19 Automotive Tools Every Mechanic Needs

If you work on your own vehicles, check out these cool tools that should be in every home mechanic's tool chest

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For some, working on cars means being able to change a tire, for which you can get away with using the jack and lug wrench that came with your vehicle. But if your mechanic skills progress beyond that, you’ll need to hit the hardware store for better automotive tools. Here’s what to stock in your garage tool kit—all available on Amazon.

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Telescoping Mirror And Magnet Set
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Telescoping Mirror And Magnet Set

“A telescoping magnetic pickup tool is one of those automotive tools that you hope you won’t have to use too often, but when the need arises you will be glad you possessed one,” says Family Handyman editor and automotive expert Ethan O’Donnell. “Their purpose is to pick up anything magnetic that falls into your engine compartment but is too small to be picked up by hands.”

This mirror and magnet set belongs in every toolbox for car, appliance and home repairs. The telescoping handles pull out to 25 inches, and the screw ends let you swap out attachments. The kit comes with two handles, two swiveling mirrors, two fixed magnet heads and one swivel magnet.

“The Heleman model is the exact model I own,” says O’Donnell. “The fact that it has a light so that you can see what you are picking up makes it even more useful.”

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Crows Foot Wrench Set
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Crows Foot Wrench Set

A sardine can is roomy compared to your average engine compartment. Mechanics need all the help they can get trying to work in such cramped quarters. These crowfoot wrenches attach to any 3/8-inch-drive extension bar and let you remove nuts and bolts from far away. Their flare nut design is great for removing brake and power steering lines, making them essential automotive tools. Just slip the line through the opening and the wrench will encircle the flare nut to give you extra turning power.

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Underhood Work Light
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Under-Hood Work Light

Although the Neiko light is called an under-hood light, it’s an even better under-vehicle light. Just unsnap it from the bracket to use it from below. The strong magnets hold it in place, so you can aim the light exactly where you need it.

The mechanic light provides up to 1,200 lumens of light for working, and the 202-bulb LED light is rechargeable. The internal battery runs the work light for three hours on low and six hours on high. As a bonus, it’s an excellent emergency light for the house during power failures.

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Tite Reach Extension Wrench
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Tite-Reach Extension Wrench

When you’re working in areas like engine compartments, sometimes you just can’t get a socket into the tight spots. That’s where this Tite-Reach tool comes in handy. Slap your socket onto one end of the extension tool and attach your ratchet to the other end. Then loosen or tighten the “unreachable” bolt.

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Mechanic Tools Kit And Socket Set
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Mechanic Tools Kit and Socket Set

“A socket set or mechanics tool set is a must if you plan to maintain any engine, from your car to a leaf blower. To a mechanic, they are as essential as a hammer and nail are to a carpenter,” says O’Donnell. “Even though a good set can be reasonably expensive, they will last a long time. The set my grandfather purchased for me nearly 30 years ago is still in use today.”

DeWalt, a brand known for its heavy-duty power tools, makes good quality sockets and wrenches as well. After giving them a try, we can tell you that these are no ordinary tools.

As soon as you pick up one of these ratchets, you’ll notice that it’s heavier and has a beefier handle that fits better in your palm. The fine-tooth, 5-degree ratchet has recessed quick-release and reversing mechanisms so the head fits in tighter spots. Plus, the sockets and wrenches are laser-etched before they’re chromed instead of surface-etched afterward, like most run-of-the-mill tools. The size markings will be readable forever.

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Scaler And Chisel Ecomm Via Amazon.com
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Scaler and Chisel

This air-powered tool may look like a sea monster with tentacles, but the tentacles are actually 19 1/8-inch needles that hammer off rust, scale and dirt at 4,600 blows per minute. Move the adjustment collar forward or backward to vary the needle force and coverage area. Use it to knock rust and old paint off your car, wheelbarrow or other metal object. You’ll still have to deal with the pits from the corrosion, but at least the flakes will be gone. Wear hearing and eye protection and leather gloves, because this baby kicks up a lot of dust and debris, and it’s loud.

The scaler comes with a set of needles and a chisel attachment.

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Locking Extension Bars
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Locking Extension Bars

It’s a drag when you pull your ratchet and extension bar out of a tight spot only to discover that the socket is still stuck on the bolt head. That’ll never happen if you use locking extension bars. Pull back the locking ring, snap on a socket and let go—it won’t budge until you release the lock.

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Kiwi Pliers Ecomm Via Amazon.com
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Kiwi Pliers

OK, so you already own needle-nose pliers. But have you ever noticed how your hand is always in your line of sight when you’re trying to grab small things with them? Well, so did the guys who came up with the Kiwi pliers. The angled handle lets you go after clamps, clips and retainers and still see what you’re doing.

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Flex Sockets Ecomm Via Amazon.com
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Flex Sockets

With engine compartments more crowded than ever, a set of flex sockets may be worth the investment in your automotive tools arsenal. They have a much shorter profile than an ordinary socket and universal joint combo. Yeah, they’re a bit pricey, but they let you remove and install bolts in really inaccessible places. What’s that worth to you?

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Precision Pick And Hook Set
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Precision Pick and Hook Set

Many electrical connectors in late-model vehicles are locked together with plastic pins and slides. Going after them with needle-nose pliers can wreck those locks. But you can easily finesse them out with a pick from this automotive hook set. They’re also good for snatching O-rings—and even hors d’oeuvres.

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Spark Plug Pliers
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Spark Plug Pliers

Grab hold of plug wires with pliers and you’ll almost certainly damage the boot. But the padded jaws on these boot pliers let you get a firm grip on a spark plug without tearing anything. Slide it onto the top portion of the boot near the wire and clamp down. That’ll apply force to the metal clip inside the boot. Then twist and pull—no more torn boots or wires.

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Floor Jack Ecomm Via Amazon.com
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Floor Jack

If you do your own repair work on a newer vehicle, a heavy-duty floor jack with lift pump is one of the must-have automotive tools. This jack from Big Red allows you to get under low-profile vehicles for repair work. It’s made of durable, high-strength aluminum and steel, is easy to carry and has a machined, non-slip handle. It can lift a car up to 14 inches and has a load capacity of 1-1/2 tons. 

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Digital Torque Adapter Ecomm Via Amazon.com
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Digital Torque Adapter

Tighten a bolt without a torque wrench and you can do major damage. But doing it the right way can mean buying several sizes of torque wrenches. Safely torque without spending a lot of dough with this digital torque adapter. Just set the specified torque and crank away. The digital display shows the rising torque, and the LED readout and audible signal let you know when you’re done. The digital adapter fits 1/2-inch-drive sockets and comes with 3/8-inch- and 1/4-inch-drive adapters.

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Magnet Socket Storage Tray
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Magnet Socket Storage Tray

Most socket organizers lock you into a standard configuration. But Triton MagClip socket storage trays use magnets to give you maximum flexibility for organizing your automotive tools. Leave the centering pins in place to store sockets, or remove them and just let the magnets hold your socket extensions and ratchets. The trays are available individually and in sets.

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Magnetic Tray Ecomm Via Amazon.com
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Magnetic Tray

How many hours have you spent looking for nuts, bolts, washers and other small parts spread willy-nilly around the garage? Just drop them into this handy magnetic tray, and they’ll be there when you need them. The 4-1/4-inch cup holds a handful of parts, keeping them in place so they don’t get lost, and the cup itself sticks to any ferrous metal surface.

“A magnetic tray is one of those inexpensive tools I use constantly,” says O’Donnell. “Whether I am working on my truck, bicycle or installing a light fixture on a ladder, these little magnetic trays are like an extra hand that holds screws, bolts and washers safely and securely.”

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Carbide Tip Scriber
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Carbide Tip Scriber

Seasoned mechanics can disassemble and reassemble just about anything. Know how they do it? They mark each piece as they disassemble. That’s where this inexpensive carbide-tipped scriber comes in handy. Just scratch alignment marks or numbers or whatever you need on the parts as you remove them so you won’t have to remember where they go when it’s time for reassembly.

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Tire Step
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Tire Step

Sure, shade-tree mechanics can stand on a peach crate to work on the truck engine. But if they lean a little too far over, the crate goes flying. That won’t happen with the TireStep 4040 from Heininger, one of the most no-brainer automotive tools. It has more adjustments, a larger step and higher-quality construction than others, and it comes with its own storage pouch. Just unfold this baby, pop it over your front tire, adjust it to the right height and hop on. You can even use it on a rear wheel to secure loads to your roof rack.

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Hose Remover Tool
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Hose Remover Tool

After years of being clamped in place, most radiator and heater hoses become welded to the pipe. If you want to reuse the hose, you can easily spend 30 minutes finessing it off so it’s still in good enough condition to reinstall. That’s where this cool hose remover tool pays off.

Just slip the pointed end into the lip of the hose and pull the tool around the pipe. The rounded edge breaks the hose free, then use the tool to pull the hose off. This baby will save you a lot of time and at least a good 25 curse words for later use on a different repair.

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Mechanic's Roller Seat
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Mechanic’s Roller Seat

Plenty of mechanic jobs can and should be done sitting down. The Wen Rolling Mechanic Seat has four ball-bearing swivel casters and on-board storage, making it as convenient as it is comfortable to use.

“My mechanic’s roller seat is the first thing I reach for when working on my motorcycle, bicycle or truck,” says O’Donnell. “The height is ideal for working on my motorcycle or bicycle on their lift or for changing the tires on my truck. Despite being close to the ground, you’re still mobile and have easy access to onboard tool storage. Honestly, it’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck automotive tools you can have in your garage.”

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Mary Henn
Mary Henn, MFA is an Associate Shopping Editor at Family Handyman. She’s also a national award-winning writer and journalist. Her expertise lies in interior design, home decor, gardening and outdoor trends. When she’s not working on the latest content at FHM, you can find her reading poetry or hiking with her dog, Henry.