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Compiling Your Basic Car Toolkit

A car toolkit in a trunk. Similar to a simple toolkit for completing small jobs around the house, a basic toolkit for your car can help you when it comes to small repairs on your vehicle.

Let’s talk tools. You’ve probably got a few basics for the house, right? Hammer, wrench, pliers? You should have a basic car toolkit, too. Oh, sure, there’s whatever’s in the trunk that came with the car — probably enough to change a tire — but you should have more than that, especially if you plan on doing any of your car’s maintenance or repair work yourself.

The EssentialsSmall toolbox in trunk

The best basic car toolkit is one that will allow you to handle anything without having to make a run to the store mid-job. So start with a good quality socket set. You’ll be amazed what you can get done with a ratchet handle and a couple dozen SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) and metric sockets. Your car is held together with nuts and bolts. A good quality socket set will help you take things apart when you need to and — more importantly — put them back together properly.

Your very next purchase (or maybe something you buy at the same time) is a torque wrench. It will save you the time, frustration and quite possibly money involved in shearing off a bolt because you guessed about the right amount of torque and got it wrong.

Next on your list would be an impact wrench. They make the drudge work of removing or tightening lug nuts a breeze and are a major time saver.

Beyond that, it’s pretty much the basics:

  • Screwdrivers: Both Phillips and standard. Consider an offset screwdriver for hard to reach screws.
  • Pliers: Yes, you have a pair in the house. No, you don’t want to have to run in the house to get them when you’re working on your car in the garage or driveway — and can’t run into the house if you’re somewhere else.
  • Wire cutters: To handle electrical issues, like splicing wires.
  • A multimeter: To tell you if you really should cut that wire (see above).
  • A flashlight: Even in the daytime, it can be dark where you need to look in the engine bay or under the car.
  • Jumper cables: Because you never know.

All of the above are readily available, reasonable and could be useful anytime. And you’ll wonder how you ever did 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 building a basic car toolkit, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Mike Hagerty View All

Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and Previous outlets have included KFBK and in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and

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