: from ¼  inch (0.6mm), 3/8 inch (0.9 mm), ½ inch (1.3 cm) and ¾ inch (0.6mm). There are other sizes in between these that you will find in a good socket set.

You will need sockets of different shapes that will fit any pattern of nut or bolt.

The socket set will include a ratchet spanner, which is the most efficient way of turning a wrench. There are also extension arms, to reach nuts and bolts that are embedded in parts of the engine.

Spark plug spanner

LEXIVON 5/8" Swivel Magnetic Spark Plug Socket, 3/8" Drive x 10" Total Length | Enhanced Magnetic Design With Thin Wall Socket, Cr-v Steel (LX-122)

The beauty of specialized spanner sets is that you can be sure you have the right tool for the job. Make sure your spanner set has a socket for removing spark plugs.

Flat and ring spanners

Slogging Ring Wrench, Black 36mm Box End Striking Spanner Flat Slogging Ring Spanner, 1 Pcs

There are some nuts and bolts for which a socket wrench just isn’t the right thing. This is why you need a set of flat, ring or double-ended spanners in your toolbox.

One option you have is to build up your own collection of spanners. Perhaps choose double ended spanners, because then you have a set of flat and of ring spanners all in one. On the other hand, you may only need certain sizes in each and can buy them separately.

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When you choose the spanners to buy, make sure you get those that fit the most common size of nuts and bolts.

Shifting / adjustable spanner

SPNEC Monkey Wrench 4" 6" 8" 10" 12" 15 Adjustable Spanner Shifting Spanner Car Repair Tools (Size : D)

Working on your own car is not a definable art. You may find times when you need to change the size of the gap on the spanner in the moment. Rather than reaching for new spanners, it is often easier simply to adjust the spanner in your hand. This is why you need a shifting (adjustable) spanner.

The head of the spanner looks the same as any other flat spanner, with the flat ‘mouth’ open to hold a bolt. One side of the jaw is attached to an adjustable slide, so the mouth can be screwed to different widths.

Torque wrench

Amazon Basics 1/4-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench - 35-200 in.-lb, 3.95-22.5 Nm

Every element of a car’s engine is essential for it to function properly. Every nut needs to be just tight enough. It’s pretty much impossible to tell if you’ve got it right just with your fingers. Keep a torque wrench in your toolbox, to make sure the amount of pressure that is applied to a bolt or nut is correct.

Wheel spanner

Hobbypark 2pcs Aluminium Cross Wrenches Sleeve 4/5/5.5/7mm 8mm 10mm 12mm 17mm Glow Plug Socket Hex Driver Hexagon Spanner Wheel Repair Tools for RC Car

Every car should have its own wheel spanner (lug wrench), but keeping a spare in your toolbox is important. Go for the cross wrench, so that you know you’ll be able to remove lug nuts of any size.

Every Toolbox Needs Screwdrivers, of Varying Sizes and Patterns

Set of screwdrivers

14-Piece Magnetic Screwdrivers Set, Precision Repair Kit Includes Slotted/Phillips/Torx, Non-Slip Cushion Grip Professional Tools Screwdriver Bits

You will never only need one screwdriver in your toolbox. You will need a range of sizes and types of heads. At the very least, make sure you have about 5 or 6 different sizes of both flat and Phillips screwdrivers.

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Your car may feature some other screws, such as a six-pointed star, because it gives better torque. In this case, you’ll need to add some star screwdrivers to your set.

Perhaps it’s the best bet to go out and buy a set of screwdrivers, then you’ll have all the basics. At the very least, you can also buy a combo tool, with one handle and different screwdriver heads.

Jeweller’s screwdrivers

Micro Screwdriver Precision Jewellers Glasses Set SIL205

It’s not extremely likely that you will need to use a tiny screwdriver on your car, but you never know. A great standby, in-case addition to a toolbox is a set of jeweller’s screwdrivers.

Allen keys

30-Piece Premium Hex Key Allen Wrench Set, SAE and Metric Assortment, L Shape, Chrome Vanadium Steel, Precise and Chamfered Tips | SAE 0.028 - 3/8 inch | Metric 0.7 - 10 mm | In Storage Case

Allen keys have a hexagonal shape and are essential for screws with a hexagonal recess. They come in sets of different sizes, so all your options will be covered.

When You Need To Get to Grips With Things, Reach for the Pliers

Standard pliers

Weldflame Nickel-Iron Plated Antirust MIG Welding Pliers & Round Dual-Sided Cable Sheet Stainless Steel Wire Gage Standard Thickness Metal Gauge Measurement

Begin at the beginning and make sure you have a set of standard pliers. The edges of the mouth are squared off and flattened to be able to grip things. There is usually a grid pattern on the inside of the mouth, to increase the grip.

Needle nose pliers

Dykes Needle Nose Pliers Extra Long Needle Nose Plier (6-Inch)

Sometimes, it’s necessary to get into a small spot in the car’s engine, or the spot is a little too far to reach easily. The jaws of needle nose pliers are long and thin, which means they can reach those spaces.

Water pump pliers

KNIPEX Tools - Cobra Water Pump Pliers (8701250), Red,10-Inch

Water pump pliers have an adjustable slip joint. It can adjust to seven different positions. The head is essentially square, with slightly rounded ends. This lets the pliers grip round the pipes.

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Slip-joint pliers

CRAFTSMAN CMHT81713 CFT SLIP JOINT PLIER-8IN

The slip joint in the middle of the head of a slip-joint pliers allows the jaws to widen. This lets the pliers grip things of different thicknesses. The edges of the jaws are flat and curve out slightly below that. This gives the pliers the range to grip a variety of shapes.

Locking pliers (Vice grip)

STEELHEAD 3-Piece Locking Pliers Set, 10-inch Curved Jaw, 7-Inch Curved Jaw & 6-1/2” Long Nose Straight Jaw, Integrated Wire Cutter, USA-Based Support

One of the jaws of the locking pliers is relatively flat, while the other is slightly rounded. This gives the pliers the ability to grip quite a range of objects. At the end of one leg of the pliers is a screw that can tighten or loosen the jaws. The trick is to make sure you don’t tighten the screw too tight and overload the pressure of the pliers on whatever it is holding.

Linesman’s pliers

CRAFTSMAN Linesman Pliers, 8-Inch (CMHT81648)

These pliers are also called side-cutting pliers, or electrician’s pliers, because they incorporate side cutters just behind the gripping jaws. This means you can work on the wiring in your car without having to reach for other pliers.

The tips of the jaws are flat and serrated, for gripping wires. Although the handles are usually insulated, don’t use these pliers to grip live wires.

Side cutters

IRWIN VISE-GRIP Diagonal Cutting Pliers, 8-Inch (2078308)

In a complete toolbox, it’s useful to have a set of side cutters too (even if you have side cutting pliers). These are useful for cutting through wire of different widths and strengths.

Sometimes, You Need To Hold Things Together With Tape

Thread tape

HYDRO MASTER Teflon PTFE Thread Seal Tapes,Used in Shower Heads and Pipe Threads,1/2" X 520",White

Thread tape is usually used in plumbing to seal pipe threads. It may seem a little outside, but you just may need to seal a thread on your car, even temporarily.

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Insulation tape

1/8 in 2 Inches Foam Tape for Pipe Insulation, Weather Stripping Window and Door. Tape Adhesive Freezer Seal High-Density AC Insulation Black Closed Cell HVAC Automotive (1/8" X 2" X 30') Mounting

Insulation tape is used to cover or insulate wires. It is pressure sensitive and is effective when wound around an electrical wire that may be exposed. You can also use insulation tape to seal the end of a wire that is no longer used. You can also tape electrical wires together.

Duct tape

AmazonCommercial Standard Duct Tape, 1.88-inch by 45-yard, Silver, 3-Pack

Duct tape is one of those things you should have everywhere, even in your toolbox. You may never use it on your car. However, there will be that moment when nothing else will do the job and there will be the duct tape!

Part of Fixing Cars Is Knowing Where To Shine the Light

Lead light

JOYLIT 12V White LED Strip Lights 6000-6500K 16.4ft/5M SMD5050 300LEDs, Dimmable IP65 Waterproof Cuttable Flexible LED Rope Light for Bedroom, Living Room, Kitchen ( LED Strip Only )

Working on a car can be fiddly enough without being able to see properly. You can avoid this by keeping a lead light in your toolbox. This is one of the most useful pieces of equipment and one you will never regret having.

Lead lights plug into either the mains in your garage, or the lighter socket in your car.

Head torch

ENERGIZER LED Headlamp Pro360, Rugged IPX4 Water Resistant Head Light, Ultra Bright Headlamps for Running, Camping, Outdoor, Storm Power Outage (Batteries Included)

When all else fails, provide the light yourself. A head torch is an essential thing to keep in your toolbox. You just need to fix it on your head and you will have light wherever you look and wherever you need to work.

Timing light

OBDMONSTER Ignition Timing Light, 12V Strobe Lamp Inductive Petrol Engine Timing Gun Automotive Tool for Car Motorcycle Marine

Of course, a timing light is not in the realm of lead lights and torches. It is a specialized piece of equipment that is linked to the ignition circuit. It is not an essential addition to your toolbox, but is relatively inexpensive and can be very useful.

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Don’t Forget the Other Special Bits ’n Pieces

Feeler gauge

ARES 11042 - 2-Piece Tapered Feeler Gauge and Offset Feeler Gauge Set - Tapered Gauge has 32 Dual-Marked SAE & Metric Sizes - Offset has 16 Dual-Marked Sizes - Precisely Measure Mechanical Clearances

Big gaps, small gaps and tiny, tiny little gaps are all part of a car’s engine. To make sure you get those really miniscule gaps right, make sure you have a set of feeler gauges in your toolbox.

Grease

Valvoline - VV608 General Purpose Amber Grease 1 LB

Keep a pot of automotive grease in your toolbox for those moments when you need it. You may want to cover the terminals of the battery, or to lubricate a moving part.

Distilled water

AQUAPAP 16.9 Ounce 6 Pack Vapor Distilled CPAP Water | 2-3 Nights per Bottle | for Resmed Machines

If your car battery is sealed, then the water won’t be something to check on. If your battery does have openable cells, then a little distilled water is a good thing to have on standby. You may just need it for a top up.

Baking soda

Pure Original Ingredients Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) (5 lb) Eco-Friendly Packaging, Always Pure, No Fillers Or Additives

No, your toolbox isn’t the place to keep baking goodies. It is the place to keep a little baking soda on hand, in case you need to neutralize acid round the terminals of the battery.

Hand cleaner

Wonder Scrub Industrial Hand Cleaner (400ml (2 pack))

Working on engines takes a toll on your hands and can make them greasy and dirty. You should keep some abrasive, strong hand cleaner in your toolbox. Use this to get rid of the worst of the grime before you go indoors and mess up your bathroom sink and soap.

Cloths, lots of cloths

A pile of old clothes.

Whenever you work on your car, there is going to be some sort of spillage, or something that needs to be wiped. Keep a supply of old cloths or rags in your toolbox for those moments.

FAQs

What are the three most important things to have in my toolbox for fixing my car?

The three most important things to keep in your tool box for when you want to work on your car are a set of socket spanners, a set of pliers and a strong light. You will have a jack in the car already, so you can get under the car using that.

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How can I make sure my car won’t roll or fall when I am working on it?

To keep your car from rolling when you jack it up, put chocks under the wheels. Try to avoid working on a car on a jack. Rather put at least one axle on a trestle. This will keep the car from falling down.

Will I need more than one screwdriver to work on my car?

There are screws of different sizes and different patterns in a car engine. You will need to keep screwdrivers that can fit them. This means that one screwdriver is not enough. You can get an ‘all-in-one’ set, with one handle and several heads.