Tools Needed for Basic Car Maintenance

Hi there,

I am new to doing DIY car maintenance and was thinking of starting it.

What basic tools will I need to do majority of car maintenance stuff?

Will this cheap kmart kit suffice for most things?

I would love to her your opinions and ideas for other necessary tools.

Thanks for the help.

EDIT: I drive a secondhand 2006 Honda CR-V


  • +4

    Depends what "car maintenance stuff" you want to do. That'll do fine as a general starter kit although don't expect much quality from it.

    You can add to it as you need more. For example can never have enough 10mm sockets or a trim removal tool or crimping tool etc.

    • +1

      Oo, I am looking to take off my rear trim one day and try fix a crack to make it look new.
      The removal tool could be useful.

  • +5

    jack stands


    oil pan


    • +1

      I definately need those. Thanks

    • +5

      First step, jack up your car.

      OP, IMO tools are an investment. The right ones will last a lifetime and be useful for a whole lot more than just working on your car. Buy quality tools as you need them rather than try and grab a huge selection up front. Of course budget can be an issue. Other than that it comes down to what car you have also. Modern cars are mostly metric so you can get away with skipping imperial sizes most of the time.

      • An alternate school of thought would be; start with a set of cheap tools. The ones you use enough to wear out - upgrade to better quality. The ones you don't end up using - at least you'll have them when you need them once for that one job.

        The worst thing is doing a job, realising you need a specific tool, and not having it so you have to make a single trip to Bunnings just to get it. Or worse again, not having a specific tool and not realising it, so you painfully try to use the wrong (quality) tool for the job.

        Start with a set of cheap tools and upgrade them as you go.

        • Nah, you end up wasting money on tools that break and/or don't fit the fastener properly and mangle it creating even more problems. You don't have to buy top shelf tools, just decent quality.

        • Budget tools are okay for occasional use, but go too cheap and you are just wasting money. Learned that lesson a few times. Kmart quality is pretty low these days.

    • +2
      • 1/2" socket set & brake caliper spreader in addition to above

      To me car service basics is changing engine oil, oil filter, air filter, brake pads & rotors + bleeding brake lines.

      If you already have Ozito batteries or whatever brand a 1/2" impact wrench and some long sockets will make life much easier.

      • +2

        I would say that 1/2" is overkill for most things. It's extra bulk for not much gain. I use 3/8" drive for almost everything and just have a 1/2" breaker bar to go with a selection of large sockets.

  • +4

    Tools Needed for Basic Car Maintenance




    • +2


      Useful when you don't have insurance and/or get in a car accident.

  • your best mate who claims to be an expert in cars

  • +1

    if your car is a 2008 or later Falcon you may need a set of torx bits to unscrew trim, roof lining air cleaner etc

  • +1

    For basic maintainence, the only useful thing in that set would probably be the ratcheting spanner and combo spanner. That would cover most of the small nuts and bolts you'd encounter. Anything under the car and you'd need jack stands, floor jack, and wheel chocks just to get the car off the ground. You'd also need something larger than that 3/8" ratchet in the kmart set to get your wheel lug nuts off & also torque wrench to put the nuts back on. That's would be a pretty good start for most basic car jobs.

  • +3

    I was recently concerned about a mechanic charging me too much so I bought a set of basic tools from supercheap auto and started to replace the oil and filter myself. Did it for about 2 years and loved it. I had to match the tools to the oil sump plug and the filter. I would avoid that set looks poor quality and you won't need most of those tools for a basic oil change.

    • this is me, i want to start out like you. Which tools did you end up getting?

      • Miller falls tool set at supercheap it was $99 on sale but I don't think they have them anymore. I got kinchrome jack and jack stands, basic oil pan and wheel chocks. I used penrite oil cause my mate said it was the best one. What really helped me was reading up on the service schedule of my car and understanding when things like brake fluid, spark plugs or coolant needs changing. Also being able to check the brake pads and see how much is left was fun.

  • -1

    A hammer

  • +2

    A cheap ELM327 OBD reader.

    • This. The ability to diagnose faults and check engine lights is a big deal. You may not be able to or want to fix them, but it can certainly help protect you from getting ripped off. For example, an engine misfire sounds serious, but many times the fix is relatively straightforward. Youtube/google is your friend as there is so much info out there.

      These are cheap and now mostly linked to an app.

    • and an android device to use it (for apple folk like myself)

    • I just bought one from AliExpress yesterday. 6 bucks. Thanks for the suggestion.

      At first I was going to get an Amazon obd scanner for 50$, but read elm327 does the same.

  • +1

    Best bit of advice when buying tools for car work.
    ONLY buy six-point sockets, nothing more frustrating than (profanity) 12 point sockets rounding off a seized nut or bolt. Then going down the route of buying any/all of the following to fix it.
    Vice grips
    Recipricating saw
    MiG welder
    Oxy-actelyne torch

    • -1

      Sounds like you are speaking from experience

      • Luckily I have built up all these tools over the years - having them now makes removing stubborn bolts a lot easier.
        Was using Kinchrome sockets for many years in the 12 point style and rounded many a header nut or exhaust bolt. Upgrading to a Milwaukee 6-point set was a big leap forward!

    • Thanks for the advice and love the profile picture.

    • -1

      thats why you dont use a socket that fits right but still feels a little too loose on a bolt. So if you have a bolt and a 20mm socket fits but still feels a bit loose, a 19mm is too small and won't fit and a 21mm is too big and can't grab on, you go and use a 19.5mm or a 20.5mm or some inch socket like ³/₄ inch which is about 19.2mm, ⁴⁹/₆₄ which is around 19.3mm to 19.7mm, ⁴⁹/₆₄ which is about 19.6mm (assuming a 19.6mm socket doesn't exist) or ²⁵/₃₂ socket which is somewhere between 19.7mm to 19.9mm or some other small increment socket between 20mm and 21mm that fits snugly over it.

      This way you can't possible round off any heads.

  • +2

    Kmart tools will be very poor quality, but likely enough to get you started. Maybe double your budget and go to a car parts store for a similar kit if better quality.

    Those tools will get you started and cover most basic mechanical tasks. There’s a reason they put all those items in a beginner kit.

    from time to time you’ll need something additional for a specific task, but there’s no point going out and buying a bunch of specific tools without knowing you’ll ever use them.

    I started out with a decent socket and spanned set, some screwdrivers and pliers and have built up from there.

    • thanks for the advice, i'll steer away from the kmart tools

    • Yep, those spanners will be solid chinesium.

  • +5

    All of the above plus add a filter or cup wrench to undo filters that are a bit tight.

    Never overtighten replacement oil filters and don't forget to oil the sealing ring.

    • ah i didn't know about the cup wrench. thanks

  • +2

    hi OP,

    get a cheap jack from facebook ($20-30)
    a pair of jackstands

    then save up $200 and wait for this kit from SCA that goes on sale every now and then:

    its pretty comprehensive and will last for ages.

    • +4

      Bad advice. Don't buy cheap used jacks or anything you would depend on for safety.

      • +1

        The jack is never for safety, that's what the stands are for. You should always expect the jack is seconds away from failing, that way you never get into a dangerous situation.

        • +1

          jacks or anything

          I think hybroid was suggesting that anything safety related is better off being purchased new so you know it's history.

      • -1

        just get a car hoist. safety included also easier to work with.

        • Most people won't have a suitable building. You need ceiling height and slab thickness. I've got a set of Quikjacks. Feel much safer than jack stands though I do still use them on occasion. Would be nice to have a hoist but I'm not buying a different house just for that.

    • Wow, the Toolpro kit is $380, it looks high quality though, I'll save up for when it is on sale.

      Also, i've tried looking up for jacks from facebook:

      There's so much variation it is confusing for a newbie.
      Which one do you think would do the job.

      Thanks again.

      • You can probably get away with the jack provided in your car to start off with.

      • +1

        any jack rated >1200kg that works and comes with a bar is fine. a cleaner example would be preferrable (thats just me) but as long as it works its fine - you should test it out on your car when you come to inspect it!

        also dont use your car's emergency jack for maintenance jobs - i did and i ended up bending it and it i had to get a replacement from a wrecker - its for emergency situations only!

        • +1

          Disagree. If you use your emergency jack properly, it is designed to hold up the car. Yes, they aren’t as robust as a trolley or bottle jack but just need to be smart about how it’s used.

          I did plenty of car maintenance with one before purchasing a trolley jack. Trolley jack is a lot quicker, but also doesn’t work as well on surfaces other than concrete or asphalt etc. wheels can get caught on uneven surfaces or sink into softer stuff.

      • save yourself the hassle and buy this kit

  • I've serviced cars with a Kmart tool kit. it's fine but if you're doing regular maintenance it would be more beneficial to get a quality set of tools with a lifetime warranty. The most important thing is safety equipment. Good jack stands, good jack, safety glasses, etc.

    • Good to hear from someone who has used the Kmart set.
      What set would you recommend using instead?

      I'll also look up getting some safety stuff.

      • +2

        Not the person you're replying to, but I have found that cheap socket wrenches like that are annoying. The little turn switch on the head sometimes jams and is difficult to turn when your hands are greasy. It easily gets dirt in it. The wrench will be too short to get much leverage. When the ratchet head doesn't click into place properly and slips while you're pushing as hard as you can on that short little handle, causing your to skin your knuckles - then you'll wish that you had a better socket wrench. A slightly better tool kit will give you a longer and better quality socket wrench: eg:

        Sockets themselves can break too - but it's far less likely than the wrench IME. A better set of sockets will just be better fitting and less bulky for their strength.

        • +1

          The Kmart set is chrome-plated carbon steel, so it will rust badly if left in a damp environment (your shed or garage or car boot). It will be OK for doing one or two jobs but don't expect it to last a lifetime
          But the Supercheap set is chrome vanadium steel which will never rust - much better long-term value. And it's on clearance at $79.99, a really good price. As an entry level tool set, I would recommend it. And a cheap pair of leather gloves so you don't skin your knuckles.

          • @kmwa: You are correct. The worst part that rusts is the bits for the screwdriver.

        • You are correct on the wrench. The cheaper wrenches are shorter meaning you lack leverage which is annoying but in some cases (and this is very rare), this can actually be an advantage if you have no clearance. I often take the cheap toolkit to a wrecking yard to salvage parts and have had to use 2 wrenches to gain enough leverage.

      • The Kmart set I had was slightly different but very similar. The Kmart ones are very basic but will get you by. I have 2 sets, a very cheap set (ie, Kmart) and a very good set, Repco (the ones with a lifetime warranty). The Repco ones are good quality, affordable and feature a lifetime warranty.

  • 10mm socket and thats it

    • +2

      Just the one 10mm socket?

      Enjoy your time with it for the next 6 minutes before you lose it.

      • +1

        It will phase back from subspace at 2hr intervals

        • Haha I just looked it up this 10mil socket meme.

  • +2

    The above are good suggestions but depends on the car if they need any specific tools.

    Good thing is that with you Youtube, it's most likely someone has produced a video showing you how to service/repair and will point out what tools you require.

    All my european cars will need torx bit and also a 36mm socket for oil filter.

    I don't have a torque wrench but for general servicing never needed one. Don't over tighten.

    And lastly righty tighty lefty loosey

    • +2

      My rule has always been that torque wrenches are for things inside the engine. If you're just working on the periphery (standard maintenance and maybe replacing a cover gasket) then you don't need a torque wrench - just common sense.

  • +1

    A big bag of rags. Cars are dirty.

    It's not a tool recommendation, but, degrease your engine before you work on it (and maybe after depending on what you did). Take it to a DIY car wash and spend a couple of dollars on just cleaning the engine or bits you're going to work on - it'll make it much more pleasant to work on.

  • +3

    Well, first thing, try and realize that if you haven't worked on cars or similar machines before that it's a whole new field for you, and thus will take quite a bit of time before you're familiar with it. Any new field is confronting at first, and you bounce between having no information at all to getting overloaded with it. While youtube and the internet make it much easier to DIY things, but if a guide says something will take 1 hr to do, it's probably going to take 3 times that for a new person. With fixing cars I find that 80% of it goes smoothly, and that last 20% causes all the problems. Stuck bolts, broken parts you didn't account for, rust.. you won't find them covered in the youtube guide, so be forewarned and leave plenty of time when you attempt something new.

    Then I would ask myself, how far do I want to go with it? Will you just be sticking to the maintenance jobs like changing oil, fuel filter, spark plugs etc? Or are you going to try for the more moderately difficult jobs, like replacing suspension parts, leaky water pumps, petrol pumps etc. Because if your only looking to stick with the very basics, then there's no point buying more than you need. But if you think you'll go down the moderately difficult part (which when you watch other people do it, is really not that difficult), then it makes sense to spend a bit more and avoid a ton of frustration.

    First step for everyone is usually to get a workshop manual. Its handy to have it in a physical book, but if you don't want to buy it then you can find it in certain public libraries or just by googling for it. Youtube makes it a bit redundant for many people, but it has all the torque values and nut sizes which youtubers don't really go into, so its still worth its salt in my books.

    • hi,
      thanks alot, your advice makes a lot of sense.
      I'll keep all of this in mind, will try to find the book

  • What sort of car? Different ones require different tools. If it's a euro for example, you will likely need torx bits just to remove the undertray.

  • +1

    For basic car maintenance:

    Spanners- 6-19mm (can usually buy sets which include all of these)

    Socket set - 1/4” for smaller stuff, 3/8” or 1/2” for everything else. You can usually buy a combination set with both drive sizes

    Screwdriver set - multiple size Phillips and flat head

    Trim removal tools for popping clips etc

    Allen key set

    Pilar’s - get a wide variety. SCA has some good sets which include most you’d ever need

    Other good tools if you wanted to expand your work would be likes of impact wrenches, pry bars, bigger sockets and spanners.

    Most Japanese cars are put together with 8,10,12,14,17 and 19mm bolts

  • +1

    I bought a car early this year and have been learning to work on it, buying tools as I go - pretty much the same boat as you. There’s been a lot of work to do, as it was very much under-maintained.

    At this point I’ve got pretty much everything I need to change out just about any part on the car, save for super niche specialty stuff - e.g. engine timing tools, crank seal extractor. I’d estimate I’ve spent $2-3k all up.

    Other than the basics others have mentioned, e.g. jack, stands, socket set, etc, I’d highly recommend getting the vendor-specific servicing software and a compatible USB interface, if available. I’ve got a BMW, so I’ve got BMW ISTA + Standard Tools and a $30 K+DCAN interface. It can read error codes, suggest troubleshooting steps, even reprogram modules.

    There’s comparable stuff available for most car makes. The software will have to be obtained from “unofficial” channels, as it’s supposed to be for authorised workshops only. Have a look around the internet.

    • that's me, my car is under-maintained >.>

      You spent $2-3k but i guess you will save a lot of money in the long run.
      How'd did you find the learning experience, where did you start with?

      • +1

        I basically started fixing issues in the order I noticed them. It was initially pretty daunting to work on, but I just tried to push through that and trust myself to not screw up, lol. I've had a few minor problems / broken parts caused by me, all of which happened when I was in a hurry and cut corners, or was cranky from working too long and wasn't being careful.

        It depends on the car as to where to find documentation. For the Bimmer there's a treasure trove of DIY guides for common maintenance and modifications, spread across a few Internet forums. These are great because they usually have good photos, and are written by people using jack stands and "normal" tools. There's a lot of good content on YouTube as well. There'll be similar content for other makes, although if your car is on the reliable/boring side of things, there'll be fewer people interested in posting about it.

        If I can't find a good DIY guide, then I'll fall back to the manufacturer documentation (in my case, included with the service software) or another service manual (PDF, can be found online). These tend to be a bit harder to follow, and often assume you'll be working on a hoist.

        Funnily enough, a couple of times when I was stuck with issues I didn't know how to diagnose, I took the car to well-reviewed local mechanic shops to get their opinion. They were absolutely hopeless and couldn't tell me any more than I already knew. A specialist mechanic would probably do better, but it was a bit eye-opening to see. Since then I've been extra persistent and managed to solve all the issues on my own.

  • Pro-Lift 2000kg Garage Jack & Stanfred Axle Stands Combo is on sale for $154 at Repco today and tomorrow

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