For a homeowner, a well-equipped garage not only makes projects around the house or working on your car possible, it can actually make them more effective and even enjoyable. For those that simply pay professionals to do minor car maintenance and repairs or home improvement projects, usually the only things in the way of saving a lot of money are the right tools for the job. Whether it’s a simple oil change or building a new deck in your backyard, knowing the job is done right to their standards is very assuring.
These days, step by step instructions and videos for virtually any project are only a Google search away. Most people are very capable of doing certain jobs themselves that would normally cost an arm and a leg hiring a professional to do. Not knowing if they have the right tools and equipment is what stops many from the satisfaction of doing it themselves.
Keep in mind that there are a lot more tools than most people has space or money for. Sometimes it’s just not wise purchasing certain tools unless you actually plan on using them frequently or have enough garage space and money that it doesn’t matter. Often, it simply makes more sense to borrow from a neighbor or rent from a home improvement or auto parts store.
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These days, power tools seem to get all the attention but the fact is that hand tools are some of the most indispensable and commonly used tools for both new do-it-yourselfers and professional contractors. Everybody should have a basic set of hand tools around the house. This includes a good socket set, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, hammer, combination wrench set, tape measurer, saws, or just a complete mechanics tool set to get you started.
In addition to those, quite a few other hand tools can be considered as essentials such as: vise grips, side cutters, utility knife, mallet, wire strippers, and more. Depending on your skill level, a tap and die set, digital caliper, or even a reloading press are must-haves. If you’re on a limited budget, it’s recommended to start building up your collection of hand tools first. Also, if space is a limitation (small garage, live in an apartment, etc.), hand tools can fit where many power tools can’t.
The biggest advantage of power tools is productivity. Simply put, they enable you to get more done in less time and effort. They also allow you to do things that simply aren’t possible with hand tools. Probably the most essential and versatile power tool of them all is the cordless drill. You can use it to quickly make holes for bolts, make large round holes for things such as doorknobs and drains, use it as a power screwdriver, and even polish your car with it (when you add a polishing attachment).
Power tools are jokingly referred to as “tailed apprentices” due to their electrical cords. With advances in technology, a large amount of tools are now cordless. Each year we see lighter yet more powerful models. While hand tools are pretty much as advanced as they can get, the sky is the limit for power tools which will continue to improve through advancements in technology.
Does your garage have an air compressor? If not, you’re missing out. You wouldn’t believe how much time you will save when using air tools compared with comparable hand tools. Putting in a new fence in your backyard? A nail gun will save you hours of time and wear on your body over using a traditional hammer. Need to switch your tires after the winter? An air-powered impact wrench makes it almost too easy. Same goes for an air ratchet if you find yourself doing a lot of wrenching.
You can also use compressed air to clean dust out of hard to reach areas or inflate tires and kid toys. Whether you start off with a small portable 3-gallon compressor or large 30-gallon unit to put in the corner of the garage, you’ll soon understand how valuable air tools are.
Those who work on their own cars (and of course professional mechanics), have an additional category of tools to work with. A floor jack is one of the best investments you can make if you plan on working on your car. Sure you can use the flimsy jack that’s probably in your trunk right now to change a flat tire if you’re out on the road but if you’re in the comfort of your garage, a floor jack is much safer and it will save you a lot of time, effort, and probably even from saying a few choice words.
Other items such as a mechanics creeper, torque wrench, garage parking mat, and car ramps are all excellent investments that will get a lot of use. Serious mechanics or auto restorers will want a good engine hoist and car dolly. For troubleshooting, nothing will save you more money over the long run than a good OBD2 scan tool. It could mean the difference spending hundreds on a new ignition coil as opposed to a few dollars on a fuel injector cleaner.
Having the right safety equipment on hand in your garage is something too many people overlook. At the very least, every garage needs to have a working fire extinguisher and bench vise. Do you do a lot of work on cars? If so, a good set of jack stands can literally keep you from getting crushed. Even better would be a car lift for both safety and comfort if your budget allows.
Those with long driveways will appreciate the security a driveway alarm provides. Inexpensive items such as safety goggles, work gloves, flashlight, and first aid kit should be a priority for anyone who spends time in their garage for any other reason than getting in and out of their car.
Various electrical tools are available that helpful and even necessary in some cases. Those working on cars will benefit most from these. Unless you have a car that was manufactured prior to 1996, an OBD2 scanner will pay for itself quickly. A multimeter, IR thermometer, car battery charger, and laser level are all great electrical tools to have on hand.
With any electrical tools, make sure you understand how to use them correctly by carefully reading the included manual. There’s a bit more to it than using a tool like a hammer.
Whether your tool collection is just starting to take shape or you already own every tool imaginable, you will need somewhere to store them for organization and to keep them within easy reach. A sturdy work bench is a must-have item and should be the centerpiece of most garages. Above it you can add cabinets and underneath, some shelving to maximize the space. A free-standing shelving unit (or 2 or 8) will allow you to store most of your medium to large tools in an organized manner. An overhead storage rack is one of the best ways of freeing up extra space in the garage.
A big enough tool chest or cabinet is ideal for storing hand tools or anything that can easily get lost. A socket organizer is a must to keep all your sockets organized. Small storage bins can be attached to the wall or sit on top of shelving to keep nuts, bolts, small bulbs, fuses, and other small items organized. A wall rack with hooks is great for hanging brooms, rakes, or extension cords. A ceiling bike rack is perfect for hanging up bikes and keeping them out of the way. This is one area where you can get real creative to put together the best garage storage system for your needs.
Working on the car or home improvement project is often frustrating or even downright painful. Ever burned yourself on a hot exhaust pipe or scrapped your knuckles when the wrench slipped? Something as simple as a decent set of mechanics gloves or work gloves would probably have prevented the incident. Have a bad back? Adding a shop stool will let you work in comfort.
Live in a cold climate? Installing a garage heater makes working in the garage tolerable in the winter time. You can even plug in mini fridge to keep the beer cold and a radio to make working more enjoyable. Ever considered keeping a dedicated laptop in the garage? You should! If you’re ever stuck on a project, the solution can almost always be found online.
Nobody wants to work in a filthy garage. Not only is it embarrassing, but safety is an issue. A wet/dry Shop Vac is one of the most used items in my garage. A good solid push broom will keep your floor clean and a decent quality oil drain pan is required for oil changes. For some, a sand (or abrasive) blast cabinet is invaluable. It will quickly remove rust, paint, corrosion, or dirt from all sorts of surfaces. Hot water pressure washers are fantastic for cleaning oil off garage floors, patio, or driveway. When a leak or flooding occurs, an air mover is invaluable.
While not everyone will have the need to do any welding, it’s a great skill to have, especially when working with cars. While there are different types of welding, Oxy Acetylene welding is often the most beneficial and should be learned first in most cases. You are basically melting two pieces of metal and fusing them together at an atomic level. With welding, you will also need to buy a welding torch, hoses, tanks, tips or an oxy acetylene torch kit to get you started.
For safety, a welding helmet, gloves, and maybe even a welding jacket are also necessary. When you’re ready, moving on to a plasma cutter is often the next step. Welding is not cheap to get started in but if you have the need, it makes a lot of sense to learn as opposed to paying others to do it for you.