As a beginning DIYer most people buy a basic tool set that can handle a variety of tasks. Those basic tools are great and lay a firm foundation for a DIY hobby. But at one point there will be a time when a repair is especially frustrating or may even seem impossible. Luckily there is a world of specialty tools on the market designed to make even the trickiest repair a bit simpler. We’ve put together a list of what we feel are the seven must-have specialty tools for the growing DIYer to add in their toolbox.
A/C & Fuel Line Quick Disconnects
Disconnecting fuel lines and AC lines may seem like a simple idea, but without the correct tool to release the inner spring-loaded locking mechanism you will become frustrated. These connections are great at doing their job, but much like a door lock you need the right key to open them. These elegantly simple tools allow you to engage the quick disconnect locking mechanism found commonly on GM, Ford and Chrysler fuel lines, as well as Ford radiator and transmission lines.
Oil Filter Wrench
Sometimes an oil filter can seem like it was installed with a 1″ drive air impact wrench. Regardless of the filter installation technique, doing an oil change means that filter has to come off. If bare hands just can’t budge it, then an oil filter wrench can save the day. There are many types of oil filter wrenches on the market for different situations. A plier-type wrench is great for areas where you have plenty of room to work, where a more specialized strap wrench works well in tight places.
Nothing stops the momentum of a repair job quite like a broken bolt or stud. It doesn’t matter how the bolt broke, just that it gets removed. That’s where a set of screw extractors comes in handy. Rescuing the job means a steady hand drilling a hole into the remains of the broken bolt. The idea is to use a drill bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the offending bolt so the threads aren’t damaged. With the hole drilled a screw extractor can be used to back out the remains part of the bolt.
There’s no reason to throw parts at a problem when your car can tell you almost exactly what is wrong with itself. An OBD code reader is infinitely useful and a must for anyone working a car made since 1996. When the check engine light comes on, having a OBD code reader can greatly reduce the time spent tracking down an issue. For working on modern vehicles, this is definitely high on the list of must-have specialty tools.
Precision matters when working on an engine. The most common task most people will come across that requires measuring with a thickness gauge is setting spark plug gap. A simple ramp-style spark plug gap gauge makes it easy to measure plug gap in seconds. For a greater range of accuracy a set of feeler gauges is the right call. While many swear by using a matchbook to set ignition points, feeler gauges are a much more precise solution. Feeler gauges are also a must when adjusting valve lash.
Snap Ring Pliers
Stop trying to pry snap rings out with a screwdriver, it just isn’t worth it when the proper tool exists. Snap rings can be found all over a vehicle, from U-joints to wheels hubs. A good pair of snap ring pliers is a must. Ideally look for a pair of reversible snap ring pliers that can handle both external and internal snap rings.
Being able to check the temperature of a part without touching it is a handy thing. Cooling system issues can be traced by checking temperatures at various parts of the system as coolant flows. It can also be used to check the accuracy of the dashboard temperature gauge. Can’t find a misfire? With the engine running aim the thermometer at the exhaust manifold cylinder head ports and look for a temperature drop. A cooler area means a misfiring cylinder is nearby.
Stepping up your DIY game means stepping up your tool collection. Adding a few must-have specialty tools is a wise investment in the time you spend wrenching.
Check out all the tools and 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.
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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 and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.