Project Garage, Part IX: More Garage Tools

Project Garage, Part IX: More Garage Tools

By Sarah Forst


My donor card declares my blood type as Mobil 1 15W50; I've got motor oil running through my veins. I buy shop towels at Costco and can identify most car fluids by smell and even taste. Bolt-ons, turbos, axles, engine and tranny swaps, clutches, suspension, and maintenance projects have all been accomplished in Project Garage. So it's only natural my chop shop is supplied with the tools ready to complete almost any car job. 

Anyone got a spare rubber donut thingee?  

Let's start with the obvious.  Get a good jack and some strong jack stands. For F1 quick tire swaps, Harbor Freight sells a compact aluminum rapid pump jack that will lift 3000 pounds between 3 3/8 and 14 3/4 inches in just 3.5 pumps. It weighs 27 pounds and retails for $120. A two ton capacity version can be found for $200.  They also sell a 2.5 ton version that only requires 2 3/4 inches of clearance and can lift up to 20 inches.  It's $140 but is quite a bit heavier, weighing in at almost 72 pounds.  If you tend to buy cheap knockoff clutches, you may want a transmission jack which has a saddle to keep the tranny more secure while lifting back onto the input shaft, though I've always just used a regular jack, a beer or twelve, and some four letter words for these jobs.

Jack stands
Jack stands come in different weight capacities and adjustable heights. Only use a jack or jack stands on a car that is on level ground.  Make sure they are securely positioned under the car usually on the pinch welds or under the frame so they don't slip or damage your car.
You can't trust a tire or a piece of wood to support 2500+ pounds from crushing you like road kill. Always put a jack stand under each raised tire to keep yourself from becoming acquainted with your undercarriage and kissing your oil pan. Jack stands come in all sorts of capacities and it's a good idea to have different sizes and heights for various jobs from tire changes to engine swaps.  Wheel dollies are helpful for long term projects you need to be able to move around.  
Mechanics seat
If your mechanics seat doesn't look like a greasy mess, you're not working hard enough in your garage!
A rolling table cart can help you organize your tools at your project rather than having to keep returning to your tool chest with every new size. Look for one with locking swivel casters to keep the heavy cart from tattooing your fender. If you'll be spending a lot of time on your back (to clarify, under the car…), get a mechanic's creeper and roll where you need to be. A mechanic's seat is also a convenient thing to have. Bonus- they typically have a small storage shelf beneath the seat to allow your tools to go with you.
Oil filter wrenches
I like the convenience and ease of a strap oil filter wrench but the clamping teeth on the plier type help grip stubborn oil filters.  
Specialty tools come in handy when you are working on your car. As well as a drain pan for changing your oil, you'll need something to pull that old filter off. Beating an old screwdriver into an oil filter will allow you to twist it loose in a pinch. Or you could use an oil filter wrench the remove it. Use it only to loosen the filter- oil filters should always be hand tightened. Oil filters come in socket, plier, and strap types. Strap wrenches or grip wrenches are also convenient for other jobs where you can't get your hands around something you need to twist like a jar of spaghetti sauce.

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