Because of the complexity of cars and trucks today, many specialized automotive tools must be used to build, maintain, and repair them. From common tools such as screwdrivers and sockets, to more specialized tools like spark plug pullers and diagnostic gauges, automotive tools are essential in order to properly work on cars and trucks today. Many automotive tools can be purchased at any hardware store, while others must be obtained from specialized distributors; some of the more specialized tools can be cost-prohibitive, while others are quite affordable.
A good set of automotive tools starts with a socket set and a set of screwdrivers. Countless bolts and nuts hold a car or truck together, and sockets and screwdrivers can tighten or loosen most of them. A comprehensive set of sockets will include both metric and standard sizes, as the sizes of the nuts and bolts vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some bolts in an engine compartment can be quite difficult to reach, so a variety of socket extenders are a good addition to the socket set. Extra long screwdrivers can also make repairs easier.
For larger jobs, some specialized automotive tools are required. In order to properly balance tires on wheels, a wheel balancer must be used. This expensive and bulky piece of equipment is common in automotive shops, and it ensures the tire is mounted properly on the rim. Other specialized automotive tools allow the mechanic to properly align the wheels on the car. Some advanced systems use lasers to accomplish this.
Because much of the car's components are fixed underneath the vehicle, lifts must be used so the mechanic can access the bottom of the vehicle. More advanced hydraulic lifts use large beams and hydraulic pressure to raise the car off the ground. Other simpler lifts, such as bottle jacks or scissor jacks, can use hydraulic pressure or a screw system to raise the vehicle.
Engine tools can be somewhat complex. An engine compression gauge tests to check if the engine systems are sealed so that the engine functions properly. This compression gauge can be screwed into the slot normally used for a spark plug to ensure the engine is working properly. Electronic gauges can also be used, but these are far more expensive and require some training to use properly. The engine is a complex piece of machinery, and it requires more specialized tools than any other part of the vehicle. Other compression gauges — for oil compression, for example — and tools specifically designed for engines may be necessary to properly repair an engine.