Must-Have Tools for Pro Auto Mechanics | Essential Tools part 2

This post is the second part of the “Essential Tools for Auto Mechanics” post series:

This post will cover all the tools you should have in your toolbox once you’re past the learning phase. When you’re no longer a newbie in the shop, you’ll have to work on more complex systems and you’ll be required to buy more tools. Sometimes, it’s also a matter of making your life a little easier by buying tools designed specifically for a certain job or a certain car model.

And some other times, we only buy tools because we love to buy new tools!

Anyway, here’s a list of some of the best tools to make a pro mechanic happy!

Hose Clamp Pliers

Hose Clamp Pliers are simply the best to remove flat-type hose clamps located in hard-to-access areas. And if you are a pro mechanic, you know damn well that these clamps are always in hard-to-reach areas. I can assure you that, once you buy this tools and start using it, you’ll never want to go back with the old way of removing them with regular pliers. It will save you time but, even more importantly, save your fingers from getting snapped when the clamp slips away from the pliers.

It also has a locking mechanism to hold clamps in the open position while you work. Which is really neat if you ask me… I hate removing clamps with pliers. Engineers seem to always install them facing in the worst possible way. These pliers are simply too good not to buy a pair!

Set of Electric-Powered Tools

A good set of electric-powered impact gun and ratchet set is an awesome add-on to any pro auto mechanic’s tool chest. Yes, they are expensive. There’s no denying that. But electric tools are simply the best investment you can make. You won’t believe how having no air hose connected to your power tool will give you more room to work.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than having your hose in the way while you work. It was about time manufacturers come up with some great battery-powered tools. And new 18v lithium-ion batteries can do the job as well as any other standard air-powered tools these days.

Most electric-powered tools even have customizable torque settings you can set up using an app on your phone or your computer. Damn, it feels good to live and work in the 21st century!

1/2 Inch Drive Breaker Bar

Every pro mechanic needs a good breaker bar. Whether it’s to remove stuck lug nuts on old Volkswagens or to torque engine head’s stretch bolts, it will come in handy one day.

I know it’s not a sexy tool, and nobody will ever stand in awe before your newly acquired breaker bar so just buy a good one once and forget about buying another one in 5 years when the cheap one cracks.

Step Drill Bit Set

Having a good set of drill bits is essential. 

And having a set of step drill bit set is even better! These will make drilling to install pop rivets easier than ever. In fact, it will make any drilling job easier! Step bits are really useful when you need to drill to an exact size and the steps help to drill holes in small increments.

Most of these kits are made from cobalt high-speed steel along with a titanium coating to ensure extreme durability. It is not absolutely required but it’s certainly a must!

Hose Removal Hook Set

Hose removal hooks work wonders when paired with a pair of hose clamp pliers. These two tools can greatly reduce the time required to remove stuck radiator hoses as well as hard to remove seals and transmission lines.

This is not an expensive tool so, buy a set, leave it in the bottom of your tool chest and you’ll thank me later!

Channellock Nutbuster

I know I already talked about the Channellock pliers in the “Must-Have Tools for Beginner Auto Mechanics” post but these are the next level in the Channellock lineup. These are called “Channellock Nutbusters” and as the name implies are meant to bust nuts.

The self-gripping, Parrot Nose design is ideal to remove rounded nuts and bolts. This pair of pliers also goes in the life-saver section. You won’t need them on a daily basis but you’ll be damn happy you have them when the time comes. 

Channellock is already a well-established brand in the automotive industry and their reputation speaks for itself. Personally, I even prefer Channellocks pliers when compared to Snap-ons. I think they work better and they are almost half the price of other leading brands.

Worth mentioning, I found out they are pretty useful to turn inner tied rods on alignment jobs.

Definitely an alignment tech’s best friend!

External & Internal Retaining Ring Pliers

External & Internal Retaining Ring Pliers  will come in handy for driveshaft boots replacements, bearing replacement, and transmission servicing. You can always work without a pair but it simply makes everything easier.

There are tons of different types of retaining ring pliers and some of them can be really high-tech and expensive. I suggest you buy a simple pair of each model and save your money for other tools unless you are specialized in transmission work and use them every day.

Hose Pinch-Off Pliers

Here’s another essential tool related to radiator hoses…

I hadn’t realized how many tools are required to work on cooling systems prior to writing this post!

Pinch-Off Pliers are designed to eliminate the need to drain the cooling system when removing or unplugging radiator hoses.  You simply pinch the hoses with the pliers before removing the hose and the Automatic Locking Ratchet system will prevent any spillage of cooling fluid during the time you need to replace the radiator.

These days, radiator hoses are more and more in the way and it’s not unusual to have to remove cooling hoses simply to get access to something located underneath. These pliers will prevent having to bleed the complete cooling system after removing a hose to slide that alternator out of the engine bay. It will save you and your customers time and money.

This tool will literally pay for itself! No-brainer right here!

Mini Ratcheting Screwdriver and Bit Set

Ahhh… The mini ratcheting screwdriver Easily the tool my coworkers borrow myself the most!

Seriously, it’s simply perfect to screw in really tight spaces. The slim design makes it easy to install mudguards without removing the wheels, removing and installing inner fenders and plenty of other uses under the dashboard. I also use it to remove small bumper and trim screws.

It’s a really cheap tool so there are not many reasons not to get one…

BOLT-GRIP Deep Well Bolt Extractors

Bolt-Grip Extractors are made by Irwin, the makers of the world-renowned Vise-Grip pliers. I think this says enough about their rounded nuts and bolts removing knowledge.

These sockets are designed to easily remove rounded-off, rusted-tight or painted-over bolt using the reverse spiral flutes to bite down and provide maximum gripping power.

The Bolt-Grip extractors come in two different types: a 3/8″ square drive for use with hand ratchets, impact wrenches and air ratchets and hexagonal flats for use with flat wrench, pliers, adjustable wrench, sockets or VISE-GRIP locking pliers.

Laser Infrared Thermometer Gun

A laser thermometer gun is useful for numerous tasks. One way I use mine is to make sure that heated mirrors are in good working conditions as demonstrated in our “How to Diagnose and Fix Faulty Heated Mirrors” post.

They are also useful to check the temperature of possibly clogged catalytic converters, to measure the opening temperature of a thermostat, to test the efficiency of an HVAC system, and much more.

Laser thermometer guns are more efficient and easier to use than regular thermometers and they cost pretty much the same so don’t hesitate and get yourself a laser model.

Worth mentioning, some laser thermometers also have the ability to save readings and store min/max data for future uses.

Spinner T-handle

A Spinner T-handle‘s main purpose is to quickly remove nuts and bolts. The bearing-mounted spinner is perfect to speed up the process of installing or removing a high number of bolts in a row. The best example for this would be valve cover and oil pan bolts.

The unique 2-step drive head offers swivel or fixed drive to better fit various operation making it a lot quicker to remove bolts with the flick of a finger.

Here’s to another inexpensive tool designed to helps you be always faster and a little more efficient every day!

That’s it!

This is obviously not an exhaustive list since there are tons more valuable tools in a pro mechanic’s tool chest but these are some of the most essential ones…

And, what about you? What’s the most valuable tool you have in your chest?

Feel free to answer in the comment section below and we’ll add them to the list!

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As always, I hope it helped!

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