Okay, so these might not cover absolutely all the tools and gadgets you need to have. But if you’re just starting or are thinking about DIY-ing more and more on your car – or even better – starting a car project, you’ll find them very useful!
The list below covers what I feel would help anyone regardless of their experience but is geared towards the new car guy. You might not find the exact products where you’re from, but I’m pretty sure a similar alternative is out there for you too.
An accurate tire pressure gauge
Maintaining proper tire pressure is a must. You’re going to make the most out of your tire’s life, keep your fuel efficiency up and be able to drive safely.
While an overinflated tire is not that big of an issue, keeping the tire’s pressure within the recommended range and equal from one side to another is an easy way of keeping things running smoothly.
And just because it’s such a simple thing, you should own one. Especially as a car enthusiast or someone who values is money and safety.
A jack, a couple of car ramps, and jack stands
I know, these are three different products. But you should own them all if you are planning to DIY stuff.
While you could do without the car ramps, I’m telling you they are so convenient for a quick check-up, an oil change, or getting to the underside of the car quickly. I’d go for the longer versions if looking to buy some car ramps. They usually have a smaller angle that your wheels need to climb – and that helps if you have a lowered car or a sporty model (you won’t scrape the spoiler on the ramps).
A jack and a couple of quality jack stands are a must. Not only can you change your own oil, but you will also actually lift the wheels off the ground to service your brakes, suspension, and almost anything. I’d advise you to go for a hydraulic jack and adjustable jack stands, especially if you own several vehicles or plan to change yours soon.
If you opt for one or all these products, mind their weight limits and how much your car weighs. Even if most cars are under 1.5 tons or 3000 lbs and most products support >2 tons (4000 lbs), try and go for quality items. It’s your own safety on the line!
An OBD-II dongle or a scan tool
And after getting one, get Torque or a similar app for your phone.
These tools are amazing, even for older cars. But for newish models, especially those after 2005, they are amazing. Tons of functions! And, of course, the simple act of reading an error code and guiding you in the right direction to fix a problem is fantastic.
I absolutely love that they are so widespread, and we have a lot of apps to quickly find out more about our cars. An OBD-II dongle and a bit of Googling for the error code can sometimes save us a lot of frustration and time.
No-spill coolant funnel kit
I’ll admit. I found out about these things from one of ChirFix’s videos over on YouTube. And it really does make things a lot easier than a traditional funnel. And the fact that they don’t cost a fortune is definitely cool.
Drain pan with a funnel for oil or coolant
The pain of accidentally spilling oil or coolant in the driveway or in my yard is long gone. The drain pans that come with a funnel are simply amazing – easy to pour over the used liquid into a container for recycling.
A LED work light
And while you’re at it, I’d get a magnetic and adjustable one if possible. A LED work light can help you see stuff correctly in tight and weird spots. When inspecting or working on that exhaust system, a ball joint, and many more, proper lightning can make things easier.
The service manual for your make and model
If you really want to tackle serious service jobs for your car, save yourself the headache and get the service manual. Haynes service manuals are a great example, as they are pretty detailed and cover just about anything related to the respective model they are written for.
But just about any detailed service manual can help you with stuff like:
- tools needed for a specific part or operation
- tightening torque required
- step by step instructions even for hard to do jobs
- confidence. Yes, confidence. It’s easier to tackle a job if you have clear steps and examples
That timing belt or the pesky thermostat will seem much less scary when you have proper instructions on how to change them. A service manual is a must for any DIY-er but even more important if this is the first car you’re actually digging into.
Apart from showing you how to do stuff, they will save you a lot of money. Just by not having to pay labor for a job that is not that easy unless you know what to look for, you can save a ton!
A good torque wrench and a breaker bar (or cheater bar)
An experienced mechanic can tighten some bolts perfectly just by the simple fact that he did it 1000 times. But if you are like me and are just a DIYer, I’d get a good torque wrench.
This will save you the headache of wondering: Is this tight enough? Have I overtightened that?
And because you have your trusty service manual, you’ll know at what torque you need to set your torque wrench.
And if your car has seen a couple of years, a breaker bar or a cheater bar, will help you make that annoying stuck bolt come off. The breaker bar gives you additional leverage as it is longer – that allows you to output more force on the bolt you’re trying to unscrew while reducing the actual force you’re pressing the bar with.
A socket and wrench set and don’t cheap out
Even if you might not need all the parts at once, a good medium-sized (I’m referring to the number of pieces the set has) will help you finish the job you’ve started, as in you won’t need to run to the shop to buy a missing socket size.
But of course, you can also accumulate a good set over time by buying just what you need. It’s all about how much you want to invest at once. To be fair, there are sets that contain a torque wrench and some sockets and wrenches. So you might get a good deal and have a lot of sockets to work around with. Do your research online or on Amazon, and I’m sure you’ll find a great deal somewhere.
I think I’ve covered the basics a starting DIYer needs to do some basic and even advanced maintenance on his own car or a project car. You might be tempted to buy these all at once, and I advise you not to do that. Making a hobby out of maintaining your family’s vehicles or starting a project car doesn’t mean you need to break the bank!
What I like to do, is set my sights on a job – of course, if it’s not imminent and needs to be done asap, and then lurk around for a great deal for a couple of weeks. Most of the time, I found great deals that I wouldn’t have found if I were to impulse buy.
I hope you found this helpful list as a small guide on what you would need to work on your car comfortably.