Before beginning any new maintenance or repairs to the vehicle, you must understand the types of tools required to complete the job. Changing the oil, for example, is relatively easy, but if you don’t have a proper oil pan to catch the spilled oil, you could end up with a big mess in your garage or driveway.
Whether you are working on the wheels, engine or body of the car, the right tool makes repair and maintenance work easier. New DIYers typically find having the right tools more helpful when just learning the basics of vehicle maintenance than trying to complete the same unfamiliar tasks with the wrong tools for the job.
To ensure your next DIY repair goes to plan, it’s important to stock your shop with these 13 essential DIY car maintenance tools.
One of the most important tools for completing automotive DIY tasks is a jack. Without this tool, it is incredibly difficult to access several key vehicle components including the oil filter, transmission oil pan and brakes. A vehicle jack such as the Liftmaster 3 ton floor jack is typically slid under the frame of the car or truck to gradually raise the vehicle off the ground. This allows the tires to be removed without damaging the rotors, axle or driveshaft, and raises the vehicle sufficiently to allow relatively easy access to the underside of the car.
Get the Liftmaster 3 Ton Floor Jack at Amazon.com for $219.99
2. Tire pressure gauge
Although a tire pressure gauge doesn’t have the same importance as a jack, it is an essential tool to keep your vehicle running properly. Under- or over-inflated tires can lead to reduced control and increased vehicle wear, so it’s important to have a tire pressure gauge in your home workshop to keep a close eye on your vehicle’s tire pressure. Even if you just have a small, inexpensive pencil tire gauge like this tire pressure gauge from Drive Auto Products, you can routinely check tire pressure and add or deflate air as needed.
Get Drive Auto Products’ Tire Pressure Gauge at Amazon.com for $29.99
3. Tire Levers and Breaker Bar
Tire levers and pry bars both help remove larger nuts and bolts from the vehicle. When changing tires, a tire lever is commonly used to remove and reinstall the lug nuts that hold the wheel to the vehicle, while a pry bar provides additional leverage to help break apart and loosen rusted or seized connections. Consider investing in the EPAuto universal tire hanger, designed to fit most common SAE and metric lug nut sizes.
Get the EPAuto 14″ Heavy Duty Universal Tire Iron at Amazon.com for $13.97
4. Wheel chocks
A set of ramps or a jack will do the job of raising the vehicle off the ground for full vehicle access, but even with the parking brake on, a car is prone to shifting and rolling. Wheel chocks are used to protect automotive do-it-yourselfers during repairs and maintenance work. Simply slide them under the vehicle’s rear wheels to prevent rolling. These solid rubber wheel chocks from ROBLOCK grip concrete and pavement, ensuring your wheels can’t shift or roll while you work.
Get ROBLOCK Solid Rubber Wheel Chocks at Amazon.com for $24.99
5. Torque wrench
Having a torque wrench in your toolbox is essential for replacing spark plugs, as these tools are designed to tighten nuts and bolts to a specific torque level without exceeding it. Because over-tightening these parts can damage them, resulting in more time and money spent on a relatively simple repair, it makes sense to invest in a torque wrench. The EPAuto ½ Inch Driveline Torque Wrench can quickly complete spark plug replacement and keep your vehicle running efficiently.
Get the EPAuto 1/2″ click-in torque wrench at Amazon.com for $38.13
6. Spark plug gap tool
While you’re thinking about tools to help you with spark plug replacement, another necessary addition to your tool kit is a spark plug gap tool. These simple devices check the gaps on the new spark plugs and adjust them to the correct gap if necessary. Without a spark plug gap tool, the gap between the center and side electrodes may not meet manufacturer standards, resulting in reduced efficiency and increased spark plug wear. Consider the K-Motor Performance Spark Plug Gap Tool for your next spark plug replacement project.
Get the K-MOTOR PERFORMANCE Spark Plug Gap Tool at Amazon.com for $37.99
7. Ratchet Socket Set
Sockets and ratcheting sockets are used for a variety of automotive repair and maintenance tasks because they can effectively grip nuts and bolts for easy removal and replacement. Most parts of a vehicle attach with nuts and bolts rather than screws, so a quality socket set like the Milwaukee ⅜-Inch Socket Set is essential to the success of your auto DIY jobs.
Get the Milwaukee ⅜-Inch Socket Set at HomeDepot.com for $99
Automated tasks may not require pliers as often as a socket wrench, but there are many cases that are best solved with a set of these tools. Pliers can often reach tight places that other tools cannot. This is especially true with needle nose pliers, although angled pliers are also useful for getting around obstacles inside the engine. Take a look at this Husky 4-piece pliers set to better equip your toolbox.
Get the Husky 4 Piece Plier Set at Amazon.com for $34.99
9. Oil filter wrench
Replacing the oil on the vehicle is usually one of the first do-it-yourself car maintenance tasks to learn, along with changing tires and replacing windshield wipers. However, this job can be difficult to accomplish without investing in an oil filter wrench like the Lisle Twist Grip Oil Filter Wrench, which is specifically designed to grip the smooth side of an oil filter for a quick and efficient oil filter change. If your tool kit is missing one of these wrenches, chances are you’re spending too much time loosening the oil filter during oil changes.
Get the Lisle Swivel Grip Oil Filter Wrench at Amazon.com for $6.81
10. Liquid Drain Pan
Whether you’re changing the oil or replacing the transmission fluid, having a fluid pan in your arsenal of car maintenance tools is necessary. This pan is designed to catch oil, transmission fluid, and other fluids that you may need to drain from the vehicle during routine maintenance. While you can use disposable containers, it’s recommended that you invest in an inexpensive reusable product like the Custom Accessories Oil Drain Pan.
Get the Custom Accessories Oil Drain Pan at Amazon.com for $7.69
11. Jump Starter Kit
Emergencies never seem to happen when you have time to deal with them, so take steps to prepare ahead of time with a jump start kit. These essential devices store electrical energy and can be used to jump start your vehicle. They usually come with a set of jumper cables that connect directly to the jump starter kit to get a car battery going. In addition, some products such as Some models, such as the Kinverch portable car jump starter, even have a built-in air compressor to inflate a tire that’s leaking slowly.
Get the Kinverch Portable Car Jump Starter at Amazon.com for $99.99
12. Working light
Using a work light to see what you’re doing in a dark garage or while under a vehicle is an invaluable asset that helps ensure you’re carrying out repairs and maintenance correctly. A simple work light that can stand on its own, like the DEWALT 12V MAX LED work light, is a great addition to round out any tool kit.
Get the DEWALT 12V MAX LED work light at Amazon.com for $42.01
13. Personal Protective Equipment
Regardless of the project, personal safety must come first. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, should consist of safety goggles, hearing protection, a face mask or full face shield, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, closed-toe shoes, and mechanic’s gloves to help protect your hands and fingers while you work. These Grease Monkey work gloves are specially designed for car maintenance jobs such as replacing spark plugs and changing the oil.
Get the Grease Monkey work gloves at Amazon.com for $19.69
All prices listed here are as of publication on 04.01.2022.