Overview: Our top automotive tools cast of experts
Doing your own car repairs saves a boatload of money and gives you bragging rights on Monday morning. (Yeah, I replaced my crankshaft over the weekend—so what?) But let's be honest here—you're really in it for the tools, right?
That's what I thought, so I asked three shop owners, our auto mechanic field editors and my gearhead friends to tell you about their favorite tools. As you might expect, some are pricey. But they're simply the best tools around.
I've also added all the special tools I wish I'd had when I first started bustin' bolts (and knuckles). Most are less than $100. And you can use them for nonautomotive projects too. There, isn't that all the justification you need to buy more tools?
Vacuum pump, bleeder, pressure-testing kit
A hand-operated vacuum pump is simply a “must-have” tool. And this Mity Vac kit is well built, reasonably priced and comes with all the attachments you’ll ever need.
Use the vacuum pump to test your vacuum-controlled sensors and motors. Or find a leaking vacuum line by plugging each one and applying vacuum. If it holds, it’s good. You can also use the gauge to find a vacuum leak. Just spray carb cleaner around the possible leak sites. The gauge will flutter if you spray a leaking area. Want to bleed your brakes yourself? Just attach the fluid transfer bottle and vinyl tubing to the pump. Next, use the refill adapters to keep the master cylinder filled while you suck brake fluid out of the bleeder screws. Keep pumping until you see fresh fluid. You can also use the pump to flush power-steering fluids.
Screwdrivers with hex bolster
You won’t need hex bolsters very often. But when you really need torque, they do the trick. (What’s a bolster, you say? It’s the place where the shank meets the handle.) Just slide a wrench down the screwdriver shaft and onto the bolster. Then push the screwdriver tip into the screw head and lean into it while you turn the screwdriver with the wrench. Your “lean-in” will keep the screwdriver bit seated in the head, while the wrench gives you added leverage.