The Toolbox - Vital for Keeping Tools Organized

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A toolbox is much more than the name implies. In fact, it is more of a cabinet than a box. You may spend several hundred dollars to $2,000 on both a top and bottom box, but the first thing to start with is the top.

The top box usually has several drawers that are shallow enough to hold only a variety of tools of a single type. The top area is usually open when the lid is up and is the popular place to arrange your various sockets and drives as well as extensions. Be sure the top closes over your tools and that the drawers and cover lock securely.

Buy a sturdy box. You will be surprised by the weight when it is full of tools. Look for handles and drawer pulls that are strong and convenient. Be sure there are no sharp edges on any of the sheet metal.

A top box with about eight or nine drawers is usually large enough to start with. Besides, you will be able to add a bottom box or an intermediate box at some later date.

A toolbox is vital for keeping your many tools organized. If you don't like organization and precision, you probably aren't interested in this career anyway. Organize your tools the way it best suits your needs, so you can grab any tool you want instantly.

Security is another reason for a tool chest. Most good chests have good locks. It will be impossible to take your tools home with you at the end of the day, so a safe place for them is imperative.


You will need lots of screwdrivers everything from the tiniest jeweler's screwdrivers up to big ones that may be two or three feet long. Be sure to get an assortment of straight screwdrivers.

Buy a good set of Phillips screwdrivers, too. The tips, or blades, should be strong and precise.

Another type of fastener frequently found is known as Torx. The head resembles a six sided hole with the flats, or sides, curved toward the center. Torx fasteners are often found on headlights and interiors. Get a good set of Torx screwdrivers.

Several tool companies make magnetic screwdrivers in which the bits are interchangeable and spare bits are stored in the handle. Not only do magnetic screwdrivers hold screws, they come in handy to pick up a part that has fallen into a tight spot.


Whenever someone says "wrench," you probably visualize the end wrench in your mind.

The other popular wrench is the box end. This is a closed rather than open end and is available in either six point or twelve point styles.

The third type is called a combination wrench. The combination wrench will have an open end on one side and a box on the other.

Although most technicians shun the adjustable crescent wrench, there are times that they come in handy.

Line wrenches are sometimes called flare nut wrenches. They are the only kind to use on fluid line fittings such as fuel lines or brake-lines.

Tappet wrenches are usually long and quite a bit thinner than the normal open end wrench. They are indispensable for adjusting valves and helpful for getting into tight places.

Ignition wrenches usually come in a set, although you may be able to find them individually. The ignition wrench is very useful in many tight spots, such as behind the dashboard.

The crows foot wrench looks like the end of an open end wrench with the handle cut off. Instead of a handle, there is a square hole where a drive from a 3/8- inch ratchet fits. The crowsfoot wrench will get into places where your hand won't fit. For instance, it can be used for loosening the hold down bolt on the distributor and the hydraulic fluid line for power steering at the steering gearbox.


There are numerous types and styles of pliers. They come in all shapes and sizes from the slip-joints that almost everyone has in the kitchen junk drawer to extremely specialized kinds for use on very limited applications. The be-ginning technician should have a few basics, though.

Slip-joint pliers are the type everyone recognizes. They should never be used anywhere that a wrench should be used, but they are an asset in many places to hold objects.

Unlike slip-joint pliers, Channel-Lock pliers have a tongue and groove arrangement, so they can accommodate a number of jaw openings. Water-pump pliers look a lot like Channel-Lock pliers, but instead of the tongue in groove design, they have the pin and multiple holes arrangement like slip-joints. The Channel-Lock pliers are less likely to change jaw openings during use than the water pump pliers.

Locking pliers are most commonly known by their registered trade name of Vise Grips. When attached to something, they lock in place and leave your hands free. Locking pliers are a definite asset to have in your toolbox.

Brake Tools

For basic drum-brake service, you will need a tool for removing and installing the return springs. Various styles and designs of this tool are available. Most mechanics like the kind that resembles a pair of tongs.

Another tool is needed for removing and installing the hold down springs, it resembles a screwdriver from the handle to the bottom, except there is a cup shaped tip rather than a blade. Select a hold down spring tool that is knurled inside the cup. This will help to hold the spring cap into the tool and prevent slipping when you twist it to set the cap.

Finally, you will need at least three different brake adjusting tools that are often called spoons.

For disc brake service, most of your common hand tools are all that you require. One exception is something to push the piston back down into its bore although some specific tools are available for this a good C-clamp is usually all you will need.

Torque Wrenches

The engineers who work for the automobile manufacturers have a torque, tightening, specification for every nut and bolt on the vehicle. A click torque wrench can be set to the desired specification, and once it is reached wrench will give a clicking sound.

All torque wrenches should be occasionally tested and adjusted should t lose their calibration.


"Don't force it. Just get a bigger hammer." That's a joke, and in fact, most professionals will avoid using a hammer unless it is a last resort. However, there are several places where nothing else will do.

You should have at least one twelve ounce ball-peen hammer. Us< chisels and punches. The ball-peen is useful for reforming bolt holes i metal like oil pans and valve comers.

You also should own at least one soft-face hammer. Soft-face hammers damage parts like steel ones. The face deforms instead of the part being s Dead-blow hammers have heads that are filled with shot. Since the shot continues the force after the hammer makes contact, rebound is reduced.

For heavy duty purposes you also should have one big hammer in the two to three pound range. Many technicians select one known as the engineer's hammer. One side of this double-faced hammer looks like a conventional sledge hammer. The other face is wedge shaped.


The automotive technician encounters many items on the job that do not simply slide off their mating part. This is where the puller is needed. The first one to get is a battery cable terminal puller. This puller prevents damage to the battery case when the cable clamp is seized to the battery terminal.

Gear pullers come in a wide assortment of shapes and sizes. To start, choose one that has the flexibility to be used for a variety of purposes. Pullers of this type come with an assortment of legs and jaws so they can be used to remove a variety of items from bearing races to crankshaft gears to steering wheels.

A slide hammer is another type of puller you may need. Slide hammers often are necessary to remove the rear axles on rear wheel drive cars.

Chisels and Punches

Never use a screwdriver as a chisel. Cold chisels are for cutting metal while it is cold. They are extremely hard and are liable to chip when struck with a hammer. Keep them sharp, and if the head begins to mushroom, file camphor onto them.

Punches and drift pins are essential. Punches are necessary to make a dimple in the metal before drilling. Drift pins come in a variety of diameters, and only the correct diameter punch should be used to prevent damage to the component. You should buy a good assortment of punches and at least a couple of chisels to start with.

Electronic Diagnostic Tools

Electronic control units, which are actually minicomputers, now affect all of an automobile's operating systems. From ignition to exhaust, electronic systems are vital, and the technician needs special tools to repair these high tech machines. Technicians often buy their own diagnostic instruments, at least the often used, handheld models. Repair shops usually buy the larger diagnostic "master computers" and monitors that their technicians use in the shop.

A technician who wants to be ready for electronic diagnostics now needs at least three specialized tools, says Charles Gorman, technical manager of the Equipment and Tool Institute:
  1. A scan tool is the device that processes and displays vehicle data link information.

  2. A digital multimeter is a test instrument that measures both AC and DC voltages, resistance, frequency, pulse width, and amperage all on a digital readout.

  3. A graphing multimeter or digital storage oscilloscope is a meter that captures high frequency electrical signals via a glitch capture or record function, allowing the technician to diagnose the problem.
Diagnostic tool costs vary. As a point of reference, a scan tool may cost about $350. Digital and scanning meters range from around $100 up into the thousands of dollars, depending on their sophistication and functions.
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