School Me on Automotive Tools

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MarkD
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School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by MarkD » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:51 pm

I wasn't sure if this should go here or gear-talk, mods feel free to move.

So among my plans after our move to NJ to PA, I plan to do basic maintenance on our cars instead of paying someone to do it. Oil changes, brakes, rotating tires (and switching to snow tires in winter), etc. Nothing too elaborate, no body work/painting. The cars in question (right now at least) are a Jeep Liberty and a Ford Edge. The reasoning is to save time and money. I've done some of this type of thing before, and I'm pretty handy, but the last few years I've lacked a place out of the weather to do it or the time to do it. (One of my requirements for our new home is a garage, preferably two-car, so I'll have a place I can work where, if not warm, I'm at least not outdoors).

I already have basic tools, sockets (1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 drives, SAE and Metric), wrenches (ditto SAE and Metric), screwdrivers, allen wrenches, etc.

What's on the essential list? What's on the nice-to-have? What's more money than it's worth? Brands to look for/stay away from?

I'm already planning a jack and jack-stands (I've had past bad experiences with ramps, long story, but let's say steel ramps, front-drive cars and damp weather aren't a good combination, and no you CAN'T hit the brake in time to stop on top of the ramp). At least a small-ish compressor for tires (I currently have an "inflator" that's on it's last legs), should I bite the bullet on a bigger one to run an impact wrench? Creeper? How about torque wrenches (I don't own any now)?

Suggestions are welcome.

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MiddleAgedKen
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Location: Flyover Country

Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by MiddleAgedKen » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:19 am

You have most of what you need for the basics. You probably already know you want a 3-ton jack for your cars, but I'll say it anyway. I had a 2-ton jack that would flex and groan lifting my Ford Five Hundred, so I gave up doing it.

A hunk of iron pipe, 2' - 3' long, that slips over the end of your 1/2" ratchet handle without too much slop, for those "if at first you don't succeed, try a bigger hammer" occasions.

Four-way lug wrench if you don't already have one, for rotating tires (unless you decide to get an impact wrench). It doesn't hurt to have a good torque wrench around, though I've never found a need for one other than the one head gasket job I did on a 1984 S-15 (with the abominable 2.8L V6) back in the '90s.

You may also already know all this too, but if either of your current cars have rear drum brakes, or you think you might get a car what does, you should get a good set of brake tools: adjuster tool, brake-shoe retainer spring compressor (the spring rides over the "nail" and is held in place by a convoluted washer with a slotted center), etc. They're not strictly essential, but they are definite labor-savers.
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Old Grafton
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by Old Grafton » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:54 am

Torx bits, assorted "Crescent" type wrenches, assorted small-to-large hammers both steel and brass, a decent tool cabinet or two to store them. And a good-quality rolling seat would be good, too. The list is dern near endless but you've got the idea. Buy tools as you discover a need. I've been doing just that for 50+ years and still occasionally discover a better tool. And try to not loan them, they grow roots elsewhere, unfortunately.
I'm not old--It's too early to be this late.

Precision
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by Precision » Tue Jan 08, 2019 3:22 am

A decent compressor shouldn't run over $500. say 2 HP and 30 gal tank that delivers 5+ CFM at 90 psi. Then an air ratchet, impact driver, impact sockets for same. That money will be WELL appreciated over time.

For about $200 more you can get a MUCH better compressor, but the above has lasted me 10 years and has worked for 95% of what I have needed.

Old Grafton's Idea of buy them as you need them is a great way after the basics are covered.
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evan price
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by evan price » Tue Jan 08, 2019 4:47 pm

For intermittant use one of those 10 gallon cheapie compressors on wheels for $99 works fine. I have one in the house garage for pumping up tires and quick jobs like brakes, when I've got a project in the shop.

Get rubber air hose not that cheap PVC stuff. Harbor freight has Goodyear rubber hoses for good price. Get a couple tire chucks because they grow legs.
Get a 1/2" impact gun. Buy used big brand. Or they the harbor freight earthquake. Get extensions and sockets.
1/4" die grinder with sanding disc and cutoff wheel arbor. I like Roloc pads for general polishing and rust removal.
I still use air ratchets but only because I don't want to pay for a nice cordless impact.
Air chisel I find useful too.

Bench grinder with fine wheel and a good wire wheel. Buy a nice older used model when HP was real not a Chinese modern one with a "3/4 hp" motor that somehow only draws 2.5 amps.

Good vise.
Battery charger. Even a small one.

Decent sawzall and blades. Again used older model like a milwaukee.

Good cordless drill and bits.
Hammers, from small hp to BFH sized.
Prybars, crowbars, a comet pierced of pipe.

Lots of flashlights.
Good work light.
Oil drain pan and filter wrench.
Shop radio, mini fridge.
Pressure washer.

Plenty of rags and a box of disposable shop towels for really gross stuff.
Bucket of cheap clay cat litter to soak to spills.
OBD/CANbus scan tool
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Odahi
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by Odahi » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:39 am

A test light, or a semi-decent multimeter, depending on your familiarity with electrical diagnosis. I recommend a ratcheting terminal crimper, decent wire strippers, and a heat gun and shrink tubing, too. A little specialized for daily maintenance, but a must for trailer wiring, stereo installation, and the like. A decent soldering iron too.
A good repair manual for each vehicle, if you don't have one already. I like Haynes manuals, at least for older cars, because they include schematics.
Ditto on the OBD tool, I bought one that links to my phone via Bluetooth, but haven't used it, and don't expect to any time soon, since I just bought a new car.
A magnetic pick-up tool, one of the ones on an "antenna." Also mechanical fingers.
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blackeagle603
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by blackeagle603 » Thu Jan 10, 2019 6:54 pm

IMHO a meter, battery terminal tools (including stash of terminal spray or terminal corrosion prevention pads), jumper cables and load tester are top of the list.

Option 1: just keep some cash and add tools as the need arises. Stay minimalist unless you're wanting to go all in as a hobbyist.

Option 2: Never pay retail if you can. Shop off lists above taking your time at swap meets, garage sales, Craigslist, Facebook market place
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Old Grafton
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by Old Grafton » Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:06 pm

blackeagle603 wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 6:54 pm
IMHO a meter, battery terminal tools (including stash of terminal spray or terminal corrosion prevention pads), jumper cables and load tester are top of the list.

Option 1: just keep some cash and add tools as the need arises. Stay minimalist unless you're wanting to go all in as a hobbyist.

Option 2: Never pay retail if you can. Shop off lists above taking your time at swap meets, garage sales, Craigslist, Facebook market place
Really good points. And "Name-brand" used tools/tool chests show up at garage sales and CraigsList/newspaper ads.
I'm not old--It's too early to be this late.

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Weetabix
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by Weetabix » Fri Jan 11, 2019 6:42 pm

I second these items:
- OBD tool. I got this one. Get the Torque app to go with it - $5 when I downloaded it. It will diagnose check engine light causes. I've saved a lot of money with this one. It has other neat features that are fun to play with, too - real time gauging of various things.
- Magnetic picker upper
- Long cheater pipe

Might have missed seeing:
- Magnetic parts tray - cheap at Harbor Freight. Great for AR lower builds, too.
- plastic wheel chocks
- smart battery charger that can jump as well
- headlamp to assist work lights
- deep sockets can be helpful

I also second the buy as you go. If you'll use it a lot, buy a good one. If it's a one off or maybe two-use, cheap can be OK.
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g-man
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Re: School Me on Automotive Tools

Post by g-man » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:16 pm

Every PCS move I'm knocking on the upper limit of weight allowance, mostly because I've spent the better part of the last 20 years acquiring toolbox fillers as jobs have required them. I've got a list of stuff I'm going to acquire once I'm not moving on Uncle's dime anymore, since I can't afford them in my weight allowance for now.

Definite +1 on the OBD-II bluetooth tool and Torque app. I'm running it as a realtime monitor in the Diesel truck to keep tabs on the engine oil, coolant, and exhaust temps while towing, and have it to help diagnose issues with the wife's car when they creep up. I'm not really a fan of the more modern 'phone home' systems coming in some cars, but the CANBUS system talking to itself within the car is a Godsend for diagnosing and quickly repairing basic upkeep stuff. O2 sensor bad? There's a code for that, and it's a 10 minute job for $35 in parts on some cars.

Another +1 on the battery charger. I have a Battery Tender trickle charger to keep the bike battery up when I'm parked for extended periods due to inclement weather (it's never really bad enough for me to 'winterize'), but having a no-joke 10-amp charger to throw on batteries is really helpful. I screwed up and didn't flip the battery disconnect on the RV trailer after the previous trip, so before our last trip both house batteries were totally flat. Having the ability to get them both back up to speed in a couple of hours was really helpful.

I've just got a small 'pancake' style air compressor, but I did go ahead and get an air hose reel (just the Harbor Freight $20 manual one) so I can keep 100' of good hose on hand, but out of the way most of the time. I can get from the back wall of the garage to all the truck and RV trailer tires parked on the street in front of the house with this setup, and have ~10' to spare. Once I retire and am not moving around so much, I'll upgrade the compressor.

Extra pairs of 'mechanix' style gloves are helpful to have around, but are really only needed for jobs where you're dealing with hot surfaces (oil change on a warmed up engine, etc). For most stuff you're better off with decently thick nitrile gloves. Nitrile is less prone to snagging and getting small holes in it than latex.

I've had mixed-bag experience with creepers. I'm still young enough to just shimmy up under stuff, and not being 2-3" up off the ground gives me that much more clearance to work under the vehicle. They are handy if you have to work under cars outside on hot or cold pavement though.
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