When you start working on cars it is common to acquire a starter tool set to cover most repairs. A set of wrenches and a socket set are great, but a few key specialty tools can be a real time saver. We’ve listed a few of our favorite specialty tools that we think should be in every toolbox.
Hose Clamp Pliers
One of the most hated parts under the hood of a car is the dreaded spring clamp. These clamps are a universal favorite of automobile manufacturers due to their extreme ease of installation. They do a great job of holding hoses in place, but the trouble comes when that hose needs to be removed. Some spring hose clamps were installed on the assembly line before other large components were placed around it (like the engine). Most people reach for a pair of pliers when removing a spring hose clamp, but the spring tabs have a habit of slipping out of the plier jaws. That where hose clamp pliers come to the rescue. Their special jaws grip the spring tabs letting you wrestle the clamp free. For those hard to reach spring hose clamps, a pair of remote spring hose clamp pliers will save your sanity (and your knuckles).
This one sounds basic, but a set of ratcheting wrenches can really save time on a repair. While it makes sense to use a ratchet and socket, sometimes there just isn’t enough room. A ratcheting wrench can easily be half the thickness of a ratchet head and socket combo. In the cramped confines of a modern engine compartment, being able to reach hard to get hardware can make the difference in just how much of the vehicle you need to disassemble to reach your target part. We recommend having a set of metric wrenches and SAE wrenches to handle most situations that come across your driveway.
A stubby ratchet is another tool that shines in the cramped confines of an engine compartment or under the dash. While it is more difficult to generate leverage with a stubby ratchet, once the nut/bolt is moving the job will move along quickly. A stubby ratchet is great for working on front engine accessories crammed up against the radiator. There a plenty of options for drive size and handle type to suit your needs, but a standard 3/8″ drive stubby ratchet can handle most needs.
OBD Code Reader
A lit check engine light is no fun to diagnose. A basic OBD code reader is a must-have tool for chasing down these annoying gremlins. You can get as fancy as you want, but a basic unit is a great starting point. Pinpointing the exact problem that the onboard computer is flagging is a lot better than throwing parts at a problem. Once you know the error code, you can look it up in the repair manual.
Your electric drill or electric impact can be a real lifesaver when it comes to turning long bolts or stubborn hardware. While an electric impact is ideal, an electric drill can still give your wrist a rest with a socket adapter. A great example of wrist torturing hardware is the long threaded rod or bolt that retains the gas tank straps on some cars. Once the nuts are loose, just slip a deep-well socket on the socket adapter and let the power tool do the work.
These specialty tools can make a big difference in both repair time and how much work it takes to finish a job. It may be wise to pick up each tool as you need them to spread out the cost. But once you have them in your toolbox, you will wonder how you ever got along without them.
Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on must-have specialty tools, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible, BMW E46 sedan, and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.