For auto technicians, your tools aren’t just what you use to get the job done. They’re a crucial part of your everyday life. In fact, some estimates say technicians in pro shops have anywhere from $25,000-$50,000 worth of tools on hand.
As a new auto tech entering a career, although this is not the case in every shop, chances are you’ll be bringing your own tools into the shop. That means investing in the right tools is investing in your future career.
Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank if you know exactly what you need to get started. But with so much info out there, it’s hard to know what tools are essential. Here’s a look at the basic mechanic tool set you’ll need to kick off your auto tech career.
What to Look for in a Basic Mechanic Tool Set
Especially with recent advancements in the autotech industry, problem-solving is at the center of the job. And in order to solve complex issues, you’ll want the right tools at your fingertips.
Once you start browsing tool sets, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to be a complicated shopping experience. Take a deep breath, and let a few simple factors guide you:
- Grip – The best tools will be comfortable to grip and maneuver. They should fit snugly against nuts or bolts and cut down slippage.
- Feel – A better tool will simply feel better in your hand throughout the day. That means it will be light and easy to maneuver.
- Design – Width and length are also worth considering when picking out the perfect hand tool. Often, a longer tool can give you more leverage and make it easier to free stuck parts. On the other hand, tools that are extra wide or deep can be harder to fit into tight places.
Overall, you’ll want something that grips nuts and bolts well, while balancing comfortably in your hand, and holds up to stress without snapping.
At the same time, you’re sure to face the question: Is it worth it to spend more on pro-grade tools, or should I stick with consumer-grade products?
The answer is … it depends. Consider your budget and take a moment to research the tools.
Whenever possible, pick them up and feel them. Chances are you can get by with basic brands, but you’ll be able to feel the difference in the pro stuff.
It might seem obvious, but a good wrench set will be your bread and butter on the job. Here’s a tool for which little differences in quality go a long way. When you’re spending big parts of the day twisting off stubborn bolts, you’ll be happy with little things like low-weight, high-quality material and heads with the right angles.
Here are the types of wrenches you should have in your toolbox:
- Adjustable wrenches – metric (8 - 19mm) / standard (5/16” - ¾”)
- Allen wrench sets – standard and metric
- Combination wrenches – metric (8 - 19mm) / standard (5/16” - ¾”)
- Impact wrenches – standard (⅜” and ½”)
- Torque wrenches - standard (⅜” and ½”)
When finesse fails, hammers can save your day. However, remember that not all hammers are created equal. When using hammers, it’s important to be aware that the head should be softer than the object it’s impacting. After all, it’s a lot easier to replace a cracked hammer than an expensive automotive part.
You’ll want large hammers for removing ball joints and tie rods; smaller hammers work well for more precise, delicate jobs. Here are some basic hammers you’ll want to pick up:
- Soft-faced / dead-blow
Pliers are all about getting a grip on objects and keeping it. That’s something that isn’t easy to do when you’re dealing with grease, oil, and sweat. There are a wide variety of plier options to choose from, but here are some essentials you should have:
- Hose clamp
- Locking jaw
Punch Set & Screwdrivers
Wrestling with a rusted nut or need to remove a cotter pin? You’ll love having a quality punch set. At the same time, you’ll use screwdrivers on an hourly basis. Here are some tools to be sure not to miss:
- Straight-blade screwdriver set
- Phillips screwdriver set
- Torx screwdriver set
- Straight punch set
- Screw extractor set
Socket & Ratchet Set
Some days, you might feel like these tools are fused with your hand. You can’t have a socket and ratchet set that’s too robust, but you don’t necessarily have to buy out the store on your first go.
Starting out, focus on three matching socket and ratchet sets: ¼” drive, ⅜” drive, and ½” drive.
The common hand tools mentioned will get you a long way, but there are some additional tools that you’ll be happy you have. Here’s a brief list of these extra must-have items:
- Hack saw
- Pry bar
Using Tools to Power Your Future
With the right tools, you’ll be set to launch your career, and you’ll avoid frustrations along the way. Still, tools are only as good as the talent, skills, and knowledge of the auto technician using them.
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