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Buying Tools To Fix Cars 101

Published on August 20, 2012 under Humble Mechanic

Even if you are not a professional auto mechanic everyone should have some basic hand tools. But how do you know what tools to buy? Do buy the least expensive stuff you can find? Or save up and get the high end tools? Like every good question, the answer is, It depends.

There are many things to consider when shopping for tools.While price is usually the first one everyone considers, it is generally not the most important.

When to buy the good stuff

When it comes to tools for work, I generally buy the good stuff. I have a definite preference to Snap-On tools. I do own other brands. I have found that they make a great product, and the tool rep is top notch. The tools I always buy top of the line are

Snap on Auto Mechanc's wrech

Not upgraded wrench

    • Things I use all the time.
      Sockets, box wrenches, ratchets are things I generally buy the best I can.
    • Tools that repair damaged fasteners.
      If I am using tools from my “Uh oh drawer” I only want the best. Never cheap out on these tools If you are repairing something damaged, you need to make sure the tools are top of the line
    • Delicate work.
      When doing work on delicate parts, like dash work, you want great quality. Anytime a tool can damage the surface, use high quality stuff!

      Snap on Auto Mechanc's wrech

      Upgraded Snapon wrench

    • Seized or rusted fasteners
      These can be a pain in the butt to work on with the best quality tools. Try doing these jobs with lower quality stuff, and your in for a world of hurt. Seized tie rods are my favorite example. I had a cheaper wrench from Craftsman. Every time I would break a tie rod loose, the wrench would slip and damage the tie rod. I upgraded to some high dollar Snap-on wrenches, and never had it happen again. Sure I paid a premium for the Snap-on wrench, but it saved a ton of headache.
    • Precision tools
      When it comes to measuring, don’t cheap out! Especially when it comes to small measurements. Low torque fastener are a great example. If your cheapo torque wrench is off by 20%, it can mean the difference between a properly tightened bolt, and a damaged cylinder head. Or it can mean a cheap dial indicator that falls apart when measuring something and all the parts fall into the engine. Lucky for me they fell all the way down into the oil pan. talk about a heart attack!

When to save some money

I will be the very first to admit there are times when you don’t need the top of the line tools. I have some tools that I paid next to nothing for and I still use. Here are some times when saving some cash on tools is just fine by me.

  • Rarely used tools, NOT listed above
    If you have a tool that gets used once or twice a year, not need to spend a ton of money. As long as it does not fall into one of the groups listed above, your good to go.
  • Dumb Tools
    Dumb tools are things like hammers and pry bars. I get most of my hammers from places like Harbor Freight. The 3lb sledge hammer I got there 8 years ago still hits things just fine. As far as pry bars go, I still buy Craftsman, but they put them on sale all the time. Usually for 1/2 off.
  • Modifying tools
    If you have plans or need to modify a tool, don’t spend a ton of money. When I buy stuff I know I will have to modify, I get the cheapest I can find.

Now this post is not meant to be a Snap-on commercial. They are just the tools that I buy and I like. At my house I use Craftsman, Stanley, and that brand Home Depot sells. Since I only work on my cars at home, the fear of damaging something is not really there. Plus I don’t do a lot of wrenching at my house.

It really all boils down to this. For most all your tools, buy the best tools you can afford. Cheaping out on everything will mean you get to buy things again(not in a good way). On the other hand, there is no reason to buy all Snap-on or Matco tools. Well, I guess if you were that person that hit the big lotto you should. But since that is none of us, use good judgement.

What about you? What is “YOUR BRAND” of tools? After reading this, I am sure you know that at work I prefer Snap-on. At my house, I save some money, but still get a good product. I really try to stay away from junk tools like Alltrade and other stuff like that.

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13 Comments

  1. Garrett Craven

    Husky tools have done me justice. I also have some craftsman wrenches an sockets. My favorite tools- 1. Snap on breaker bar (my original one was my dads an a friend was jumping on it trying to break a but free an it snapped, they honored warranty tho it was discontinued an gave me a new one) it continues to do great to this day. 2- my yard sale $1, 5lb sledge 🙂

  2. Pat McCloud

    I use mainly Craftsman tools at home. Don’t forget about parts stores as a place to get tools, I have a 3/8″ flex head ratchet from Napa that has served me well.

    Be careful about going too cheap with things like pry bars, I have some I bent that I got from Northern Tool, if you are not familiar with them, they are similar to Harbor Freight on the quality scale, maybe a little bit higher.

    I also have a cheap tool kit I bought to keep in the truck, figuring that if I need to use it, I may also accidentally leave something on the side of the road. I may need to upgrade it to something a little better though, since I split a socket without even really pulling hard on the ratchet.

    1. Charles

      @Pat
      Good call on the parts store tools. I have not been to a Napa in years. I think I have a few tools in my box that are Napa.

      Another good call on the pry bars. I bought a set from Harbor Freight. I think I lost all of them. HA, how the hell does one lose a pry bar?

      The only issue I had was they rusted.

      Oh, BTW to everyone else, Pat has a really cool site called The Muscle Car Guy You should totally check him out!

  3. Jeremy

    I use Snap On at school. I really love the feel of the tools in my hand. Nothing like a Snap On wrench, it can not compare to a craftsman.

    For home I have a Stanley ratchet kit and some mastercraft maximum (Canadian tire brand) it is probably the equivilent of craftsman or stanley.

    When I start working for time I think I will start with some mastercraft tools and craftmans and slowly build up my snap on collection

    1. Charles

      @Jeremy,
      That is the only way to build your tool collection. The cool thing is, you can either take the tools home, or most tool guys will take them on trade.

      They generally don’t give you much. But it can knock the price down some.

  4. Pricilla

    Hello,

    I have a friend who is graduating soon to be a mechanic, i want to get them some tools that they will need. But I have no idea what they will need. I was wondering what tools every day a mechanic uses and is important. Any info would be helpful as i have found this site is the best for information. Please email me back judo_blue@hotmail.com

    Thank you kindly

  5. Jessie Harrison

    My husband spends a lot of his time in our garage working on projects. He has recently told me that he needs new tools. I’d like to surprise him one of these days with a new set. Like you said, delicate work requires high-quality tools, so I hope I can find what he needs.

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