Project Garage, Part IX: More Garage Tools

By Sarah Forst


My donor card declares my blood type as Mobil 1 15W50; I've got motor oil running through my veins. I buy shop towels at Costco and can identify most car fluids by smell and even taste. Bolt-ons, turbos, axles, engine and tranny swaps, clutches, suspension, and maintenance projects have all been accomplished in Project Garage. So it's only natural my chop shop is supplied with the tools ready to complete almost any car job. 

Anyone got a spare rubber donut thingee?  

Let's start with the obvious.  Get a good jack and some strong jack stands. For F1 quick tire swaps, Harbor Freight sells a compact aluminum rapid pump jack that will lift 3000 pounds between 3 3/8 and 14 3/4 inches in just 3.5 pumps. It weighs 27 pounds and retails for $120. A two ton capacity version can be found for $200.  They also sell a 2.5 ton version that only requires 2 3/4 inches of clearance and can lift up to 20 inches.  It's $140 but is quite a bit heavier, weighing in at almost 72 pounds.  If you tend to buy cheap knockoff clutches, you may want a transmission jack which has a saddle to keep the tranny more secure while lifting back onto the input shaft, though I've always just used a regular jack, a beer or twelve, and some four letter words for these jobs.

Jack stands
Jack stands come in different weight capacities and adjustable heights. Only use a jack or jack stands on a car that is on level ground.  Make sure they are securely positioned under the car usually on the pinch welds or under the frame so they don't slip or damage your car.
You can't trust a tire or a piece of wood to support 2500+ pounds from crushing you like road kill. Always put a jack stand under each raised tire to keep yourself from becoming acquainted with your undercarriage and kissing your oil pan. Jack stands come in all sorts of capacities and it's a good idea to have different sizes and heights for various jobs from tire changes to engine swaps.  Wheel dollies are helpful for long term projects you need to be able to move around.  
Mechanics seat
If your mechanics seat doesn't look like a greasy mess, you're not working hard enough in your garage!
A rolling table cart can help you organize your tools at your project rather than having to keep returning to your tool chest with every new size. Look for one with locking swivel casters to keep the heavy cart from tattooing your fender. If you'll be spending a lot of time on your back (to clarify, under the car…), get a mechanic's creeper and roll where you need to be. A mechanic's seat is also a convenient thing to have. Bonus- they typically have a small storage shelf beneath the seat to allow your tools to go with you.
Oil filter wrenches
I like the convenience and ease of a strap oil filter wrench but the clamping teeth on the plier type help grip stubborn oil filters.  
Specialty tools come in handy when you are working on your car. As well as a drain pan for changing your oil, you'll need something to pull that old filter off. Beating an old screwdriver into an oil filter will allow you to twist it loose in a pinch. Or you could use an oil filter wrench the remove it. Use it only to loosen the filter- oil filters should always be hand tightened. Oil filters come in socket, plier, and strap types. Strap wrenches or grip wrenches are also convenient for other jobs where you can't get your hands around something you need to twist like a jar of spaghetti sauce.
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Monday, February 25, 2013 10:40 PM
Ice hockey puck, works well as a Trolley jack rubber. just cut a slot in it for the pinck weld.
Monday, February 25, 2013 11:46 PM
that engine hoist looks like its lifting the car??
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 5:22 AM

A widely accepted way to remove the engine and transmission from many FWD plaforms is to unbolt everything including the steering and K-members and pick up the front of the vehicle using an engine hoist.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:13 AM
Thanks for covering this. I have found over the years of collecting tools that the right tool will make a world of difference in reducing the time and frustration of any project. There are plenty of specialty tools and homebrew tool solutions specific to each application. Think you guys might want to share some fun stuff like that with us? I'm sure Dave has a few. (more than a few)
Sarah Forst
Sarah Forstlink
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:19 AM
@drew: Interesting suggestion! Ice hockey- that's that thing Canadians play, right? ;p

@Dusty: you got it.

@jeffball: Funny you mention that. I'm thinking an "Improvisational Tools" article will be coming up soon! I know of quite a few WTF ideas I've employed over the years...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 8:17 AM
I don't own a tap and die set, seems every time I'm at a friend's house who has one they never have the right size in their metric section. I've just got a bunch of onesie twosie taps and dies that I've accumulated to get the job done. If you use the Japanese metric system as opposed to the German/British/American metric system, I suspect you'll encounter the same. You should have put a welder in there, it's unbelieveable how much use I've gotten from mine since purchasing it just 1 year ago.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:00 AM
For oil changes, I bought the Craftsman 3-prong oil filter wrench. It attaches to a 3/8" drive socket wrench. You can remove any filter with this type of wrench, even the ones the claw and strap wrenches can't remove. Best $15 I ever spent plus it's super compact and can be easily brought to the track.

I didn't see any hammers shown. Every shop needs a ballpeen and a deadblow hammer! Also a tie rod separator (bonking tool if you're a Brit). And finally, I recommend buying a chunk of pipe to slip over your wrench handle. It's a cheap and dirty breaker bar.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:09 AM
Cool article. I'd like to add that a short length of plastic hose to hold spark plugs so you can thread them in by hand guarantees that you'll never cross-thread them. You can also use the hose to pull the plugs out of the tubes if they are hard to reach.
Sarah Forst
Sarah Forstlink
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 2:04 PM
@8695Beaters: I did hammers in the first garage tools installation here: http://www.motoiq.com/magazine_articles/id/2405/project-garage-part-vii-garage-tools.aspx
Can't live without my BFH! And those wrenches are great- and cheap.

@Supercharged: welder is on the list.

@Pilun: good tip!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 2:40 PM
That is the easiest and fastest way to pull an engine and transmission in an NX2000. Or is it the easiest way to change the oil filter? I forget.... :)
Scott Helmer
Scott Helmerlink
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:44 PM
To add to 8695Beater's tip on using pipe as a breaker bar, the jack that I got from Harbor Freight had a two piece handle (held in place with a nut and bolt as a pin), which I've used many, many times as a breaker bar (generally slipped over a socket wrench handle), and it has never failed me. I lost the nut and bolt that holds it together long ago, but the handle piece that stays in the jack has a knurling to it, which I imagine was done for exactly that reason ;)

@Sarah: Wasn't Wrench Tips the resident "WTF" alternative tool article? Somebody go poke Dave Coleman and tell him to whip some up, or let you write some XD
OMG Its Weasel
OMG Its Weasellink
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 8:26 PM
I second the guest writing of Wrench Tips articles by Sarah.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:17 PM
@ Sarah,Ice
hockey- that's that thing Canadians
play, right? ;p yep thats the one. Little hard to find here in AU. but it was a $10 fit to a $50 problem from snapon.
also Valve Lapping Compound on your phillips screwdrivers stops them from caming/sliping out.
BFH cant live without.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 2:51 PM
I love this Project Garage!

Hockey pucks can also be cut down and used as coasters. Also, broken hockey sticks are great to frame a work bench and shelves.

Now off to shovel the driveway, again!
OMG Its Weasel
OMG Its Weasellink
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:10 PM
"Valve Lapping Compound on your phillips screwdrivers stops them from caming/sliping out."

awesome, thanks!
Friday, March 15, 2013 8:59 AM
Lapping compound helps, but not everyone has it. A rubber band over the tip of a Phillips screwdriver can really help bite into a stripping screw head.
Thursday, October 31, 2013 5:41 AM
For repairing the car, having the necessary tools are important. Buying tools based on the vehicle we owned is important.

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