Author Topic: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!  (Read 862 times)

Botany Bae

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 646
  • Location: PNW
  • Just another dharma bum
Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« on: May 05, 2021, 03:11:34 PM »
I'm going to learn to do minor repairs on my own car going forward (and who knows, maybe major repairs someday as well).

I don't have a lot of tools aimed at car repair, though. What are the top 5 tools you would recommend for a relative noob?

Caveat
I want true mustachian recommendations -- bare minimum at the lowest initial investment point that's acceptable. I don't need a top of the line gold plated ratchet set if the Harbor Freight special will get the job done, but I'm not opposed to seeking out something quality if I can find a good deal on the used market.  I'm not working on a classic car or hot rod over here. I'm talking installing my own brake pads because it has to be done, not getting greasy because I spend time tweaking engine's for fun. (A task I incidentally last did 16 years ago when I was 7 months pregnant, my other half was recovering from hernia surgery, and we were too broke to pay someone to do it -- pre-YouTube, people!)

Also, is it something you would recommend trawling the used market for? Why or why not?

Finally, I currently drive a 2010 Prius. Not sure if that matters, but there ya go!

Oh, one more thing - if you have some awesome "learn to be your own mechanic" type resources on the interwebs, I'd appreciate those, too :)

ChickenStash

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 263
  • Location: Midwest US
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2021, 04:32:40 PM »
1. Mechanics toolset. Something in the 100-200 piece range will usually do. Usually this will be a large selection of Metric and SAE sockets and wrenches plus screwdrivers, pliers, etc. of various types. Harbor Freight sets are fine, also check the Husky and Craftsman lines which can be found at Home Depot, Lowes and Ace. They are all lifetime warrantied and will work fine for a home mechanic. Don't waste money with MAC or Snapon for these basic tools - they have nicer finishing touches and build quality but nothing needed to actually get work done for normal DIY stuff.

2. Hydraulic jack and stands. Here I would avoid Harbor Freight because they have had some notable problems lately with their stands collapsing and I haven't had great luck with the hydraulics working well over the years. Again, Husky or Craftsman will be fine. Splurging on an aluminum "racing" jack is not a bad idea. They are so much lighter to move around than a standard iron/steel jack that it really makes life easier. A set for 3 ton will be fine. A set for 1.5 ton would probably also work but the cost difference and overall size isn't much compared to the 3 Ton so I'd vote for more safety margin. When lifting the car, ALWAYS put a stand underneath a strong spot before getting under the car. Always assume the jack hydraulics will fail because one day they will (been there).

3. Digital multimeter. Harbor Freight, HD, Lowes, Walmart should all have these for <$20. Not many functions are really needed for the vast majority of DIY automotive work. Harbor Freight sometimes has coupons for free ones with another purchase - they work fine. Resistance to check for short and opens. Voltage to check if power is making it to a component. Amperage to check for parasitic draw (kinda rare to use this, honestly).

4. OBDII reader. There's bluetooth based plugin dongles on Amazon for cheap that can hook up to the Torque app on a smartphone to do basic code checking, clearing, emissions readiness tests and simple datalogging. Or, a simple hand-held unit can be fairly cheap that will do most of the same.

5. Torque wrench. 20-150ft lbs. Harbor Freight is OK here for most DIY automotive stuff. They aren't the most accurate but outside of engine rebuilding most things only need to be pretty close. The idea is to avoid grossly over- or under-tightening lug nuts, wheel bearings/hubs, brake mounting hardware, shocks/struts.

My #1 is a bit of a cheat but it is how I started my collection way back when and I still use most everything in there. There will probably be some additional simple hand tools like Allen or Torx bits or wrenches you might need but Harbor Freight or any big box store will have them in a small set inexpensively. It kinda depends on the size the toolset in #1 winds up being.

Beyond that, there might be vehicle specific specialty tools like pulley pullers, pressure testers, etc. that can be rented from auto parts stores. Get to know what the parts stores in your area have for rental to avoid buying things that aren't needed.

Used tools are fine if you can find ones in decent shape. I like Harbor Freight for hand tools but am careful using them for things with motors or hydraulics - some things are good, some are not. Check reviews online to see what people think. There are many youtube channels devoted to comparing Harbor Freight tools to big name brands.

For resources, Youtube and do a Google search for a Prius forum (like MMM). Luckily, the Prius is a very mass-produced vehicle with a good online following so there should be a video for just about anything. Like here, the forums help with the initial troubleshooting - "What's that noise?".

Greystache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 424
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2021, 04:58:21 PM »
Number one is a set of wrenches and screwdrivers. The set should include socket wrenches and box wrenches and the screw drivers should include a quarter inch drive and heads for flat, phillips, hex and torx fasteners. No matter how comprehensive your wrench set, you will find every job you start will require at least one tool that you do not have. If you are going to fix your brakes, I would recommend a set of jack stands for safety.  You can use the jack that comes with your car, but I would also recommend a hydraulic jack.
After that, I would get a volt ohm meter. It's handy for troubleshooting electrical problems. The other tool that I really like is an OBD II reader. It will tell you what is wrong when you get a check engine light. However, many auto parts stores will let you use one for free.
My tools are a combination of ones I bought new and ones I found at garage sales.  Tools always go fast at garage sales. I have not bought any tools on Craig's list or Offer Up, but I know people who have. I see tools at swap meets, but I get the feeling that they are all stolen. I have been fortunate to have neighbors and friends who have lots of tools.
As for how-to resources, I go to You Tube. Just type in your problem and your car's make, model and year and you will usually find what your need.

Botany Bae

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 646
  • Location: PNW
  • Just another dharma bum
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2021, 05:09:05 PM »
Good lists, thanks! Gives me a decent jumping off point. Tried looking online and everything is a sponsored post to expensive pro-grade crap I don't need at this point.

I have the multimeter (likely one of those free Harbor Freight ones, at that) and a hydraulic jack, beyond that I need to stock up. I had already put jack stands on my list. Last time I did my brakes I used the flimsy jack that came with my Geo Prism and a stack of wood offcuts under the car "just in case." Not the smartest thing but 20-something year old me was sometimes short on common sense. I also forgot to bleed the brake lines. That was a fun five seconds of frantic pumping before they caught.

There's no rush as I don't need any repairs right now, which means it's the ideal time to make a list and start keeping an eye out for deals.

ChpBstrd

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3225
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2021, 08:55:49 PM »
Get the repair manual for your car. Read the first couple of chapters right away for general education. This manual will have advanced troubleshooting and specifications you won't find in your owner's manual, plus step-by-step instructions to do anything without screwing it up, getting in over one's head, or not having the required tools. This book may be available at your local library, or on sale through a used site!

https://haynes.com/en-us/toyota/prius/2001-2012

I'll also add to the list:

An oil filter socket. First, find the right oil filter in the store. Then find the socket that fits it.
A large "C" clamp to compress the brake cylinder when working on brakes.
A magnetic bowl or tray to hold nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
A box of ziplock bags. When you disassemble a component, the bolts and small parts go in the bag and you use a Sharpie to label the bag. This seems like an extra step, but it actually speeds things up considerably and prevents you from forgetting items or losing fasteners.
A very bright light with a clamp. The plug-in type, not a flashlight.
A magnet on the end of a small telescoping rod. These are indispensable when you drop a bolt into some inaccessible crevice, which is every job.
Rags (your own worn out clothes, undies work well).
A tray to catch oil when changing the oil.
A 1 gallon air compressor for the tires and for blasting gunk off of things. Low-budget will work here.
Chemicals: spay lubricant, spray degreaser, thread locker, battery cable corrosion inhibitor...




acepedro45

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 258
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2021, 09:58:58 PM »
Jack stands 100%. Do not stick anything you are not prepared to lose underneath a car without jack stands.

For a Toyota, a metric socket wrench set. You will likely not need much beyond the 10mm, 12mm and 14mm ends.

Many auto parts stores will let you borrow specialized tools and even not-so-specialized tools for free if you leave a deposit. Take advantage.

For an incredibly common car like Prius, there will be tons of informative videos on almost every conceivable repair procedure. There will be varying degrees of quality associated with these videos, so once you have a procedure in mind, watch a couple different people try it. Take note of what they do differently and give some thought to what makes the most sense to you.

Beyond videos, there will be blog posts and forum threads on Prius specific forums that will have a wealth of good information about how to do repairs/maintenance on your specific model.

chemistk

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 948
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2021, 06:17:10 AM »
Very good suggestions in this thread so far. A couple more -

- Breaker ("Cheater") bar - at least 18", if not 2ft. torque multiplication can seriously save you hours of frustration. (This one is a non-negotiable for me)
- Hammer
- Gloves! Durable (for working near hot/sharp areas) and disposable - you seriously do not want to cover your hands in used fluids
- Funnel
- Hacksaw (Although if you have to use it you might be in a rough spot)
- Safety glasses - protect your eyes!

Uturn

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 808
  • Age: 51
  • Location: Raleigh, NC
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2021, 06:40:05 AM »
- Magnet on a stick and mirror on a stick. 
- Take pictures of the tear down.
- Don't cheap out on sockets. You save no money when you have to replace a broken socket, and that second drive to the store sucks when your knuckle is bleeding from banging into something when the socket broke.  Kobalt from Lowes is a good brand.  Not sure if Craftsman is any good since the sale to Stanley, I know quality suffered the last few years at Sears.

RWD

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4920
  • Location: Mississippi
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2021, 08:11:29 AM »
Lots of good items in this thread. I can add that a deep socket set has been very useful for me (depending on your base kit you may already get some). Sometimes a bolt will be too long for a normal socket to fit over and reach the nut. I also prefer using a deep socket on lug nuts instead of an extension, especially when using a torque wrench (and you absolutely should be using a torque wrench on lug nuts). And speaking of extensions I did also buy a single 8-10 inch extension (3/8 inch drive) which makes reaching some deep bolts possible.

I should note that I didn't just go out and buy everything all at once. I only buy tools when I have a job that specifically needs them.

ChpBstrd

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3225
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2021, 09:43:31 AM »
Lots of good items in this thread. I can add that a deep socket set has been very useful for me (depending on your base kit you may already get some). Sometimes a bolt will be too long for a normal socket to fit over and reach the nut. I also prefer using a deep socket on lug nuts instead of an extension, especially when using a torque wrench (and you absolutely should be using a torque wrench on lug nuts). And speaking of extensions I did also buy a single 8-10 inch extension (3/8 inch drive) which makes reaching some deep bolts possible.

I should note that I didn't just go out and buy everything all at once. I only buy tools when I have a job that specifically needs them.

Really if one is buying their first socket set, why not get the deep barrels?

RWD

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4920
  • Location: Mississippi
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2021, 10:03:19 AM »
Lots of good items in this thread. I can add that a deep socket set has been very useful for me (depending on your base kit you may already get some). Sometimes a bolt will be too long for a normal socket to fit over and reach the nut. I also prefer using a deep socket on lug nuts instead of an extension, especially when using a torque wrench (and you absolutely should be using a torque wrench on lug nuts). And speaking of extensions I did also buy a single 8-10 inch extension (3/8 inch drive) which makes reaching some deep bolts possible.

I should note that I didn't just go out and buy everything all at once. I only buy tools when I have a job that specifically needs them.

Really if one is buying their first socket set, why not get the deep barrels?

My first tool set (~40 sockets) did not include any deep sockets but it made it up with other miscellaneous tools (various pliers, adjustable wrench, wire strippers, screw driver bit sets, etc.). If you're buying your first set getting something with both short and deep sockets could be preferable but it might mean you have to buy other tools separately. You definitely don't want only deep sockets because they won't fit in tight spaces.

I also opted for a beefier than normal set of deep sockets because I use them with my breaker bar sometimes and want them to be able to handle the abuse.

chemistk

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 948
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2021, 10:08:29 AM »
Lots of good items in this thread. I can add that a deep socket set has been very useful for me (depending on your base kit you may already get some). Sometimes a bolt will be too long for a normal socket to fit over and reach the nut. I also prefer using a deep socket on lug nuts instead of an extension, especially when using a torque wrench (and you absolutely should be using a torque wrench on lug nuts). And speaking of extensions I did also buy a single 8-10 inch extension (3/8 inch drive) which makes reaching some deep bolts possible.

I should note that I didn't just go out and buy everything all at once. I only buy tools when I have a job that specifically needs them.

Really if one is buying their first socket set, why not get the deep barrels?

Clearance issues, for sure. Although you could definitely opt for longer barreled sockets and then invest in a good set of ratcheting wrenches for tight spaces.

Botany Bae

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 646
  • Location: PNW
  • Just another dharma bum
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2021, 10:21:49 AM »
Interesting info on extenders vs. deep sockets. I own exactly one socket extender, which I purchased when I had a car with an annoying battery harness bolt placement that couldn't be reached any other way.


Ecky

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 310
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2021, 11:33:15 AM »
I recently added a Milwaukee battery powered 1/2" impact to my toolkit, and it made a lot of automotive jobs *significantly* faster and easier. For instance, I recently replaced the harmonic balancer (crank pulley). The bolt's torque spec was 130ft-lbs, but I couldn't remove it even with a 36" breaker bar and my full body weight. The impact took it off in about half a second. It makes equally quick work of suspension bolts and lug nuts.

I torque them all back down by hand of course.

thesis

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 323
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2021, 11:34:05 AM »
It's important to be economically-minded when buying tools. On the one hand, you don't want to buy a bunch of tools you never end up using, but on the other hand, you don't want to be without a tool when you really need it unless you're within walking distance of a parts store or have a spare car. I find it pays to do research on a job for your specific car before working on it, and buy some tools or parts based on this research. Work your way up from basic jobs before tackling more complicated jobs. The number of tools you need will increase with complexity, as there is more that can go wrong. Also...the tool is only as useful as the user is knowledgeable about how to use it ;)

With that said, choose higher quality for tools that will see a lot of use (jack stands, jack, ratchets, sockets, torque wrench) or are a safety concern. You won't need high quality for everything, though, because some things you may only need once or twice. I have many tools from Harbor Freight which are perfectly fine for my purposes, despite the "bad" reputation of HF. Everything is manufactured to a price point. You get what you pay for, but you don't always need things to last decades if you only need to do the job once. Also know that many tools can be rented from parts stores, but you may have to contend with availability so plan wisely.

I agree with many of the tool recommendations already posted.

Watch YouTube videos of stuff. I highly recommend South Main Auto channel. Education has changed. I've picked up a lot of great tricks from South Main, including a better way to do brake pads than the messy way I was doing them before. Watching other people work on cars gives you a better feel for it, something that you either have to learn yourself (the hard way), or on the job. Save yourself the hassle, decreasing your learning time by watching the pros. Just be careful not to follow every yahoo you see :)

EDIT:
The only real way to know which tools you will use the most is experience. That being said, if you are finding yourself constantly renting a certain tool, you might be better buying it. If I had bought an inner tie rod tool a decade ago, it would have gotten a lot of use. I finally bought one about the time I stopped really needing it, as I no longer work on my parents' cars.... Try to be savvy, but don't beat yourself up too much if you make a mistake with tools, just learn and move on. Cars are expensive no matter what, but I'd rather have a few slightly un-mustachian tools than be paying thousands to a shop ;)
« Last Edit: May 06, 2021, 11:39:16 AM by thesis »

bloodaxe

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 152
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2021, 01:30:35 PM »
In my opinion, only buy tools for the DIY task you are doing. My car is reliable and I don't drive that much. So far, I've only needed:

* Socket set
* Proprietary oil filter wrench (worst part about owning a Toyota)
* Jack and jack stands
* Screwdrivers

ChrisFix is the best general resource on YouTube. Googling "Toyota Prius Flux Capacitor Replacement" or whatever you are working on will probably give you a good starting point too.

lutorm

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 377
  • Location: A large island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2021, 06:18:59 PM »
I pretty much agree with what people have suggested already. There's an enormous difference between having even a shitty  tool compared to trying to jury rig it. The oil filter thing is one thing that comes to mind. Yeah, you can get filters off by hammering a screwdriver through them and screwing them off, getting oil everywhere and cutting your hand on the metal. Or you can get the cheapest possible tool at the local auto store and it's NBD.

Then if, after using the shitty tool enough to determine that the frequency of use and lack of quality warrants an upgrade, you get a higher quality one you know you are making a well thought out decision.

That said, there's one thing I think my life would have been improved by: not buying shitty phillips heads screwdrivers. I hate PH in general, and a slightly worn, crap quality PH screwdriver in combination with a stuck screw is one of my most hated situations.

sonofsven

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 199
Re: Car Repair - Must have (mustachian) tools!
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2021, 08:29:01 AM »
Around Father's Day the big box stores and hardware stores often have combo tool kits on sale, that would be a good starting point.
There's very few tools I would buy at Harbor Freight.
Tarps? Yes. Rubber gloves? Fine. Tools with more than two moving parts, probably not.