For even the keenest DIY’er, not having the right tool for the job can turn the most simple of tasks into a nightmare. Without the right gear at best you won’t be able to complete the job and at worst you may damage the bit upon which you are working - or at the very worst you’ll risk hurting yourself. These are our suggestions for the bits of kit essential for average DIY’er to handle jobs safely and efficiently from the very basic through to the more complex. Handy tip: Safety first always and this is the bare minimum - latex gloves for dirty work, heavy duty work gloves for jobs where your fingers are at risk and a pair of safety goggles when your eyes are ditto. Basic level For the basic monthly check, or lights and levels as we call it, all you really need is a torch, a tyre pressure gauge and an old rag for wiping your hands.
Anything more complex than that and you will find the following suggestions more than useful and in some cases, essential:
1. Torch: you can buy a little battery powered LED torch for buttons. We like the rechargeable workshop version that comes with a hook and a built in magnet. Very handy if you don’t have any friends and thus no one to hold your torch.
2. Tyre pressure gauge: you can get a perfectly useable digital TP gauge for about a fiver. We prefer the more expensive old school analogue gauge with a big round dial – just because.
3. Screwdrivers: a selection of both flat blade and Phillips type screw drivers including stubby versions.
4. Spanners: a selection of combination (opened ended one end - ring on the other) spanners from 6mm through to 19mm.
5. Pliers: both standard and pointy nose. You often see a kit of three advertised that includes a pair of side cutters.
6. Socket set: 3/8” drive is ideal for lighter work eg under bonnet and bodywork. Heavier stuff such as brakes and suspension work is better carried out with a ½” drive set.
7. Powerbar: ½” drive. For those jobs where a ½” ratchet just won’t do.
8. Allen keys: the usual automotive selection on a ring will suffice.
9. Wire brushes: in a selection of sizes.
10. Trolley jack: a low rise and lightweight version is preferable.
11. Axle stands: ideally two pairs for jobs where you need the car level.
12. Hammers: a selection comprising a small toffee hammer, a ½ kilo, 1 kilo and ideally a rubber covered mallet.
13. Tyre levers: you’ll probably never lever a tyre but they are still dead handy, particularly when working on suspension.
14. Hacksaws: standard and junior. Always buy decent quality blades. Cheap ones tend to be made of chocolate and will drive you to distraction.
15. Moles grips: set of 3 comprising, unsurprisingly, small, medium and large.
16. Hand files: a selection including flat, half round and round.
17. Stanley knife: You can get a good quality foldable craft knife at Screwfix for a fiver. Handy tip: If you cut the side out of a plastic 5 litre container using your new craft knife it makes a canny emergency receptacle in which to drain your engine oil. Keep your old 5 litre oil cans so you can safely dispose of waste engine oil at your local council facility. It’s scratterish behaviour to pour old oil down the drain.
18. Tape measure.
19. Torque wrench.
20. Engine oil drainer: a plastic washing up bowl is cheap and effective.
21. Plastic funnels: a set of, no surprises again, small medium and large. Handy tip: The average DIY’er doesn’t need Snap On quality gear. We’re not suggesting the false economy of El Cheapo spanners that bend when you look at them, but using very expensive professional quality gear designed for daily workshop use for a little occasional light DIY is well over the top. There are plenty middle of the road tool ranges out there that will be perfectly adequate for most DIY jobs, some with lifetime guarantees, and they won’t break the bank. Link
22. Magnet: telescopic for all those dropped nuts and spanners that always end up in areas just slightly smaller than your hand.
23. Mirror: telescopic to find all those dropped nuts and spanners so you haven’t wasted your money on the aforementioned magnet.
24. Circuit tester or ideally a multimeter.
25. Socket set: ¼” drive – ideal for use in restrictive places such as interior trim work.
26. Trim panel levers: simple little tools that you will only appreciate once you’ve tried to remove a door card without damage.
27. Brake fluid tester: basic digital versions are now pretty inexpensive and allow you to test the water content of your brake fluid in a few seconds. Definitely not essential, but for about a fiver this is one bit of modern digital trickery we think is great.
28. Electric drill: cordless is ideal but they are more expensive than mains versions. You’ll also need a mains extension if you have a corded drill.
29. Drill accessories: drill bits and rotary wire brushes. This is another area where you do not buy cheap stuff. Budget drill bits that are only sharp for nano-seconds are seriously frustrating, but even worse are self-destructing rotary wire brushes which could have your eye out.
Handy tip: there’s some stuff you’ll need to buy new such as consumables – paper towel, hand cleaner, WD40, aerosol of white grease, brake cleaner, copperslip, abrasive tape, insulating tape, de-greasing fluid and electrical connectors. You’ll also need a selection of nuts, bolts and washers. Buying proper Mazda OE fixings will cost a fortune so If you’re a DIY newbie and haven’t got such a collection in your workshop or shed, then a good idea is to find someone breaking an MX-5 and you should be able to get a bucket of used nuts, bolts, washers and clips for er, washers. In the same vein, even part sections of a scrap car’s harness come in very handy as a cheap supply of terminals, connectors or simply wire.