Basic Hand Tools Every Garage Needs

As you begin to perform maintenance on your car or truck, you might need to buy some more tools. Purchase your tools gradually, so that you gain the confidence to use the tools, realize their value, and determine your needs before buying more. To begin, you should have the following hand tools for basic vehicle maintenance. I will explain how to select electronic diagnostic tools in a later blog post.

 
Recommendation: Buy quality tools that have long-term (even lifetime) warranties from companies with solid reputations for good customer service.

Cheap tools can cause problems during your work, commonly not fitting fasteners properly, bending or breaking during use, and inflicting pain or injury on the user.

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  • Hydraulic jack (with the capacity to lift at least half of your vehicle’s weight). Invest in a good jack, because if it fails, your vehicle may fall to the ground when you are not prepared to place it there.
  • Jack stands that can easily support the weight of the vehicle. Don’t scrimp on jack stands either; they can save your life.
  • Oil filter wrench. Check your oil filter size and type before buying this wrench. The strap-type wrench doesn’t fit all filters. You might not even need a special wrench for cartridge-type filters.
  • Spout or funnel for pouring fluids.
  • Large container for catching oil and other draining fluids; even better is a recycling container system, which some local governments distribute to encourage used oil recycling.
  • A shop light. It should be small enough to fit in tight spaces, tough enough to withstand some knocking around, and convenient enough to attach under the hood or anywhere it is needed so your hands are free to work.

Here is one final word about how much to pay for your tools. All the tools above, if purchased new, should cost several hundred dollars. Add a rollaway tool box to keep them in and the total will exceed a thousand dollars. But they can pay you back in just a few repair jobs. If you buy quality tools, they will last longer than your cars—or even you.

Until next time.

Be In Touch With Your Inner Gear Head

Staying in tune with your car will give you a solid understanding of its needs.You don’t have to be a master mechanic to know when something is wrong. The reality is that you are the first person who will have a clue that something is wrong with your car. Knowing how your car drives on its best day will help you figure out quickly when something isn’t right.

At what point do you start to worry that something is wrong with your car? Did you hear a funny ticking noise that wasn’t there before? Is there suddenly an acrid smell that causes you to roll down all the windows to get a breath of fresh air? What once was a smooth ride now feels like the bumper cars at your county fair?

Here are a few tips to help identify that there is a problem with your car:

Look for the problem –  Small drops of fluid or stains might not indicate a problem, but you should investigate if you start to see large puddles. You can identify different fluid leaks by the color of the fluid.

Here are some fluid color indicators:

  • Green, blue, or orange could indicate an antifreeze leak or an overheating engine.
  • Black or brown oily fluids could be an oil leak caused by a bad seal or gasket.
  • Red oily spots usually indicate a transmission or power steering leak.

 

Smell the problem – You can detect some problems simply by identifying the odor. These are some odors you might smell when there is a problem:

  • If it smells like burnt toast you may have an electrical short and burning insulation.
  • If it smells like rotten eggs this could mean a problem with the catalytic converter or other emissions controls devices.
  • An acrid odor could mean an oil leak.
  • The smell of gas after a failed start could be a flooded engine. If you continue to still smell gas following the failed start, you could have a leak in the fuel line. This needs to be fixed right away.

All of the above smells can be indicators of different problems and all of these problems can cause permanent damage to your car. Should you find any of these, it is vital that you repair it immediately. I recommend you don’t even drive it. Fix it yourself if you have the means, or have it towed to your local automotive expert.

Listen for the problem – Many common problems are accompanied by distinct sounds. Listen for the following:

  • Squealing could indicate loose or worn power steering, fan, or air conditioning belt.
  • Clicking could mean a loose wheel cover, loose or bent fan blade, stuck valve lifter, or low engine oil.
  • Screeching is caused by brake wear indicators to let you know it is time for maintenance.
  • Heavy knocking could indicate a worn crankshaft or connection rod bearings. It could also indicate a loose transmission torque converter.
  • Clunking, or random thumping, could mean a loose shock absorber or suspension component, or a loose exhaust pipe or muffler.

Feel the problem – Often you can feel problems in the handling of the car as you drive. Here are some examples of things to look for if your car feels different:

  • Steering: Check your alignment and tire inflation if your car feels like it is pulling to the side while you are steering straight.
  • Ride and Handling: Your vehicle may have poor cornering capabilities if you have worn shock absorbers or suspension components. To test, bounce your car up and down hard at each wheel and let go. If the car bounces twice or more that indicates weak shocks.
  • Engine: Engine problems become evident with rough idling of the engine, poor acceleration, poor fuel economy, and excessive oil use. Also seek repair if the engine continues to run after the key is removed.
  • Brakes: You may have problems with your brakes if the vehicle pulls to one side when you brake, the brake pedal sinks to the floor when pressure is maintained, or you hear scraping or grinding during braking.

Find out more great information about diagnosing common problems at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut13.shtm.

ROAD TRIP!

Road trips are a lot of fun, but they can also put a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle. As always, proper planning and maintenance is crucial before you depart on your next adventure.

Normally, you would see a post like this in the beginning of the summer, but with the holidays right around the corner I thought I would save it for today.

Step 1: Check Your Tires

Anytime you are preparing for a long trip it is vital that your tires are in tip-top shape, as you will likely be doing a lot of highway driving at a high rate of speed. A great little trick is to pull out a penny, flip President Lincoln onto his head and place it between a few treads. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for a change.

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Step 2: Replace Your Windshield Wipers

Really think about it, when is the last time you changed your windshield wipers? If you’re anything like me, it often slips your mind during your regular maintenance work. To stay on the safe side, hop on over to your favorite auto parts store and pick up a pair. It only takes a few minutes to change them and will make a huge difference in your visibility in unfavorable conditions.

Step 3: Check Your Battery

If your battery is corroded or the connections appear loose, try cleaning it and tightening the wires and cords that connect to the positive and negative ports. Use a voltmeter to test the connections. The voltmeter will tell you if you’re getting the proper amount of power. If you’re not, it’s better to change the battery now rather than later. You don’t want to stop for gas and end up having to ask for a jump.

Step 4: Flush The Radiator

As a general rule, you should be replacing your coolant once per year. So go ahead and empty that bad boy out and fill it up with new fluid.

Step 5: Replace Your Air Filter

You should be replacing your air filter twice per year. It only takes a minute…don’t be lazy. Get out there and do it.

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-Ben Taylor