Tools make the garage, but a large assortment of the wrong tools doesn’t do anything for you. A small garage with the right tools is a garage that can get the job done. If you’re just starting out with no tools, or need to get your current garage sorted out, here’s a list of your must-have garage tool priorities to get it done and make it more livable.
No, you don’t need a six foot tall Snap-On monster box that costs more than your car. While those are awesome, a simple setup from China Freight Harbor Freight will set you back only a couple hundred bucks, but provides a massive amount of storage space. Label the drawers and you’ll know exactly where everything is, saving you time.
Jack & Stands
Yup, you quickly find out that you can’t do much maintenance without getting your vehicle into the air. A lift and/or pit is ideal, but unless you are working full time on a Sprint Cup racer, that’s overkill. Find a solid jack that has a lifting capability at least 1,000 pounds more than your vehicle’s weight. Same for the jack stands. While you are overpaying for capability, think of it as a built-in safety factor.
You aren’t going to be 20 forever, and that cement starts to suck after the first hour. A creeper can offer you comfort while working under the vehicle, and delivers faster performance by letting you easily slide from place to place as needed. It will save your clothes from excessive wear, and can even hold your beer- I mean, tools…. Get one, they’re cheap.
Good Ratchet & Sockets
Wrenches are great for spinning out bolts that aren’t stuck or rusted, in an area of your engine bay where you have plenty of room to spin the tool, and take it off, and readjust, and spin it again, and… You know what? Wrenches suck. A ratchet and socket can get into places no wrench can, and can deliver more torque. U-joints can get around bends, and a torque wrench type can prevent you from warping heads. A good set might cost a few bucks, but is totally worth it.
You just drove the car this morning, but now you’re battery is drained. Is it the battery, or the alternator, or something else? Without a multi-meter, you’ll never know. Cheap – but quality – digital ones run about $25, and can be used for just about any electrical project in the garage or the rest of the house. Test everything from starter solenoids to your brake lights, and finally make your ride reliable with a multi-meter.
You need to be able to see what you’re doing, and while shop lights are nice, sometimes only a flashlight can get light where you need it. You don’t need to go nuts and buy a $300 Surefire, but drop at least 1/10th of that on a good Maglite. You’ll notice the difference, as a Coast or Heider is worlds better than that dollar store flashlight. Give that junk to the kids.
As you might have noticed, summer is hot, and winter is cold. Furthermore, metal responds the same way to the seasons. Seating in a hot garage is no fun, and wrenching on ice cold metal makes me want to take up quilting by a fireplace. The answer is air conditioning and heating. Integrating the garage into the house’s central heat and air is best, but a cheap option is a couple of box fans in the summer to keep you cool, and a few oil-filled radiator style heaters in the winter.
The best way to get a project done is to have a buddy do it. Second best is to have their help. The easiest way to get them is a fridge loaded with their favorite beverage of choice. From just hanging out BSing, to actually having another set of hands to get things done, wrenching in the garage is always better with a buddy. And of course, a stocked fridge is the easiest way to turn a garage into a man cave.
This list could go on forever, so let us know what we missed. What do you think are the essential tools for the garage?
By Andy Jensen – Contributor