Some tools are essential for every car owner, even for owners who usually take their car to a mechanic. There are common tools that can help people diagnose problems and fix minor car trouble without turning their garage into an auto parts store. Many of these tools are also useful around the house. Investing in and using the proper tools can save money rather than always depending on a mechanic. All car owners should have five basic tools at their disposal.
All cars made after 1996 are required to contain an onboard diagnostics or OBD port. The vehicle's computer, also called the engine control unit or ECU, can send diagnostic codes through the port to a special diagnostic tool. The port is usually under the hood on the driver's side. Automotive technicians and auto parts stores charge their customers to use these tools to find out what is wrong with a vehicle. Diagnostic tools are not cheap, but many of them will work on any car. A good diagnostic tool could save someone hundreds of dollars. Many tools provide a website where people can upload diagnostic codes and get helpful information like the parts needed for repair and the estimated costs. Diagnostic tools are also a great way to check used cars before purchase.
A socket wrench has a socket attached at one end that people usually use to turn a fastener like the ones on hubcaps and other car parts. The most prevalent form is the ratcheting socket wrench, often called a ratchet. A metal handle attached to a ratcheting mechanism attaches to a socket. The socket fits onto a type of bolt or nut. When someone pulls or pushes the handle in one direction, the ratchet loosens or tightens the bolt or nut attached to the socket. If they turn it in the other direction, they reposition the handle for another turn. This ratcheting action lets people quickly tighten or loosen fasteners. A switch built into the ratchet head allows the user to apply the ratcheting action in either direction as needed to tighten or loosen a fastener. The sockets attach to the ratchet through a square fitting called a drive that contains a spring-loaded mechanism to keep them in place.
A socket set with many interchangeable sizes and types of sockets saves money and space over having many separate wrenches, and a ratchet is often included. Almost all screw and bolt types have sockets made to fit them. Insulated sockets help to prevent electric shock while working on hybrid or electric cars. A socket extension lets people work on hard to reach areas.
Screwdrivers are useful for repairs around the house as well as on the car. According to Automedia.com, cars use many different types of screw heads. Car owners should have a few different sizes and types of screwdrivers. Phillips and flathead screwdrivers are the most common types. Stubby screwdrivers are very useful when working in confined spaces. Long screwdrivers can also help if a part like the radiator or the transmission is hard to reach. Many screwdrivers come with different heads so that people will not have to buy several different sizes and types. A ratcheting screwdriver also helps the user apply more torque in confined spaces.
Pliers are useful for gripping objects, turning them, bending them, and otherwise manipulating them. They are great for turning spark plugs as well as cutting, twisting, and bending wire for stereos, headlights, air conditioning, and more.
- Long Nose Pliers- Round, pointed jaws perfect for twisting and bending wire
- Short Nose Pliers- Good for gripping and holding, especially in tight areas
- Tongue and Groove Pliers- Offset serrated jaws useful for reaching into oddly shaped areas. Long handles allow user to apply leverage
- Diagonal Pliers- Used to cut and shape wire
A plier set is a great way to get all of these tools in one package. The consumer should double check that the set has a good selection of plier types and sizes.
VoltmeterA voltmeter is essential for troubleshooting or diagnosing almost anything electrical on a car, and a sharp technician can locate a bad connection or a shorted wire quickly. It measures the difference in electrical potential between two points in a circuit. Analog voltmeters move a pointer across a scale in proportion to the voltage of the circuit. Digital voltmeters give a numerical display of voltage produced by an analog to digital converter. They can usually also measure