I was just barely 18 when I walked into a shop as a new mechanic apprentice. Now, I am in my early 20s and the fascination with cars and car repairing has not diminished one bit. I have even enrolled as a Mechanical Engineering student at a community college here. From being a beginner, I am happy to report that I have become proficient at doing most car repairs with the collection of tools I have built up through the years. For any novice mechanic, the following tools should be part of any tool box.
For turning bolts and screws
You want a quality set of wrenches to begin with. Look for quality brands like Craftsman, as their tough tools come with a lifetime warranty. Metric is the way to go in sizes. I rarely use mine now, but owning a standard set always gives me a reassuring feeling with my wrenches that I can handle anything cars can throw at me. I also own the three fundamental sizes for ratchets and they are small (¼-inch), medium (⅜ inch) and large (½ inch). I can report that I use all sizes fairly regularly.
Beginners should not go without the three basic sizes of sockets either. Sockets are also available in long and shallow/short. You will appreciate owning both those sizes for common repair jobs. Always choose metric when comparing sizes.
In addition to just owning Phillips and Flat head screwdrivers, a variety of gauges or thicknesses and lengths should also be readily available. Stubbed screwdrivers are suitable for sensor removal and tight spaces. You can use normal length screwdrivers for the usual screwdriver applications. Although long and skinny screwdrivers tend to be the easiest type to break, they do enable you to extend your reach. A heavy-duty flathead screwdriver provides something you can hit with a hammer, and also something that doubles as a small pry bar. Small flathead screwdrivers are often given as freebies as they are relatively inexpensive. These types are typically used during tuneups for holding the intake throttle open. Torx screwdrivers are often found on sensors and are also frequently used in car manufacturing. They have a characteristic star head.
For gripping and holding
When you have to replace hoses, do brake work, or work with challenging connectors, a pair of regular pliers is needed. To handle coolant hoses and other clamps, you will need vise grips. Useful for holding up trunks or hoods with broken hydraulic rods, vise grips are otherwise known as mole grips or locking pliers. You should also get long and short needle nose pliers as they can be useful in many repairs.
For striking and prying apart
A hammer can be used to knock a stuck component such as a rotor by giving it a good whack. Offering general hammer uses, a ball pein or ball peen hammer also helps with brake work. Used for surfaces that need a beating, a rubber mallet ensures that the surface you hammer on remains free from dents.
To enable manual loosening of tough bolts, a breaker bar offers the needed torque to do the job. On the other hand, a pry bar is suitable for breaking components apart gently especially when they’ve been connected for a long while.
For facilitating auto mechanic work
A LED flashlight or headlamp lets you perform diagnostics and scoping out of bolts. Headlamps offer nighttime illumination while keeping your hands free to do work. A multimeter should be able to read amperage aside from the basic functionalities that this type of device can do (For buying reliable multimeters, I suggest searching for offers on this site). An extension bar provides greater reach when working with bolts or simply making the job easier to do.
If you need flexibility or bend when reaching bolts, a socket swivel should do the trick. When you have to take the wheels off to work on the brakes, or to get under the car, an automotive jack should always be used with jack stands to ensure safety. Jack stands offer backup support to a hydraulic jack, which comes with potential room for failure when supporting the full weight of the entire vehicle.
A mechanic needs a full range of tools and equipment in order to do their work efficiently, effectively and safely. Investments must be made on a variety of tools but if one intends to spend a productive time in the field, everything is worth the money for the long term.