A Purchasers Guide to Automotive Hand Tools

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A Purchaser's Guide to Automotive Hand Tools

Keeping a variety of automotive hand tools around is highly encouraged for all drivers. The majority of tools can be left in a garage or neatly packed away in an easy to reach place, but car owners should keep a handful in the vehicle for emergency purposes. When attempting to fix a minor car problem, users should exercise caution. Selecting the right tool for the job is the difference in an easy fix and a broken thumb; moreover, it is important to use the tools as they are intended.

SAE, short for Society of Automotive Engineers, is the unit of measurement for most cars made in the United States; metric-based tool sizing is often used for European cars. The make and model of the car dictates the sizes of certain tools. In order to assemble the perfect set of automotive hand tools, shoppers must familiarise themselves with all the options available and research the compatibility of each tool with their vehicle.

Types of Automotive Hand Tools

Many drivers encounter issues on the road that can be fixed or adjusted without the help of a mechanic. Knowing which hand tools to have around can save some money in the long run and not to mention many car owners pride themselves in accomplishing these tasks. Before assembling a box of automotive hand tools, buyers should inventory their pre-existing tools to avoid rebuying anything they already own. The sections below offer a basic description and functional explanation of the most essential automotive hand tools.

Chisel and Punch

Both chisels and punches are long, thin pieces of tapered metals used to punch holes and split metal pieces. They are used in conjunction with a hammer and have various ends to accomplish different tasks. Centre punches are made to mark the location where the metal should be punched or drilled. A cold chisel can be used to fragment nuts that are stripped or otherwise impossible to loosen. A starting punch, also called a taper, is designed to knock loose pins and bolts intended to be driven out of a hole.

Clamps and Vices

Clamps and vices are like an extra set of hands when working on the car. Instead of relying on someone to hold a piece in place or together, DIYers can keep parts in place with a clamp or vice. Although they function similarly, there are a few differences between these two devices. Clamps are less expensive and typically used for less intensive job. If the task involves heavy duty work, such as soldering, the more expensive vice is the way to go.


Sometimes, a replacement part is more of a near match than an exact match. Oftentimes metal parts can be filed down to better fit. Files have one side diagonal sets of parallel teeth that run the width of a flat, piece of metal. The other side is smooth. Single-cut files have teeth that are shaped facing one way. For more intense filing, a double-cut file has teeth in opposite directions. Curved files are popular auto hand tools that are used to smooth body panel work.

Crescent Wrench

Crescent wenches,, often called spanners, get their name from the semi-circled shape at the end of each side. All auto owners must have an assortment of basic crescent wrenches in the car and at the home. These handy tools are used to adjust a variety of nuts and bolts. In order to effectively use a crescent wrench, the size must match the size of the bolt. Crescent and socket wrenches can often be used interchangeably, but only the crescent wrench has the capability of working with nuts regardless of length; socket wrenches with ratchets are limited with longer bolts.


Keeping a hammer around is a good way to tap parts back into place without having to wedge hands in the hood of the car. A rubber mallet can accomplish most simple auto related tasks. The ball peen hammer is often used by mechanics to cut out gaskets, but it has other functions as well. When using a hammer, exercise safety and caution to avoid smashing fingers.

Hex Key

A hex key, aptly named for its hexagonal head, is used to tighten certain types of screws. They are available in a wide variety of sizes, both metric and SAE, and sold in sets. Hex sets are a popular variation of the screwdriver, and it is important to notice which bolts in the car require a hex key and what size. Depending on the placement of the nut and bolt, a hex key may need to be coupled with a socket wrench to make the proper adjustments.

Pipe Wrench

A pipe wrench may be a common tool for plumbers, but mechanics and car repair DIYers may want to have a medium sized one around when working on the car. A pipe wrench has an adjustable set of jaws to lock and loosen larger items, such as pipes in the car. Like tightening nuts and bolts, the pipe wrench relies on torque to get the job done. Smaller pipe wrenches have the ability to function like a socket wrench if the nut is hexagonal.


Pliers are small tools typically designed to grip, hold, and cut. People who work on their cars want to have several types of pliers on hand for a variety of jobs. Slip joint pliers are a must for any automotive repair kit. Ideal for gripping parts and wires, these pliers have two adjustable jaw settings that accommodate various sized objects. Snipe-nose pliers, also called needle-nose pliers,, are used in conjunction with wires, washers, small spring clips, and so on. Vice grip pliers function the same as a pipe wrench and can lock items in place with great force.


When assembling a tool kit, buyers should look in the car and under the hood to see what types of screws are used. Some screws use the hex head and key design, but there are two more popular heads used. Phillips head screwdrivers are used on nuts with an "x" slot on its head, and flathead screwdrivers work with screws with a single slotted line. In addition to knowing which type of screw driver to have handy, auto owners must also purchase the correct size. A screwdriver too small could strip the bolt, while one too large does not fit at all.

Socket Wrench

Socket wrenches are an alternative to the crescent wrench. It has a full-enclosed circle, instead of a half-opened one. Socket wrenches often provide better support when adjusting nuts, minimising the chance of it slipping. Like crescent wrenches, they are available in a variety of sizes. In addition to the standard socket wrench, one of the most popular variations is a socket set and ratchet.. They are conveniently designed to tighten and loosen bolts without having to lift the wrench.

Tips for Using Automotive Hand Tools

In addition to learning about various functions of each tool, buyers must also operate within certain parameters of safety guidelines. Although tools are designed to be helpful, if not used properly, they can be damaged or even dangerous. Therefore, it is important to follow the guidelines below to ensure the tools are being used in a safe manner.

Cutting tools are carried pointed down. Unused tools are placed in the storage box or rack. Tools are to be thoroughly cleaned after using. A hand tool must always have a handle. Never throw a tool. And only use the proper sized and shaped tools, e.g., socket wrench, screwdriver.

Finding Automotive Hand Tools on eBay

Before heading to eBay to pick out your perfect automotive hand tools, it is important to make a list of the types, sizes, and styles of tools you need. Tools must be searched for individually and kits are assembled on a personal basis; however, some may be purchased in sets. For example, if you need multiple flathead screwdrivers, search for a "flathead screwdriver set&" instead a bunch of single ones. Wrenches are also sold in sets. Vices, clamps, and pliers are sold individually, and it is important to designate the type you are looking for. A search for "pliers&" produces results for all pliers, and "snipe-nose pliers&" restricts results to only this type.

Once you have a sufficient amount of search results to work with, you now have the opportunity to custom sort auction items. Arrange tools by lowest to highest price for eBay's best deals. If you are looking for a large set, sort from highest to lowest price to weed out individual results. Shoppers can also list tools by distance from seller, new or used condition, and time left in auction.


Having the right hand tools available and knowing how to use each one can save DIYers from having to put their car in the mechanic shop for every little problem. Drivers are strongly encouraged to keep a few hand tools in the car for minor repairs and quick fixes. The set does not have to be expensive or all-encompassing but rather should be tailored to fit the make and model of the car. Every kit needs various sizes and styles of screwdrivers, hex keys, and wrenches on hand. Individuals working alone could benefit from a clamp for smaller projects, and a vice for more intense ones. Pliers and a hammer are also recommended selections and should be chosen based on intended use.

Auto tools are not hard to find and can be purchased locally or ordered online. Regardless of where they are bought, drivers must research the type of tool and brand to make sure they are buying wisely. Experienced DIYers know that the quality of the job relies on the quality of the tools.

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