Most of us learn to drive, fix a flat, maybe change oil, and end it at that, leaving the rest of our car maintenance to mechanics who actually know what they’re doing. There’s nothing wrong that.
Being able to do more, though, does a lot of things. For one, it allows you to help yourself whenever your car conks out in the middle of nowhere, giving you a fighting chance to get back on the road instead of having to wait the next hour for a tow truck. Found an absolute gem of a vintage car for cheap that will require a lot of work? You can now do some of that work yourself, instead of having to pay a mechanic for every single job it requires.
If you’ve mustered up the determination to actually learn more about fixing up your ride, there are a few indispensable sources of information. YouTube is a veritable lifesaver, for one. If you can get a Chilton or Hayes repair manual for your car model, that’s one book you can return to over and over. The rest, like forums and chat boards, you can discover as you go along.
Before you can change filters, replace a gasket, or swap out a new set of brakes, though, you need to have the right tools for the job. Sure, you can buy a wrench, a hatchet, and order sockets as you need them, but nothing gets you started better than a mechanic’s tool kit. Here are a few good ones we think you should consider.
Crescent 170-Piece General Purpose Tool Set (CTK170CMP2)
Ever heard of one tool kit to do it all? Well, that doesn’t exist. This 170-piece set from Crescent, though, definitely gets you close for well under a hundred bucks. It’s got wrenches, hatchets, sockets, pliers, drivers, and all sorts of other stuff at different sizes, complete with labels in both SAE and imperial measurements. They’re tough, too, with chrome vanadium steel alloy construction, all formulated and heat-treated for long-lasting performance. The best part? They’re all organized in their own compartments inside a pretty rugged storage case that closes into a portable box with a convenient carry handle.
Stanley 210-Piece Mixed Tool Set (STMT73795)
Similar to the previous tool set, this kit throws in a little bit of everything and then some, like multiple ratchets, wrenches, sockets, nut bits, drive bits, and more. They even throw in a utility knife, a tape measure, and few other basics you might not have lying around. The tools are made with chrome vanadium steel alloy for total strength on the job, with a full polished chrome finish providing anti-corrosion protection. While the Crescent’s carrying case feels more robust, we actually prefer the center twist-locking mechanism on this one, which feels a lot sturdier than the plastic tabs on the former.
DeWalt Mechanics Tools Kit and Socket Set
The first thing you’ll notice about this kit is that it is heavy. Seriously. The whole kit weighs significantly heavier than the Stanley kit and this only has 204 pieces in it. You can attribute that extra weight to the heft of the tools, which feel just a tad more substantial than many comparable tools we’ve tried. That extra heft, of course, means it’s got a bit more material, too, which could make it just that more difficult when working in tight spaces, although they did integrated a five-degree arc swing and slim head sizes to allow maneuvering in constricted areas. Still, we absolutely prefer the more robust build – it just feels solid. The best tool in the set, by the way, has to be the ratchet with a 72-tooth gearing system, which should enable precise control of your torque like few ratchets can do.
Craftsman 450-Piece Mechanics Tool Set
There’s no bigger commitment to fixing your own car than spending a couple hundred dollars on a tool kit. There’s also no bigger way to waste money, if you end up not following through. Still, if you want to make the financial commitment, there’s this 450-piece kit that combines three quick-release ratchets, six extension bars, 191 sockets, an array of combination wrenches, and a whole lot more. And yes, this comes in a large carrying case that feels more like a small suitcase than a portable toolbox.
GreatNeck Tool Chest Set (GN205)
Designed to stay in your garage rather than make home in the boot of your car, this 205-piece tool set comes with a ratchet, sockets, pliers, hex keys, an adjustable wrench, a hammer, a wire stripper, and a few more DIY essentials. It’s not solely targeted at garage use, so there’s a little more variety, but there’s enough to get you started working on your vehicle. The tools are crafted from forged carbon steel that’s tempered and heat-treated for durability, while the included three-drawer storage case will easily make itself at home atop a table in your garage (unless, of course, you prefer your tools hanging on a giant pegboard).