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  • Stock Your Garage

    Whether your garage is neat enough to make Martha Stewart envious, or so dirty the neighbors are calling home makeover shows on you, it's probably the best place you have to do vehicle maintenance. And doing that requires the proper tools.

    Basic Tools

    Stock Your Garage

    Before you begin a project, take a tool inventory. The basics are:

    • A small toolbox to hold smaller tools, which will keep them organized.
    • An assortment of screw drivers. Get two or three sizes of Phillips and at least six slot configuration sizes. You'll use these frequently.
    • Sparkplug wrench, which is usually a socket and ratchet.
    • Sparkplug gap tool. You can get one that will fit on your key ring.
    • Selection of pliers, fixed joint, including slip joint and locking pliers.
    • Wire cutters.
    • Adjustable crescent wrench.
    • Socket set in both American and Metric sizing.
    • Wrenches in both American and Metric sizing.
    • Spare fuse kit.
    • Tire pressure gauge.
    • Hose clamps in various sizes.
    • Battery post connector cleaner. This hand tool is a circular wire brush with a handle at the top.
    • A box of baking soda for removing buildup on battery posts.
    • Clean towels or a package of clean shop rags.
    • Oil spout for a quart-size oil container.
    • Drill motor and a standard set of drill bits.
    • Floor jack with jack stands.
    • Creeper - like an oversized skateboard; low to the ground, with a small head cushion. The mechanic lies on this and rolls under a vehicle.
    • Closed catch pan for recycling used motor oil.
    • Current service manual for your vehicle's particular make, model, and year. This is not the same as the owner's manual.
    • Duct tape, of course.

    Liquids, Sprays, and Solvents

    These are a few of the liquid components and tools you'll want to keep in stock:

    • Six quarts of motor oil.
    • Automatic transmission fluid.
    • Power steering fluid.
    • Fresh brake fluid, unsealed for less than one year.
    • Spray lubricant such as WD-40™ or Liquid Wrench™.
    • Radiator Sealant pellets or liquid.
    • Can of 3 In 1 Oil™.
    • Antifreeze/Coolant combination.
    • Gasoline, in a proper container only.

    More Helpful Items

    Some garage owners consider these items to be essential, others do not.

    • A small Shop-Vac™ or other vacuum cleaner configured for shop or outdoor use.
    • A drop light designed to hold a high-wattage light bulb.
    • Timing light.
    • Tachometer.
    • Engine warmer if you live in a cold climate.
    • Battery charger.

    Dressing the Part

    You may appreciate having a separate wardrobe for garage work, such as:

    • Coveralls. Name tag optional.
    • Boots or sturdy work shoes. Tennis shoes or sandals should not be worn in the work area.
    • Sturdy gloves of a heavy-duty cotton knit, cotton weave or leather.
    • Appropriate eye protection.
    • Hat, head band, cotton bandanna, or sweatband to keep perspiration and/or glare out of your eyes.
    • A separate, clean bandanna or cotton handkerchief, to wipe face, eyes, etc. It's not a good idea to use a shop rag, even a clean one, on your skin, as even a clean shop rag can contain metal shavings. Be sure to launder this item after you're done working.

    Keep It Clean and Keep It Safe

    Garages are not playgrounds (at least, not for kids) so ban the young ones, even if you're around. Here are a few tips to help prevent accidents:

    • Unlike socks, tools shouldn't be left on the floor. Put them back in their proper place.
    • Make sure all gasoline, oil, and other liquids are closed securely and stored properly when you leave the area. Don't allow tools or parts to soak in gasoline unsupervised.
    • Make sure all extension cords and electrical wires are in good repair.
    • Clean up broken glass immediately.
    • No bare feet, socks, sandals, or house slippers allowed! Insist that visitors wear proper shoes or boots, tie back long hair, and, if necessary, wear eye protection.
    • Dispose of all fluids and chemicals according to local regulations.
    • Keep all liquids in their original containers, well out of the reach of children.