Basic Tools For The Beginner Car Repair Gal

Words & Photos by: Karen Sullivan

Walking into an automotive shop or home garage and seeing the tool boxes, tools lining the walls, and more tools on the workbenches can be intimidating. Kind of getting that there’s a lot of tools vibe right? Do not get scared away yet.

While a lot of the tools you may see can make life easier when doing particular jobs, there are some basic tools you can have on hand to work on many automotive jobs. As you continue to grow as either a professional mechanic, a DIY home maintenance person, or possibly even being a very in-depth enthusiast mechanic (i.e. you can do anything from oil changes to rebuild engines, maybe that’s exaggerating a little, but you get what I mean I hope. You’re a woman who does not do this as a profession but enjoy working on vehicles on the side), your tool collection will grow. Starting out you may not have the technical knowledge or expertise to tackle some of the more complicated things that you might want to try so start small and build, in both tools and knowledge!

Remember this is just a start.

The Tools

Metric 3/8 drive socket set

Standard 3/8 drive socket set

3/8 drive ratchet

Metric wrenches

Standard wrenches

Allen wrenches

Flat head/Phillips head screwdrivers (different lengths/sizes)

Floor Jack

Jack Stands

Photo by  AJ Yorio  on  Unsplash

Photo by AJ Yorio on Unsplash


Socket sets come in many different drive sizes, from ¼” to 1”, 3/8” drive tends to be a good starting point where it’s relatively nice size to start out with and can get into some small places. If you must choose between getting either metric or standard, choose metric. You will tend to use metric more often than standard depending on what you are working on. Older and American vehicles will be standard and newer or foreign vehicles will be metric.


Like the sockets, ratchets come in varying sizes. Choose what size you are comfortable with.


You will learn that pretty much for every tool listed there are some very specialized varieties. Wrenches are no different. For the wrenches we are discussing here, we are talking about combination wrenches. These wrenches have what is called an open-end wrench (open side) and a box-end wrench (closed side). These also come in metric and standard, it’s best to have both varieties, like with sockets. If you must choose, choose whichever variety you will be utilizing more of.

Photo by  Markus Spiske  on  Unsplash

Allen Wrenches

These wrenches again come in varying sizes. Are you starting to see a trend? I suggest getting a few different sizes. These types of wrenches are used to turn the bolt heads that have a hexagonal hole in them.

Screw Drivers

You will want both flathead and Philips head screw drivers in varying lengths and sizes.

Floor Jack

To get a vehicle up off the ground, a floor jack is the key, unless you want to get creative (not always the safest route) or have a lift (can you say expensive!). With this being a basic tool for beginners article we will be sticking with a floor jack. Floor jacks come in a variety of tonnage capacities, from ¾ ton to 10 ton and more. A 3 ton should be the most you need.

Jack Stands

A floor jack may not always hold a vehicle stable or keep the vehicle elevated. Jack stands are the way to go if you will be working under a car for an extended period of time. Jack stands, like floor jacks, also come in different tonnage weight capacities. Whichever floor jack tonnage you pick, pick that for your jack stands.

With all these items you do not need to go for the best on the market to start. As you continue to grow as a mechanic/hobbyist car repair gal you will more than likely buy upgrades to the original tools and become more secure in what you know work for the projects you do and what doesn’t when it comes to the quality of the tool. Have fun, be safe, and happy wrenching!