10 Best Tools for the Garage

Must Have Mechanics Tools

best tools, car tools, mechanics tools

In my quest to learn about working on cars, I’m realizing that there’s a lot I’ve learned about tools alongside learning about cars! When I first started working on my newly purchased Studebaker around five years ago – the only tools I had were neatly packed into an aptly named “Do-It-Herself” toolkit I’d received for high school graduation years before. Those got me by around the house – but weren’t much help in the garage.

Having a handy and helpful Dad, it didn’t take him long to wrangle me up some spare tools from his garage. Soon enough I had a starter mechanics toolkit. A small assortment of sockets, wrenches,and a screwdriver were about all I started with. Its also about all hot rodding young people had back in the fifties!

But as anyone who’s worked on cars know – different jobs call for different tools. Sometimes you can make do with what you have and sometimes you’ve gotta go out and buy or borrow the right tool for the job. For everybody else out there who’s learning as they go or just getting into cars – here’s my most basic list of must have garage toolbox items.

10 Best Tools for Garage

1. Floor Jack & Jack Stands

floor jack, must have tools

These are necessities anytime you need to get under the car or take off a wheel. Most jobs can’t begin without these. A floor jack can set you back a nice amount of change, but the money will be well worth it. I’ve gotten by with this small aluminum jack – which I like because it’s lightweight enough that I can keep it with me in trunk of my Stude, but it has let me down a number of times. Right now I’m saving my pennies for a nicer floor jack.

Remember…never get under a car lifted by only a jack! If that jack fails, you’re dust. Be sure to support it with jack stands and stay safe! Another thing I often use in conjunction with these items is a block of wood. Sometimes it helps me raise up my car just a little bit more and comes in handy for numerous uses.

2. Basic Mechanics Toolkit

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A basic mechanics toolkit usually includes an assortment of sockets, wrenches, a ratcheting wrench, and screwdrivers. I like this basic 99-piece kit from Stanley Tools. It’s got both short and deep sockets for both metric and SAE (I mostly use SAE, but modern and foreign cars usually use metric so they’re handy to have around.) Also included are special sockets for pulling spark plugs. Ratcheting wrenches in both the 1/4″ and 3/8″ size. Two socket extensions. Wrenches of the most often used sizes (again in both metric and SAE sizes.) And a multi-use screwdriver with both straight and phillips head combinations.

3. Liquid Holder and Funnels

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Not only for changing oil! Many jobs I’ve encountered on the car require the draining of some liquid…and then of course the putting back in of it (which the funnel makes ever so easier!) I have at least two funnels – one with a long skinny spout and another one that’s shorter and stubbier. In addition to a liquid holder, be sure you’ve got some spare plastic bottles around so you can properly store and dispose of whatever liquid you’ve got. I usually just take my used fluids back to the Auto Parts store to dispose of them, but you can also check your local hazardous waste disposal sites – for California, here’s the link.

4. A Good Light

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That single fluorescent light hanging on the ceiling isn’t going to cut it. In the least, get a nice movable, protected light like the Halogen one shown above….and then keep adding to your collection. One of my favorite lights is a small LED one that has both a magnet and a hook. That thing’s the greatest to light up small nooks – and is battery powered so helps out on roadside brakedowns too!

5. Safety Goggles

garage tools, must have tools

One of the most important tools you’ll use in the garage is your eyeballs! Keep ’em safe – and keep yourself from getting really angry when you get junk in your eye when you’re pinned underneath the car!

6. Plier Set

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I used to get by with a single pair of cheap snips. I can’t tell you how many frustrating moments I had when I said to myself “If only I had a good pair of pliers!” Since getting this set from GearWrench, I’ve been so happy to have ’em. I’d recommend a set…you’ve at least gotta have a needle nose, snips, and a blunt-ended pair. My old cheap pair hurt my hands and the plastic handle coverings would slip off – but this GearWrench set is a really great! It has non-slip handles and an ergonomic design, making them really nice to use!

7. Gloves

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I know I’m Grease Girl, and I DO love getting grease under my nails. Even still, gloves are a must have in the garage. True, many jobs I go without ’em. But they’ll totally save you at times. I’ve tried a few different pair and these from Chicago Pneumatic are my favorite. They’ve got plenty of padding to keep me from busting a knuckle.

8. Car Manual

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Directions!? Yep, directions. It’s a little hard for cars like my Stude, which doesn’t having its original running gear – but even so, a car manual will help you navigate your car and will also have specs you’ll find handy to have at times. This 1960 Ford Falcon manual is the very first thing I bought for my Falcon restoration job.

9. Rubber Mallet

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I finally broke down and purchased one of these after a hubcap popped off my Stude and hit a brand new Mercedes. This inexpensive tool is a lifesaver…go get one! I’ve been happy with this one I bought at Harbor Freight.

10. Toolbox

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Until I have more room, this 3-tiered toolbox holds all my essentials. It keeps me from losing important tools and is small enough that if I can pack it up and take it along for jobs away from my own garage. My tool collection is beginning to outgrow it though, I would love a smaller rolling-cart toolbox.

huge toolbox, big toolbox

Of course, if I had the room – who wouldn’t want this ginormous behemoth of a toolbox!? I could keep all my tools, spare parts, and makeup in this thing!

For those of you making a Christmas shopping list or a Wish List, lets review…

  • 1.Floor Jack and Jack Stands
  • 2. Basic Mechanics Toolkit
  • 3.Liquid Holder & Funnels
  • 4. A Good Light
  • 5. Safety Goggles
  • 6. Plier Set
  • 7. Gloves
  • 8. Car Manual
  • 9. Rubber Mallet
  • 10. Toolbox

With these ten items at the ready, let your wrenching endeavors begin! They’re not ALL you need for a complete garage of course…but I get most of my jobs done with these few items. P.S…If you know someone who’s interested in getting into cars…now you know what to get them for Christmas!

I’ll be adding to this list at GreaseGirl as I encounter more tools I’m loving/adding/finding. Which tools can I not live without? Which tools have I been dying to add to my collection and why? What tools are a waste of money or space? What’s the newest tool in my toolbox?

For all you more experienced readers…what did I miss? What tool would you never want to live without? Leave a comment and tell us why!