This post is the third part of the “Essential Tools for Auto Mechanics” post series:
- Must-Have Tools for Beginner Auto Mechanics
- Must-Have Tools for Pro Auto Mechanics
- Must-Have Specialty Tools For Auto Mechanics
If you are a professional mechanic, you’ve probably already been caught in the never-ending “who’s got the best tools in the shop” battle. There’s always that guy with the full-fledged Snap-on tool chest with all the possible add-ons on it, the one with the incredibly useful tool or the brand new and improved impact gun. You can’t really ignore it because he’s always bragging about it. Sometimes these tools are nothing but a waste of money but other times they can be real lifesavers too. So if you want to brag about your tools too or if you just want tools to ease your everyday struggle with rusted bolts and incredibly small spaces to work, here’s a non-exhaustive list of some life-saving tools you absolutely need.
This list is mostly oriented towards professional auto mechanics. If you are a beginner mechanic or if you are still learning, I strongly suggest you read this post first.
The SK X-Frame ratcheting wrench is just amazing. If you ask me, the main feature would be it’s 6 points box end. Normally, ratcheting wrenches have a 12-point design to reduce the arc swing to a minimum but can sometimes have a hard time to grip tightly on rusted or rounded bolts. SK resolved this problem by combining the 6 point box end with a revolutionary 6-pawl ratchet design leading to a 1.7-degree arc swing, the lowest arc swing the industry has ever seen.
It’s also worth mentioning the unique open X-frame which is supposed to help to distribute load evenly without increasing its weight. And the good thing is, while they can still be a bit expensive, they sure are less expensive than the equivalent Snap-On models.
Locking extension bars are probably responsible for a 50% reduction of the frustration rate in the shop. Seriously, is there something more frustrating than dropping a socket somewhere in the engine bay and then having to look for your much-needed and most often expensive socket for the next 30 minutes? This could be a life-saver, especially if you bought the awesome Craftsman Extreme Grip socket set which I talk more in detail below.
Locking extension bars feature a spring-loaded slide lock mechanism that locks the socket or tool you attach to it and prevent it from slipping off.
No more lost sockets anymore!!
Lots of tools manufacturer have their own model so you can buy a set from your favorite brand. Just google it and you’ll find some in no time.
When a friend first told me about the Craftsman gimbal ratchet I was seriously doubting how useful it could be. In the past, I’ve been really disappointed with little finger ratchets. When you see them in your local tool shop, they seem like they would be the best thing ever made for tight spots and under dash applications. But in practice, you realize you don’t have much finger strength. You then have to reach for your usual ratchet which is still too big for the job and you end up even more frustrated than before. Gimbal ratchets are really different, though. A gimbal ratchet is more like a palm ratchet giving you a better grip and more power. It also pivots in two directions for easier access no matter where you use it.
The Craftsman gimbal ratchet has 72-tooth for a 5-degree arc swing. It’s super easy to use with a forward/reverse lever and it features a steel construction and an anodized aluminum finish which makes it really good-looking (remember the bragging I was talking about?).
I personally prefer the Craftsman gimball ratchet but I know that a lot of manufacturers have their own model (none of them look as cool as the Craftsman model, though) so feel free to look around and find one that suits your need.
The Extreme Grip socket set by Craftsman could be more or less useful depending on where you work or, in fact, the kind of car you’re working on. I worked for 7 years in a car dealer and I would have needed these once or twice. These days, I work in a small car repair and body shop and we happen to have a lot more customers who own a really old and rusty car. If you work on a badly maintained car or if you own a Volkswagen (:P) you should definitely buy yourself a set of Craftsman Extrem Grip socket.
The name being self-explanatory, these sockets feature a gripping action allowing you to get a good grip on rounded fasteners. According to Craftsman, they grip 14 times better than standard sockets. While I don’t really know if they grip 14 times better, I can assure they work 100% better…. because standard sockets just don’t. Honestly, these sockets work really great. They saved my life on multiple occasions.
They also work on standard AND metric fasteners with one socket which is really great. It saves time when you work on some kind of machinery and you don’t really know if the nuts and bolts are supposed to be standard or metric under all the rust.
I want to point out that, while making some research on the web, I found out that Lang Tools is manufacturing what looks like an exact copy of the Blue-Point caliper spreader (even the description looks like a copy/paste from the snap-on website).
I don’t know the brand and the prices are almost the same too so I would recommend buying the trusted brand but what do I know? The Lang models could be really good too but we all know how fully respected Blue Point and Snap-On tools are within the mechanic community. I just don’t see why someone would choose Lang over Snap-On for the same price even though I’m not a fan of Snap-On customers service.
The TechPro Tool Stud Buddy Body Pliers are more of a body repair shop tool but since many mechanics work in a car repair/body shop like I do, I thought I should include it here since it’s a really clever tool replacing the need of using Vise-Grip pliers to pull out the dent with a stud welder (I should probably include the Vise-Grips to this list too since they seem to have replaced half of these tools for the last 20 years).
If you work in a body shop and you are using a stud welder, then you need the Stud Buddy to make it a really versatile tool. Just weld your draw pin into the lowest dent point with the help of the stud welder and raise the dent using the Stud Buddy. This process makes it easier and a lot more precise than using pliers or a small slide hammer.
Here’s a video explaining how it works:
I don’t do body works myself but this tool has been highly recommended by another member of The Mechanic Doctor team so let me know what you think about it.
for iPhone, iPad & Android
With the smartphone technology always improving, the need for a standard OBD2 scan tool is almost a thing of the past. A BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBD2 scan tool features most of all the features you can find on a standard scan tool like the OTC Genisys for almost 10% of the price. You can buy a BlueDriver scan tool for a little more than 100$ while an OTC Genysis sells for around 1000$ or more and you still have to pay every couple of years to keep the software updated. With the Bluedriver scan tool, you only have to buy it once and the app that comes with it is completely free and works on Apple iPhone or iPad and on Android devices.
With the BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBD2 scan tool you can easily read and clear diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), generate a report containing the codes definition and the possible causes, export freeze frame, and capture and share any live data supported by the vehicle. You can also read codes for the transmission, airbags, ABS and any other modules supported on your car model.
Whether you’re a shop owner or a professional mechanic and you are still working with an old and most probably slightly outdated scan tool because of the exorbitant cost of updating it, you’ll see that the BlueDriver scan tool can replace it for a fraction of the price. Even if you are an amateur mechanic fixing your car on Sundays, this little gadget can still save you a lot of money by letting you know if you can easily fix that check engine light by yourself or if you need to bring your car to the dealer for a more advanced diagnosis. And for the car tuners, you can also use it as a continuous onboard data monitoring system by leaving it plugged in and watching live data on your phone while driving, completely eliminating the need for installing an expensive 3 gauges pod on your A-pillar.
Here’s a video review made by ChrisFix:
Before buying one, I suggest you take a look at the complete list of compatibility and supported features for your car model just to make sure it serves the purpose you’re buying it for but for most models it should do the job perfectly.
Just click the link below to go to the compatibility check page.
(Just scroll down to the bottom of the page for the full compatibility list.)
With all that being said, let me know what you think of the tools I talked about and leave a comment below with your “must-have” lifesaver tools so I can include them on the list. Because this is not a paid advertisement and because all this comes from personal experiences, I may not be aware of all the great tools making a mechanic’s everyday life easier and believe me, I’m really into making my life easier. This job can already be frustrating enough sometimes without having to work with the wrong tools so leave all your hints and tips in the comment section below!
Cheers and have a nice day!
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