Friday, July 8, 2016

Coffee Brake: The Essential Blue Glove Tool List

If you read the Coffee Brake from a few weeks ago, you will likely come to one of two conclusions; the first is that I am an idiot and will probably spend most of my days hitchhiking (why isn't there an app for part hitching, one part uber.  Free rides?  A way for psychopaths to meet victims people to help people. I gotta get on that) or that I must have an awesome garage to do my own wrenching.  I don't have an awesome garage, but I have assembled an oily smörgåsbord of tools to keep my junkers running.

This is my garage from a few years ago before the wall behind the Mustang got taken over by kids' toys and athletic equipment, but I'm going to attempt to give a concise list of what should be in the garage of the used car buyer.

A large rolling tool box, like this Best Choice Products rolling tool chest, offered for $114.95 on Amazon, but you can get Craftsman version from Sears or the Husky version from Home Depot.

Large Craftsman (or equivalent) 300+ piece mechanics tool set $219 from Amazon.

More combo (box and open end) wrenches to fill out the gaps in the wrench set above like this 24 piece Craftsman set offered for $69 on Amazon.

Set of ratcheting wrenches like this 20 piece Craftsman set for $70 on Amazon.  I use these little guys all the time, it is like the ultimate fusion of a wrench and a socket set.

Socket extensions and universal joint swivel pieces -- you can piecemeal these from Harbor Freight and garage sales or buy a big kit like this 20 piece Craftsman set for $40 on Amazon.

A large set of assorted quality screwdrivers like this 17 piece Craftsman set offered for $27 on Amazon.  You can't just do with a few random screwdrivers, you need the stubby handle versions, the small head, large head -- trust me, you can never have too many different screw drivers to chose from when you really need a chisel.

Pliers are needed in all sorts of situations, get em cheap and toss when they yield or this Stanley 3-piece set for $13 on Amazon....or this Workpro 7-piece set for $13 on Amazon.

The above pliers kits usually include some diagonal cutters, but you should also get small detail friendly versions like this Hakko Micro Soft Wire Cutter for $5 on Amazon.  Metal sheers are nice too and strangely called Aviation snips, here is a Stanley version for $9 on Amazon.

Vise-Grips style locking pliers are shockingly useful, here is a set by Irwin Tools for $32 on Amazon.

I hate Allen Wrenches because they seem like such a fantastic solution to the basic fastener problem, but are frustratingly small and slipper for anything but a 1/4 turn application -- and the world rejoiced on the 6th day when the Creator created the Hex Bit Socket Set, like this 32-piece SAE/Metric set for $54 on Amazon.

The basic household hammer is great for a few things...driving nails into boards...sure...but you need a proper selection of dead blow, 2-lb soft mallet, and 5-lb sledge to properly rebuild an Italian transmission.   Here is a 6-piece set from Mountain for $46 on Amazon.

Metal files are always helpful for various projects, find a set for $20 on Amazon.

Somehow, I went for years without owning a grease gun, but if you've got older cars they are needed, here is a Lumax version for $21 on Amazon.

These little wire brush sets are really handy, be sure to get a set that has plastic, brass, and steel, like this ABN branded set for $5 on Amazon.

Obviously, you are going to need to clean your car, so various car cleaning supplies are needed; I've enjoyed using Meguiars products over the years, here is a Complete Car Care Set for $49 on Amazon.

A work bench is not complete until it has a bench vise bolted to a corner, like this Wilton 4-inch jaw version for $43 on Amazon.

The safest way (typically) to get under your car is with a set of stationary ramps like these Rhino Ramps offered for $34 on Amazon.

Ramps work great unless you need to remove a wheel, then you are going to need your floor jack, here is a 1.5 ton Aluminum version from Liftmaster offered for $80 on Amazon.

Finally, you are going to want at least 1 to 2 sets of jack stands, like these Powerzone 2-ton Jack Stands offered for $24 on Amazon.

You are probably going to have to deal with dead batteries, so you will want a decent battery charger, like this Schumacher SC-1200A SpeedCharge that is a microprocessor controlled charger with settings for lead-acid, AGM, and gell cell batteries, find it for $39 on Amazon.

Stay organized by putting nice labels on stuff in your garage, get a Brother P-Touch label maker for $26 on Amazon.

You need small set of powered hand tools, and I've had a set of Craftsman Nextec 12-Vol Lithium Ion drills, including the basic drill/driver, an impact drill, and right angle drill for years.  I like the Nextec because they are compact, powerful, and inexpensive.  You can get the basic drill for $63 on Amazon...but I think I paid less for them a few years ago, they might have been replaced by something better by now.

I've had a wall mounted bolt/nut assortment in my garage for years, and the original nuts/bolts are long gone, but I've filled the drawers with various left-over fasteners from my projects.  Start with a kit like this 1,001 nuts/bolts/washers kit for $20 on Amazon and then slowly replace the bins with your own Saab specific fasteners over time.

This is only a starting list of stuff that should be in your garage, and I am probably missing all kinds of things that you consider essential to the garage -- what'd I miss?  Blue nitrile gloves?  Comments below.


  1. A few others come immediately to mind; Torque wrench, bottle opener, 1st aid kit complete with tourniquet, cell phone with 911 priority, etc.

  2. I might add a good trouble light, on a ceiling-mounted recoil. LED or fluorescent as a bonus. With a power point on the handle.

  3. Gianni beat me to it. Fridge for me, because sometimes (insert your favorite beverage of choice here) is the perfect thirst quencher.

    My insertions would be ice cold water or a diet soda.


    1. Big ass fire extinguisher. When they go out of date they are great for cooling down beverages if you don't have a fridge.

      Magnetic tipped extension for he big stuff as we'll as a magnetic bowl for holding screws and nuts.

      A kid to help you. My eleven year old trunk monkey is very helpful

  4. Pictures! This post needs more pictures!

    Off topic, I'm a fan of for becoming aware of, well, cool tools.

    Other stuff -
    Torx bits
    Trim spudger
    6-MF-ing-Sided Sockets if they're not included with a base kit
    Smart-phone camera to look at hard-to-see places
    I don't have one, but an impact wrench is a wonderful thing
    A set of straight and curved picks
    Digital volt-ohm meter (DVOM)
    Gorilla tape (hold things in place, put screws/bolts on the ends of tools for deep recesses, etc)
    Propane torch for heating up stuck things
    Aerokroil or equivalent for chemically unsticking things

    1. Maybe spudger is the wrong name - trim fastener removal tool(s)

    2. Who you calling Spudger? That is Mr. Spudger pal.

    3. Oh, oh, so sorry, Mr. Spudger.

  5. Laptop with serial port or usb/serial port drivers. VM software for 16/32 bit wierd proprietary OEM parts counter or service manual software. This is a must have nowadays if you want to get anywhere unfortunately. Old thinkpads or tough books are nice if you have the means. Cables can be had on scam-bay.

    E-torx bits I'm finding I need more often.

    Someone I know works at a big shop and they use all electric impact guns. No hoses laying everywhere. just have a array of chargers and batterys they swap out. Big semi/truck stuff too. I don't have one but its on the list as I have no place to put an air compressor of any useful size.

  6. Lots of great additional suggestions guys. I can't believe I forgot to include a fire extinguisher and an electric impact wrench/gun.

  7. a set of Whitworth spanners if you're working on a proper car ...
    Morris Minor Van

  8. I can say without a doubt the best tool I never bought (gifted to me) was a DeWalt 12v impact driver. Very small, very powerful, but won't destroy anything because it's too powerful. IIRC does about 70 to 80 ft lbs of torque. Will not break lug nuts loose. Will take that rusty body bolt out in a heartbeat though. Rule of thumb is basically if you need a 1/2" socket driver to break loose the nut/bolt this can't break it free either.

    You will notice this is a combo pack. You can buy just the driver for $10 less. So for that extra $10 you get a second charger, two extra batteries (total of four), and a normal driver.

  9. Bear in mind my toolset is a fifty-year agglomeration of what I picked up from my brother, my father, and bought myself.

    You can never have too many ratchet extensions.

    6-point preferable to 12-point sockets in most cases.

    If you ever find a batch of 1940s-60s Craftsman sockets grab 'em, they were great. Bear in mind they're thinner and do break occasionally. The accountants got to them later and made the walls thicker, the later ones are nothing special. But the earlier stuff is brilliant and I treasure the ones I've still got.

    Little flex-handle ratchets have a lot of uses, I have a couple Macs and a couple Center brand (20-year-old Japanese).

    Ratcheting box wrenches are great where they work but they don't fit everywhere. If you're planning on removing a transmission from a BMW you probably want a few ratcheting etorx box to go with your etorx sockets.

    Buy bags of random sockets on ebay when the price is right but shop carefully, you'll always get some garbage but it's about keeping the chaff-to-wheat ratio under 25%.

    Little pipe wrench for tie-rod end adjustment. I got mine because an alignment shop left it hanging on my steering rack and it stayed there for a week until I found it.

    I've now converted most of my tools over to Dewalt 20v li-ion. Still have a bunch of good Dewalt 14.4v nicad batteries so I still have the tools, but when the batteries go the tools will too. The 5amp Dewalt li-ion battery is pretty much a 120v cord replacement for everything from the Sawzall to the hedge trimmer, it goes and goes and goes.

    I've bought used Fluke, etc. digital meters off eBay for quite reasonable money and so far none have been DOA, but you can get a cheap one for the travel/junkyard bag from Hazard Fraught, et al, for near-nothing.

    Second the suggestion that anything post-mid-80s is going to require specialized diagnostic electronics and sometimes service tools. I have a Ford Super STAR tester and EEC breakout box, Rotunda SHO cam and crank tools, Rotunda MN12 rear suspension bushing/bearing pullers, all eBay sourced. Various BMW service tools and much...uh...borrowed BMW diagnostic and service-library software (as well as one actually licensed-and-paid-for third party product.) Find a reputable eBay vendor and get yourself a near-top-of-the-line five- or six-year-old HP or Dell or equivalent laptop.

    1. My general rule of thumb when buying used sockets: they're worth a buck apiece. Larger sizes more, of course, some much more, but the random socket batch is worth less than its count in dollars.


      There looks to be a bunch of old stuff in here, and old is good, never mind the rust. I like this one.

      This one could be interesting as well:

      Remember, Blue Point is Snap-On's generic line. I have a bunch of these and they're wonderful:

      At the opening bid this one's a buy, but don't go too much higher:

      Here's your crapshoot. Need 999 1/4in drive sockets?

      Remember 6pt usually > 12pt but you need some 12pt sizes for CV joint/U-joint bolts etc.

      Also when you look into a socket if it's got a big shiny bottom and a roundish hole it's cheap garbage. Otherwise the thinner the wall the more expensive the socket.

    2. Actually, now that I think about it, I'd forgotten VAGCOM/VCDS, I have TWO licensed-and-paid-for third-party diagnostic software packages.

      And as far as ebay goes, search 'sockets lot' or 'sockets various' or 'tools lot' or 'tools various' to see what comes up.

      There are good commodity Chinese sockets and ratches these days (I have the full suite of Harbor Freight composite-handle ratchets and love 'em) but most Middle Kingdom pliers and adjustable wrenches are nowhere near as good.

  10. What's a diagnostic software package? Something you need if you watch Fast n Furious repeatedly? I find with older Beemers and probably all Beemers a set of torx everything is indispensable . How I hate torx bolts!

    1. Depends on the car. Many older cars (defined as mid-80s and up) require specialized hardware, sometimes simplistic, sometimes frighteningly elaborate.

      From the days when our Feds came up with OBD-II (1996 onward) automakers have been piling other diagnostic capabilities into the OBD port, so that $15 Harbor Freight OBD-II scanner might point you in the general direction if your MIL goes on, but it won't tell you about the failed electric cooling fan or let you troubleshoot the climate controls or power seats.

      Commercially available software products range from $400 to $40000 depending on the make and how extensive the coverage is.

  11. If you are anal about cleaning things, like me, the next time you go to your dentist ask them if you can have some of the scrapers they use on your teeth. Best tool ever as it will destroy all the gunk in those knocks & crannies. They will be happy to give them to you since they have to pay a service to take them away. One & done.


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