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Many car maintenance issues can be fixed in your own garage as long as you have the right tools. This keeps you from racking up repair bills and encourages drivers to be more proactive in taking care of their vehicles. By addressing minor problems as soon as they arise, you could add several thousand more miles of usable lifespan to your car. Here are four essential sets of items that every DIY mechanic should own, as advised by the National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA).

1. Socket set

Sometimes tightening a few nuts and bolts is necessary to hold wheels or other components in place. However, if you only have one socket at your disposal, there’s a chance that it may not fit the bolts on your vehicle. Having a set of multiple sockets in both metric and standard sizes (which should be clearly labeled) ensures that you always have the right tools. 

Pricier socket sets can have over 100 pieces, though there are deluxe sets from brands like DeWalt with over 200 pieces. These are commonly priced between $60-$170. Cheaper socket sets can be had with around 45 pieces and may only cost $40.

In addition to the number of sockets, you should consider the quality of the socket set’s case before buying it. A blow-molded case keeps your tools in good condition with adequate exterior protection and deep storage grooves for each one. You can also easily fit your socket set into a bigger toolbox if the case includes a removable tray.

2. Ratcheting and screwdriver set

Screwdrivers made by French company Facom inside a BHV store in Paris, France
A stand of screwdrivers | Eric PiermontI/AFP via Getty Images

Alongside your standard flathead screwdriver, it never hurts to have a ratcheting screwdriver on hand. These tools are easier to use over time because they operate faster than regular screwdrivers. It also comes with several bit sizes stored on the tool itself, readily accessible whenever you need them.

Be aware that some ratcheting screwdrivers only have bits for Philips, square, and slotted head bolts. For this reason, it pays to have a screwdriver set with clutch, star, and hex heads. A good set of screwdrivers and bits usually only costs between $30-$40.

An ideal wrench set should include wrenches ranging from ¼-in to ⅞-in. Chrome polish wrenches are recommended because they’re completely impervious to rust. Get a set of box-ended, open-ended, and torque wrenches to tackle any kind of bolt with the appropriate force. Some sets also include combination wrenches, which feature an open and boxed wrench on either end.

3. Impact wrench

These wrenches are often used for freeing tight or large nuts that would take several minutes to loosen with a manual wrench. Impact wrenches often come with a built-in light, allowing you to use them in dark spaces. They also usually have up to three speed settings, with maximum torque outputs averaging between 250-300 lb-ft.

Some home mechanic kits already include impact wrenches, but you can also purchase one on its own. Your kit may also contain other helpful tools with auto applications in mind, including door panel removers and molding lifters.

4. Drill driver kit

Drill drivers are multi-function tools with two settings for drilling and screwdriving. Bits are stored in the chuck, made from plastic or professional-grade aluminum. The latter can hold larger bit sizes, plus it’s more durable than the plastic alternative.

With the variable-speed trigger, you can choose how much torque is applied to each bolt. NAPA recommends using this tool for heavier jobs like attaching new body pieces to your vehicle. 

Some drill driver kits include slide knives with replacement blades, nut drivers, a tape measure, and a handy storage bag. Some toolboxes are even big enough to accommodate drill drivers, along with all of your other essential sockets and ratcheting tools.

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