Henry Ford is mostly responsible for the idea of standardized auto parts. Before him, cars certainly existed but they were sort of custom jobs that could only really be fixed by the person who made them. Nothing from one car to the next necessarily was the same. Ford, on the other hand, created a standardized model with standardized parts. This allowed dealers to become familiar with the parts and eventually offer mechanic services to their customers. From that point on, the idea of the auto mechanic and the whole mechanic industry was born. The tools of the trade at the beginning were just the standard, expected sort of things like wrenches and screwdrivers that any handyman might use. As time went on and cars became more widespread and more advanced, so too did the tools that were used to help repair them. That's how we went from the wrenches of years ago to complex and computerized diagnostic tools today.
If you've spent some time tinkering around in the garage, changing some oil, maybe swapping out some spark plugs and batteries, then you should recognize some of the tools of the trade. Why not take a look at some and see how many you can identify?
You need a funnel for oil changes because unless you're a dead-eye marksman when it comes to pouring oil, you risk spillage. Spilled out is going to lead to smoke and a bad odor under the hood if it's not cleaned out properly so best to avoid it altogether.
If you're having trouble separating ball joints, this could do the trick. What is it?
You need a pry bar to pry things apart, that's why it has the clever name. Ball joints, shock absorber heads, all kinds of parts are likely to get stuck together or stiff after years of use, and when that happens it takes some effort to separate them.
A ratchet, otherwise known as a ratcheting socket wrench, was first created by inventor J.J. Richardson. The ratcheting action makes it easier to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts, especially in tight spaces, since you don't need to make a full turn or remove the wrench to keep turning.
Sometimes these are called Allen wrenches. What else are they called?
Screw pitch gauge
Spark plug wrench
Hex keys are most often called Allen keys in honor of William G. Allen who first patented the method of creating hexagonal screw heads in the early 1900s. Ironically another hex design came out a year after Allen's, but no one really remembers the name of that guy.
Do you know which of these tools can be either mechanical or hydraulic?
A jack is pretty useful for lifting up your car so you can get under it to do some work. Most cars come with a small, mechanical or screw jack in the trunk, but a good quality hydraulic jack is a lot more reliable for doing work consistently.
When you need torque to remove something, this is the tool to use. What is it?
Wrenches date back to the 15th century which, if you're keeping track, is well before automobiles. But that just shows how useful they are: Cars grew into the tool, not the other way around. A good wrench can help you loosen most nuts and bolts that hold cars together.
Use this tool to help figure out why a car is overheating.
Radiator pressure tester
A radiation pressure tester allows you to pressurize the system and pinpoint the exact spot where there may be a loose hose or a hole or some other leaky issue then take appropriate action like replacing a coolant circuit or whatever needs to be done.
Which tool is like a ratchet but much more specific?
A torque wrench is in very basic terms just a ratchet wrench, but it has a more specialized function. The amount of torque applied can be specified so that you can tighten a bolt to the exact manufacturer requirements which are necessary with some precision operations.
Do you know which tool can keep your car elevated safely?
If you're using a jack to get under your car you should use some jack stands for added safety and stability. How many times have you seen a movie where someone gets crushed by the villain under the car with one kick to the jack? Jack stands stop that from happening.
Which specialized tool is really helpful for a dirty but usually pretty simple task?
Oil filter wrench
Oil filters can get stuck on pretty well, so an oil filter wrench is extremely handy when it comes to removing them. There are several kinds available since filters come in various sizes but an easy, adjustable one will work for most situations.
If you're using this tool you're going to want to be wearing gloves and safety glasses. What is it?
Angle grinders aren't the sort of thing a casual mechanic is going to need, but if you have any reason to be cutting metal, maybe for exhaust lines, this will do the trick. Angle grinders were invented by a German company that goes by the name Flex and, as a result, the tool is often called a Flex in Europe.
There isn't a handyman in the world who doesn't have a few of these. What are they?
Screwdrivers are invaluable tools for any repair work that you need to be doing, and you'd do well to get a full set of every kind including Phillips, flat, Allen, Torx and a hex set as well, just to cover all the bases.
When you can't hold something firmly in your hands, use this.
A machinist vise is about as heavy-duty as a vise is going to get. A good quality ductile iron one will be able to exert about 65,000 psi on whatever it is that you're holding and odds are you don't need a stronger grip than that for anything.
Got two wires that need to be held together? Use this!
Electrical tape is most often found in an electrician's bag of tricks, but a mechanic can make good use of a roll as well. That said, the numerous electrical systems in a car mean a lot of wires can get cluttered and in the way. Tape to the rescue!
Which of these tools will help you keep your hands clean?
A battery carrier is pretty useful when you consider how preposterously heavy car batteries still are. Yanking one of these out with your bare hands is a good way to get very messy, very fast. You also run the risk of dropping it and crushing a foot. Best to use this tool to stay clean and safe.
This tool makes it easier for you to see what you're doing in small spaces. Name it!
Out of sight pliers
Out of sight, or angled needle-nose, pliers were created to solve a pretty simple problem. Normal pliers follow the line of your hand so if you're picking up a tiny screw, for instance, you can't actually see it with your hand in the way. Since these have a bend in them, they curve away from your hand and let you see what you're up to.
When you can't reach a bolt, you need one of these. Tell us what it is.
An extension bar is an invaluable tool for reaching into tight places, something cars are full of. The extension bar goes onto any standard ratchet to allow you the flexibility to reach a distant bolt. A smart choice is a locking extension bar that will ensure your socket doesn't get left behind on that distant bolt you were adjusting.
Which tool is a necessity for troubleshooting electrical systems?
A multimeter, also known as a VOM, lets you measure voltage, amperage and resistance. Since cars rely on so much electrical equipment, this is a great tool for testing batteries and fuses and you can probably get a cheap but effective one for under $20.
Molding removal tools are specialized prybars that remove panels and molding from the car without damaging the clips that hold them in place. They're pretty handy for all kinds of work ranging from getting into the dash to fixing power windows.
Which tool is useful for diagnosing weird noises in a car?
An automotive stethoscope is a lot like a medical stethoscope and can help you figure out just why a car is making weird clangs or squeaks. Technology has allowed for the use of wireless stethoscopes that can be used even when the car is in motion.
Which device is good to have in your trunk in case your battery dies?
A jump starter is useful for a couple of reasons beyond the obvious. It helps when your battery dies and no one is around to give you a jump with their car but most versions on the market also double as air compressors and are handy for charging things like cellphones as well.
You need one of these tools to purge air bubbles from your lines or replace old fluids with new. What is it?
Cylinder compression tester
A brake bleeding kit, especially with a vacuum pump, makes fixing brake lines a lot easier. Without this tool, it's nearly impossible to do alone and requires a lot of in and, out, pumping, and repeating. A bleeder clears the lines incredibly fast.
Which tool has been an automotive necessity since the beginning?
Lug wrenches aren't as common as they once were since there are many power tools that do the same job these days, but for a long time, this was an essential item to have in your trunk and one any mechanic would have to loosen the lug nuts on your tires. Some people call them tire irons, which is weird because that's a totally different tool.
An impact wrench is a high-torque socket wrench. They can be powered by compressed air or hydraulics as well as electricity, but many mechanics make use of battery-powered wrenches for their portability and versatility.
Which tool will help you unlock various electrical connectors?
Wire terminal tool
Most electrical connectors in cars have very model-specific pins and locks that hold them in place. Normal tools can destroy these when you try to pull them apart, but a tool like this ensures you can remove the wires without ruining the plastic pins and locks that hold them in place.
Most cars built in the last decade have this tool built right in. What is it?
Tire pressure gauge
A tire-pressure gauge used to be the tool you'd see in every mechanic's breast pocket. Most cars built after 2007 now have technology built in to monitor tire pressure so people use this a lot less often, but they're still necessary for older cars or for when the built-in monitor isn't accurate.
Which tool can be used in conjunction with a cellphone?
A simple video scope can go a long way to diagnosing problems without tearing a car apart. You can look into all kinds of small places like inside the engine and in pipes without having to remove them using a camera like this that feeds a signal to your phone.
You need this to use any pneumatic tools. What is it?
Cylinder compression tester
An air compressor is pretty important in any auto shop if you want to use pneumatic tools since they all run on compressed air. Things like air drills and impact wrenches need an air compressor. Also, not for nothing, but it's a good way to put air in your tires, too.
Do you know which tool can help you troubleshoot a car that's not starting?
Molding removal tool
Ignition spark tester
How can you tell if your car isn't sparking? Take out a spark plug and put in the ignition spark tester. Once in place, try to start the car as normal. The spark tester will indicate if it's working the way it should or not. This helps you pinpoint any issues super fast.
You're going to need one of these to see what you're doing.
Who doesn't need a hood light? You clip it on the inside of the hood and it illuminates the engine so you can see what you're doing without the hassle of having to actually hold a flashlight. Simple, but indispensable.
A flexible magnetic pick-up is just what it sounds like, a magnet on a flexible neck that picks things up. Any tool kit needs a magnet for the day when your butterfingers drop something important that would be hopelessly out of reach otherwise.
If you need to diagnose an on-board issue then this is the tool to do it. What is it?
An OBD2 scanner is an on-board diagnostic scanner that can be hooked up to a car to help figure out why something isn't working. These tools help you figure out why the emergency light on your dashboard came on, since when the engine light turns on it could mean any number of things,
A serious mechanic looking to do a full overhaul under the hood will need this. What is it?
An engine crane is an integral piece of equipment to have if you're going to be doing serious engine work. If you're pulling all the guts out of your car and building it from the ground up again, a crane is the only way to pull that giant engine out of the way.
With this tool, you can troubleshoot issues in the cooling system. Name it.
A laser thermometer has a few uses in automotive repair. If the A/C isn't working right, you can help diagnose the issue by checking the temperatures along the lines and if the car is overheating this can pinpoint the exact spot where the trouble is starting.
Which tool will help you when you're working on the refrigerator circuit?
Hose clamp pliers
When you need to take coolant hoses off or put them back on again, your best bet is to use some hose clamp pliers on them, since the space you're working in is likely to be a little bit tighter than you want. Normal pliers may work in the tight spaces these hoses are stored, but why risk it?
Which tool can help you measure distances or bearing sizes or anything else with extreme precision?
Digital calipers replace a good set of Verner calipers for measuring any size, length, or distance when working on a car with the utmost precision. The benefit of using digital is mostly a speed and convenience one.
Which tool is necessary for preserving rubber and plastic parts as you try to remove them?
Molding removal tool
A hose puller is a handy little device if you want to make sure you're not damaging your hoses and tubes any more than necessary. When things like radiator or heater hoses get stuck in place due to excessive heat, this tool can pry them free without destroying them.
This tool is much less damaging than any generic tool would be. What is it?
Spark plug pliers have specially cushioned jaws unlike your average pliers so that you can remove the spark plug wire boots without causing any damage. Normal pliers can get the job done, but they definitely run the risk of damaging wires.