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Auto Tool Kits - Car Tools - Auto Repair Tools

October 20th, 2011 Tools

“Off the Shelf” Automotive Tool Kits

If you are starting at the beginning, with no auto tools in your collection, you can locate pre-made automotive tool kits from a number of manufacturers at many websites and brick and mortar retailers. You will also have a wide selection of price ranges so you can keep your bank account happy as well as increase your car tools collection. Another question to ask yourself: Do you want to make this an auto emergency tool kit or a car tool box primarily for home garage auto maintenance? A final consideration might be your desire to have your car tool set double as your household tool box. Some off-the-shelf auto tool kits contain some of the basics needed for minor home repairs and tool tasks, also.

With average prices ranging from around $20 to $100, you can select auto tool kits containing up to 175 pieces at reasonable cost. If you want high quality, you can find smaller car tool sets with 15 to 50 pieces for around $50 (various sellers). Should you want an auto emergency tool kit designed for women, you might like the 54-piece roadside kit, in pink, of course, from Apollo for around $50. Almost all off-the-shelf auto tool sets have the basics for roadside assistance (jumper cables, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, reflectors, etc.) and you can “build” from there. You can find car tool kits containing full socket sets, air compressors, open-end wrenches, multiple driver bits, hex wrenches, and other useful tools, many of which will be welcomed for household tasks, too. As you can see, you can save time and probably money by selecting an off-the-shelf auto tool kit that contains just the tools you want.

Auto Body Tools for the Home Garage

Most auto body tools are better left to the professional body shop but there are some that fit in your home garage that can be very helpful. While there are many auto body tools necessary in a body shop tool box, the following are some you can both afford and use in your garage.

  • Auto body hammers - Standard bumping, reverse-curve, and pick-and-finish hammers can fix minor dents
  • Dollies – Small anvils for auto repair - variety of shapes to help you remove dents and reshape body areas
  • Slide hammer – Rubber grip and attachments
  • Dent puller – Suction tool to pull out minor dents
  • Sanding block and sandpaper – Variety of grades for scratch removal and smoothing
  • Sheet metal cutter – For making cuts, shears, and smoothing tasks
  • Dent-out tools – Include glue gun, glue studs, t-handles, and t-bars to pull out dents and creases
  • Home garage auto body repair kits – Available for home use to repair smaller dents and creases without power or air tools
These lower cost auto body tools can handle many smaller auto body tasks in your home garage. You can repair smaller dents and creases, smoothing out your corrections. With commercial matching paint and applicators, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by doing it yourself if the repairs are not of the major variety.

Auto Restoration Issues to Consider

There are few true auto restoration tools. An auto restoration tool kit contains some auto diagnostic tools, auto mechanic tools, auto body tools, auto detailing tools, and possibly auto specialty tools. Much depends on the state of the vehicle to be restored. You might not need the whole menu of auto restoration tools to handle the project. Restoring an automobile as a DIY project is ambitious and requires some general and specific talent and experience.

If your project car has engine and/or electrical issues, you will need some diagnostic car tools to locate and isolate the problems. Once identified, you must determine if you can solve them in your home garage. The same process is true if engine work is needed. You’ll need some good auto mechanic tools to complete this part of the restoration. If the body needs attention, you’ll need to use your home garage auto body tools to pull out dents and creases. If your upholstery can be saved and need not be replaced, you’ll probably need some basic upholstery tools to fix some minor issues.

After your “dirty” work is completed along with any problems that a professional had to cure, you’ll be ready to use your car washing and detailing tools to finish your project and have your restored auto ready to drive. As anyone who has performed an auto restoration will attest, it can be a frustrating project at times, but the finished product makes it all worthwhile.

Auto Tool Rental Stores

If you are not an auto repair professional, you can locate sources that provide automotive tool rentals so you can perform the work needed without the often large investment in auto shop tools. Whether an automotive specialty tool or a more common car tool that you just do not have, you’ll be able to find what you need rather easily. The cost will depend on the tool and the time period you need to use it. The good news is that most quality rental retailers will have what you want and be fairly close by.

Most sources will quote you an hourly and daily rental fee for the tools you need. If you need an auto shop tool for a number of days, you will normally enjoy a discounted per day price. Since there is no published standard hourly or daily rental fee, shop around your local area and compare prices to find the best deal.

If you’re not sure what auto tool rental stores are in your neighborhood, a wonderful way to find this information is to use the American Rental Association. Among their services is a data base of all rental stores in their trade organization. Simply go to their website, specify the type of items you want to rent, in this case automotive tools, and your location. You will be given a complete list of auto tool rental sources near your location. You’ll not only get their names, but their city and state, and the estimated distance from your location. To complete your ‘Net search, just click on the names of any stores that interest you and you will immediately be directed to their website. You can see if they carry the car tools you need, the cost to rent them, phone numbers, and any other information you need to find the tool to get the job done.

Automotive Shop Tools for the Home Garage

Professional automotive shop tools are quite expensive and the cost to fully equip your home garage would be prohibitive. However, there are some classic auto mechanic tools that are available to seriously upgrade your car repair tools collection. For instance, if you want professional quality automotive hand tools, Sears has high quality automotive repair tool kits, from around 60 pieces to over 500 pieces, depending on your needs and budget.

Other auto repair tools for your home garage that are invaluable are

  • Jack stands – Cost effective and safer when working under your car
  • Diagnostic auto scan tool – Hand held for occasional or consistent use – can read on-board auto computers for cars built since 1996
  • Cordless impact wrench – Looks like a cordless drill but loosens and tightens nuts and bolts much faster and easier than any hand wrench
  • Portable power unit – 6- and 12-volt power when and where you need it
  • Creeper – Good quality for under-auto access
  • Digital timing light – Set sparkplug timing perfectly
  • Battery charger and tester – Rapid charger for dead batteries
  • Good quality gear wrenches – Box- and open-end with tight turning radius
  • Ball joint socket – For simple ball joint repairs, removal, and re-installation
These automobile tools are car shop quality but tend to be more reasonably priced than your professional mechanic’s selection. But these car repair tools, added to your basic collection, give you the opportunity to make more complex repairs in your home garage.

Automotive Specialty Tools

There is a substantial list of items often classified as automotive specialty tools that are used mostly by professionals for specific auto repairs that are beyond the skill level of all but the most experienced hobbyist. It is more useful to list the general categories into which specialty auto tools fit rather than list specifics. If you need one or more automotive specialty tools, using an Internet search will locate a number of e-sellers and some brick and mortar retailers offering more unusual tool selections. You might find your Internet search to be quite interesting as many auto specialty tools are rather exotic in appearance and purpose. Here is the general category list of auto repair areas that you’ll find the automotive specialty tools you need:

  • Auto body tools – When more than a small dent puller is needed
  • Steering and suspension tools – Recommended for only the highly experienced amateur or the professional
  • Brake tools – While a normal brake pad replacement is within the amateur’s range, many other brake-related repairs are best left to the professional
  • Engine tools – Many basic engine tasks can be done with a standard auto tool kit while others need auto specialty tools to be completed
  • Fuel system tools – Most home garages will not have the tools necessary for many fuel system repairs
  • Tune up tools – With the disappearance of carburetors and the use of fuel injectors and on-board computers, auto specialty tools are often required
  • Tire and air tools – Auto specialty tools make tire-related items easy and fast
While sellers of automotive specialty tools also usually market the more popular selections of must-have and often used car tools, specialty auto tools is a sub-industry by itself. Because these tools are sold in much more limited volume and are often hand-forged for longevity or precisely calibrated to provide digital diagnostics and repairs, they tend to be expensive for the hobbyist. Also, many require expertise and experience beyond the normal range of most amateurs. Since it is difficult even to practice with one of these (you probably only have one or two autos), the majority of auto specialty tools are used by professionals.

Automotive Tool and Home Improvement Tool Differences

Many automotive tools are similar, if not identical, to household and home improvement tools. Others, however, are specifically designed to perform one or more functions on autos only. This holds true for some home improvement tools which, while perfect for construction use, are almost totally useless in your auto tool box collection.

Those that are similar or identical to household tools include open- and box-end wrenches (although you can purchase some made for auto repair that have a smaller effective turning radius), socket wrenches, adjustable (Crescent) wrenches, screwdrivers and ratchet-handle drivers (which accept a multitude of bits), hacksaws, some circuit testers, slip-joint and needle nose pliers, wire stripping and crimping tools, and rubber mallets to name a group.

A group of popular auto tools that have little purpose in your home tool kit include car audio tools, digital on-board diagnostic scanners, spark plug sockets, oil filter wrenches, booster cables, torque wrenches (although they could be used in the home), some tune up tools, siphon hoses, and the majority of auto body shop tools.

The good news is that many of your home improvement tools will work perfectly in your auto tool kit also. If you duplicate many of your household tools in your car tool kit, you’ll have some home improvement tool backup. Should you wish to be very frugal, you can give some of your home improvement tools double duty status.

Automotive Tool Sets for Women

Along with household and garden tool kits designed for women, there are now decent options for auto tool kits for females. While you can locate some “iffy” car tool sets for women costing under $20, take care to be sure the tools are at least of minimum quality. If needed in a roadside emergency, you must have confidence that the things you need will be there and they will work. If a woman is looking for a combination household and auto tool set with more general tool contents so she could hang a picture and also tighten bolts on her auto engine, a better choice might be to purchase one of the many tool kits for women, often in pink, of course, and then add a few tools made specifically for her auto, like a sparkplug wrench.

Another idea is to purchase a basic auto tool kit made for everyone, as it will consist mostly or totally of auto hand tools. If you select lower or middle quality tools, the issue of weight should not be of concern to any but the most petite woman. You can then add a few items (jumper cables, reflectors, small air compressor, etc.) to make this car tool set a combination auto maintenance and auto emergency tool kit. You can expect to spend around $30 to $75 for an auto tool kit with decent quality implements and containing most items you’ll need to work on basic issues that your auto presents.

Basic Auto Hand Tools You Should Have

Even if you’re not a car repair hobbyist, you should have a few auto hand tools for basic auto maintenance in your auto tool set. Sure you could sit and wait two or three hours for roadside help to repair a flat or jump start your stalled vehicle, but why do that when you don’t have to. Here are some basic items that should be in your car or garage:

  • Jack – No, not the little one that came with your car – often more dangerous than useful – get a good one, preferably hydraulic, if possible
  • Lug wrench – Have a good one available, again, not the one that came with your auto – lugs can be stubborn to loosen
  • Spark plug wrench (or special socket) – Can use your socket wrench handle, but better if you have one just for your spark plug socket so it’s near at hand
  • Oil filter wrench – Special tool just for loosening and installing oil filters
  • Adjustable wrench – Two, one smaller and one larger, should be enough
  • Socket set – Double duty if already in your home tool box or another just for the garage
  • Screwdrivers – Minimum two (flat and Phillips head) – strong, to loosen sealed screws
  • Funnels – More than one for different fluids – keep them separate so as not to mix different fluids
  • Jumper cables – A must-have – never know when your auto might have starting trouble
  • Strong brush – Non-metal but very stiff – keep battery terminals clean for good contacts
  • Utility knife – Always find numerous tasks for this versatile tool
  • Continuity tester – Small tool for testing electrical circuits to find problems
  • Rubber mallet – Safely tap things that are “stuck”
  • Pliers – Slip joint and needle nose
  • Rags, paper towels, work gloves, and hand degreaser – Maintaining your auto can be a dirty adventure
  • Flashlight – A small one for tight quarters and a larger one to spread light
  • Tool box or bag – Bag may be better if some of these will travel in your trunk with you
Auto tool boxes can include many other car tools but this group will allow you to perform many minor repairs, adjustments, and maintenance.

Basic Auto Tool Kits

There are a number of basic auto tool kits that are reasonably priced and can be carried in your trunk for both emergency and garage use. You’ll have many choices as to size (from about 10 to over 100 automotive tools and equipment), quality, and price. Like home or auto audio equipment, you can spend pretty much what you want for a car tool kit. Your first decision: do you want one of these as strictly an auto emergency tool kit or one that doubles as your garage tools for cars.

If you’re really a tool person only when absolutely necessary, you can even purchase a combination home and auto tool kit. These give you the option of one car tool box for household tasks, also. This option is not recommend for consistent use, as these tools for cars won’t last for life, certainly.

Cost is directly related to quality and number of items included in your car tool set. While you want at least minimum level quality so your automotive tools will work when you need them, you need not spend for professional garage quality car tools if you only use them occasionally. While not recommended, you could spend as little as $15 to $20 for a very basic tool kit or $75 to $200 for a better quality auto tool kit. The choice is yours and the choices are many.

Basic Car Audio Tools

A basic audio tool checklist is not very long or exotic. But if you try to install or repair your audio system without them, you’ll be frustrated and disappointed. Here are some suggestions for car audio installation tools.

  • Manual screwdriver and socket housing (often called a multi-bit driver) with multiple smaller interchangeable bits – Most screws and nuts/bolts are small to very small – this tool should allow you to reach these tiny items – should be magnetic to hold screws, nuts, and bolts without dropping them
  • Wire stripper/crimper combination – Good quality, multi-size wire stripping ability
  • Multi-reading digital meter – Used to measure amps, volts (AC and DC), and ohms
  • Insulated connectors – Shock-free, insulated to connect a variety of audio wires
  • Panel/trim/faceplate remover – Safely remove panels and audio housings without damage
  • Hex wrenches – Often encounter hex nuts needing removal and installation
As you can see, the number of basic car audio tools is not large. The key is to have good quality items to allow you to work in very tight areas and install or repair your audio system effectively.

Diagnostic Car Tools for the Home Garage

There are many diagnostic automotive repair tools, but the majority are priced above a typical home garage budget. Luckily, there are some that are effective and affordable for the home auto mechanic who prefers to diagnose and fix auto problems.

  • Hand held diagnostic auto scan tool – For cars built in 1996 and later, these tools plug into your on-board computer to diagnose a number of potential problems
  • Electrical test kits – More powerful and complex than a small hand held circuit continuity tester, these more sophisticated auto diagnostic tools allow you to track and isolate electrical issues
  • Computer-based car diagnostic tool – There is software available to interpret coded and digital readouts, with results sent to your PC
  • Hand circuit and ignition spark testers – Low cost hand held testers help you spot problems with internal combustion engines of all sizes
  • Refrigerant leak detector – Possibly avoid expensive air conditioning repairs by finding leaks before they become a bigger problem
  • Automotive diagnostic tools in kit form – Instead of collecting a variety of diagnostic individual tools, you have a few options of purchasing an auto tool kit composed of diagnostic tools only
The noted tools tend to be effective but much more cost effective for home garage use than their professional counterparts. Even if the actual repair of certain problems are beyond your expertise, effective diagnosis of an auto problem might save you hundreds of dollars in unnecessary parts and/or labor.

Emergency Auto Tool Kits for Women

There are now some good quality auto emergency tool kits for women that can be found at reliable e-sellers and standard retailers. The most noteworthy marketers of tools designed by and for women offer auto emergency tools for females to help them with all manner of roadside situations. Most female car tool kits from reputable sellers offer a decent quality tool selection and contain the most important items for auto emergencies, including jumper cables, reflectors, PVC and electrical tape, siphon hose, and flashlight. Some larger kits include full socket sets and ratchet drivers with a full selection of bits, first aid supplies, and rubber gloves for protection.

Some suggestions include the 54-piece auto emergency tool kit from Apollo for around $50. Another serviceable option is the 40-piece set of auto emergency tools from Ladies Tool Zone for around $30. The 30-piece tool kit from Grip contains decent quality tools and sells for approximately $30, too. For the same cost, you might like the Barbara K! Tools for Women roadside safety kit. Finally, Tomboy Tools offers a smaller auto emergency tool kit with excellent quality contents for around $70. Women can get an extra measure of security with auto emergency tool kits designed for females at affordable prices.

Good Quality Used Automotive Tools

Should you want either better quality auto tools or locate an impossible to find item, cruise the Internet for quality used automotive tools. This can be a great idea if you want high quality but your checkbook balance demands more modest goals. You can satisfy both issues if you have the patience to investigate the many websites that offer quality used automotive tools. Along with individual car tools, you can even find complete auto tool kits if you want to increase your auto hand tools collection on a group instead of individual basis.

Another advantage of looking for used automotive tools comes in the search for hard to find tools that aren’t readily available or cost effective for home garage use. You can find some car restoration tools, auto upholstery tools, and even auto racing tools, all of which tend to be expensive when new, in the used automotive tools category. High quality car tools can last a lifetime and professionals work them hard but take care of them, too. You can find used high quality auto tools that may not have that new car smell, but will give you years of excellent service for your home garage needs.

NAPA AutoTools and Parts

NAPA stands for the National Automotive Parts Association. Founded in 1925, it was and remains a retailers’ cooperative, distributing parts and tools to over 6,000 independently owned auto parts stores and more than 12,000 approved repair facilities around the U.S. They have other locations in Canada, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. They are known for parts and tool quality that meets or exceeds manufacturer’s specifications. Their tool and repair products range from a full line of automotive repair tools to repair manuals for hundreds of vehicles. They also offer quality diagnostic and car scan tools from home to professional quality. Naturally, they have a line of good quality auto hand tools for most common home garage repairs and maintenance tasks. With over 200,000 auto parts in their main catalogue, NAPA offers quality products to both home hobbyists and garage professionals.

Often “Forgotten” Items in an Auto Emergency Tool Kit

Most experienced drivers have had a roadside emergency or two, during which everyone realizes how important an auto emergency tool kit can be. While many people can name most of the “usual suspects,” emergency car tools that should be in your bag, there are a few other auto emergency tools that are often forgotten. Here are some that can be very important but often left out of auto emergency tool kits.

  • Siphon tool – For gasoline or oil – priceless when needed
  • Replacement auto fuses – Simple, inexpensive repair item
  • PVC tape – For quick, emergency fluid leak repairs
  • Can opener – Quick fluid replacement made easy from a sealed can
  • Small, powerful flashlight – Not full sized – one that you can hold between your teeth for quick night repairs
  • Cable ties – Keep repaired cables away from hot manifolds
  • Adhesive bandages – For minor first aid sometimes needed after emergency repairs
  • Tow rope – Strong, tightly braided for short distance moving of a disabled auto
  • Lock de-icer – Winter emergencies make this a must-have
  • Auto entry tools – When you need to get into your car without your keys handy
  • Mini air compressor – A tire quick-fill might get you out of harm’s way
In addition to jumper cables, lug wrench, reflectors, pliers, screwdrivers, etc., the above list should also be included in your emergency car tool collection. For low cost, you will find these items priceless when you need them.

Popular Car Cleaning Tools

Car cleaning tools are relatively inexpensive and keep your auto in wonderful external condition. Some car washing tools and auto detailing tools you should consider:

  • Car wash solution – Get the best quality you can afford to protect complex paint finishes – don’t substitute any other form of household cleaner
  • Sponges or washing mitt – Good quality, large sponges or a well made washing mitt with thick nap
  • Micro fiber or terry towels – Soft and mostly lint-free to gently glide over your finish
  • Chamois – Natural chamois remains the best drying tool available, but some of the better synthetic products can come close
  • Stiff brush – Non-wire bristles for scrubbing stubborn road stains on your mag, steel, or aluminum wheels
  • Car washing tool – From longer handled spray wands, to instant shut off nozzles, to combination nozzles and wash mitts and brushes, to other odd looking water delivery tools
  • Wheel cleaner – Many decent products, but make sure the one you use does not contain bleach as it will not react well with your tires
  • Tar and bug remover – Warm weather requires this item to keep your front end clean – even excellent car washing solutions have a problem removing these blemishes
A general rule is to buy the best quality car cleaning tools and products you can afford. Regardless of the cost of these car washing tools, the cost of professionally repairing or replacing a complex multiple layer paint finish will be much higher.

Some Good Auto Detailing Tools

If you want to go beyond regular car washing and keep your auto in showroom condition, you should have some auto detailing tools. These are very low tech but good quality to deliver effective hand and arm power to your car cleaning tools collection.

  • Highest quality car wax you can afford and like – They all do the job but some are easier to work with than others
  • Proper applicators – These must-haves apply to all auto detailing products you use, including tire dressing, leather conditioning creams, polishes, and paint sealants – different applicators for different products
  • Detailing brushes – Small, soft brushes to clean your air vents, audio components, and all tight spots that other tools can’t access
  • Mat and carpet scrub brush – Regardless of your neatness level, your mats and carpets will need some shampoo and scrubbing over time
  • Power orbital buffer/polisher – For wax, polish, and paint sealant application – orbital, random motion eliminates directional marks and covers more completely
  • Variety of buffing pads – One type of pad does not do everything – some are for “cutting” (removing surface scratches), application, polishing, etc. – use the right one for the appropriate job
  • Vacuum cleaner – Hand held and as powerful as you can afford
  • Mop dusters – Hand held and in a few sizes for dashboards, rear decks, etc.
  • “Safe” scrubber for bug and tar removal – The liquid products are rather “harsh” and these things still need to be scrubbed off – a pad designed to remove bugs and tar without scratching your paint finish avoids damage
  • Glass cleaner tool – No one enjoys contorting to get in the corners of their windshield and rear window – in fact, only loose limbed gymnasts can actually do it – this tool, with a long handle and flexible cleaner end attached, gets in all those corners while you remain comfortable
There are many other items that you can add to your auto detailing tools collection, but this group will give you the ability to clean and polish your prize possession to a level that is show quality.

Tools in a Basic Auto Tool Set

The contents of a “basic” auto tool set means different things to people. For the person who gets as much enjoyment from tools as they do while having a root canal, a basic car tool kit should contain just a few auto shop tools:

  • Jumper cables
  • Jack – Good quality and easy to operate
  • Lug wrench – Will need a good one at some point unless you ride the bus
  • Flashlight – A must-have to see what you’re doing or not doing
  • Adjustable (Crescent) wrench – One mid-sized good quality wrench
  • Pliers – Slip joint (regular) type
  • Screwdrivers – Two (flat and Phillips head)
  • Clean rags
  • Emergency reflectors – A couple to keep you safe during an emergency
This minimal selection of car tools will fit in your trunk easily, provide basic help when you need it, and allow you to complete very minor, but important, repairs and tasks. You can purchase a low end auto tool kit or just build one of these yourself. All of thee car tools will fit in a small duffle bag for easy transportation between your auto and garage.

Using Car Opening Tools

At first, car opening tools or auto lockout tools look a little strange and can be a bit tricky to use at first. With more practice, however, you will get the “feel” of how best to use them. You can select a complete auto lockout tool kit, allowing you to open most vehicles on the road today if you plan on performing parking lot or roadside assistance on a regular basis. Or you could purchase a small car opening tool travel kit which comfortably sits in your trunk until you need it. The obvious problem with using auto lockout tools while on the road is the potentially impossible situation of getting to them if you’re locked out.

Car opening tools are decidedly low tech and function primarily on old fashioned leverage. Older cars are quite easy to unlock as most of us have, at one time or another, had to use a coat hanger or similar home made remedy to pop the old fashioned push down/pull up locks on autos. Since the elimination of these and the newer hidden in-door toggles, the task has become more difficult for anyone but the professional. But with the proper auto entry tools and some practice, you can master this task with relative ease. Just be aware that most of the time you’ll be using your new talent on someone else’s vehicle, not your own. Use the Internet to locate retailers of car opening tools. You can buy a basic auto lockout tool kit for as little as $20.