AutoTools, Cars & Repairs

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To a large extent these will depend not only on what you can afford but also on how much of the restoration you will undertake yourself. A bench and a vice, and a reasonable range of hand tools is necessary and these will include hammers, chisels, punches, hacksaws and, of course, spanners. A very wide range of these is available and you should have a set of socket spanners, a set of open-ended spanners and a set of ring spanners, or you can buy a set of combination spanners that have a ring at one end and an open end at the other. Obviously, the spanners will need to match the nuts and bolts used on your car -but what are they? The size of the bolt heads and nuts is dependent on the thread form as well as the diameter of the bolt, and for our purpose there are three types, metric, AF and BSF (which includes BSW). Metric threads will be found on Continental and Japanese cars, UNF on American and many British cars and BSF/BSW (British Standard Fine and the coarser British Standard Whitworth) on older British cars. Do not be surprised to find a mix of types on some British cars, particularly BSF and UNF.

Metric and UNF spanners are available from many outlets but you may have to look around for the BSF variety; advertisers in the magazines are the best bet.

Select the Best Tool

Buy the best that you can afford. Many of the really cheap ones are of very poor quality and as you will probably never need to buy another set you might as well start with a good one, and you can do no better than visit one of the large specialist tool or motoring stores and see what they have available.

Automotive tools

Once you have obtained the minimum necessary you can build up your collection by buying when you need a specific tool. Tool storage is important. It is frustrating to have to dig among a mass of tools to find the one you need, and increasingly sets of tools are being presented in their own storage boxes. Tool boards are useful as the various items are visible at a glance and they are economical on floor space since they hang on the wall. The professionals use tool cabinets, of which there is a wide variety, so that they can take the tools to the job and store them neatly for instant access.

As far as equipment is concerned there is much available to the amateur that saves time and tends towards better quality work, but apart from the cost of the equipment it has to be housed and it can easily encroach on working space.

You will certainly need an electric drill, both for drilling holes and for operating wire brushes and similar aids to rust and paint removal. Here it pays to buy one of reputable make and size; a minimum chuck capacity of 3/8in (10mm) is essential. Make sure also that it is of variable speed or has at least two speeds, since the single speed models run at about 1,400rpm (revolutions per minute) which is much too fast for drilling anything but small holes in steel. Make a practice of ensuring that all your electrical equipment is fitted with rubber, not plastic, plugs and sockets since plastic ones are very prone to crack when dropped on the floor or when run over.

A pillar drill is worth buying for accurate drilling of components on the bench, and these are now quite reasonably priced.

A bench grinder is also essential for sharpening tools and normally comes with a grinding wheel at both ends, one coarse and one fine. The coarse one is usually too coarse to be much good and is best replaced with a wire wheel for de-rusting components or a polishing mop. Goggles must be worn when using this tool, as small, very hot pieces of metal and abrasive powder fly off with great force and can easily damage eyes and pit spectacle lenses, to say nothing of the danger of a cracked wheel disintegrating.


A trolley jack is essential for quickly and easily lifting a corner or side of a car for wheel removal or to place stands under it. A scissor jack or a bottle jack can be used instead but they’re less handy. Bottle jacks can prove useful for other operations, though, such as chassis straightening. For rapid tire changing these little beauties can save you time like nothing else. Tire replacement is a doddle with a good jack and stand set. It took me no more than 3 minutes to remove my fat mud tires from my quad bike last weekend with my own set. Now these mud tires are not your standard tires and weigh in at over 50kg and seem to fit a large part of my yard at over 28 inches in diameter
Car axle stand

Axle stands are essential; they do not crumble like a pile of bricks, although at a pinch blocks of wood, if of adequate size, could be used. It should not be necessary to say that you should never get under the car when it is supported only by a jack, but people still do so, sometimes with dire consequences.


Compressed air is very useful in the workshop and not only for the practical use of blowing up flat tires. Apart from clearing holes and drying components, it provides useful motive power for a wide variety of air tools, most of which are much more compact than their electrical equivalents and of course safer. If you propose to spray paint then a compressor is essential.

Air compressor

Air compressors come in different sizes and powers and the best advice that can be given is to buy the biggest you can afford as it will power a greater range of tools, but even the smallest is useful. The governing factor is the electricity supply; if you are restricted to 13 amps the biggest that you will be able to drive will supply about 6 cubic feet per minute (cfm) (1.7 cubic metres). This will be adequate for a reasonable range of air tools and spray painting but will not be sufficient for shot blasting.

All except the smallest compressors come with an air receiver (tank) which holds the compressed air and is topped up automatically by the compressor; one with a receiver of 25 or 50 litres capacity will do well.

Nearly all compressors will operate at pressure of up to about 100-120psi (pounds per square inch, 7-8 Bar) which is ample for all normal usage and standard tires.

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