It’s easy to transform your garage from simply the place you keep your car into a veritable amateur auto shop. A relatively small investment of time and money can gain you the tools and knowledge to DIY simple repairs and maintenance. This can develop quickly into a worthwhile hobby.
Maintaining your own vehicle is a rewarding and money-saving endeavor. With the hourly rates of auto mechanics where they are, it can cost an arm and a leg to have someone else perform even the most basic car maintenance tasks. Luckily, only a few tools and a little know-how are required to handle things like oil changes, fluid changes, and other simple jobs.
We are not advocating that you attempt an engine overhaul in your garage (unless you’ve got the experience). But if you want to improve your relationship with your vehicle and understand what makes it work, there are a number of jobs you can do at home.
In order to do the work, it’s important to have the right car tools for the job. Here are a few things you’ll need to get started.
That spinning, squealing sound you hear in professional garages? That’s the sound of an impact wrench, one of the most important tools in the arsenal of anyone who works on cars. Impact wrenches go by many names: air wrench, rattle gun, torque gun, impactor, etc. Some might run on electricity, but the more common variety works with compressed air. Cordless electric impact wrenches are becoming more and more popular, though.
An impact wrench delivers high torque output without requiring much force from the user. It looks like a thick handheld drill and can be fitted with a socket to extract or install nuts and bolts. An impact wrench is not a replacement for your standard socket wrench, however, as there is not enough room to reach some of the bolts. For those, you’ll need a socket wrench, and you’ll have to torque it with your own strength.
If you choose an impact wrench that runs on compressed air, you’re also going to need an air compressor. Make sure it puts out at least 4 cubic feet per minute of air at 90 psi.
- COMPLETE A WIDE VARIETY OF FASTENING APPLICATIONS with 1030 ft-lbs of max fastening torque and 1400 ft-lbs of max breakaway torque.
- INCREASE USER CONTROL IN A VARIETY OF APPLICATIONS with 4-mode speed settings and variable speed trigge
- DESIGNED TO HELP PREVENT OVERTIGHTENING AND FASTENER RUN-OFF with Precision Wrench control.
- REDUCE WEAR AND TEAR ON THE BATTERY WHILE YOU WORK with BATTERYGUARD - a shock-absorbing battery-to-tool connection (battery sold separately).
- ILLUMINATE DARK WORKSPACES using the on-tool LED work light.
Almost every job you perform on your car requires it to be lifted off the ground. But you don’t want to use that flimsy scissor jack in your tire change kit. Performing even routine maintenance calls for a floor jack, which is sturdier and stronger.
That scissor jack in your emergency roadside kit is not designed for heavy, repeated use. It’s intended only to lift and hold the car for brief emergency roadside maintenance.
Bottle jacks and high lift jacks are not suitable, either. What you need is a floor jack. A floor jack rated heavy enough for the vehicle allows for easy lifting. The wheels on the jack allow for adjustment as the lift point moves since only part of the car is off the ground.
In selecting a floor jack to keep among the car tools in your garage, you’ll want to pay attention to the following:
- Lift capacity: This is the single most important factor. Make sure the jack is more than strong enough to lift your vehicle.
- Quick or standard lift: Quick lift jacks lift quicker. They’re also usually a little more expensive.
- Lift range: If your vehicle has very low ground clearance, some floor jacks may not be low enough to get under the jack points. If your vehicle has high ground clearance, some floor jacks won’t rise high enough to get it comfortably off the ground.
A note of caution here: Don’t rely on your floor jack to hold the vehicle once it’s off the ground. Rather, once it’s at height, secure it with jack stands. Never, never count on the jack alone to hold a vehicle. Even the best jacks can fail, with dangerous or disastrous results. Use jack stands.
- Extra low profile
- Lifting range of 3-3/8 inches to 15 inches. The solid steel construction and safety release valve were features included to secure user safety
- Patented bypass device protects against over pumping for safe operations
- Built-in safety valve provides overload protection
- Heavy duty steel construction provides long term durability
Automotive Parts Washer
Parts washers are designed to clean metal parts and car tools, so they work as well as possible. They’re a must-have in any quality home garage. Anyone who has much experience working on motor vehicles can tell stories about how dirty or contaminated parts can damage a vehicle.
That might mean not only that your work on that particular job has been wasted but also that you now have more work to do thanks to the consequences of installing dirty parts. A quality automotive parts washer will remove dirt, grease, grime, oil, grit, and other contaminants so that the part can be confidently installed.
Parts washers use either solvents or water to do the cleaning. With a solvent-based automotive parts washer, chemical solvents are employed. These are more common in commercial garages where lots of parts need to be cleaned every day or cleaned at lower temperatures. Solvent-based parts washers are rare in home auto shops.
Water-based parts washers, also called aqueous washers, make use of pressure, higher temperatures, soap, and agitation to clean off contaminants. They require less maintenance, and you won’t have to worry about disposing of harsh chemicals.
Another consideration surrounding automotive parts washers is whether to choose a portable or stationary model. Each of these comes with advantages and disadvantages. The one you select basically comes down to preference and the types of jobs you’re doing, but most home garages go with stationary, water-based automotive parts washers.
- Lightweight, corrosion-proof, insulated
- Cost Effective
- Light and Portable
- UL and SAA Certified
Oil Catch Pan
If you’re going to be performing maintenance on your vehicle at home, that likely means changing fluids. When you drain the oil from your engine or transmission or the coolant from your coolant system, you’ll want to drain it into a catch pan, also known as a drip pan. Without one, you’re going to make a big mess.
A drip pan is essentially a low-profile bucket designed to fit under the vehicle. They have a lip or spout so they can easily be emptied into a receptacle so that you can dispose of the fluids later.
- Available in different styles for a wide variety of applications
- Available in a range of quart sizes
- Includes splash guard and handles (where applicable)
- Also suitable for a broad array of industrial and commercial uses
- Support available - every Dorman part is backed by Dorman's ASE Blue Seal Certified technical support team
Sockets, Wrenches, and Socket Wrenches
Of course, the most common and best-known car tool is the tried-and-true wrench. Most vehicles produced by American manufacturers use imperial measurements, while most foreign-produced vehicles use metric ones. It’s a good idea to have wrenches of both measurement types available in your garage. Of course, you’ll use socket wrenches or impact wrenches most of the time, but you need standard wrenches for tight spots.
Generally speaking, you’ll want sockets and wrenches from 1/4 inch up to 1 1/14 inch and 7 mm up to 30 mm. Choose six-point sockets for most standard jobs. These are thought to be stronger due to the inner walls setting tightly against the six sides of a bolt.
Socket wrenches come in three standard drive sizes. These are 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, and 1/2 inch. For your home garage, you’ll want at least one 1/4-inch socket wrench for small bolts and tight spots and one 1/2-inch socket wrench for larger bolts. And you’re going to use the 3/8 drive the most, so get one of those, too.
- Mechanic socket set comes in locking, stackable case with removable inner tray
- Metric socket set 3/8-inch drive exceeds ANSI specifications
- Socket set metric and standard has 72 tooth count ratchet providing a 5 degree arc swing for maneuverability in restricted areas
- Clear identification on sockets with hard stamped markings
- Control while handling sockets with knurled rings
Lights and Headlamps
Don’t forget the lights! It’s dark under that car, and it’s dark in that engine bay. Granted, you’re not likely to need any special lighting for a basic oil change, but the need to be able to see what you’re doing cannot be overestimated. You’re going to want at least one of each of these:
- Clip-on light: to clip to the hood and shine down on the engine.
- Durable Material: This led work light is made of hard rubber, anti-sweat and anti-slip, the head is aluminum which dissipates the heat effectively, prolong the life of the lamp. Thanks to the foldable design, the lamp is easy to carry, and save storage space
- 5 Modes & Rechargeable: Built-in rechargeable battery, rechargeable by USB port ( included usb cable), you don't need to buy another battery, this will save you cost, time and effort. has 5 Lighting modes: High Brightness / Medium Brightness / Front Light / Red Warning / Strobe Red.(long press the switch button to switch to red light modes)
- 360 Degree Rotary, Magnet Base & Hook: 360 degree rotate provide multi-angle illumination, magnet base and hook make your hand free to do other things in the night. It can be used for BBQ, camping, reading, car repair and any other things you would want to do at night.
- Portable and Versatility: It's very compact at 5.8" folded and mere 4.9 oz in weight (140 gr), They're small enough that they can fit in many different places. 3 white light modes can be use as a flashlight, work light, grill light, 2 red light modes can be use as an alert light.
- What You Get: Package included 2 Rechargeable Work Light and 2 USB cable. It is a practical tool can use on daily time and outdoor active, It also can be used as a gift for friend or family member.
- Tripod light: to set on the ground and shine up at the engine.
- SPECS: The Parmida Dual-Head Multi-Directional LED Work Light is made from durable, die-cast aluminium, making it strong and reliable. The sturdy tripod legs are easy to set up and fold, and the light can be adjusted up to 6ft. Enjoy 200W of light with 10,000lm per head (20,000lm total), and an 8ft cable. Ideal for all outdoor use, such as job and construction sites, garages, and more.
- VERSATILE: This light measures 6ft in height, and you can adjust the tripod to any height below that with the telescoping feature. Detach the heads from the tripod stand and carry it around for portable work lights, or place it on another surface for more direct light. Stand easily folds up for when you’re not using it.
- LIGHTING OPTIONS: Light your space, your way. Both lights can be turned on/off individually, and rotated to face different directions at once. Light two different areas at once by adjusting the heads, and detach the dual-head to put the light where you need it.
- WORK SITE FRIENDLY: This light is built to be used at job and construction sites. The aluminium legs are strong and durable, and can be set on a variety of surfaces. The LEDs are protected by impact-resistant tempered glass. Certified IP65 (water resistant) and designed to withstand 30,000 hours of outdoor use.
- QUALITY AND SAFETY ASSURED: With IP65 certifications, a UL-Approved Cable, and a 5-Year Warranty, our Dual-Head Multi-Directional LED Work Light is guaranteed to provide 30,000 hours of light, and our dedicated in-house Customer Service is always here to provide you with peace of mind.
- Head lamp: to wear on your head so you can see what’s in front of you.
- 🏃 ✅Long Press Function and Motion Sensor: Unlike the old version, LHKNL headlamp has added a long press function. In any mode, if you hold the key mode button for 3 seconds, you can turn off the light directly, no longer need to cycle all modes. It also added motion sensor mode, you can easily turn the lights ON/OFF by waving your hand, which is more convenient and avoids soiling the headlamp when your hands are dirty.
- 🏃 ✅Super Bright and Rechargeable: The headlamp flashlight uses class-leading LED chips that has the maximum brightness of 1200 lumens, easily light up an entire tent and road. It has powerful 1500mAh built-in rechargeable battery, which can be able to charge and turn on the lights at the same time. No need to wait for full charge or replace the battery. And the battery indicator will help you master battery usage. ( Last for 4-10 hours when fully charged. )
- 🏃 ✅Ultra-light and Adjustable: The hand-free headlamp is only weight 1.87 OZ, comfortable and lightweight. The lamp head can be rotated 60° and tightly fixed to avoid shaking and sliding when running. The head flashlight uses comfortable elastic headband, which can easily adjust the length to perfectly fit your head size, perfect for adults and kids.
- 🏃 ✅Waterproof and 8 Modes: The headlight has IPX4 waterproof rate. The high-quality shell is more sealed and leak-proof, which is suitable for rain or snow, indoors or outdoors. The led headlamp has 8 lighting modes to meet your various needs. ①In key light mode, you can switch the main strong beam, main weak beam, side strong beam, side weak beam, red beam, SOS red strobe. ②In motion sensor mode, you can switch the main strong beam and side strong beam.
- 🏃✅Perfect Gift Choice: Are you still struggling with gift? LHKNL headlamp is your answer. Each package contains 2 headlamps. This headlamp will be the perfect gift for your father, mother, husband, son, boyfriend on Christmas, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving.
Approachable DIY Auto Maintenance
Once you’ve acquired the right equipment, it’s time to move on to the jobs. Typically, an amateur grease monkey will start with the basics, like oil changes, brake jobs, and emergency preparedness.
Changing Your Oil
Let’s start with a simple one: Performing an oil change. At its most basic, changing your vehicle’s oil is a straightforward process:
- Lift the car, and place an oil drip pan beneath the engine.
- Remove the oil drain plug, and let the oil drain into the drip pan.
- Remove the oil cap to let the oil drain faster.
- Replace the oil drain plug.
- Refill the oil.
- Lower the car.
- Put away the car tools, and drive away.
Of course, it’s true that different vehicles take oils of different weights and viscosities (and in different amounts), and the drain plugs might have different torque settings. The relevant information for your car is in your owner’s manual.
It’s that simple for almost every motor vehicle in the world, yet most people take their cars to Jiffy Lube. It’s too bad because changing your own oil, the most basic of maintenance tasks will save you a bit of money. You might even be surprised to find that you like your car more if you change your own oil. It’s a curious thing about human nature that we tend to like and care more about the things we put work into.
Note that you’ll also want to change your oil filter most, if not all, of the times you change the oil. You don’t have to do it every time, as most filters are rated for 10,000 miles at least, but it only costs a few dollars more and doesn’t require much extra work. To remove the filter for replacement, you’ll probably want to add a filter wrench to your collection of car tools.
Replacing Your Brakes
Brake pads are most commonly made of semi-metallic compounds that are up to 65% metal. The remainder might consist of wire, copper, or steel wool. Most brake pads are designed to make a high pitch whining or squealing sound when it’s getting close to time to replace them. If you hear a squeal when you hit the brakes, it’s probably time for a brake job.
Have no fear — this is a job you can do at home:
- Raise the vehicle with your floor jack.
- Secure it with jack stands.
- Remove the tire.
- With the tire removed, you’ll see the brake actuator, which holds the brake pads.
- Remove the bolts that hold the brake actuator in place.
- Remove the actuator and set it on something so the brake line is not stressed.
- Remove the current brake pads by slipping the clips off the actuator.
- Install the new brake pads.
- Lightly spray the brake rotors with brake cleaner.
- Reverse the process, and the brake squealing will be gone.
If you’ve waited too long to change the pads, you might need new rotors as well. This is a slightly bigger job, but you won’t need any extra tools to do it.
Emergencies Away From the Garage
You won’t always be able to do the job in the comfort of your garage. Sometimes issues will arise on the road that must be addressed before you can drive on.
Most cars come with an emergency tire change kit that includes a tire iron, a jack, and a spare tire of some kind. Usually, on newer vehicles, the spare tire comes in the form of a “donut” spare tire, also called a “space-saver,” or compact spare. These tires are good for only a short distance and only lower speeds.
The idea is that you can drive the car to a tire shop on the donut and get your full-size tire repaired or replaced before continuing on. These kits are a lifesaver in a pinch, but drivers who plan ahead will replace the jack with something stronger and replace the donut with a full-size spare, assuming there is room in the trunk for it.
- 3-Packs of Tire Inflator Air Filler Sealant
- Seals and inflates in seconds
- Hose top works on all wheels
- TPMS safe
- Easy and safe to use - non-flammable formula. Easy cleanup with water
Let’s say you’re staying at a hotel while on the road for a few days. Before you go in, you turn on the overhead light so you can find your wallet and sort out which bags to take with you. When you leave your car — whoops! — you forget to turn the overhead light off again. You return to your vehicle in the morning and turn the key in the ignition. Nothing. The battery is dead.
This situation can be a disaster for the unprepared, but if you’ve thought ahead, you should have a portable jump starter in your vehicle. Portable jump starters consist of a strong but small battery connected to jumper cables in a case. Hook it up to your battery, turn it on, and it’ll give enough of a jolt to start the car so that you can get back on the road.
There is little more rewarding than working on your own car. With the right tools and some patience and learning, you can do the basic maintenance tasks yourself. It’ll save you some money and give you a reason to hang out in the garage. After some practice, you’ll even know what you’re looking at under the hood!