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A Beginner’s Tool Set: What Am I Looking For?

Home Forums Stay Dirty Lounge Tool Talk A Beginner’s Tool Set: What Am I Looking For?

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    Dimitri ShroyerDimitri Shroyer

      I recently got my first car, so I think it’s high time I looked into getting some maintenance and repair tools rounded up. I’m not extremely knowledgeable of automotives, but I definitely want to change that. I already know I have a CV replacement in the foreseeable future, and I’m sure I’m going to run across another item or two the seller “forgot” to mention. With that being said, I have a few questions. First, having next to no tools right now, would I be better off getting a more expansive set like the Craftsman 309 piece set or the Harbor Freight 301 piece set, or would I be better off focusing on just metric tools? What are your recommendations for driver sets (screws, torx, hex, etc.). Is it reasonable to go a little cheaper on things like o2 sensor sockets and spark plug sockets, or is better to bite the bullet? Any recommendations for entry level torque wrenches? And finally, what other commonly used tools am I forgetting?


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    • #562204

        I was in your shoes some time ago. When i got my first car, i knew nothing about how to turn a wrench let alone a simple oil change. I started by deciding to do my own oil changes. I would drive to my friends house and use his dads craftmen set.

        My first set of tools i actually got from lowes called Task Force. It was the 179 piece set that came with everything i needed to do various jobs such as a timing belt, oil changes and other small jobs like brakes and suspension. I loved that tool set and i still have it 4 years later. i liked it because it came with larger sockets that the more expensive Kobalt set didnt. With the cheap set, i was able to remove the axle nut because it came with a 32 mm socket lol. Now i use a craftman set because i recived it as a gift from my father.

        Most other tools you buy as you learn. Its more like a collection and arsenal than a necessity.

        Alright now, it all depends how much you are willing to spend. Its nice to have a 301 piece set, but in my opinion its not necessary. you will do just fine with a 150 or 179 piece as long as it has ratchets and sockets of various sizes (1/2, 3/8, 1/4). most if those sets come with a standard sparkplug socket and various extensions. Next i suggest if funds allow to get a plier set, one long needle nose pleirs too. finally i would get a click style torque wrench to torque the wheels and other various bolts. It doesnt have to be expensive ( we’re not building engines here) i still have my $25 torque wrench that i bought a long time ago to torque wheels and other bolts. Specialty tools and sockets such as 02 sensor sockets and axlenut sockets you can rent from most autoparts stores so no need to buy. A jack and a set of jack stands is another thing too.

        The brand is up to you. i never personaly used the Pittsburg brand ( harborfrieght) sockets (although people have used them with good results they will get the job done), but i have used a large stores cheap brand rather than their name brand ( task force rather than Kobalt, or great neck rather than craftman) with good results. I prefered the task force more or less because it was my first tool set, like a first love lol :). Are the name brands better than the off brand ?probably. Are there tools better than others, definitely. Right now ,on what ever you decide, the important thing is to learn how to use them. Start with oil changes, get a feel about how your ratchet works and how much torque your applying to a bolt. All the other tools youll get as you go. Im sure others will chime in and give better advice than what i have to offer lol. Im just letting you know from my experience. Youll learn alot about how a car works and more personally about your own car. I shouls say that over the years, the head aches and back aches were well worth thr experience of learning about the machine known as your car.

        I hope that helps and i pray everything goes well for you
        Happy wrenching


        Kevin CriswellKevin Criswell

          Get the best tools that you can afford, that gives you a good range of tools.

          Harbor freight carries a line called Pittsburg Pro that is really good for the price.


            When I started out, I bought a fundamental/core set of tools (maybe ~100 pieces) including SAE and metric sockets and combination wrenches, ratchets, extenstions, a screwdriver set, jack and jackstands, etc. I expanded my collection when I need a particular tool/set for a task or when I know that tool/set will be useful in the future. I now have an eclectic set of Craftsman, Husky, GearWrench, and Ace tools. They have served me well (DIY use), and have not needed to peform a warranty exchange (yet). I’ve seen rebadged Pittsburg tools in hardware stores, but I have no experience with them.

            An OBDII scan tool will probably be useful to you. I have a bluetooth wireless adapter (ELM327, I believe) that connects to my phone via the Torque Pro app. There were no instructions, and it took some effort to pair the device with my phone, but it works well enough for me.

            Rudy WilmothRudy Wilmoth

              🙂 In building your first tool set the collection of tools should fit your car first. It is nice to have a lot of different sockets and things and it is a low cost way of getting tools. But you can purchase a little at a time and buy just what you need. Now you can buy your tools at any place and Sears used to be the universal first place to buy a beginner’s tool set, and in some ways it still is. Harbor freight is not bad if you purchase good simple tools.
              First I would get a nice tool box to place the tools in, not too big and made of steel. You need a set of hand wrenches, a good collection of metric or SAE tools or a combo set. A good collective set of pliers, slip joint regular pliers and needle nose pliers and wire cutter pliers. A good collection of screw drivers and a collection of adjustable wrenches. A good set of 1/2 inch ratchet and socket set with 6 point sockets for the best buy, and a 3/8 set of ratchet and sockets also in 6 point , a 1/4 inch drive is not really necessary in the beginning. A couple of hammers, one being light weight, maybe 2 lb. and later maybe a BFH, a 5 lb. hammer for the heavy swinging.
              This should provide a start for a good collection of tools for fixing most problems. As with all things, not everything comes with a collection of tools. You will find the need for a socket or a wrench that is not in a collection of tools. Some cars have certain size socket and wrenches that others do not use, and you will need to purchase individual tools to fill the gaps in your tools. This is a continuous obsession for more and better tools and tools that are nice to own, but rarely used, but nice to have when needed. Just look at the tools and if they have a life time warranty, then they should be good. Christmas is a good time to get tools on sale and get tool collections. People always want to know what to get a person, make a list for relatives. Good Luck.


                what he said 🙂

                Dimitri ShroyerDimitri Shroyer

                  Thanks for the opinions, much appreciated. I think, as much as I want a huge tool set, I’ll build a quality set as I go. It seems a bit more fiscally responsible to do that. I forgot to mention the car is a ’96 Probe GT. The engine was swapped to a Mazda engine to get a few more ponies by the previous owner. I want to say it was a KLZE swap, but I’ll have to look into it for confirmation. Also found out error P0443 was wiped before I looked it over and test drove it. So, that’s an evap purge control solenoid. I’m not sure how much that changes the playing field, but I’m sure it’ll be covered on YouTube, the web, and in the Haynes manual. At least the Mazda parts for that will be cheaper than the marked up Ford parts.

                  Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction.


                  The best way to put it is …. Are you going to do just minor stuff like servicing and maybe the simple repair now and then or do you want to me covered in grease and oil up to your shoulder’s.

                  If its the first one buy a midrange price tool kit. Most companies will do a “mechanic’s toolkit” which is a bit offensive to a mechanic but you would get all the basics you’d need for general servicing and basic repairs.

                  On the other hand if you want to get right into it and get down and dirty spend your money because you could either buy a good quality tool or spend the same amount PR more replacing shitty quality tools every time they break. GearWrench/KDTools do great quality tools for a decent price I have never broken anything and I work on cars,trucks and semis all day everyday


                    think about what work your gonna do e.g. oil change and the odd repair job here and there if thats what your looking at then you don’t need a CO2 sensor socket you can get away with using a spanner and if you don’t have any obd codes on your car you don’t need a scanner and when you do you can borrow one from some were or wait till one is on special. why spend say $80 on a scanner thats gonna sit there for a month and them by the time you go to use it its on special for say $40-60 (prices will vary this is just an example)

                    jack stands and jacks if you gonna service you car will probbly work out cheaper to own then rent in the long run and think about what cars you may work on because the load capacity of the jack matters you can lift a 1 ton car with a 2 ton jack but you can’t lift a 2 ton car with a 1 tone jack that was bought for a 4 cylinder same thing with the stands

                    allan keys and torx sets will depend on the car some cars nearly only use torx etc and others don’t use any and if they are tools on sale you may need consider buying them. you can probble get away with not using a torque wrench unless your doing engine repair stuff etc

                    personally i think get a tool box you can add tools to kits will often come with what you will most likely need to start brand is a bit personal taste but buy a brand you trust to not break on you or round of nuts

                    i think that covers most of it


                      Buy a basic 100pc mechanics tool set. The best you can afford while it is on sale. Then buy what you need as you need it. Watch for sales. I would start with two jack stands and the best jack you can afford. Also an obd II reader.


                        a obd II code reader is not that important for what he is gonna do the money would be better spent on getting more hand tools

                        Kevin GallichKevin Gallich

                          Go cheap and build as you go. I would look at Craftsman and Pittsburgh tool sets. Both have a lifetime warranty. If you find that you use 1 tool a lot then you can upgrade to a better one to replace the cheaper one. Your tool box with end up being a mixed bag of tools. Buy gear wrench ratcheting box wrenches, money well spent. A few pry bars, multi meter, pliers and adjustable wrenches. A set of rounded nut remover tools is helpful but maybe a bit much to start.

                          Matthew RossMatthew Ross

                            First, get a tool box! Every tool you lose is money gone… Craftsman has decent ones that aren’t expensive.

                            Then, get your essentials (wrenches, ratchets, sockets, and breaker bars).

                            Then decide if you’re gonna get into air tools. If you do, buy yourself a decent air compressor. Better to have an expensive compressor and cheaper air tools imo. If you have an underpowered compressor, you can’t really do anything. I have a 26 gallon american-made compressor, and it is by far the best tool I ever bought.

                            Then, buy tools as you need them. The worst thing is having tools that are never used. Right now, my tool chest is only about 1/3 full, but every tool in there is dirty and has some mileage on it. Don’t buy specialty tools until you legitimately need them.


                              +1 for: get a low to mid priced mechanic set from Sears or Harbor Freight to start with. Get a rolling floor jack and jack stands, plus some plastic ramps. Ditto the tool box – gotta keep everything in one place so you don’t lose them.

                              Other things to consider: start cheap and find out if you like working on cars. If you decide to become a mechanic, that’s the time to upgrade. Also, starting with cheap tools will give you a genuine appreciation of more expensive, professional grade tools when you upgrade later on. You will learn why Snap-On hand tools cost more than Husky, Craftsman, etc., and not just because someone says “these are better.”

                              Hope that helps!


                                I started with a 2xx piece tool set from Sears on sale for $150. I find that I rarely use my SAE tools– it seems even American cars from 90’s up are all metric. So if I was doing it again, I’d focus on metric if possible. At this point SAE tools are becoming a gimmick to sell 2x the tools to people unless you work on older stuff.

                                cliftonc burtoncliftonc burton

                                  Looking for some opinions for some of the best mechanical tool sets! Mainly consists of socket and wrenches. Brand idea, artisans, and warranty looking.

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