The 3 Most Important Automotive Hand Tools for the Amateur Mechanic

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The 3 Most Important Automotive Hand Tools for the Amateur Mechanic

With so many automotive hand tools available, it may seem that it is important to have a specialised tool for every little job the car may require. Although it is possible to buy extensive kits that have an array of tools, it can be expensive to do so, and is often not necessary. A few basic tools can be used to perform most necessary tasks. It takes some time to get to know all the things they can do, and some adjustments may be necessary, but it is still less time-consuming than familiarising oneself with a whole set of different, specialised tools. The amateur mechanic usually needs to perform simpler tasks, and can leave specialised jobs to experts. Therefore, too many tools are not at all necessary, and the extra space in the garage can be used for other things.

Some of the basic tools that are of use to any amateur mechanic include pliers, a torque wrench, and Allen keys. These tools can be bought from most high street shops that specialise in car parts and accessories, and they can also be ordered from online auction sites, such as eBay.


Pliers are pincers that come with flat, parallel surfaces that are typically serrated. They are good for bending wire or for gripping small objects. Pliers are designed with specific tasks in mind, but they are also versatile, because they can be used when one is lacking a specific tool for a job. For example, pliers can help when the spring-clamp on a radiator hose needs to be loosened.

Cutting Pliers

Cutting pliers are a subtype of pliers and they are designed, as their name implies, for cutting. Good cutting pliers are sharp, and can be used for cutting cables and wires, among other things.

Wire Twisting Pliers

Wire twisting pliers are another subtype of pliers, and they perform a specific task. These pliers are usually not required every day, so the purchase should be considered carefully. They are great for safety wiring, in which wires are added to bolts in order to keep them straight. Safety wiring is used, for example, on airplanes, for bolts that need to stay in place no matter what.

Adjustable Pliers

Adjustable pliers are very versatile, because their size can be changed. As a result, they are probably the most useful type of pliers for an amateur mechanic to have. They are used to tighten bolts and nuts, and thanks to their adjustability, they can be used with all the nuts and bolts in a car. Adjustable pliers are also a necessity when removing spring-type hose clamps.

Torque Wrench

A torque wrench is a hand tool that is used in order to adjust and set the tightness of bolts and nuts. The word "torque" refers to a type of force that is the cause of rotation. Torque is applied to nuts and bolts as they are adjusted with the wrench. As cars have many nuts and bolts all over their bodies, which must often be tightened and loosened when performing car maintenance and repairs, a torque wrench proves to be an essential tool for the amateur mechanic. Torque wrenches can be customised according to individual needs, because different heads can be attached to the handle.

Types of Torque Wrenches

Although there are many types of torque wrenches to choose from, not all of them are suitable for automotives. A basic beam torque wrench is reliable and cheap, but it is difficult to use in tight spaces, as the pointer needle cannot be viewed properly when there is not enough room. The same problem applies to the dial wrench, which can also be hard to read when working on cars. Electronic torque wrenches are high-end products, and the amateur mechanic can usually make do without them.

Although the basic beam type torque wrench can be inconvenient to use on cars, the split beam torque is a favourable alternative. It is durable and easy to operate because it does not have to be reset after each use. The desired torque is set by turning a small knob on the side, and this can be adjusted with just a touch of the finger. The position is then locked with a guard. Because of its design, the split beam torque wrench measures in one direction only, either clockwise or counterclockwise.

The click micrometre torque wrench is another good option for use on cars. Its torque setting can be adjusted by unlocking the handle and turning it in order to set the scale. When the desirable torque setting has been reached, the wrench makes a click sound, allowing it to be used in small spaces where it is not always possible to read the torque value. A low torque setting usually makes a sound that is less loud than a higher setting. Thanks to the click sound, over-torqueing can be easily avoided. After use, the click micrometre torque wrench should be set back to the lowest torque setting.

Torque Wrench Heads

The heads on a torque wrench are usually adjustable. In order to be prepared for a wide range of applications, it is advisable to opt for torque wrenches that have interchangeable heads. A flex head pivots in both directions, both clockwise and counterclockwise, while a ratchet head allows movement in one direction only.

Allen Keys

An Allen key, also known as a hex key, is a type of spanner designed specifically for the Allen screw. Allen keys become useful when a bolt on the car needs to be tightened to its maximum. The Allen screws used in cars have hexagonal holes at the top, and Allen keys match these holes, thanks to their six-sided steel construction. Allen keys usually come in sets that include many different sizes. In order to avoid losing any of the Allen keys, it is recommended to keep them together, and therefore it is a good idea to keep them on a keychain or other similar device.

Types of Allen Keys

Allen keys are manufactured with different lengths. For gaining access to parts of the car that are hard to reach, it is best to have some long Allen keys at hand. The sizes are marked either with metric or imperial units. T bar Allen keys have a handle that is shaped like the letter T, making them easy to grip. This type also offers more precision than other Allen keys. It is also worth checking the material when shopping for Allen keys. Fully hardened chrome vanadium steel is the strongest metal used. For quick fixes, ballpoint Allen keys are the best, because they can be inserted into any screw head rapidly, even at an angle, and they can be used in restricted areas and even in the dark.

Summary of the 3 Most Important Automotive Hand Tools and Their Uses

With many types of pliers, torque wrenches, and Allen keys available, it is easy to get confused. The following chart summarises the main types and the uses these tools have in the car.

Hand Tool




Adjustable, cutting, wire twisting

Wiring, cable cutting, removing spring-clamps, tightening and loosening nuts and bolts

Torque Wrench

Split beam, click micrometre

Adjusting tightness of nuts and bolts

Allen Key

T bar, ballpoint, short and long arm

Tightening and loosening Allen screws

There are certainly more types of hand tools available, but the aforementioned types should be enough to meet the needs of an amateur mechanic. It may not even be necessary to acquire all of these types, and buyers can choose the ones that are likely to be needed most often.

Buying the 3 Most Important Automotive Hand Tools for the Amateur Mechanic on eBay

Regardless of whether you are looking for pliers, torque wrenches, or Allen keys, you can always start your search for automotive hand tools by typing the keywords into the search box that you see at the top of any eBay page. After you receive the initial search results, you can narrow them down by sorting them in terms of price or auction time. Each one of these tools comes in many types, and therefore you should sort them somehow in order to find the specific type you need. You can include the desired type in the search terms, or click on related searches once you get the initial results.

In order to get the best service and the best products, it is advisable to choose top-rated sellers. When you find a product that you like, check the seller's feedback and the ratings given by other community members. Authorised top-rated sellers are also distinguished with a special mark, and you can sort the search results by top-rated sellers as well.


Although it is possible to buy a separate hand tool for each and every repair a car might require, the amateur mechanic can address most common issues with three simple automotive hand tools. With pliers, a torque wrench, and Allen keys, it is possible to perform a variety of operations to repair and maintain a car with ease.

Pliers are pincers that are used in order to grip small objects or to bend wires. They are especially useful when the spring-clamp on a radiator hose needs to be removed, but they perform other tasks, such as cable cutting and wiring, as well. Cutting, wire twisting, and adjustable pliers are the most common types.

A torque wrench adjusts the tightness of nuts and bolts by applying the torque force that causes rotation. Slip beam and click micrometre torque wrenches are suitable for cars, as they are the easiest to use. The heads on torque wrenches are adjustable and sometimes also interchangeable, so they should suit everyone’s needs.

An Allen key is a spanner that is used to tighten and loosen Allen screws. Allen keys are usually bought in sets that include many different sizes and lengths. The common types of Allen keys are the T bar, which comes with a handle, and the ballpoint, which offers the best precision even at an angle.

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