Having the right tools for the job can make life for any DIY mechanic a whole lot easier, but you don’t need a truckload of tools to maintain your own car. While some jobs require special tools, there are some tools that every car owner should have to perform basic maintenance chores. Here is our pick of the top 6 tools no car owner or DIY mechanic should be without.
Torque wrenches are essential to ensure that the bolts and nuts on any car are tightened to the correct torque values to prevent warping as a result of over tightening, leaks as a result of under tightening, or worse, stripped screw threads that could be very difficult, or even impossible to repair.
The most important application of a torque wrench is during engine assembly/repairs, where incorrect torque settings could damage the engine due to deformation of parts as a result of over tightening, or fasteners coming loose because of under tightening. Equally important is the fact that wheel lug nuts have prescribed torque settings, and that over tightening can damage the threads on wheel studs/nuts, or even cause alloy rims to break if the lug nuts are over tightened. Not to mention the fact that wheels can fall off if their lug nuts are under tightened.
Today it is almost impossible to diagnose any fault on a car without the benefit of a code reader to extract fault codes from the fault memory. There are several thousand things that can go wrong with any car, and while most fault codes are generic in the sense that they can occur on almost any car, there are several hundred more fault codes that are specific to each make and model.
A code reader is an essential tool to have available if you want do your own car repairs and maintenance to save money. While there are many expensive code reader models on the market today, for a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a reader online that is programmed for your specific vehicle. Software updates are usually available from the manufacturer’s website so by spending a few hundred dollars today, you can save thousands of dollars in the end, because you will no longer need to pay a mechanic to diagnose faults and defects.
High quality digital multimeters offer a foolproof way to check electrical currents, resistances, and continuity in wiring and other components. Shorting out wires to check for current may have worked thirty years ago, but doing this today will almost certainly damage sensitive automotive electronics.
With the aid of a good repair manual or wiring diagram, almost anybody can trace electrical problems with a multimeter, which could save you a ton of money in repair costs.
Some cars have several dozen fuses, and in some cases, even a few hundred. Circuit testers can be plugged into a fuse box where a fuse would normally go, which gives you an instant reading of the current in the circuit that is protected by that particular fuse.
Some circuit testers can also give you a resistance reading, which is a great help when you are trying to trace a problem in an electrical circuit. A high resistance is usually due to bad connections, and while a multimeter can also identify incorrect resistances/currents, a circuit tester makes it a whole lot easier, since all you do is plug into the fuse box.