Whatever you’re doing, you’ll need the right tools for the job. That’s an age-old adage that’s as true for mechanics as it is for anyone else! When it comes to repairing used cars or salvage cars, you can often get away with just a few basic tools on the very simple jobs. But if you’re looking to tackle the more complex jobs, or scale up your operations to become a full-time mechanic, you’ll need to make sure your toolbox is a little more diverse. Here are our top recommendations for what you should keep in it!
Spanners, sockets and wrenches
The vast majority of repair jobs you’ll do on a salvage car will involve nuts and bolts to some degree, so spanners, sockets and wrenches are some of the most important tools you’ll own. Don’t forget to make sure they’re the right type and size to handle the bolts of the car you’re dealing with, too. (There’s nothing worse than making that discovery at the last moment when you’re on a deadline!) Combination ring and open spanners are some of the most versatile types you can buy, and they’re not too hard on the wallet either.
As well as a decent set of spanners, sockets and ratchet wrenches will be vital additions to your toolbox. They come in three main types: quarter-inch, 3/8” and half-inch drive. You’ll probably find that the 3/8” will see you through perfectly well for most tasks. (And while we’re on the topic, air ratchets and Allen wrenches are some of the other most common tools you’ll find in the average mechanic’s arsenal.)
A socket set is also indispensable - typical socket sets include standard and metric sizes, and you’ll find it handy to have extensions, deep sockets and specialised versions to remove spark plugs.
We’ve given this one its own section because it’s fairly common for amateur or DIY mechanics to think of things like torque wrenches as purely in the preserve of professional or ‘serious’ mechanics, but actually they’re relatively basic and essential tools. You’ll need a torque wrench for something even as simple and straightforward as replacing a wheel, because it’s often incredibly difficult to tighten the nuts and bolts without one. And you don’t need a tonne of professional expertise to know that if these critical components are inadvertently left loose by using the wrong tool (or the right tool incorrectly), it can sometimes be more dangerous than not performing the repair at all.
You may well also find there are times when you’re specifically directed to use a torque wrench by the car’s manual. If this is the case, it’s really important that you do. If you don’t stretch the bolt, it can have catastrophic results for the workings of the engine - and by extension, the wallet of the owner. On the other hand, it’s equally crucial not to try and use a torque wrench for jobs it’s not designed to do, such as removing lug nuts. You’ll want a regular one for that!
Old-hand mechanics will well remember an age where vehicles were almost purely mechanical. Today, however, there’s a heavy electrical element to working on modern cars, and that’s one of the main reasons why a multimeter is such an essential tool. It’s basically an integrated instrument that’s vital for running electrical checks - without one, you can be flying blind on certain repairs, and that’s never a good state of affairs! A multimeter includes a voltmeter, used for assessing the state of the car’s battery and other electrical mechanisms. Amongst other features, another essential component of a multimeter is the built-in scan tool, which connects to the car’s on-board computer to diagnose any problems with the Engine Control Unit or infotainment systems.
Sockets and spanners will be your first resort for dealing with nuts and bolts, but you’ll need a reliable set of pliers too, as these will also be indispensable for electrical work. Ideally, rather than individual pair you’ll probably want to buy a whole set, including side cutters. This way, you can ensure you’re properly equipped for any element of electrical work, including stripping and chopping wire.
Screwdrivers and multi-bit sets
It’s not unknown for amateur mechanics to try and make do with a set of household screwdrivers, but these can rarely be relied on to do a decent job. You’ll either need a toolbox packed full of drivers, or you’ll need a multi-bit set. If you’re going to do consistently decent repairs, really you need a set of automotive screwdrivers, with a range of various shaft lengths and tips. Magnetic tipped ones and bendable screwdrivers are often useful, too.
If you’ve not got some means of lifting your car into the air, you’ll be extremely limited in the amount of repairs you’re able to do. They’re not too expensive - normally about £60 - and it’s strongly recommended to get some axle stands for extra safety. These normally cost about £20 a pair. When you consider the job they’re doing (stopping two tonnes of metal from coming down on you like… well, two tonnes of metal) they’re more than worth the money!
They may not be quite as safety-critical as other tools we’ve mentioned on this list, but most mechanics swear by them - and for good reason, since there’s no denying they save you a tonne of time. An impact wrench is great for making short work of particularly tough nuts that you might struggle with when using a normal ratchet and socket, while a drill is undeniably useful for brushing and buffing.
Again, while there are plenty of mechanics who’ve managed to get on perfectly well without one, the sheer versatility of a multi-tool makes it worth its weight in gold for amateurs and professionals alike. It might not be able to finish jobs with quite as much finesse as its full-size counterparts, but it provides a handy one-stop solution and can be kept in the glovebox. Always handy if you find yourself having to deal with a roadside breakdown!
One final tool we’d recommend - a decent torch. After all, you’re not going to get much done if you can’t see what you’re doing! Cordless lights are the handiest here, and ideally you’ll want one with a particularly bright wide beam. They’re not tools we stock here at RAW2K, but what we do have are plenty of used cars, seized cars and salvage cars. Useful for practising your skills on, or if you don’t need the practice, they’re perfect for fixing up and reselling (‘flipping’) them to make a profit! We’ve got models from a huge range of leading manufacturers, including Citroen, Renault and Mercedes. Why not take a look through our stock, and see what you can find?