Proper car maintenance is a critical component to ensuring your car is safe and fully capable to drive. Many of the upkeep tasks can be performed at home, but without the proper car tools, you’ll likely be left in the dark.
We asked a pair of automotive experts from AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities for their recommendations on the tools every at-home mechanic should have in their garage.
Justin Knight, Mechanic at Facility Knights Automotive in Ledgewood, N.J.
You likely have standard hand tools laying around but if you plan on doing a good amount of maintenance work, you should really consider investing in tools specifically designed for automobiles, such as Sunex and Gearwrench. These sets will include all your socket and wrench needs. Make sure they come with both metric and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) measurements. While U.S.-based manufacturers typically used SAE in the past, modern cars with parts made in various countries often use metric. If your current car uses one system, your next may use the other. Buy it here: Sunex / Gearwrench.
It can be difficult to get underneath any car, let alone one with low clearance. Should a problem arise with your vehicle that requires you to get into that tight space, you’ll be glad you have a car ramp. These strong, portable ramps can help lift your car up several inches off the ground. Just slide them in front of the tires and drive right up. Buy it here.
Another way of lifting your vehicle off the ground, and an essential car tool, is the good old car jack. We recommend opting for a hydraulic jack, which is designed to lift with minimal effort. Buy it here.
John Paul, AAA Northeast Car Doctor
LED Work Light
Garages aren’t known for being the best lit areas of the house. Add in the fact that most car maintenance tasks will likely involve looking underneath the car, it’s obvious that you’re going to need a good light source. LED bulbs are bright, energy savers and last a very long time; they can power light sources that are portable and flexible, precisely what you’ll need when scoping out the corners of an automobile’s underbelly. Another tip is to get a rechargeable work light. This will ensure there are no cords you could potentially trip over when walking around the vehicle. Buy it here.
Electric Air Compressor
Don’t forget about your tires. Always make sure your tires are properly inflated. This will keep you safer, extend the life of the tires and improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Household air compressors can also be used to inflate such items as bike tires, basketballs, pool inflatables and much, much more. Buy it here.
Oil Drain Pan
Dealing with motor oil is messy business and unless you want your clothes, and your property, to end up covered in the stuff, you’ll need a drain pan. Not only are these pans great for avoiding spills when working on your vehicle, they can also be used for transporting used oil to your nearest recycling center. Buy it here.
Diagnostic Code Reader
Ever see the check engine light come on and not have the slightest idea why? This little car tool can solve that problem. Diagnostic code readers communicate with your car’s computer to identify. Simply plug the device in and run a scan to see precisely where the problem is. Buy it here.
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|Meguiar's G7716 Gold Class Carnauba Plus Premium Quick Wax - 16 Oz Spray Bottle
|CAR GUYS Hybrid Spray Wax | Advanced Car Wax | Long Lasting and Easy To Use | Safe on All Surfaces | 18 Oz Kit
|6 Inch Car Polishing & Buffing Sponge Pads Kit Wool Bonnet Pads for Household Electric Drill and Auto Polisher with 8mm M14 Drill Adapter for Washing Cleaning Waxing Dusting, 11PCS
|Premier Car Care Kit by Armor All, Includes Car Wax & Wash Kit, Glass Cleaner, Car Air Freshener, Tire & Wheel Cleaner, 8 Pieces
|Meguiar's X2020 Supreme Shine Microfiber Towels (6 Packs of 3)
|Formula 1 Carnauba High-Gloss Shine Car Wax Paste – Carnauba Wax Car Polish for Car Detailing to Shine & Protect – Car Scratch Remover w/Micro Polishing Agents – Car Cleaning Supplies (12 oz)
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Which car tools do you swear by? Which ones are you missing? Let us know in the comments below.
AAA members can save on automotive replacement parts and accessories at NAPA.