Here at The Engine Block, we think everyone in possession of a garage should be ready to wrench on cars. However, even those skilled in the automotive arts may need a few pointers now and again on how to keep that dream garage in working order. And for young disciples who want a dream garage, but don’t have a dream budget, you can still create a sacred space with just a few bucks in the bank.
Back to Basics
First things first: clean out the junk. You can’t work on anything in a cluttered environment. And besides being a distraction, it’s a safety hazard. Have a yard sale or put some listings on Craigslist, but get Grandma’s furniture and the broken Christmas lights out. They’re taking up valuable space! This is an easy step that should be repeated often—every couple of months at least. And the best part? It’s free!
Once you can see the floor and the surface of your work table or bench, you can start acquiring (or updating) your hand tools. Whether you’re looking to tackle some minor repairs or start a ground-up restoration, a dream garage can’t function without the basics. Start small. At the very least, you need to get your hands on some wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, and pliers.
With almost all automotive repairs or upgrades, you’ll need a good set of wrenches. Most enthusiasts know they’ll need box wrenches and socket wrenches with a plethora of socket sizes, in both metric and standard to get started. But it’s easy to forget about some of the odds and ends, like extensions, Allen keys, and torx fittings. For those just beginning their dream garage, it’s often easier—and more economical—to purchase a starter mechanic kit like those offered by GearWrench or Craftsman. These kits will require around $300 to be set aside. On a budget, this can be a large expense. But in the long run, purchasing all the necessary tools individually will run you much more money.
Just as many situations under the hood call for the use of screwdrivers as they do wrenches. Tuning the carb, removing brake parts, and working with hose clamps are just a few jobs you’ll need screwdrivers for. But just having a standard and Philips head set aside won’t be enough, even in the most basic of garage setups. You’re going to need all different sizes to effectively get the job done without stripping the fasteners. Luckily, bundles are available from the suppliers we mentioned above, along with a few other brands such as Proto and Husky. Depending on the set you choose, the price can vary. But without creeping over $70, you can walk away with everything you need.
Some occasions are going to warrant the use of hammers. Now, we’re not suggesting that you should go around beating your way through every job, but they are handy to have around. While a nice steel hammer may rarely need use, something small like a 2-pound hammer is good to have. Realistically speaking, you need to have a dead blow on hand. Soft face dead blow hammers are great for delivering a strong blow to stubborn parts without damaging materials. Therefore, having at least one on standby—if not a few—is something any dream garage needs.
The last basic hand tool you’ll need is a sturdy pair of pliers. Snap ring pliers, hose clamp pliers, channel locks, and needle nose pliers are all necessary. If you plan on getting into some electrical work, you’ll need some plier-like tools as well, but that’s a separate topic for another day. Sticking to the basics, it’s safe to say the bill will run north of the $100 mark. And while this may seem high for those on a tight budget, ask anyone who’s been stuck in a situation without pliers and they’ll tell you it’s worth it.
So you’ve got the basic hand tools, now what? You can easily take things to the next level by investing in tools designed to work in tight spaces, like thumbwheel ratchet sets. These tools are very cheap and super handy to have around. And if you want to get really slick, a set of ratcheting box wrenches make it very easy to get at those hard-to-reach nuts and bolts, like those pinched against the firewall.
Even with good wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, and pliers, you’ve only just scratched the surface. For the real dream garage setup, we still need to cover power tools, specialty tools, pneumatic tools, and safety equipment. And don’t forget, we need to organize all these new toys so proper layout and storage needs to be discussed as well. It sounds like a lot up front, but time is key. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your dream garage. In fact, like most of your projects, it may never be fully modified. But one thing is for certain, once you’ve got a strong setup, no task will be left idling away gathering dust. You’ll be itching to get out to that space and start wrenching!
Check back soon as we’ll be revisiting this topic with more tips! From power tools to layout design, we’ve got everything you need to start your dream garage!