An Amateurs Guide to Buying Automotive Hand Tools

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An Amateur's Guide to Buying Automotive Hand Tools

Anyone who has ever owned a vehicle knows that routine maintenance and repairs can be quite costly. Individuals who are interested in learning how to perform basic auto repairs themselves or those who may be considering a career in automotive repair need a set of automotive hand tools with which to perform these repairs. The tools typically found in an automotive hand tool set are quite varied and include some common tools, such as screwdrivers, as well as some uncommon tools, like torque wrenches.

Building an automotive hand tool kit can be accomplished all at one time, or individuals can build their collections up over time. Individuals can determine for themselves which method of purchase is best for them. Before building a hand tool collection, prospective buyers should take a few moments to determine which tools they plan to add to their collection as well as which brand they prefer. With this information, any individual can build the perfect automotive hand tool kit.

Brief History of Hand Tools

Man has been using tools of one type or another for more than 2.5 million years. The earliest "tools" archaeologists have found were discovered in Kenya and fashioned from sticks, stones, bone, and other natural materials. Some of these early tools were used to cut or break things apart, so they functioned much like the knives and hammers known to man today. Early humans only used tools occasionally. These early tools were typically whatever was handy, such as a sharp stick or a blunt rock.

The conversion from a nomadic, hunting culture to stationary, agricultural society, which occurred approximately 10,000 years ago, led early man to develop a range of single-purpose tools. The term Stone Age is used to discuss the time period during which stone was the primary material for tools. The discovery of fire helped man fashion even better tools and formed the basis for learning how to fashion various metals into tools, which gave way to the Bronze and Iron ages.

Modern Tools

Man continues to develop tools over the course of time, creating better designs that required less work to use and inventing additional tools to suit their needs. The screwdriver, for example, first appeared on the scene in the first century A.D. At this point screw-shaped objects were commonly used in wine and olive oil presses. Tools that fit into the head of these objects were used to turn the screw, which either loosened or tightened it depending on the direction it was turned. Although metal screws first appeared in the 15th century, there was not a reliable way to mass produce them until the 17th century, which is when their use became more common and there was a larger demand for screwdrivers.

Today, there are a plethora of hand tools, ranging in complexity from a simple lever to more complex tools, such as drills and torque wrenches. Each of these tools performs specific tools, which is why most people have a collection of several common tools as well as some specialty tools that are suited to a particular industry or applications.

Types of Automotive Hand Tools

There are many different types of tools that are used when working on automobiles. Most of these tools fit into one of several basic tool categories. While not all automotive repairs require the use of all of these tools, those who work on vehicles regularly should work on collecting a complete set of tools so they have the proper tools on hand when repairs are needed.


Pliers allow individuals to grip things while performing automotive repair. There are many different types of pliers, some of which are extremely helpful when working on engines and other automotive repairs. Mechanics and do-it-yourselfers should have a set of needle nose pliers, vice grip pliers, and slip joint pliers, as well as snap ring pliers, rib joint pliers, and cutting pliers.

For buyers who do not want to invest in all of these pliers at one time, an option is to purchase the most commonly used pliers first and add additional types as they are needed. While this is a great option for limiting the initial expenditure on a tool set, it is possible that the correct type of pliers may not be on hand when they are needed.

Ratchets and Sockets

Ratchets work with sockets to loosen and tighten nuts and bolts. While wrenches perform this same basic function, ratchets can significantly increase the speed with which a nut or bolt is tightened or loosened. Sockets are available in three different sizes and in six and 12-point shapes.

A complete set is highly recommended for those who work with automotive repairs regularly, although individuals who do not find themselves working with nuts and bolts frequently could acquire just a few sockets to get started. Ratchet extensions are also recommended so individuals can get to the hard-to-reach nuts and bolts deep within the engine.


A full set of screwdrivers is essential for anyone contemplating automotive repairs or improvements. In addition to standard and Phillips screwdriver sets, individuals should consider purchasing a set of Reed and Prince screwdrivers as well. Though not as commonly used as Phillips head screwdrivers, Reed and Prince screwdrivers are similar in shape, though the head of the screwdriver features a pointed tip whereas a Phillips screwdriver has a blunt tip.

In addition to collecting these different types of screwdrivers in a variety of sizes, buyers who are trying to build a complete set of automotive hand tools should also consider a couple of screwdrivers with elongated handles or T-shaped handles to allow them to get into tight, hard-to-reach spaces.


When discussing wrenches that are commonly used in automotive repair, there are several different types that need to be considered. The first type of wrench is the 12-point box wrench. These wrenches have 12 sides so they fit a variety of different nuts and bolts starting at four-sided and going up from there. Several 12-point box wrenches of various sizes are recommended for automotive use.

Additionally, prospective buyers may also want to consider a set of six-point box wrenches. Though not as versatile as the 12-point wrenches, the six-point wrenches are more effective on rusty nuts and bolts as well as nuts or bolts that may have been partially damaged. Open-ended wrenches are also extremely useful for a variety of automotive purposes, so those who are building a complete automotive hand tool set should include a set of these in varying sizes as well.

Moreover, torque wrenches are specialty wrenches used frequently in the automotive industry to assure nuts and bolts are tightened to the correct torque to avoid damage. Though these wrenches may not be used on a daily basis, individuals considering engine work, such as rebuilding an engine, should have a set on hand for working with mounting bolts.

Specialty Tools

In addition to the aforementioned common hand tools, there are a handful of additional tools that are less commonly used for around-the-house repairs and the like. These automotive hand tools include ball-pein hammers, punches, vices, f iles, a set of Allen wrenches, and tools to take various measurements. As some of these tools are only used for very specific automotive purposes, individuals may want to add them to their tool collection as they are needed rather than purchasing them up front and never using them.

Tool Quality

Contrary to what some individuals may believe, not all tools are created equal. There is a vast difference in quality among the different tool makers and, for the most part, the more expensive tools are usually the highest in quality. While someone who uses a screwdriver once or twice a month for minor household jobs probably cannot tell the difference between a top-of-the-line screwdriver and a cheap screwdriver, individuals who use their tools on a regular basis for more heavy-duty purposes may end up breaking inferior tools or injuring themselves when working with cheap tools.

That being said, individuals also do not have to break the bank to have a good quality tool set. There are plenty of manufacturers that make quality sets that can stand up to daily use that do not cost an arm and a leg. Before making a purchasing decision, prospective buyers should do their homework and read up on the brand they are considering buying. This should help them determine if the tools are good quality or if they may cause problems.

In addition to knowing the best brands to purchase, individuals on a budget can start with a barebones tool set and add in new tools as they can afford them. Over time, they can build up a high quality tool set that should serve them for years to come.

Type of Tool

Essential or Non-essential

Phillips Head Screwdrivers


Flat-Head (Standard) Screwdrivers


Reed and Prince Screwdrivers


Six and 12-point box Wrenches


Open-Ended Wrenches


Torque Wrenches


Ratchet and Sockets




Specialty Tools



Individuals who are interested in building up their collections over time should start with the essential pieces and then add in some of the non-essential tools as they can afford them or as they are needed. Another good way to cut down on the expense of building an automotive tool kit is to take an inventory of existing tools. Prospective buyers can save some money by avoiding the addition of duplicate tools to their collection.

Shopping for Automotive Hand Tools

Individuals interested in purchasing hand tools for automotive purposes have a variety of options. They could visit local automotive parts stores or hardware stores and purchase the tools there or they could shop online, which may offer them a better selection and lower prices. Prospective buyers also have the option of purchasing tool sets or individual pieces, both online and locally.

Typically, buyers find that purchasing a full set yields a lower per-piece price; however, some of the tool kits include hundreds of tools, so they are usually somewhat expensive. Buyers should be sure to check out the selection of automotive hand tools on eBay before making a purchasing decision. Buyers can find listings for tool kits as well as individual tools, often at a fraction of the cost of other retail sites or local stores.

Buying Automotive Hand Tools on eBay

If you want to take a look at eBay's listings for automotive hand tools,, go to eBay's home page and type a search phrase into the search box. You could use the phrase automotive hand tools; however, your search results yield many listings for tools you are not interested in purchasing. You can use the filter options on the search results page to narrow down your results, or you could use more specific search terms instead. For example, searching for automotive screwdrivers yields only listings for screwdrivers so you do not have to scroll through listings for items you are not interested in purchasing.

Before making a purchasing decision, buyers should read through the listings carefully to determine which tools are included in the sale. Prospective buyers should also take a look at the seller's return policy to determine whether the tools can be returned if they are not as described.


A complete set of hand tools for any application, be it construction or auto repair, is quite an investment, though smart shoppers can find great tools at low prices if they know where to look. Additionally, if the tools' owner takes good care of the tools and stores them safely after use, one tool set can provide a lifetime of service, which means with the exception of adding pieces from time to time, purchasing a tool set can be a one-time purchase. This is definitely the case with automotive hand tools, provided the owner takes good care of the tools and does not lose or damage them because they have not been cared for properly.

Though starting a complete automotive hand tool kit from scratch can seem like a daunting task, shoppers who do not want to purchase a full set should take it one tool at a time so it is less overwhelming. Prospective buyers should start with the most commonly used automotive tools and shop on eBay for great tools at the lowest prices.

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