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Notes From the Road

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

Tap and Die Sets
Tap and Die Sets
No one likes stripped threads. It’s no fun on any car, let alone one you have to really depend upon. The answer, of course, is a tap and die set. Get an inexpensive tap and die set and you’re done. Right? Maybe not. Cheap sets are just that. Handles break and in a worse case scenario, the tap can break. Then you have real grief. The truth is, you should add a quality tap and die set to your toolbox. Better still; buy an SAE “fractional” set along with a metric set. You’ll appreciate them.
 
Specialty Screwdrivers
Specialty Screwdrivers
Once upon a time an enthusiast could get by with a couple of flat blade screwdrivers and a Phillips or two. Not so today. Cars are filled with all sorts of specialty screw heads. And you need the right tool for the job. You can use a universal magnetic screwdriver (where the tips are easily interchanged) or you can use dedicated screwdrivers. For the most part, it’s best to have both. This way, the most common screwdrivers are stand alone, dedicated models while the others are contained in a replaceable tip assortment.
 
Rigid Flaring Tool, Eastman Bending Tool and a Rigid Mini-Tubing Cutter
Hard Line Tools
Not really one tool, but three, these are tools you've seen before on these pages. Included are a Rigid flaring tool, an Eastman bending tool and a Rigid mini-tubing cutter. Without these three tools, it's almost impossible to cut, bend and flare hard line (particularly stainless steel). While there are other similar tools available, we've found the quality of these pieces to be absolutely top notch. They do their job (and make us look like we really know what we’re doing), don't break and turn out beautiful work consistently. Unfortunately, these aren't the least expensive tubing tools available. We found ours at a local auto parts warehouse distributor that was basically changing its focus from mechanical tools and parts to safety equipment. As a result, they weren't quite as costly. Shop around for them, but remember to specify tools specifically designed for stainless. Otherwise, you'll just be wasting your time.
 
Punch and Chisel Set
Punch and Chisel Set
A comprehensive high quality punch and chisel set is something you won’t regret having either of. One of the first things we noticed when we examined this punch and chisel set from Mac Tools is the actual sharpness of the chisels. Many jobber chisels are, to put it mildly, blunt instruments. It takes considerable pounding on a poorly designed chisel to get the job done. With a high quality chisel, the tool does the work. Not the hammer. Add a set of safety goggles to your wish list. And don’t take safety goggles lightly, particularly when using a hammer and chisel. Stuff in your eyes is never fun.
 
Torque Wrench
Torque Wrench
One tool that you’ll absolutely need when working on a car is a torque wrench. There are a number of different configurations available (beam, “clicker”, dial, etc.), along with a large number of ranges including inch-pounds, foot-pounds and metric. You’ll also find that torque wrenches can be purchased in any number of socket drive sizes (1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch are the most common). For a starter tool collection, you can’t go wrong with a 1/2-inch drive wrench of the “clicker” variety. Mac Tools calls this a “Micrometer Adjustable Torque Wrench” and it’s designed to signal you by way of sound and impulse when the desired setting is reached. A torque wrench that falls between 50 and 250 foot pounds will likely cover the most-used ranges for beginning enthusiasts.
 
Ratchet and Short U-Joint Sockets
Ratchet and Short U-Joint Sockets
Have you ever had a nut or bolt that you swear is impossible to reach? If so, you might want to look at this: It’s a 3/8-inch drive “Spinflex” ratchet from Mac Tools. This ratchet uses Mac’s patented configuration that includes a 180° flex joint pivot. This allows you to get into tight spots where a standard ratchet won’t fit. It’s absolutely perfect for things like changing spark plugs, reaching tight bell housing bolts and so on. There’s more here too: See the sockets? They’re short universal joint sockets. The small overall length, coupled with the shallow socket depth makes them perfect for reaching tight spots.
 

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