Essential workshop tools and garage equipment 2018

Here are ten products ideal for car DIY as you get your car, workshop and garage ready for spring

One way to save money on your motoring is to do your own maintenance. You don’t need to be a trained mechanic to undertake a fluid change or brake and suspension work, while general repairs can be tackled with basic mechanical skills and a workshop manual.

You’ll need some decent tools, though. Some kits aimed at those starting out in car repairs can feature tools you’ll hardly use, so we’ve listed 10 essentials to get you started. They’re all test winners, so are definitely up to the job, while prices are from online sources.

Trolley Jack

You won’t get far with vehicle maintenance before you’ll need your car in the air. While there are hydraulic lifts available to fit in a home garage, for most DIY mechanics, a trolley jack is the way to go. 

They work quickly and can get the car raised high enough to work underneath, while our top choice is a low-entry design that fits under the low sill of a sports car. It’s essential to use axle stands with a jack for extra safety. Expect to pay around £20 for a pair. 

Best trolley jacks to buy

Clarke CTJ22550LP

Price: Around £55

Power Tools

A cordless drill or impact wrench isn’t essential, but both can significantly save time. The wrench can spin off nuts that would defeat a ratchet and socket, and the drill is ideal for brushing and buffing. 

Buy wisely and you can use the batteries and charger for more than one tool, like our impact test winner from Panasonic. Or look out for packages like our cordless runner-up from Wolf, which comes with a 150Nm impact wrench.

Best cordless drills to buy

Panasonic EY75A2

Price: Around £330

Wolf Professional 106247

Price: Around £110

Torque Wrench

It’s easy to think of a torque wrench as the preserve of the professionals who are swapping cylinder heads and the like. 

But a torque wrench is needed even for something as basic as replacing a wheel, as bolts or nuts need precise tightening if they are to work effectively. Our favourite is a half-inch drive and covers 40-200Nm, plus is one of the easiest to set, with a smooth adjuster and clear numbers in a conventional gradation.

Best torque wrenches to buy

Halfords Professional Torque Wrench 200139

Price: Around £80


You’re not going to be doing much more than topping up the fluids without a set of spanners. Along with sockets, they’re probably the most important tools to own.

Pick the right set for the bolts on your car – most modern vehicles use metric fasteners. Combination ring and open spanners are the most cost-effective kit to buy, and our pick is the Draper Expert 23017. These are great to use and easy to select as they are colour-coded.

Best ratchet spanner sets to buy

Draper Expert 23017

Price: Around £35


There are some places that spanners can’t reach, so a socket and ratchet wrench are needed. There are three main types: quarter, 3/8 and half-inch drive. 

The mid-range 3/8” drive will cover most car jobs, and our pick of the sets includes extensions, deep sockets and ones to remove spark plugs. The 33-piece Clarke PRO377 comes in a tough case and is the successor to our test winner, with great performance and a keen price.

Clarke PRO377

Price: Around £40


It’s easy to think the handful of flat and crosshead screwdrivers you use around the home will do for car work, but in practice, you need a bigger range. 

An automotive set needs a range of tips and shaft lengths. Our favourite set from Kennedy has no flare at the tip, which could hinder access, while the bigger tools have nuts cast into the stems to give extra torque.

Best screwdriver sets to buy

Kennedy Professional KEN-572-6040K

Price: Around £25

Work Light

NO matter where you’re working, you’ll inevitably need more light. You don’t even have to be under the car to need help, as today’s crowded engine bays make seeing a problem.

Improvements in lithium-ion batteries and chip on board (COB) LED technology make cordless lights the way to go, and the Ring is our pick of the bunch. It has a super-bright wide beam and plenty of options to get light where you need it.

Best work lights to buy

Ring RIL3600HP MAGflex Twist

Price: Around £30

Multibit Sets

The days when basic screwdrivers were all you needed for car repairs are fast disappearing, with the arrival of Torx, Star and security bits. You either need a tool box full of drivers, or a multibit set.

Halfords’ 58-piece version is our pick as it covers pretty much all of the above, plus the small AF and metric nuts not usually found in a socket set. There are duplicates of popular crosshead sizes, too.

Best multibit screwdriver sets to buy

Halfords Ratchet Screwdriver and Bit Set

Price: Around £15


Sockets and spanners are for turning nuts and bolts, but there are times when only a pair of pliers will do. Whether it is retrieving a dropped fastener or to stop one spinning, pliers will get into spaces that ratchets and spanners can’t.

The best bet is to buy a set, which usually includes side cutters, ideal for stripping and chopping wire. Our winning five-piece set with sprung handles also adds end cutters and bent-nose versions.

Best plier sets to buy

Draper 33057

Price: Around £15


The final spot in our workshop top 10 goes to a jack of all trades – the multitool. Many of its functions are covered by full-size versions, but it earns its place thanks to its sheer versatility. 

While the larger tools here do a better job, a good multitool like our test winner will cover most tasks and provides a one-stop solution. If you need a few tools in the car to tackle a roadside breakdown, then this easily fits in the glovebox.

Best multitools to buy

Gerber MP1 Multi-Tool

Price: Around £115

Products editor

Kim has worked for Auto Express for more than three decades and all but a year of that time in the Products section. His current role as products editor involves managing the section’s content and team of testers plus doing some of the tests himself. 

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