Working on your own car won’t just save you’ll money - all being well, you’ll have a blast doing it. Few things are more satisfying than successfully completing a repair, service or upgrade at home. But to ensure smooth sailing and minimal swearing, it’s vital to have good gear.
With so many products out there, choosing what to buy can be pretty daunting. So, with some help with our partners from eBay we’d thought we’d make your life easier by bringing you 10 suggestions, broken into two categories. The first five we consider to be home mechanic essentials, whereas the latter half contains more ‘nice to have’ items to treat yourself to.
Posted in partnership with eBay
Yes, your car probably has a jack under the boot floor and yes, it might get you out of a sticky situation when you’re stuck at the side of the road with a flat tyre. But if you’re lifting a car at home to work on it, a trolley jack is going to make your life easier and quite probably safer too.
There’s a lot of choice out there, so be sure to pay attention to the weight capacity, and if you don’t have a lot of ground clearance to play with, consider a low-entry jack.
Once your car is off the ground, you’ll be wanting to keep it there securely. Axle stands are a must for this job, assuming you’re not using ramps (we’ll get to those later). Hopefully, we shouldn’t need to say this, but it’s worth stating anyway - you should never ever go under a car that’s only supported by a jack.
As with trolley jacks, numerous weight ratings and styles are available.
Once your car is in the air and secure, you’re going to want to think about taking bits off. A good quality, comprehensive socket set (preferably one including some nice combination spanners) will cover the vast majority of a car’s components, and if cared for, can last a lifetime of projects and home servicing tasks. Just be sure to keep a close eye on that 10mm socket.
For a lot of components, bolt tightness is critical. Not tight enough, and things work loose. Go too tight, and at best you’ll struggle to undo them again, or at worse, you could end up breaking something.
So, our advice is to do things properly and use a beefy torque wrench with a 1/2” driver - they’re reasonably inexpensive, will last for years and years and ensure tightening all the critical stuff is a safe and easy job.
That estimated finishing time you gave yourself for a job? Add a few hours. You might come across something seized, need to hotfoot it to the local motor factor to grab a part you didn’t think you’d need, have to check a YouTube tutorial, or perhaps you simply had one too many tea breaks.
Either way, you might end up expectedly working into the evening, and if you’re not fortunate enough to be working in a garage, lighting is vital. Options range from small, battery-powered inspection lamps to giant, mains-powered stuff fit for illuminating a winter’s evening match at Wembley.
The first of our more ‘luxury’ home mechanic options is a creeper. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a proper lift at home or an inspection pit, working under a car involves lying down, which becomes much more pleasant with a well-shaped, wheeled creeper.
Most will have handy trays for tools or removed nuts/bolts/screws, and some include neat extras like built-in LED lights. But if you’re short on budget, this is something you can readily omit. A piece of old carpet or a chunk of cardboard can perform the same task, but of course, you won’t be quite as comfortable, nor will you feel as much of a pro. The choice is yours.
If you’re reading a CT article, there’s a good chance your vehicle is a little older than most things on the road. As such, there’ll be various fixings that have been on your car undisturbed for many, many years, and some we’ll need some extra, shall we say, encouragement.
An impact wrench can provide that, but this isn’t somewhere to cut costs - our recommendation is to pay out for a good one. As such, this tool ends up on the ‘nice to have’ portion of this guide. On a limited budget, your money is better spent elsewhere, but if you do have the means, an impact wrench could save you a lot of time on those stubborn areas.
We don’t know many people who own one of these. You can get away without one, certainly, but with so many interior trim pieces held on by hard to reach clips, a proper removal kit can save a lot of time, chafed knuckles and broken clips.
Ratchet ring spanners are one of those really cool, lust-after workshop tools you won’t end up using much at all. For most jobs, that set of combination spanners that came with your socket set should cover most bases, but every now and then you’ll get a tough-to-reach area, and that’s where a ratchet ring spanner will seem like your best friend. Good ones aren’t cheap, though.
We’ve saved the most expensive and the coolest tool until last. If a component is refusing to budge, you merely wrap the coil of an induction gun around it, which heats the part up, causing it to expand. Hey presto, it’ll come off with ease. A blow torch will do the same, but this is considerably safer.