Auto Mechanic Tools List for Beginners

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By Heather Mullinix

Published on September 10, 2021

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Owning a car requires upkeep and maintenance. In April 2021, Consumer Reports found that the average car owner spent about $205 per year on upkeep for five-year-old models.

Auto mechanics take on routine maintenance tasks, such as oil changes, along with more complex repairs involving multiple car systems. The right tools allow mechanics to complete repairs efficiently.

Tools represent a significant investment in your new career as an auto mechanic or technician. You'll likely need tools for your training and your first job. In a 2011 interview with WCTI News Channel 12 in North Carolina, industry training manager Mark Larsen estimated mechanics keep about $25,000 worth of tools in their garages. Wards Auto estimated the figure was closer to $50,000.

Community colleges and trade schools often require students to purchase auto mechanic tools before starting their program. These costs vary according to the length/depth of the program and a student's specialty. Schools with auto mechanic programs, such as Butler Community College and Chattanooga State Community college, estimate the cost of these tools to be $1,000-$4,000.

Make the most of your budget by focusing on essential tools. The auto mechanic tools list below covers the equipment you need to start your automotive mechanic career. Check with your school or vendors for student discounts. Discount programs can help you stock your toolbox with high-quality tools you will use for years to come.

Must-Have Auto Mechanic Tools

Air Compressor

Air compressors can fill up tires and run power tools in your garage. Air compressors come in both large industrial models and small, compact, and portable designs. These devices run pneumatic tools, including impact wrenches.

Car Jacks and Car Stands

Sometimes, you need to lift a vehicle off the ground to diagnose problems or make repairs. Car jacks lift a car, but you cannot depend on them to keep you safe while working. Stands provide additional help in keeping a vehicle off the ground so that you do not need to rely solely on a car jack.

Flashlight

You need a good light source to diagnose problems and make repairs correctly. Many mechanics prefer small flashlights, such as penlights, that they can keep in their pockets. These tools allow mechanics to quickly inspect areas underneath hoods and cars. Penlights are lightweight and usually offer long battery life.

Funnels

Funnels help mechanics top off fluids during vehicle maintenance. Funnels ensure that oil, transmission fluid, and windshield cleaner find their way to the proper reservoir. Some funnels may include a hose you can use to better reach small or obstructed openings.

Hammers

Auto mechanics' hammers include ball-pein, cross-pein, and straight-pein versions. These tools can shape metal and aid in part removal and installation. Take care in how hard you strike your target. Most mechanics use hammers for precision work, not brute force.

Jumper Cables

An essential for any roadside safety kit, jumper cables can connect one car battery to another, helping boost its power to start a motor. Look for cables that can handle six-volt, 12-volt, and 24-volt batteries.

Multimeter

Many vehicle systems rely on electronics. A multimeter, or volt-ohm meter, measures electrical voltage and amperage. This handheld tool helps diagnose issues with wiring systems, power supply, and circuits.

Oil Drain Pan

Oil changes are one of the most common tasks for auto mechanics. An oil drain pan collects used oil from the engine. Keep in mind that you must follow local rules for disposing of used oil. Make sure the pan meets the capacity of the engine. Engines may require as much as an eight-quart pan.

Pliers

Mechanics use different types of pliers for various tasks. Needle-nose pliers, duckbill jaw pliers, and wire strippers perform essential functions. Some jobs require specially designed pliers, such as piston ring installers and brake spring pliers. Check with your instructor to determine which pliers you need for your studies.

Prey Bar

These steel bars serve a variety of functions in an auto mechanic shop. They lift, provide leverage, remove nails, and help line up holes. You may hear a pry bar called by other names, including crowbar, pinch bar, and "jimmy."

Ratchets

Ratchet wrenches connect to a socket, making loosening and tightening bolts easier and faster. The socket completely covers the connector. Socket extensions can help mechanics reach nuts and bolts they could not get to with a conventional wrench. Consider purchasing a set in both U.S. and metric sizes.

Screwdrivers

Find a set of Phillips and flathead screwdrivers with different size tips. Some screwdrivers boast magnetic heads that can help you maintain contact with screws. This feature can come in handy when working with screws in locations that are hard to reach.

Tire Gauge

Driving on overinflated or underinflated tires can result in damage to the tire or vehicle. A tire gauge checks the air pressure in tires. Choose from stick-type gauges (about the size of a pen), dial gauges, or digital gauges.

Vise Grips

These locking pliers provide adjustable pressure for holding parts together and clamping off hoses during automotive repairs. They usually have a quick release feature for when the work is complete. Like pliers, these tools come in a variety of styles.

Wrenches

Mechanics use wrenches to turn nuts and bolts, either tightening them to secure a part or loosening these connectors to remove a part. Early-career mechanics need a quality set of hand wrenches in both U.S. and metric measurements.

Frequently Asked Questions About Auto Mechanic Tools

What safety tools does an auto mechanic need?

Working on vehicles involves risk. In addition to the auto mechanics tools listed above, make sure your toolbox includes safety glasses and gloves. Neither of these items costs much, but they can help prevent serious injuries. Gloves should allow a mechanic to grip and maneuver materials and parts quickly. Other safety items include hearing protection, masks, and respirators.

How much do auto mechanic tools cost?

Mechanics may have $25,000-$50,000 worth of tools in their shop. However, they usually do not buy all these tools at once. Beginners often invest $1,000-$4,000 in auto mechanic tools. Over time, they can add to their toolkit as they see the need for specialized items and as technology changes. Check with your school for a list of tools and available student discounts.

Are auto mechanic apprentices expected to have their own tools on the first day?

Many mechanic shops require apprentices or new mechanics to supply certain essential tools. Additionally, auto mechanics often prefer to use tools they have grown comfortable with and trust. A shop may provide some tools, particularly specialized items or diagnostic equipment. However, you should arrive with essentials like wrenches, ratchets, and pliers.

Feature Image: Vasily Pindyurin / Getty Images

Drivers rely on auto mechanics for car and truck maintenance. Learn about being an auto mechanic, including common career paths and typical wages. Discover how to become an auto mechanic. Learn about the requirements and training for this career path.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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