Best Automotive Power Tools: Add Some Power to Your Workshop
Consider these power tools to make automotive work easier
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Automotive maintenance can require a lot of different tools to complete in an efficient and timely manner. Power tools can make maintenance even easier by speeding up repetitive processes like fastening nuts and bolts. In some cases, a power tool is also better suited for certain tasks than the hands alone. Since there are many power tools you can use for automotive maintenance, here's our guide to come of the best, most important ones to consider adding to your garage.
- Best OverallBlack+Decker Drill and Impact Driver Combo KitSummarySummaryA unique multi-in-one power tool that combines a drill and impact driver (among others).ProsProsCan switch between different tools with separate attachments. Impact driver powerful enough for general automotive use.ConsConsImpact driver lacks the power for parts requiring high amounts of torque. Other attachments can't be used on automotive work.
- Best ValueMilwaukee Sub-Compact RatchetSummarySummaryA great powered ratchet wrench that offers more power than typical hand tools alone.ProsProsA slim and narrow design that's perfect for fitting into tight automotive spaces. A lightweight body that is comfortable to hold for long periods of time.ConsConsDoesn't deliver high amounts of torque. Doesn't come with a battery.
- Honorable MentionMilwaukee Impact WrenchSummarySummaryA true torque wrench that can deliver up to 117 foot-pounds of force.ProsProsGreat, comfortable pistol-grip design. Comes with two separate fastening modes for different applicationsConsConsThe pistol-like design adds some bulk on the top, making it difficult to fit the tool into tight spaces around a vehicle.
Why Buy an Automotive Power Tool
- Work more quickly. When you add some electricity into your workflow, things naturally become more efficient. While speed isn't always warranted or wise for certain automotive tasks, there are plenty of times where a power tool makes sense. Fasteners, for example, go much faster when you have the right electric screwdriver or impact driver in your hands.
- Tighten or loosen fasteners with more torque. A car has a lot of components that rely on basic torque and friction to stay together. Fasteners like lug nuts secure different parts that need to stay in place to work properly. If a fastener requires a high degree of torque, certain power tools will be more capable than tightening it down by hand.
- Avoid fatigue. The more you use your hands when working on a car, the more you work your muscles. Over time, lengthy automotive tasks can fatigue the muscles or even increase the risk of minor injuries. Since power tools can take the major load off of the muscles, they are a smart investment when you want to protect your health as much as possible.
Types of Automotive Power Tools
Drivers tend to be the most common type of power tools used for automotive applications. Tightening and loosening fasteners, drivers take out the need for hand-driven screwdrivers. Most are either electric screwdrivers or impact drivers; the right choice depends on the amount of torque you need since impact drivers can deliver greater amounts of force.
Drills tend to be useful when it comes to making upgrades to certain parts that can't be mounted directly. Accessories and performance upgrades, for example, may require pre-drilled holes in order to be secured to the vehicle.
Saws and Grinders
Extensive upgrades or automotive alterations can require a saw or grinder to cut away body panels, smooth surfaces, or otherwise alter the vehicle in drastic ways. Restoration projects also tend to require heavy-duty tools like these if there is a significant amount of damage or rust.
Top Brands of Automotive Power Tools
Milwaukee Tool is a company that has made a name for itself when it comes to reliable power tools. In particular, the company specializes in cordless power tools with a focus on interchangeable, sharable batteries and charger accessories. For automotive work, we recommend options like the Impact Wrench, which can be used for automotive and general work.
It's no mistake that Black+Decker has become a staple of many power tool sets. Starting as two separate shops and companies, Black+Decker has the development of portable power tools in its DNA. The company's mark on automotive work is no different. Check out the Drill and Impact Driver Combo for a great automotive tool.
Automotive Power Tool Pricing
- $50 and under: This can be a challenging range to find power tools with enough power for automotive work, but some impact drivers that scrape the top of this range can get the job done. Most options, however, tend to be geared more for general DIY use around the home instead of the garage.
- $50-$100: There are plenty of great impact and drill options in this price range for automotive work. Most power tools here will be just the tool itself, lacking major accessories or even a battery.
- $100 and above: The high end of automotive power tools offers the most options in terms of powerful tools capable of handling most automotive tasks. More importantly, many come in complete kits that include all of the accessories and batteries necessary to get going from the start.
The right power tool is all about performance and design. This varies depending on the type, but nearly all power tools need to have an ergonomic design in order to feel comfortable in the hands for long periods of time. This is why great power tools sport contoured grips and surfaces that conform to the shape of the hands. With some power tools, like saws and grinders, the design also should have safeguards and barriers to protect the body from harm.
Given the need for electricity with power tools, the power supply type is extremely important to consider. Some automotive power tools only have a cord you will need to plug into a wall outlet or generator to use. This can limit the range of the tool but eliminates any issues with running out of juice if you are working on a vehicle for a long period of time. Battery-powered tools, on the other hand, extend the range of the tool at the expense of running time. For the best of both worlds, choose a battery-operated tool with swappable batteries to extend the life.
Many power tools are designed to accept different types of attachments, such as bits, saws, and sockets. The type of power tool will largely dictate what accessories it can accept, so consider what you need in terms of functionality and versatility.
- Capability: All power tools have limitations when it comes to performance. The capability of a tool is largely determined by the motor and design. Tools with more powerful motors run faster, deliver higher amounts of torque, and perform longer. Pay attention to the specifications of each tool since different types and options vary in what kind of capabilities and limitations they have.
- Size: For automotive work, the size of a power tool can influence how useful it is around a vehicle. Smaller tools can reach into cramped spaces around the engine bay or undercarriage. Larger tools are generally fine for exterior work and most interior projects that don't require getting into the dashboard.
- Storage: When you aren't using your tools, a proper place to store them is essential for an organized garage or workspace. Power tools can be more difficult to store than hand options, given the larger size, but the right toolbox or case is more than enough to keep everything in one place without taking up floor space. If you buy a power tool kit, you may also get a case included in the package you can use for other items as well.
Best Automotive Power Tools Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Automotive Power Tool Overall: Black+Decker Drill and Impact Driver Combo Kit
When it comes to automotive power tools, it helps to have something that can do more than one thing quickly. This is the idea behind Black+Decker's Matrix Drill and Impact Driver. Unlike traditional drill and impact driver kits that come with separate power tools, this one combines the functionality of both tools into a single body using separate attachments. To switch between the two tools (and more), all you need to do is replace the attachments on top.
For automotive use, this design offers a lot of flexibility when working on a vehicle. The impact driver attachment is a more useful attachment for automotive work, but it's handy to have the use of a drill close by when working on a certain part and accessory upgrades that need to be mounted to the frame or exterior of the vehicle. Both attachments work with a standard drill and impact driver accessories.
Since this power tool isn't automotive specific, you may find the capabilities of the impact driver to be lacking for parts and accessories that require high levels of torque. Battery power is also lackluster when using the impact driver for long periods of time, but the swappable battery design does mitigate this issue somewhat. Finally, you may find the design to be overkill, especially the other available attachments that aren't applicable to automotive work.
Best Automotive Power Tool Value: Milwaukee Sub-Compact Ratchet
The Milwaukee 2457-20 Power Rachet is the type of power tool to choose when you just want to speed up routine steps that eat away time during automotive work. Tightening and loosening fasteners are where this power ratchet excels. It's not an impact driver per se, but it easily replaces a socket wrench or set of hex keys (with the right attachments) and adds some electricity into the equation to speed things up considerably.
The design has a compact profile that is just slightly bulkier than a typical socket wrench. Its length is around 10.75 inches, so it generally doesn't have an issue fitting into the tight spaces some vehicles have around the engine bay or undercarriage Weighing just 1.9 pounds, the tool is easy to carry around on a tool belt or in a toolbox when not in use.
As stated above, this isn't an impact driver by any means. More in line with a power drill, the ratchet delivers up to 35 foot-pounds of torque, which isn't enough for some automotive fasteners that keep parts together at high speeds. The lack of a battery also means you will be shelling out extra money unless you buy one of Milwaukee's complete kits.
Best Automotive Power Tool Honorable Mention: Milwaukee Impact Wrench
A good torque wrench is absolutely necessary when doing some serious automotive work. While many mechanics will take an air-powered wrench any time of the day, battery-powered wrenches are a great solution for automotive DIYers working in the home garage. Milwaukee's 2454-22 3/8 Impact Wrench is one such power tool that gets a lot done around most automotive parts.
The wrench sports a pistol-grip design that is quite comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Delivering up to 117 foot-pounds of torque, the impact wrench can handle a good majority of fastening tasks found in typical automotive maintenance or upgrades. The two separate fastening modes it provides (variable power and variable speed) also make the impact wrench flexible in how you approach tightening different fasteners.
Unfortunately, its comfortable pistol design makes it a bit difficult to use in some cramped areas around a vehicle. The bulk of the top, in particular, may be difficult to squeeze into some areas of the engine bay or undercarriage without getting it stuck. Some other-brand socket sets also fit with a little give, making it difficult to apply high amounts of torque safely.
- Choose the power tools you need the most for the type of automotive work you do. Anything that saves some time and effort is worth the investment.
- You can use general-use power tools for a good majority of automotive maintenance tasks, but you may need something specific to vehicles for certain tasks.
- Buy several batteries if you plan on using battery-operated power tools for long periods of time. They are easy to swap out and keep charged on the go.
- Buy small power tools if you want to carry them around the garage or even in your vehicle. Tools meant for off-site use are perfect for portability.
Q. What kind of tools do I need?
A. While you don't need power tools to work on a vehicle, small tools like electric screwdrivers and impact drivers are versatile enough to be used on almost any project. Saws and grinders, on the other hand, tend to be used less.
Q. What comes in power tool kits?
A. Power tool kits tend to be designed for general-use and include the most common, most useful tools for tasks around the house. Basic kits offer some combination of drills, impact drivers, electric screwdrivers, and maybe a small saw.
Q. Are power tools better than air-powered tools?
A. Not necessarily. Power tools are more convenient since you don't need an air compressor running the entire time you are using the tool. Air-powered tools, however, can be more capable and generally require less setup in terms of cords and batteries, since a single compressor is necessary.
Our top power tool pick is the versatile Black+Decker Drill and Impact Driver Combo Kit for its flexibility in use and unique design.
For something more straightforward and more affordable, choose the Milwaukee Sub-Compact Ratchet instead.
What are your favorite power tools to use around the garage? Let us know in the comments below.
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