The Drive Editors’ Favorite Mechanic's Tools and Garage Gear
After decades of broken knuckles, singed eyebrows, and snapped bolts, this is the gear we keep close by.
Executive Editor Jonathon Klein swears by Smith & Wesson’s knives. He’s kept one in his pocket ever since he was in a gnarly car crash when he was 16. A driver plowed into the driver’s side door, caving in the compartment, and jamming his seatbelt. He got out after cutting his belt off and smashing out the door. Smith & Wesson’s Dual Knife & Tool has both a seatbelt cutter and a glass break, along with a hex wrench, a bottle opener, and a fire striker. You can’t go wrong there.
The O.G. multipurpose tool company, Leatherman is easily the best in the business, and it’s Coyote Skeletool is the latest and greatest. With seven different tools, including both needle-nose and regular pliers, hardwire and wire cutters, a combination knife, a carabiner, and a bit driver, Leatherman’s Coyote Skeletool won’t let you down whenever you’re in a fix-it pinch.
There are digital gauges, analog dial gauges, and everything in between, but the original Milton tire pressure gauge is easily the most robust. It’s also the easiest to read, thus making it a necessity in anyone’s EDC. Too many people take their tire pressure for granted, but it’s something that should be checked regularly. Grab a Milton, stuff it in your pocket, and never be halfway to Albuquerque with semi-flat tires.
Car glass isn’t like your average house glass. It’s thicker, and if you’ve ever thrown something at it at a junkyard (who hasn’t?!), you know it’s far harder to break. Doing so requires a ton of effort when the situation arises, but it doesn’t have to. With a safety hammer or glass breaker tool like the one by Swiss Safe, it takes all the effort out and only requires a light swing to shatter your impediment.
Every garage should have a jack. Every. Single. One. Jacks are the backbone of a DIYer’s garage and you really should have a good one, which is why we’re suggesting Torin’s. After all, this is your safety we’re talking about.
Coming in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities, Torin’s jacks are some of the best. We’ve had a few of them over the years, only ever getting rid of them under extreme duress and lack of space. They’ve never failed, buy one for your garage.
Well, now that you have a proper jack, you’ll also want jack stands! Again, Torin is the way to go. They represent the industry standard, and there’s a reason for it: They’re great. Jack stands are also incredibly important tools if you’re working on a car because they keep the car from falling off the jack and onto you. Yes, you. Grab two. Heck, grab four!
If you’ve got a project car like The Drive’s very own Tony Markovich, a battery maintainer is a priority, though Tony’s not exactly at that stage of the game just yet—hint, the car is still in pieces. A battery maintainer ensures that whenever your impulse arises, your car’s battery will be fully charged and ready for a beating down your favorite road. In our experience, Noco’s battery maintainer is one of the best.
Ever been under a car, rummaging through a toolbox for a specific set of pliers, wrench, or vise-grip without looking? Yeah, so have we. That’s why this set of all three is so damn important. Never again will you have to stab your hand with rusty nails or screws, find yourself wedded to a 10mm socket, or pull out a monkey wrench only to find that it’s too big for the space you need. Irwin is one of our favorite tool set brands, and this Vise-Grip/GrooveLock Pliers, and Wrench set is perfect.
Do you wash your car? Do you dry it with whatever towels you have lying around? STOP THAT! Using stiff leftover unwashed-for-centuries towels damages your car’s paint work. What you need are microfiber towels, like the ones from the Chemical Guys. They’re made specifically for drying your car’s paint. Seriously, don’t use anything else.
There’s always a use for a flashlight in your car. Whether that’s finding a lost pacifier for a screaming toddler, finding that lost french fry, searching for problems in your engine bay, or flagging down a helpful motorist when that issue turns into a straight-up horror film underneath the hood, it’s always useful to have on hand. A flashlight, especially a powerful one like this Energizer flashlight, is one of the most essential tools you can keep in your car. Do it, because your phone flashlight doesn’t count when your battery is never charged!
The road isn’t as dangerous as it was back in ye olden cowboy days, but there are still hazards and dangers. And, let’s be honest, accidents still occur on the regular. A first aid kit, like this one by Swiss Safe, can be extremely important and could save you or your loved one’s life if anything ever should occur.
This is a no-brainer. Every car should have a set of jumper cables in the trunk. You may never use them, they might collect dust or even get in the way of your grocery run, but when our battery dies in the middle of Deliverance, you’ll be happy you had a set to quickly flag another just-passing-through motorist and jump your car. Plus, there’s no chance of them dying or failing to work like those portable jump-starter packs.
Well, you’re driving through Deliverance again—that’s on you, why are you doing that—and this time, instead of a dead battery, you’ve got a flat tire. Your spare is gone, too. That’s what Fix-a-Flat was designed for. Fix-a-Flat is a temporary flat tire fix that’s meant to get you out of those hairy predicaments and back to safety ASAP. Never leave your garage without a can.
Though we’re not uber fans of swappable screwdriver bits, they’re supremely handy to have in your car. Why? Because things can rattle apart, fall off, or get struck by something, and you’ll need to screw something back into place. Irwin’s 9-piece screwdriver set is compact and strong enough to tackle every problem you encounter. With one of these, you won’t have a 30-piece set thrashing around in the trunk.
We don’t think we need to explain why Duct tape is an essential piece of kit, do we? It’s strong, it’s durable, it sticks to almost anything, and it’s readily available at an affordable price. It is literally one of the most useful inventions of all time.
A blanket is one of the oldest multi-tools in human history. It can be used for warmth when you're turning into a popsicle, as a shade when you're overheating, or as a picnic blanket when you need a break. This Pendleton camp blanket is warm and durable thanks to its 82/18 wool/cotton blend, but old comforters or any other sturdy option will do.