It’s not always easy to get there, but when you reach the point of being able to build out your garage there’s a lot to consider. How much DIY are you looking to do, how much space do you have, and what’s your budget? These are the core questions, and the former will quickly be guided by the two latter criteria. Even if budget and space are slightly limited there’s a lot that can be done, providing us the perfect opportunity to round out this list of some of our favorite tools and equipment to properly kit out your home garage.
A pneumatic impact wrench makes short work of difficult bolts — and it sounds incredibly cool—but getting that workshop grunt takes an air source (not counting the electric/cordless impact wrenches on the market). An air compressor opens up the world of pneumatic tools, not to mention the fact that a source of shop air has other uses such as blowing away dust, and powering paint spray guns. Automotive compressors (and the air tools they drive) are actually quite reasonably priced, so this is an easy addition to your garage.
A torque wrench is an extremely important tightening tool that you definitely don’t want to skimp on, and any good home garage should have a couple different sizes tucked away for good measure. There are a few different types of torque wrenches, but the most common are beam or click torque wrenches. A beam torque wrench simply features a gauge that displays the current torque strength being enacted on the nut, whereas a click wrench allows the user to set a desired value and will ‘click’ once the nut has been tightened to that value. There are also electronic click-style torque wrenches that allow the user to set the desired torque value using a series of buttons and an LCD display and will emit a ‘beep’ when once the correct value is reached.
No matter how much you love wrenching on cars, crawling around underneath one is no fun — that’s why professional mechanics use lifts. So how much does it cost to get your car high enough to stand underneath it? OK, they aren’t dirt cheap, but given what they can do a sticker price under $2,000 (just over $1,600 for a basic setup like the one above), but install one of these two-post lifts in your own garage and you’ll have a line of friends stretching around the block asking to use it.
Even if you install a lift like the ones mentioned above, having a proper floor jack handy is always a good idea. rather than setting a car up on the lift, you can simply raise a single corner—especially useful if you’re checking for a tire puncture, or chasing a clunk in the suspension coming from one specific corner of your car. Jacks are designed to help you lift your car quickly, but be sure to follow safe operating procedures. Not only should you lift your vehicle on flat and level ground, but a major part of safe lifting is to also us some Jack Stands and wheel chocks to stabilize the vehicle.
The only thing worse than having a rounded-off bolt is having it break off, and many mechanics think that one that happens, the part is ruined. Not so: A bolt extractor set allows you to remove broken bolts and save your parts—and often without the need to tap a new set of threads. You don’t want to know how often a kit like this has saved the day for guys who work on cars for a living.
There are plenty of good uses for an inspection camera, from getting a peek deep into the bowels of your engine to simply scoping out a difficult-to-see bolt. Traditionally, these are pretty expensive pieces of kit, but nowadays you can buy inexpensive units that use your smartphone as a monitor. When a friend complains about a part of the engine he can’t get eyes on, you’ll be ready to save the day.
One thing that automakers have that most casual mechanics don’t: Big machines to press metal parts together (or take them apart). An arbor press saves you the trouble of hauling parts out to a local shop to have them taken apart or put back together. Hydraulic presses are a bit bulky, but not outrageously expensive. They aren’t necessarily a common home garage tool, but they’re a great one to have if you are able to fit one into your work space.
This is another tool that definitely isn’t a necessity unless you have the space and expect to be yanking an engine in your imminent future. With an engine hoist (and the assistance of a friend or two, ideally) separating your car’s engine from the body becomes a much more manageable process. Keep in mind that when the engine is out you then have to consider where to rest it, so we strongly advise that you also purchase an engine stand. With certain vehicles and certain repairs, it occasionally makes more sense to pull the engine in order to save yourself from backaches and busted knuckles, so you may well have more of a use for this than you’d initially thought.
There’s a real good chance the light incorporated with your garage door opener isn’t extremely bright. It’s there for safety reasons and to give adequate lighting for your garage, but if you’re doing any serious work on your vehicle, you’ll want better lighting. That’s why garage work lights exist, and there’s a variety of types and options available on the market. It’s a simple acquisition, but as you build out the home garage you quickly realize the value of task lighting.
Some people are perfectly happy lovingly washing their car by hand with a bucket of mild soapy water and soft wash mitts, some only have the time to run it through a drive-thru wash after a fill-up, and others can’t be bothered to wash their car at all. However, keeping your car clean will keep your vehicle in better condition in the long run—especially in areas that use salt over the winter months—and one tool that can make cleaning it quicker, easier, and more affordable in the long run is a pressure washer. Not to mention once you’ve finished up a dirty, grimy engine repair, being able to blast the engine bay down with a pressure washer makes all the difference when monitoring for any additional leaks once the job is done. This one is a no-brainer in our eyes.