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Auto Mechanic Tools & Equipment List: 26 Tools You Need to Fix Cars Right

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To fix cars successfully, you need three primary ingredients: knowledge, ability, and—you guessed it—tools. You can have all of the know-how and capability in the world, but unless you have the proper tools and equipment on hand, you’re not going to be very successful at working on cars.

Even though professional mechanics have massive tool collections with all of the bells and whistles, in the beginning, nearly everyone starts with the basics. And that’s what’s on this list.

mechanic and car tools
You need three primary ingredients to fix cars successfully: knowledge, ability, and tools.

Auto Mechanic’s Tool List: The Essentials

Before you roll up your sleeves to get dirty, you’ll want to make sure you have the basic automotive repair tools and equipment on hand. Clean up the garage, get a toolbox, and fill it with the necessities listed below.

We’ve broken down the essentials into three categories: hand tools, shop equipment, and diagnostic equipment.

Hand Tools

The first category we’re going to cover is hand tools. You’ll need the following items for nearly every job when working on cars:

breaker bar
A breaker bar helps break loose stubborn nuts and bolts.

1. Breaker bar

If you’re like most people, sometimes you need a little extra help breaking loose stubborn nuts and bolts. A breaker bar gives you that advantage by providing extra leverage.

pliers
Your toolbox should include the following types of pliers: slip-joint, tongue and groove, needle nose, and vise grips.

2. Different types of pliers

To work on cars, you’re going to need several different kinds of pliers. At a minimum, your toolbox should include the following types of pliers: slip-joint, tongue and groove, needle nose, and locking (also known as vise grips).

mallet hammer
You should keep a traditional hammer handy.

3. Hammers (traditional and dead-blow)

Every now and then, you’ll need to whack a car part or two into submission. For this task, you should keep a traditional hammer handy, as well as a dead-blow hammer. A dead-blow hammer minimizes the damage caused when striking a surface.

impact wrench
For those who are just starting out, a 1/2-inch pneumatic impact wrench is usually the best choice.

4. Impact wrench

These days, a variety of different types of impact wrenches are available. You can get either a pneumatic or cordless design in an array of configurations and torque output ratings. For those who are just starting out, a 1/2-inch pneumatic impact wrench (and the air compressor to go with it) is usually the best choice.

oil filter wrench
You need a dedicated oil filter wrench to do oil and filter change.

5. Oil filter wrench

An oil and filter change is a fundamental automotive repair task that nearly every DIYer tackles. But unless you’re super strong, you won’t be able to remove the filter with your bare hands—you need a dedicated oil filter wrench.

pick and hook set
You should always keep a set of small picks in your toolbox.

6. Pick set

You’ll never know how important a pick set is until you own one. A small pick can help disconnect an electrical connector, free a retaining clip, and so much more. You should always keep a set of small picks in your toolbox.

pry bar set
For newbies, a medium-length pry bar is good enough.

7. Pry bar

Once you start working on cars, you’ll immediately realize the importance of a good pry bar. As a newbie, you’ll definitely want a medium-length pry bar in your toolbox. You can add a variety of lengths as your tool collection begins to grow.

punch and chisel set
Punches and chisels serve a multitude of uses and it’s best to keep a variety of shapes and sizes available.

8. Punches and chisels

Punches and chisels serve a multitude of uses when working on cars. It’s a good idea to keep a variety of shapes and sizes available whenever you’re in the garage.

ratchet and socket set
You should have ratchets with each of the standard drive sizes, along with various extensions and a full selection of sockets.

9. Ratchet and Socket Set

A ratchet and socket set is arguably the most important thing to have in your toolbox. You should have ratchets with each of the standard drive sizes (1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″), along with various extensions and a full selection of sockets. It’s also a good idea to have a variety of Torx and Allen head sockets.

Most modern cars (both foreign and domestic) have metric fasteners. So, as a beginner, unless you’re working on vintage domestic vehicles, you can usually stick to metric sockets. Later on, you might want to add standard (SAE) sockets to your collection.

screwdriver
Be sure you have all of the various types of screwdrivers.

10. Screwdriver Set

Do we really need to talk about how important screwdrivers are? Be sure you have all of the various types—including flat head, Phillips head, Allen head, and Torx head—in your toolbox at all times.

tire pressure gauge
You’ll want to use a tire pressure gauge often to ensure your car’s tires remain properly inflated.

11. Tire pressure gauge

Tire pressure affects several aspects of vehicle performance, including handling, braking ability, and fuel mileage. You’ll want to use a tire pressure gauge often to ensure your car’s tires remain properly inflated.

torque wrench
A torque wrench comes in handy when you need to tighten a nut or bolt to a certain specification.

12. Torque wrench

A torque wrench is an essential tool for individuals of all skill levels. In many instances, you need to tighten a nut or bolt to a certain specification. A torque wrench allows you to do just that by applying a certain amount of force to the fastener.

wrench set
If you’re working on vintage domestic vehicles, you’ll usually want to have a set of metric wrenches.

13. Wrench Set

It should go without saying that every mechanic needs a wrench set. As was mentioned, these days, foreign and domestic cars both use metric fasteners. Unless you’re working on vintage domestic vehicles, you’ll usually want to build up your set of metric wrenches before moving on to collecting standard (SAE) wrenches.

Shop Equipment

You also need a lot of shop equipment to fix cars. For example, you’ll need a jack, jack stands, and—of course—a toolbox for all of your tools. Here are the basics an aspiring mechanic will want to have:

air compressor
You can use your air compressor to adjust tire pressure.

14. Air compressor

Technically, you may not need an air compressor as a beginner, but it sure makes working on cars a whole lot easier. You can use your air compressor to adjust tire pressure, run a pneumatic impact wrench—the list goes on and on.

If you want to run air tools, such as an impact wrench, you’ll need a compressor with a rating of 4 to 5 cubic feet per minute (CFM) at 90 psi. Also, it’s a good idea to select a compressor with at least a 20-gallon tank size, as that will limit the amount of time you spend waiting for the unit to refill.

car fire extinguisher
Be sure to always have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of an emergency.

15. Fire extinguisher

You never know what might happen when you’re working in the shop. Be sure to always have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of an emergency.

flashlight
A good flashlight is something you’ll use every time you’re working on a car.

16. Flashlight

It’s important to be able to see what you’re doing when you’re poking around under the hood. A good flashlight is something you’ll use every time you’re working on a car.

oil drain pan
Each time you change oil or do any type of work that involves draining fluids, you’re going to need a fluid drain pan.

17. Fluid drain pan

Each time you change oil or do any type of work that involves draining fluids, you’re going to need a fluid drain pan. In fact, it’s a good idea to get a couple of different drain pans: one for oil and one for coolant (the two fluids must be recycled separately).

Drain pans that double as containers are especially handy. The design prevents you from having to transfer the fluid into a separate container before heading to a recycler.

funnel
Keep oil spillage to a minimum by using a funnel every time you top off your car’s fluids.

18. Funnels

If you try to add oil (or any other type of fluid) to your vehicle without a funnel, you’ll probably end up making a huge mess. To keep spillage to a minimum, you should use a funnel every time you top off your car’s fluids.

floor jack
A high-quality jack and jack stands will usually last for decades, making them a worthwhile investment.

19. Jack and jack stands

For every automotive task that involves going underneath a vehicle or removing its wheels, you need a jack and a set of jack stands. A high-quality jack and jack stands will usually last for decades, making them a worthwhile investment.

tool box
You can’t just leave your tool collection lying around the garage—you need a toolbox!

20. Toolbox

You can’t just leave your tool collection lying around the garage—you need a toolbox! Even though some toolboxes are obscenely expensive, there are plenty of affordable options if you shop around. Home improvement stores often have good deals, as do yard sales and estate sales.

safety glasses
Accidents are unavoidable when working on cars, and you don’t want to put your eyesight at risk.

21. Safety Glasses

Safety glasses are a must when working on cars. Accidents are unavoidable, and you don’t want to put your eyesight at risk.

wheel chock
Whenever you raise a vehicle and support it with jack stands, you should place chocks behind the wheels that remain on the ground.

22. Wheel chocks

As a safety measure, whenever you raise a vehicle and support it with jack stands, you should place chocks behind the wheels that remain on the ground.

repair manual
Always consult a repair manual when fixing a vehicle to avoid wasting time and losing money.

23. Repair manual or access to a repair database

Modern cars (and even many old ones) are far too complex to work on without the proper repair information. To avoid wasting time, losing money—and potentially getting hurt—you should always consult a repair manual or an online repair database when fixing a vehicle.

Diagnostic Equipment

Diagnostic equipment can help you figure out what’s wrong with your car. There are a wide range of diagnostic tools available, but as a beginner, you’ll want to start out by adding these basic items to your collection:

digital multimeter
A basic digital multimeter can be used to measure current (amps), voltage (volts), and resistance (ohms).

24. Digital multimeter (DMM)

A basic digital multimeter can be used to measure current (amps), voltage (volts), and resistance (ohms). Having that ability comes in handy for testing all kinds of circuits and electronics.

mechanic stethoscope
A mechanic’s stethoscope is an acoustic device used to listen to internal sounds.

25. Mechanic’s Stethoscope

Much like a doctor’s stethoscope, a mechanic’s stethoscope is an acoustic device used to listen to internal sounds. But with a mechanic’s stethoscope, you listen to parts of your car, rather than parts of the human body.

scan tool
As a newbie, you’ll probably want to start with a code reader, which, as its name implies, only reads generic onboard diagnostic (OBD-II) codes.

26. Scan tool or code reader

You absolutely must have a scan tool or code reader to work on modern vehicles. As a newbie, you’ll probably want to start with a code reader, which, as its name implies, only reads generic onboard diagnostic (OBD-II) codes.

Eventually, though, you’re going to want a high-end scan tool. OEM-level scanners provide access to additional information, including manufacturer-specific codes, data, and bi-directional tests.

A Mechanic’s Tool Collection is Never Complete

As a mechanic, your tool collection will never be truly complete. There are always gadgets you can add to your arsenal to get the job done better and faster.

While you might start with the basics on this list, if you’re passionate about car repair, you can expect a lifelong addiction to tool collecting. Before you know it, your tools will be worth more than the car that they help you repair.

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Author

Mia Bevacqua

Chief Mechanic at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with over 15 years of industry experience. She holds ASE Master, L1, L2, and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification, as well as a bachelor's degree in Advanced Automotive Systems.

Throughout her career, Mia has applied her skills toward automotive failure analysis inspections, consulting, diagnostic software development, and of course, writing.

Mia has a passion for math, science, and technology that motivates her to stay on top of the latest industry trends, such as electric vehicles and autonomous systems. At the same time, she has a weakness for fixer-upper oddballs, such as her 1987 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Chevy Astro Van AWD.

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