The 10 Tools Everyone Should Own
How-To: Build Your First Tool Kit
Ask 10 mechanics what their favorite tool is, and you’ll elicit 10 different responses. That’s what we discovered when we visited multiple service shops to bring you some real-world insight. One thing we discovered on our toolbox expedition was no two collections are the same—they are all very personal, and each of them is constantly evolving. For example, we found traveling mechanics like to keep their tools in multiple boxes instead of having a large and heavy stationary one. Since a technician’s tools are so intimate, many mechanics hesitated to speak with us because they don’t like giving up their trade secrets. While on the other hand, some technicians’ eyes lit up, and they couldn’t wait to spill their guts. Here’s Diesel Power’s 10 must-have tools. To submit your top 10 favorite tools, send us an email at Jason.Thompson@sorc.com.
1. Sockets Many mechanics like to designate a drawer solely for sockets. Your impact, deep-wall, short-wall, 12-point, 6-point, hex and Allen, metric, and standard sockets of all sizes are easily found if they are kept in order. High-quality, American-made sockets are a lifetime investment, which can be passed down from generation to generation.
2. Ratchets & Accessories Ratchets, extensions, torque wrenches, and swivels of all sizes are also best kept in a single drawer.
3. Battery-Powered Impact Gun This is one of those tools that once you buy one, you won’t know how you got along without it. We especially like our ½-inch corded impact that we recently purchased, because sometimes you just don’t have access to an air compressor.
4. Specialty Tools If you don’t have one of these spindle-nut sockets in your toolbox, expect to have to make an auto parts store run soon. Even if you don’t have a solid-front-axle truck, more than likely a friend in need will. Pull one of these out at the right time and you’ll be transformed into an instant hero. Other hero-type tools include disconnects for removing fuel and air conditioning lines, and tubing wrenches.
5. Gasket Scrapers These come in many different shapes and sizes. We also enjoy the kind that accepts razor blades—your fingertips will thank us later.
6. Wire Brushes & Wire Wheels If you live in the Midwest, you might as well buy a whole bunch of the cheap wire brushes to get the first couple of layers of crud off—then just throw them away. Then to finish the job, specialty brushes from Brush Research are a great timesaving investment. Wire brushes are sold for specific applications, and good brushes feature wires that won’t come off as easy as the cheap ones. Make sure to invest in a good angle grinder, too.
7. Pullers & Presses This is a pitman arm puller, and it works much better than a pickle fork since it won’t damage the boot. You can use one of these on steering joints or anything else it’ll grab. It’s a good idea to have a whole host of models and sizes: two-arm, three-arm, and steering-wheel type. These are needed to remove pieces with a tapered fit: steering knuckles, drive gears, and belt pulleys. The more expensive ones can be rented as needed.
8. Hammers The hammer is probably the most useful tool ever created. A 5-pound steel sledge with a shortened handle is our favorite, but sometimes the job calls for something softer, like a brass or plastic dead blow.
9. Picks A heavy-duty pick like this will quickly become your best friend. It’s critical for helping to line up heavy parts before you install fasteners. The smaller, dental-style versions are also useful.
10. Scan Tool Today’s technicians must be just as proficient with a computer and diagnostic trouble codes as they are with a ratcheting wrench. If you only deal with mechanical diesels, you’ll still have to work on the occasional electrical problem, and the Power Probe III is an easy-to-use, extremely helpful tool that allows you to check the condition of your alternator and battery, power up components to see if they work, and find short circuits.
Mac ToolsWesterville, OH 43082
Lisle ToolsClarinda, IA 51632
Monaco Tool Company541-689-8579
SK Hand Tools800-752-7263