Top-10 Tools for Your Toolbox
Stock your box with this helpful hardware
We'll go on out on a limb and say that any truck guy who's worth his salt as a DIY or full-on mechanic probably has a strong affinity for tools. We're talking about the handheld and powered instruments that are used for assembling, disassembling, repairing, updating, diagnosing, and altering a rig in any way imaginable.
First and foremost, tools are designed to help make accomplishing tasks possible. And, in most cases, they are also used to help make certain jobs easier. Basically, they're devices that are almost impossible to not have when working on vehicle projects large and small.
A properly stocked toolbox is essential for enthusiasts who like to work on their trucks (or try to), performing jobs that can range from a simple oil-and-filter service, to completely removing, overhauling, and reinstalling an engine.
Here are ten tool groups that we believe are essentials for the toolbox of any car guy, from starters to ASE-certified veterans.
While the hammer is believed to be one of the first tools that man created, wrenches lead our rundown of must-have instruments for a novice or pro mechanic's toolbox. A 32-piece collection of standard (SAE) and metric open-end/12-point box-end combination wrenches (that range in size from 5/16 inch to 1 1/8 inch, and 7mm to 24mm, respectively) is more than sufficient for handling most jobs. We like the ratchet-style box ends, as they're very helpful for removing and/or installing fasteners in tight places. A medium-length adjustable wrench—also known as crescent wrench—is always good to have, as well as hex keys (Allen wrenches) of various sizes.
Ratchets, Sockets, and Extensions
Ratchets and sockets also are vital additions to any solid toolbox; you should have at least one ratchet of each drive size (1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, and inch), along with their corresponding extensions. Similar to wrenches, sockets are also made in standard and metric sizes and feature 6 or 12 points that secure around a fastener. Sockets also come in varying depths, and some are hardened (drop-forged/carbonized) for use with pneumatic or cordless impact tools. You will quickly learn that deep sockets are invaluable assets when you're working on a truck. For reasons unbeknownst to us, the 10mm socket has become recognized as a socket that is frequently used, but it's also lost or misplaced on an equally regular basis. Having multiple 10mm sockets is probably a good idea.
These tools are basically used for getting a grip on parts that require additional force when you try to hold onto them and/or prevent them from moving, or for extracting things from tight areas (needle-nose). A set that includes regular, the aforementioned needle-nose, channel-adjustable, and vise grip pliers is all that's necessary for meeting this requirement.
Flat-blade and Phillips-head. Various lengths of each (from "stubby" to 36 inches). That's it, that's all. As a tool collection advances, pry bars and chisels can be additions in this tool category.
At some point during a truck repair, and even more so with a full build, there will come a need to dislodge a stubborn part or coerce something into a desired position. A hammer is the one and pretty much only tool that is designed specifically for such tasks. In a mechanic's toolbox, ball-peen hammers (of varying weight and handle length) rule. However, depending on the project and level of force that is necessary, dead-blow mallets and full-on sledgehammers also are solid inclusions.
In this new era of cordless tools, pneumatic-powered "air tools" are somewhat outdated now. But that doesn't mean they're useless. For a home-garage toolbox—and provided there's a compressor available to operate everything—we recommend adding a lineup of the three popular air tools (die grinder/cutoff wheel, 3/8-inch drive ratchet, 1/2-inch drive impact gun), and consider a hammer and saw, as well.
Many truck projects involve working with electrical systems, and you'll need to diagnose shorts or draws, determine power and ground sources, etc. We recommend including a multimeter (it's also called multitester) in the toolbox specifically for times when electrical voltage, current, and resistance need to be measured.
OBD II Scanner
A good, handheld diagnostic scanner is strongly recommended for any toolbox, home garage, or even the small collection that you might keep in your truck. The Innova Electronics CarScan Pro (PN 5610) is a solid choice. Of course, it can get to the bottom of the diagnostic trouble codes that trigger check engine lights (and clear those codes), as well as stream live data from all engine systems. We dig the unit's bi-directional control function, which sends commands to a truck's ECM to test functionalities such as fuel pump on/off or retract an electronic parking brake.