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Automotive Tools

Tool and Material Checklist:

  • Assorted socket wrenches 
  • Feeler go
  • Torque wrench 
  • Hydrometer
  • Oil filter wrench 
  • Grease gun
  • Bell peen hemmer 
  • Jack stands or wheel
  • Rubber mallet ramps
  • Assorted screwdrivers 
  • Wheel chocks
  • Assorted pliers 
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Tire gauge

If you've always been a little intimidated by the prospect of doing your own automotive work, this booklet is for you. A good deal of vehicle repair and maintenance requires only basic knowledge and a modest investment in tools and equipment. The old saying that the right tools are a mechanic's best friend is equally valid for the do-it-yourselfer. With an assortment of basic tools on hand, jobs as diverse as an oil change, brake adjustment, and shock absorber replacement can all be done right in your own driveway.


Before turning your attention to specific tools, familiarize yourself with the following points:

Whenever buying tools, check first to see if you will need standard or metric sizes.

Purchase wrenches and sockets in sets to save money; the set can always be added to later.

Always choose good quality tools; they are worth the added expense in terms of performance and length of service.

When possible, purchase tool kits that contain everything needed for a specific job.

Store all tools neatly in a toolbox or on a pegboard; keeping your tools organized makes it much easier to find them when needed.

Don't forget to have convenience items such as plastic drain pans, funnels, and droplights on hand; they make working on a vehicle an easier and more pleasant task.

I-save a fire extinguisher designed for use on gasoline and electrical fires handy at all times; a 5-lb. (or larger), pressurized dry-powder type is best.

Always work in a well-ventilated area.

The group of tools presented here represents an ideal "starter set." Once you're comfortable working with these tools, you're on your way to becoming an accomplished backyard mechanic.


There are three types of standard wrenches commonly used in automotive applications: open-end, box-end, and combination. Their job is to grip and turn bolt heads and nuts of all sizes. Wrenches are available separately or in sets.

Open-end wrenches are the simplest type. The heads are angled at 15; this permits complete rotation of a hex nut In a 300 swing just by flipping the wrench. A good set of open-end wrenches has nine in all, ranging from 1/4" through 1-1/8".

Box-end wrenches are good for loosening hard-to-turn fasteners because they completely encircle nuts and bolt heads and possess superior holding power. Some have a single head, with the other end designed for striking with a hammer (within limits). Those with offset handles provide better clearance for knuckles. An ideal set of box-end wrenches has six tools, with 12 separate openings ranging from 3/8" through 1".

Combination wrenches are open at one end and have a box head at the other. Because open-enders are faster and box heads more secure, this type of wrench provides the best features of both.


An Allen wrench is necessary when working with Allen head nuts, bolts, and set screws. Either end of this wrench can be inserted into the fastener to supply greater reach. Allen wrenches are available in both standard and metric sizes.


A socket wrench combines detachable heads, or sockets, with a variety of handles. Socket openings are square or 6-, 8-, or 12-point. The term point refers to the number of corners on the inside of the socket that grip a nut. Standard, flex, and deep sockets are available, as well as special spark plug sockets; the latter are deep cushioned inside to avoid breaking the spark plug insulators.

Probably the most effective socket wrench handle is the ratchet. It allows much quicker operation because the socket does not have to be removed from the nut or bolt between strokes. The action of the ratchet can be reversed by either turning the wrench over or utilizing a lever. Extension bars are available in various lengths to provide access to hard-to-reach fasteners.


The adjustable wrench has one fixed jaw and one movable jaw. Available in lengths from 4 to 24 inches, it has the obvious advantage of fitting various size bolt heads and nuts.


This type of wrench is used when nuts or bolts must be tightened to an exact pressure. A typical use for a torque wrench is torquing the cylinder head on an engine. Torque actually means twisting force and is measured in foot-pounds. Some torque wrenches have a double-ended scale or dial that can be read directly; others rely on a loud clicking noise to signal when the desired torque has been achieved.


Several types of filter wrenches are on the market. Before purchasing this tool, be sure it fits the type of filter on your vehicle and can be maneuvered in the tight area around the filter.


Although there is a seemingly endless variety of hammers available, two in particular can satisfy most of your automotive needs. The ball peen type has a flat striking surface as well as a rounded end for setting rivets. A rubber mallet is essential for those instances where you don't want to mar the metal, such as when replacing hubcaps.


The most important screwdrivers with regard to automotive work include: standard, Phillips, and internal torx, Always choose a screwdriver that is correctly ground and the right size to fit snugly in the screw head. A tip that is rounded, chipped, or too small can slip and damage either the screw slot or the work itself. A tip that is too large will project from either side of a countersunk screw slot or the work itself. A tip that is too large will project from either side of a countersunk screw and damage the work as the screw is driven in.


Combination, or slip joint, pliers contain a built-in pivot point that provides for two jaw opening widths. They also have a flat section on the jaws with fine serrations and a curved section with coarser serrations. Combination pliers are also available with bent jaws or a narrow nose.

Needle-nose pliers are Ideal for doing delicate work in confined spaces and for assembling delicate wiring. Water pump pliers can be adjusted like combination pliers for a variety of jaw openings. The long handles provide good leverage. Diagonal cutters are for cutting wire close to a surface; they should never be used to grip.

Toggle-locking pliers, or vise grips, are useful for those jobs where a third hand is required. The jaws are controlled by turning the adjuster on the end of the tool; when the handles are closed, a considerable amount of force is applied. By mounting these pliers securely to the edge of a workbench with a table clamp, you can improvise a makeshift vise. Toggle-locking pliers come with different Jaws-including curved serrated, curved smooth, flat, and C-clamp-depending on the job required.


Gauges are important for those instances when precision measuring is required. For example, more tires are ruined by simple neglect than anything else. Therefore, be sure to use a tire gauge to check your tires regularly for correct inflation pressure. Another good example is the feeler gauge, an essential tool for measuring spark gaps. A hydrometer is used to determine if the freezing point of your car's coolant is adequate. This gauge is used as follows:

1. Operate the engine with the radiator cap loose until the engine reaches normal operating temperature; then remove the cap.

2. Measure the coolant temperature by drawing a sample into the hydrometer, then return the sample to the radiator. Repeat this step several times until the thermometer reading is stable.

3. Holding the hydrometer in a straight, vertical position, squeeze the bulb and pull enough coolant into the glass tubes to raise the hydrometer float. Make sure that the float does not touch the sides of the large tube.

4. Note the top letter touched by the coolant on the float scale; then return this sample to the radiator.

5. Refer to the freezing temperature chart above the thermometer. Find the letter noted in the previous step, along with the thermometer reading taken in step 2. The number found at this location is the degree of freezing protection provided.

6. After adding coolant, let the engine run for 5 minutes to allow the coolant to mix before rechecking the freezing point.


Proper lubrication is vital to your automobile. An oil can with a pistol grip is convenient for general lubing. For chassis greasing, a grease gun that takes a cartridge is best. Be sure to wipe off the grease nipple with a clean rag before attaching the gun; this prevents dirt from being injected, which could clog the nipple. If the trigger is particularly difficult to squeeze. or if grease squirts out between the nozzle and nipple, the nipple is clogged.


Pullers are designed to lift pre-fitted parts such as battery cable terminals. They are also ideal for separating parts that are stuck together. Pullers are available in various sizes.


Either jack stands or wheel ramps are a must whenever a car is raised off its wheels. Jack stands are used with scissor jacks or hydraulic jacks; simply use the jack to raise one wheel at a time high enough to get the stand underneath and in place. The capacity is usually stamped on the jack stand.

Wheel ramps are used as follows:

1. If someone else is available, station him in a safe position to help guide you onto the ramps.

2. Position the ramps directly in front of the car's front wheels. If the ramps are not in perfect alignment with the wheels, the car can fall off as it is being driven onto them.

3. With the car in first gear, slowly drive it onto the ramps.

4. Secure the car by putting it in PARK, setting the parking brake, and blocking the rear wheels. If the car has a standard transmission, turn off the ignition and put the transmission in gear.

Whether you are using jack stands or wheel ramps, don't forget to keep some heavy wooden block or bricks on hand to use as wheel chocks. For safety purposes, wheels should be blocked whenever a car is jacked up or put on ramps.

Simply setting the parking brake is not always sufficient. When jacking the rear wheels, place the chocks in front of the front wheels. When jacking the front wheels, place the chocks in back of the rear wheels.


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