Setting up your home garage ready to look after a classic car needn’t be a wallet busting exercise, especially if you source a lot of your hand tools from car boot sales and autojumbles.
Typically, decent spanners will be on sale from 50p an item, if you look in the right places.
A high quality selection of metric, AF or BSF/Whitworth combination ring/open end spanners is a good start, as is a matching socket set.
For most cars, a selection from 5mm to 36mm or equivalent will cover most jobs, although some hub nuts and crankshaft pulley nuts may well go beyond this size.
If you are buying used tools, look for quality makes, such as Britool, King Dick and Facom amongst others. When looking at open ended spanners, check to ensure that they haven’t gone ‘cow-mouthed’, stretched wide at the open end, as a result of being overstressed on a particularly tight nut, or hammered onto an oversized fixing – though I’m sure that none of us would ever dream of doing such a thing!
Sockets, especially double-hex’ varieties should have sharp, bright internal faces. If surfaces appear rounded inside, the socket is likely to slip, causing damage to both fixing and, potentially, whoever’s doing the work.
Ratchets, breaker bars, flexible drives and different length extensions are all vital elements in a well-equipped garage. A variety of drive sizes are available with, generally, ¼” being used for the smallest sockets, 3/8” drive for middle ranging and ½” for beefier applications.
A comprehensive set of high quality screwdrivers is an absolute must and don’t forget a set of screwdriver bits, with adaptors suitable for attaching them to ¼ and 3/8 drive extensions, for hard to reach or particularly tight fixings.
Pliers, side-cutters, pipe grips and stilsons are a must and don’t forget a high quality variety of lockable grips, such as ‘Mole Grips’
No set of hand tools is complete without hammers, so make sure that you have a range to hand, from tiny ‘toffee’ hammers, helpful when making gaskets, through small and medium ‘ball-pein’ types to large and heavy lump hammers.
A combination copper and leather faced hammer is also a good buy and don’t forget ‘dead blow’ hammers, useful when fitting oil seals, etc.
A variety of punches and drifts goes hand in hand with the hammers, but don’t leave them lying about on the also essential work bench, with its solidly mounted engineer’s vice and properly affixed grinding wheel.
A comprehensive set of files, from tiny needle types through to larger and coarser varieties, of all shapes and profiles, will help when fabricating or fettling components. Please ensure that they are always used with a handle, as the tangs on files are very sharp and have been the subject of many a gory public information film.
Allen keys and Torx drives are also essential, in a wide range of sizes.
For sussing out electrical gremlins, it’s worth investing in a good, comprehensive multi-meter and while we’re talking of things electrical, let’s not forget a car battery charger and perhaps a jump-start pack.
Raising your car up off the ground is one of the most basic needs for many jobs, so a high quality, low entry trolley jack is a great investment, but your set-up would be dangerous and incomplete without a decent set of axle stands, which are essential if you are to be working underneath the vehicle.
There are many other vehicle lifting options available nowadays, so do a spot of investigation to see if there is something available to make life even easier for yourself.
While lurking beneath a vehicle, light is an essential element. Magnetic based LED torches are a great investment, as are mains floor lamps, lead lamps and fluorescent tubes on stands. Overhead, a powerful fluorescent tube or two should provide plenty of brightness.
If space is tight, consider making a wall board for your hand tools. It’ll also help to keep things in order and audit for lost items.
If you’re removing parts from your car, don’t forget storage boxes and shelving. Freezer bags are great for small items and fixings, so have a permanent marker to hand in order to write note exactly what is in each bag.
Cordless electric power tools have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, so consider investing in an impact wrench at least. It really will help to save time and effort. Also, a drill and an excellent set of drill bits will certainly be needed at some point in time.
For the more adventurous, an engine hoist or block and tackle is a must when heaving a heavy engine and gearbox combination from its bay.
Finally, always let someone know that you’ll be working in the garage and what time they can expect you back in, as accidents can and do happen. A regular supply of tea and biscuits can help to reinforce safety and don’t forget, running your car’s engine in the tight confines of a garage will cause a rapid build-up of carbon monoxide, potentially into the house too, so at the very least, have a heat resistant pipe attached to the exhaust and venting well outside.