Essential Car Maintenance Tools and Supplies

Are you overpaying for car, home, or renters insurance? Compare to find out in 45 seconds.
Quotes from up to 45 companies · No long forms · No phone calls
To care for your car, you need the right tools. Photo by @photovs via Twenty20
Cars can be expensive, especially when you add in gas, car insurance, and paying someone to perform maintenance on your vehicle. A great way to save money is to perform as much of your car’s maintenance yourself as possible. The car-maintenance process is relatively easy (we cover how you can fix many common automotive issues right on this site), but even the most practiced home mechanic needs certain tools in order to complete the job properly.
In this article we’ll cover the car maintenance tools and supplies you should keep at home if you want to perform your own car maintenance.

Basic Car-Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself

Knowing how to work on a car is a skill set that can pay off for years to come, though it’s more difficult with modern vehicles. Fortunately, you can still perform some of the basic tasks of car maintenance to ensure that your car continues to work properly. These tasks may include:
  • Changing your car’s air filter
  • Checking and changing your vehicle’s oil and oil filter
  • Replacing your car’s windshield wipers
  • Changing the vehicle’s spark plugs
  • Performing a radiator flush
  • And much more…

Basic Car-Maintenance Tools

To perform basic car maintenance tasks, you’ll need the following tools:
Ratchet and socket set: One of the most important tools you should have in your garage is a set of sockets in a variety of sizes, along with a ratchet. Keep in mind that, depending on your car, you could need sockets that use imperial or metric measurements. An extender will also be handy.
Wrench set: You also need to have a set of box wrenches — small wrenches with an open and enclosed end. These come in handy in places where your socket wrench won’t fit. These also come in both imperial and metric sizes.
Allen wrenches: Some car components use Allen screws, which require an Allen wrench to loosen them. You can find sets of Allen wrenches at local hardware or automotive stores. Keep in mind that Allen wrenches come in imperial and metric measurements.
Screwdrivers: You’ll also need flathead and Philip’s head screwdrivers in various sizes. In addition to the standard size you find in most households, larger versions can provide more torque when trying to remove harder-to-turn screws.
Pliers: A set of pliers can also be handy depending on the situation. For the most part, you’ll need a set of needle nose and Channellock pliers. A vice-grip, which is also a sort of plier that can lock in place, might also be handy.
Dead blow mallet: While you might feel like it sometimes, there aren’t too many things you want to hit with a hammer on your car. Instead, you should use a rubber mallet called a dead blow mallet, which yields a softer blow and is less likely to leave a dent or mark when you’re trying to loosen something up.
Pry bar/breaker bar: A pry bar works great when you need a little extra leverage or when trying to separate certain parts. Just make sure that you protect any surfaces that you need to rest the pry bar against when using it so you don’t damage the surfaces.
Work light: Many people don’t realize the importance of a work light until they’re in the dark somewhere trying to see a part clearly. A variety of work lights exist, including those that hang down and some that simply sit on the ground.
Tire gauge: To keep your tires at their best, you need to make sure that they’re properly inflated. To do this, you need a tire gauge. While it’s great to have one in your garage, some people also keep one in the glove box, just in case they need it while out.
Torque wrench: Tightening various bolts on your car is a delicate process. You want them to be tight enough but not too tight. This is where a torque wrench comes in handy, as it has a gauge that allows you to put a specified amount of torque on a bolt to keep it safely in place.

Other Important Car Maintenance Supplies and Tools

In addition to the basic tools above, it’s helpful to have the following tools and supplies on hand. These tools and supplies, while not absolutely necessary, can make taking care of your car much easier. These additional tools and supplies include:
  • Motor oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid
  • Synthetic grease
  • Air compressor
  • Bulbs
  • Spark plugs
  • Belts
  • Oil filter
  • Fuses
  • Oil drip pan
  • Ramps or floor jacks/jack stands
  • Rags
  • Different-sized funnels
  • Extendable magnet
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Spark plug gap gauge
  • Jump starter
  • Zip ties
  • Creeper (wheeled sled)
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Grease gun
  • Multimeter
  • OBDII scanner
  • Rust penetrant
  • Brake cleaner spray
  • Wire stripper/wire crimper
As you can see, there are a lot of items that you need to successfully maintain your own car. But as long as you know how to do so, it can provide an easy way to save money. You can purchase most of these items from a general online retailer like Amazon, from a retailer that specializes in automotive supplies and parts like AutoZone, or your local auto shop.
But remember (and this is important!) if you’re unsure about something to do with car maintenance, you should take your car to a professional.