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Car Care Tools You Can’t Work WithoutNotes From the Road

Car Care Tools You Can’t Work Without
By Wayne Scraba/

The Ten Best Tools for Doing the Job Right -
It should come as no surprise that working on cars for fun places special demands on tools. Or at least, on the type of tools you need. You see, many automotive tools simply aren't found at the local hardware or home improvement store. As enthusiasts, we're dealing with things that many of those shops know little about, understand, or even care about. In addition, we’re often dealing with some very specialized applications. The only way to handle it is with the right equipment.

Because of that, we’ve picked 10 tools from our personal tool collection that we believe enthusiasts can't work without. None of these pieces of equipment are based around earth shattering technology, but they do rank right up there in the "can't do without 'em" bracket. And by the way, this certainly isn't an all-inclusive list of neat tools—it's just a list of items we have on hand and have personally found beneficial. You probably will, too. Check out the following. These tools definitely make wrenching easier (and simultaneously make your work more accurate).
Air Compressor
Air Compressor
A quality shop air compressor is, at least in our opinion, the cornerstone of a great tool collection. Sure it can perform menial tasks such as blowing up a tire or providing compressed air to blow the cobwebs off old parts, but those aside, it’s the brute force required to do all sorts of jobs from powering air tools to powering paint guns. When it comes to compressors, buy the best and the biggest you can afford. Just be sure you have sufficient electrical capability to run it (usually a 5.5-hp single phase electric motor coupled to a compound compressor is the maximum a home electrical panel can handle).
Air Tools
Air Tools
Are air tools a luxury? Some might think so until you need them, particularly when it comes to working on heavy-duty hardware like suspension components. You see, suspension bits regularly use large diameter nuts and bolts. Out of necessity, they usually have high torque figures. That means lots of muscle power is required to remove and replace them (you might be surprised at how much force is really required). But there’s more: Suspension bits live in a harsh environment. That makes the fasteners even more difficult to deal with. The solution is air. A 1/2-inch and/or a 3/8-inch impact wrench can turn a chore into a cakewalk. So can an air-powered 3/8-inch ratchet. Ditto with air-powered drills. By the way, good air tools are lighter, much more compact, and considerably more powerful than their electric cousins. Once you get hooked on air tools, you’ll never figure out how you lived without them.
Aluminum A-N Wrenches and Vice-Jaw Inserts
Aluminum A-N Wrenches and Vice-Jaw Inserts
A-N hose and fittings are definitely the way to plumb a car. That's a given. But one of the real knocks on those shiny anodized aluminum aircraft fittings is the fact that they can easily be damaged by the use of standard steel hand tools. Now, we've tried all of the so-called "fixes" when working with these fittings, but the real solution is to use the right tools. Several manufacturers offer a complete set of sturdy anodized aluminum wrenches designed to fit the hexes and to minimize the marking on hose ends. When shopping for aluminum A-N wrenches, beware: Some brands of wrenches are rather flimsy. As a result, they deflect when used. These tools are sold in a set that ranges from -6 through -20. Finally, the wrenches are color coded by size, so that you can find them quickly in your toolbox. Aeroquip's vice-jaw inserts are an absolute must if you have any A-N fittings on your car. The inserts firmly hold the hex of the fitting during assembly (or disassembly). And they accomplish this without marring the anodized finish of the fittings. The inserts are manufactured from aluminum and have angled pockets, which allows them to be used with any fitting from -3 to -32. A horizontal pocket on the length of the vise-jaws is ideal for holding steel braided hose in place during cutting operations. Finally, the inserts are designed with magnetic backs that allow quick set-ups and easy transfer between vises (you don't need a dedicated "hose vise"). As far as we’re concerned, this is a must-have enthusiast tool.
Pro Crimp Tool
Pro Crimp Tool
If there is a downside to today's latest spiral wound suppression wires, it's the aggravation of properly terminating the wire and crimping the ends. There are several tools available to accomplish this task, but we’ve developed a fondness for MSD’s pro crimp tool. It's a beefy steel piece that isn't plagued with handle flex. The main frame is built from hardened steel, and incorporates comfortable molded handgrips. Just as important, it's engineered to painlessly crimp today's spiral wound ignition wire. There are several different types of interchangeable jaws available for stripping and crimping (you simply swap the jaws for the type of work you're doing). The best part, however, is that it does the job of crimping wire by way of a ratchet action that provides secure, factory-style crimps. In simple terms, once you've lined up the respective pieces and squeeze down on the handles, you're guaranteed a perfect crimp. The bottom line is, there's no guesswork. And that's something any enthusiast can appreciate.

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