Although Driven 2 Automotive is primarily an online automotive parts shop, many of us are keen petrol heads and love spending time tinkering in the garage. Whether it’s performing maintenance tasks or upgrades, we all seem to have a garage full of tools. Over the years we’ve come to recognize some of the most useful and important tools/consumables every mechanic needs.

Of course, we all know about the usual trolley jack, axle stands etc. But what are the most useful tools and consumables that stand out from the crowd for us? Which tools could we simply not live without?


1. IMPACT WRENCH

Not to be confused with an ‘Impact Driver’ or ‘Hammer Drill’, an Impact Wrench (also known as an impactor, impact gun, air wrench, air gun, rattle gun, torque gun, windy gun) is a socket wrench power tool designed to deliver high torque output with minimal exertion to the user, by storing energy in a rotating mass, then delivering it suddenly to the output shaft. Most commonly they’re fitted with a 1/2″ socket attachment.

Having this tool is essential for removing extremely tight bolts and nuts from areas that are prone to rust, such as ball joints, caliper bolts etc. Back in the day when batteries weren’t as advanced as they are now, air-driven impact wrenches were all the rage and still are for many forms of motorsport pit crews. But since Lithium-ion battery power joined the party the market has exploded. They’re ideal for anyone who doesn’t own or want an air compressor.

If you do opt to go down the air-powered route, we recommend avoiding air wrenches with a metal body finish around the handhold area. This avoids the common ‘cold sink’ feeling that can occur with most tools. Let’s face it, nobody likes working with cold hands. Some tools can get so cold depending on the weather, it’s like putting a frozen bag of peas in your hand even when wearing gloves!


2. Impact Driver

The baby brother of the impact wrench is the impact driver, they’re both similar by design however impact drivers are designed for lighter, smaller tasks. They don’t feature a chuck like a normal drill driver, instead they’re fitted with a hex bit socket where many different adapter types can be used.

They’re the perfect tool for small to medium-sized bolts that may be corroded but are also great for many DIY tasks. For example, they’re brilliant at driving long screws into wood without drilling pilot holes first and have an endless range of capabilities. Our advice is to stick to brushless powered motors when it comes to impact drivers or wrenches and stick to drill-drivers for drilling.


3. TORQUE WRENCHES (1/4″ AND 1/2″)

Essential for every mechanic is a selection of good quality torque-wrenches that range in sizes. Equally, they should be provided with a certificate of calibration included when new. Ideally, you want a 1/4″ size for smaller bolts that are around 0-30nm or so and a 1/2″ for higher torque requirements (such as wheel bolts). A 1/4″ torque wrench shouldn’t be passed upon just because they’re used on smaller nuts and bolts, some are just as important if not more than larger ones. Becoming a better mechanic is all about becoming better at processes, and becoming better at processes means torqueing up to factory specifications.


4. COLORED SOCKET SETS

Have you ever got sick of spinning sockets around to see what size they are? Discover just how amazingly time-saving colored socket sets are.

Storing the color in your mind instead of the size and there’s simply no looking back. Next time picking a socket up means just selecting the color without double-checking the figure. This can also be done by purchasing petrol and oil resistant socket labels for normal sockets, but the colors are far nicer.


5. CABLE TIES/ZIP TIES/TY-RAP/PANDUIT STRAP

Ah the famous zip tie, possibly the best invention ever created. They’re self-explanatory and no DIY person can live without them.


6. DIGITAL VERNIER CALIPER

This modern upgrade replaces the traditional analogue dial Vernier with an LCD display that displays the measurement reading as a numeric value. Rather than a rack and pinion, these calipers use a linear encoder and are far more accurate. Some digital calipers can be switched between centimeters or millimeters, and inches. All provide zeroing the display at any point along the slide, allowing the same sort of differential measurements as with a dial caliper. They’re essential for important measurements, such as checking the close tolerance dimensions of bearings for replacements and any kind of fabrication work (e.g. lathe-work). For ultra-precise work and where it can be utilized, we recommend using a good quality Micrometer instead.


7. TAP AND DYE SET

These allow you to repair, clean or create new threads for nuts and bolts. If you have badly corroded threads you can use a thread gauge on the bolt to find out which tap or dye to use. If you’re creating a completely new thread hole for bolts, look up a drill-tap size chart to find out which is the best-sized drill to use for that particular Tap. This will ensure you have the perfectly sized hole ready for tapping (creating) new threads. The process will also be far easier, if you drill a hole that’s too small or too large, you’ll struggle to even get a new thread started.


8. SLIDE HAMMER BEARING PULLER/REMOVER

A slide hammer is a tool that attaches to an object (such as a bearing) needing to be pulled out or off a shaft and transmits an impact force to the object without striking the object itself. Slide hammers typically consist of a long metal shaft with an attachment point threaded at one end, a heavyweight that can slide along the shaft, and a stop for the weight to impact on the end opposite the attachment point. The inertia of the weight is thus transferred to the shaft, pulling the attached end in the direction the weight had been moving.

There are two kinds of most common uses for these, blind bearing pullers are especially useful for removing bearings that are set into a casing such as an engine. The attachment inserts through the inner bearing hole and then a nut tightens and expands the attachment, thus locking onto the rear side of the bearing that you can’t see. Open bearing pullers are similar however the attachment is for bearings with the outer race visible.


9. HEAT GUN OR BLOW TORCH

The uses for these are essentially endless, however our favorite time to use either of them is actually for breaking thread lock such as Loctite, before attempting to remove any bolts that look corroded and may be prone to strip the head or snap. Heating the casing around the bolt first also aids in the process, as well as using WD40 beforehand!


10. BRAKE CLEANER & WD40

Brake cleaner is simply not just for cleaning brakes and discs, we call it the magical spray as it removals all kinds of gunk. Remember to use gloves when using brake cleaner as it contains chemicals such as Tetrachloroethylene, Acetone, Carbon Dioxide and Heptane. It’s one of the most used consumables in any workshop and that’s because it will remove any form of dirt and grease in a matter of seconds. Be wary however that even a big can of brake cleaner empties rather quickly, so try to use it sparingly. Everybody of all ages will have heard of WD40 by now, it’s named after (Water Displacer 40th Attempt). It stops squeaks, frees bolts and also cleans parts. We also love GT85 as it contains PTFE which protects the application from the elements for quite some time.


11. BRAKE CLEANER DISPENSER

Undoubtedly this is one of the most useful tools in the shop. Brake cleaner is great stuff however as we mentioned the rattle can versions empty rather quickly. Save yourself time and money in the long run by purchasing a 5L bottle of brake cleaner along with a spray dispenser bottle and you’ll never look back!


12. MECHANICS GLOVES (NITRILE AND NON-DISPOSABLE)

Seriously, who would want dangerous chemicals soaking into their skin and entering their body? Nitrile is the way forward when it comes to gloves as they’re resistant to all kinds of harsh chemicals, latex is simply a no-go. When the weathers cold, we usually end up wearing a pair of nitrile gloves underneath normal nylon/polyester mix mechanic gloves. It also protects you from fluids such as brake cleaner that is bound to drip onto your hands.


13. BRAKE CALIPER PISTON WIND BACK TOOL

Thinking of changing brake discs and pads yourself at home? On vehicles with caliper pistons that have to be wound back in on a thread that’s either clockwise or anti-clockwise, the procedure simply can’t be performed without it. Many rear caliper have an incorporated handbrake actuator which connects to the piston through the threaded system, you then have to screw the piston back in with pressure at the same time as turning. A big tip here is that if you suspect your pistons are even slightly a bit seized, only get a caliper wind back tool that features a hex on the end like in the photo below. This allows a breaker bar and socket to be attached for more leverage. In any case, we don’t recommend winding a seized caliper piston back in! Remove it by pressing the brake pedal to force the piston out and check for corrosion. If there’s any form of pitting or rust, replace it!


Remember to also remove the master cylinder cap when doing this process because when you wind the pistons back in, the fluid level will need to rise. This can’t be done easily with air pressure still in the top of the master cylinder counteracting the process. Just be ready to possibly remove some brake fluid by using a syringe (and wear nitrile gloves as brake fluid is nasty stuff!).


14. A BAG OF RAGS

This may well be the best £5-10 you’ll ever spend. If you’ve ever worked on cars and motorbikes, you’ll know how much they’re needed. Of course old t-shirts will also do the trick, but having dedicated rags that you can wash all together is very handy.


15. PARTS WASHER

You can easily spend up to £250+ for a compressed air powered parts washer, however to start things off a benchtop parts washer can be found as little as £45 + cleaning fluid online. Restoring the condition of parts has never been so satisfying (and less messy) with one of these! They also usually feature a flexible fused lid stand, so in the event of a fire the lid will snap shut and hopefully distinguish it. We also recommend fitting a heating element to aid in cleaning.