Must Have Tools in Your Garage for Vehicle Maintenance


Doing your own automotive maintenance and repairs can save you a ton of cash. It can also be enjoyable if you’re into turning wrenches. From simple things like oil changes and air filter replacements to more complicated services like changing your coolant or even swapping out an engine, it’s an empowering experience to be able to handle your own maintenance. Of course, you can’t do the job if you don’t have the right tools and, make no mistake, you’ll need quite a few.

Must Have Tools for a Auto Maintenance

Not sure how you should set up your garage to handle auto maintenance? Here are some of the most important, must have tools.


You will most certainly need a set of ratchets. You’ll want quite a few different options, including 3/8-drive and 1/2-drive. Depending on your budget, you might want to invest in some swivel head ratchets as well, as they make getting into tight spots a whole lot easier. As a note, make sure you also invest in ratchet extensions – these are lifesavers when it comes to reaching nuts and bolts way down deep inside the engine.


You need a full set of sockets, and you need both metric and standard sizes. Don’t be surprised if you use the metric sockets more often than the SAE set, even on domestic autos. As a note, make sure you have a spark plug socket as well (a socket designed specifically for removing sparkplugs without much hassle).


Like sockets, you’ll need a set of both metric and standard wrenches. You don’t necessarily need one of every size, but you should have a good representation in your toolbox for the most common sizes.

Power Drill

Okay, you’ll probably use the actual drill function relatively rarely. However, you’ll find that this tool is invaluable, particularly for removing air filter covers (if yours is held together with bolts) and for many other needs. Make sure you have a selection of extensions and adapters to go with it, and opt for a rechargeable battery, versus a corded model. While you will have to recharge every so often, you’ll find that not being tethered to a cord offers a lot of benefits.

Jack and Jack Stands

Every home garage needs a good jack. Opt for a floor jack with enough capabilities to handle the weight of your vehicle with ease. You also need a full set of jack stands (you can start with two if you have to, but four is better). Don’t cheap out when it comes to buying jack stands, either. These have to be strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle while you’re underneath it – obviously, that’s not something you want to take chances with.

Basic Hand Tools

Technically, most of what we’ve discussed thus far could be considered hand tools, but we’re going to separate this section. Make sure you have the following in your toolbox:

  • Hammer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Vise grips
  • Set of screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure

Spare 4-Way Lug Wrench

This simple tool deserves an entry all its own. While you should definitely have a lug wrench in your vehicle, you need one for your shop. Opt for a 4-way lug wrench as well, as these let you apply more torque to those tight lug nuts, and the range of sizes ensures that you’ll have a tool to fit most jobs.


A Compressor and Air Tools

You can purchase a smaller compressor for very little money these days. You can also buy all types of air tools to go with it, from air hammers to cutters and everything in between. If you have the money at the outset, these are excellent purchases and will save you a lot of labor in the long run.

Brake Tools

If you’ll be doing any of your own brake work, there are quite a few specialty tools you’ll want to consider. For one, consider a large C-clamp, which will help you compress the piston on the caliper to get the brakes back together again. You’ll also want some line wrenches (specially designed to deal with brake lines). A brake bleeder is another vital tool. If you’ll be working on drum brakes as well as disc brakes, make sure you have a pair of brake spring pliers on hand.

Tips for Building Your Tool Collection

There are so many important tools that you’ll want on hand, it can be easy to go broke very quickly. Our advice here is to start small. Buy only the absolute essentials, and then build your collection over time. For example, invest in a basic set of sockets and ratchets, rather than an extensive collection of different sizes and types.

Over time, add more tools. This is a great way to start with enough tools to get the job done, but then add specialty tools or “big ticket” items without going broke in the process. Remember – you’re outfitting a home garage, not a professional shop. There’s no shame in having to borrow a tool or two from time to time.

It’s also important to pay for quality. A good tool can last you a lifetime and while it will cost more than a cheap one, you’ll actually spend much more replacing that cheap tool over time than if you’d just bit the bullet and bought quality in the first place. Buy name brand tools that offer a good warranty, as well (a lifetime warranty is a great option, and you’ll find most major tool companies offer this).

Finally, use tool rental programs to your advantage. You’ll find most auto parts stores can offer almost any type of tool you might need for a small fee, and most of them return the cost when you bring the tool back. This is an excellent option for tools that you may need once or twice, but that are too costly to buy for just occasional use – a steering wheel puller, for instance.