Tools are expensive, they are heavy and take up room and some of them (English Wheels, Planishing Hammers, Bead Rollers, etc.) can take a lifetime to develop the skills to master. This isn’t a list of those types of tools. This is a list of the most basic tools that should be in every classic car owners tool box. These are the ones that I touch everytime I find myself in the garage trying to solve some sort of mechanical malady involving an old car.
1) 3/8" DRIVE SOCKET SET
A simple set of 3/8 inch drive sockets, a ratchet and two lengths of extensions. Photo by: Chris Breeden
I'll leave it up to you to determine whether you'll need a set in either SAE or Metric. Buy the type you'll most often come into contact with. Buy the set that you will use most first and consider purchasing a cheaper set of the other type after you've acquired the other things on this list. The best way to purchase these tools is in a set. Try and get a set that includes both shallow and deep well sockets. Look for a set that has three different lengths of extensions. The 3/8 inch drive sets are the best for all around use, so start with a good set of these. The time to purchase a set of 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch drive sockets, is after you've purchased the other things on the list. Those two sizes are very useful, but you'll find the middle size drive the most versatile of the three.
2) COMBINATION WRENCH SET
A set of combination wrenches. Photo by: Chris Breeden
The advice from above about which type of set to buy applies here as it did with the sockets. Get what you'll need. Stay away from offset and extra long or short combination wrenches for your first set. Stick with the tried and true design. A word about ratchet wrenches: They are handy and I'd suggest picking up a set when you find them on sale, but again, I caution you to stick with the trusted design!
3) SCREWDRIVER SET
I tend to abuse screwdrivers, so I buy cheap ones! Photo by: Chris Breeden
I've found that people have two philosophies when it comes to screwdrivers. One school of thought says to only purchase high end, high quality (read super expensive) screwdrivers and they will never break. The other side says to only buy cheap, easy to replace, screwdrivers because you know they are going to break. Whichever side you fall into make sure to get as many different sizes and lengths as you can find. Sometimes the right screwdriver can really save you a lot of time and frustration!
4) ADJUSTABLE WRENCH SET
One of the most useful tools a classics car owner can have. Photo by: Chris Breeden
The adjustable wrench is a staple of any classic car garage. You'll be surprised how many times you'll reach for one of these. Get them in three different sizes and keep them handy!
5) PLIERS & VISE GRIPS
The bigger your collection of pliers, the better off you will be! Photo by: Chris Breeden
Needle Nose, Wire, Side cut and "Channel Lock" type pliers are not just useful, they are an absolute necessity in any classic car garage. After you've loaded those four into your tool box, consider purchasing a set of locking type pliers. Locking pliers will give you a hand back while wrestling with difficult to deal with parts.
These three basic hammers should work fine. Photo by: Chris Breeden
I've found that since I'm not swinging a hammer like a blacksmith while working on cars I can get away with two sizes. The smaller one is useful for tight spaces and the larger one is great for working over u-joints in drive shafts! You'll also want a rubber mallet. I've only ever used the rubber one once or twice, but when I needed it, nothing would have worked otherwise!
7) TOOL BOX
Photo by: Chris Breeden
Tool boxes are getting expensive, so you'll want to plan out which one to get and how it's going to work in your space
8) FLOOR JACK
If you are dealing with custom cars, you'll want to get a low-profile floor jack. Photo by: Chris Breeden
I would say I use a floor jack about 50% of the time I'm in the garage. These things are incredibly useful and after using one you'll understand why the jack in your car is a total piece of junk. As useful as a floor jack is, it is just as dangerous! Think before you jack. Think before you lower. Think before you think. But most important of all...
9) JACK STANDS
Turns out my jack stands were in a dark corner of my garage under a car and I couldn't get a good picture of them. Photo from: yourmechanic.com
Never use a floor jack with out good, new jack stands! DO NOT USE OLD HANDED DOWN JACK STANDS! They may have belonged to uncle Jack, but they are not safe anymore! No matter how many years Jack used them. Send them to the scrap iron heap and buy new ones. Any time a cars wheels come off of the ground the first thing that goes under the car are jack stands. Next to drowning or burning alive, being trapped under a fallen car while you bleed out is probably one of the worst ways to die. Now that I've scared the crap out of you, I'll simply say that a good floor jack and set (a set is 4) of stands will make working on the underside of any automobile 100% easier!
Photo by: Chris Breeden
This is by far the most expensive thing on the list, but it is one of the most important. This will keep your car and all of those tools clean and in the dry. It will allow you to spread out all of those tools and parts and not have to put them all away at the end of the weekend. Lastly, garages are just about the best way of making sure your car and tools don't get stolen while you aren't looking!
THERE YOU HAVE IT! THE TOP 10 TOOLS EVERY CLASSIC CAR OWNER SHOULD HAVE! DID I MISS A TOOL THAT YOU USE ALL THE TIME? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!