Of course a professional mechanic needs a lot of tools, and they need to be tools he can depend on…tools that won’t break or fail in the middle of a job. Between tools and a roll around tool box, it’s not unusual for a mechanic to sink $7,500 to $11,000 in a comprehensive set…and most technicians prefer tools from makers like Snap-On, Matco or Blackhawk due to their design, close tolerances and quality of steel used. Here’s a quick rundown of tools that are really worth the investment:
1. Milwaukee cordless impact wrench, 18.0 V, $282.75
A rechargeable cordless impact wrench can’t deliver the kind of torque that a pneumatic model can, but they’re certainly useful anyway – after all, a compressor or air tank and hose aren’t always available. The Milwaukee features a Li-Ion battery and LED worklight, and only weighs only 5.7 lbs. With 750 ft-lbs of torque on hand, the Milwaukee has enough oomph to break loose all kinds of things, even axle shaft nuts.
2. Proto sealed head air ratchet, 3/8” Drive, $323.13
Yes, there are all kinds of air ratchets around, but they’re definitely a get-what-you-pay-for proposition. Proto’s model is lightweight and compact enough to get into tight clearances, with an easy-release socket mechanism and an ergonomically-designed trigger. Put the socket on the nut or bolt in question, squeeze the trigger and save yourself a lot of time and sweat.
3. Mac Tools Spinflex flex head ratchet, $144.99
Mac Tools’ flex-head ratchet helps you get into tight spots with a comfortable plastic handle that helps you deliver more torque and easily slides down to convert to a speed handle.
4. Steelman STE97202 wireless ChassisEAR kit, $211.69
For decades, mechanics have used stethoscopes (or a piece of vacuum hose) to pin down a troubling noise in a vehicle. The stethoscope has two disadvantages, though – it amplifies noises that may not be related to the problem, and it can’t be used while the vehicle is in motion. Steelman’s wireless stethoscope comes with four microphones/transmitters and clamps, a receiver, headphones and fasteners. You can place the microphones where you suspect the noise may be coming from, test drive the vehicle and listen to each microphone individually until you can isolate the source of the noise.
5. Craftsman 17-piece standard & metric flex socket set, $69.99
Sometimes you just have to get into impossible places without disassembling other things to get there, and that’s where a flex socket set comes in. Craftsman’s set is nickel-chrome plated with a thick wall, and precision machining for a positive grip on any nut or bolt you’re going after.
6. Chicago Pneumatic CPT-7748 air impact wrench, $203.37
Don’t go cheap on air impact wrenches. The Chicago Pneumatic model is up to the big jobs, with 922 ft-lbs of reverse torque for even the toughest rusted bolt.
7. Mityvac MITMV8500 hand vacuum & pressure pump kit, $51.96
Hand-operated vacuum pumps are a must for one-man brake bleeding, testing vacuum-actuated sensors or tracking down a leaky vacuum line. Mityvac’s unit is comfortable and well-built, and can easily switch over to pressure instead of vacuum with the flip of a switch. Comes with all necessary attachments and accessories.
8. GearWrench 81229 3-piece offset-handle ratchet, $69.70
Save your knuckles with a bent-handle ratchet that’s still long enough to give you some real leverage underhood. GearWrench’s flex ratchet set comes with two deep-well spark plug sockets and built-in flex extensions.
9. SK Hand Tools 1/4-in.-drive thumbwheel ratchet, $24.99
A handy little thumbwheel ratchet can save you a lot of time and aggravation when you’re trying to get to a connector under the dash and there’s no way to get a big Spintight-style driver in there. Just take this little ¼” drive finger ratchet, find your socket, find your connector and spin away without having to remove the driver to get another bite.
10. Torin T82040 trolley jack with Jack Stand and Creeper, $93.99
When you’re under a vehicle, nothing’s more important than your safety. A quality floor jack and good jack stands are an absolute must, and Torin’s set includes a comfortable creeper to get you around while you’re under there. A jack crossmember is also a good idea, a cradle to give you two separate points of support under the vehicle while lifting or lowering. Crossmembers can be used on practically any jack which has a removable saddle, and can lift the entire side, front or rear of a vehicle without undercarriage damage.
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