The best automotive hand tools are the ones that make a project simple and easy, so you don’t have to spend extra time seeking out work-arounds or jury-rigging your own gear. With the right base of tools in your garage you should be able to tackle a wide range of repairs and other jobs without having to make endless trips to the parts counter to snag a missing ratchet or driver.
Here’s a quick look at what should be sitting in every gearhead’s garage tool box.
1. Wrench and Socket Set
If you’re going to turn some bolts, you’ll need the right tools to do so, which means having a fully stocked set of SAE and metric sockets and combination wrenches. Look for a kit that also offers several different driver sizes, so you have a better chance of fitting the socket where it needs to go — and don’t forget about open- versus closed-ended wrenches.
2. Jack and Jack Stands
You might not consider a jack and a set of jack stands to be among the best automotive hand tools, but answer this question: How are you going to get at any of those chassis components if you can’t lift the car off of the ground in the first place? Brake jobs, tire replacements and any suspension work mean getting underneath your vehicle, and a jack and set of jack stands are absolutely necessary to get these jobs done.
3. Pry Bar / Breaker Bar
Time, corrosion and heat can warp car and truck parts to the point where they are simply too tight to remove using standard hand tools. Enter the breaker bar and the pry bar, which give you the additional mechanical advantage necessary to move a stuck bolt or pull off a stubborn brake rotor. While most pry bars have a thin wedge at the end, you can use a simple length of steel pipe to fit over a ratchet or wrench and use as a breaker bar.
4. Screwdriver Set
When working on a car, you’re going to need to move beyond Phillips and slot-headed screwdrivers and also make sure you’re packing a set of Torx and hex (or Allen key) drivers, as well. Each of these unique tool designs can play a key role in removing specialized automotive components and trim, especially when working in the interior or the engine bay.
Whether it’s a set of needle-nose pliers for reaching deep into a crevice for a fallen nut or a locking set of pliers to help tug something loose, no set of the best automotive hand tools is complete without several different varieties of these incredibly useful grippers.
A collection of tools is something you build over time, but you can get a head start on what you’ll need for most jobs by filling your shopping cart with what we recommend above.
Check out all the tools & equipment
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.