When you’re building engines, it is easy to become overwhelmed with tool and equipment issues. It’s also easy to go crazy with the credit card. That first trip to Sears or Harbor Freight is often like that first trip to the speed shop. You lay down the plastic and come home with a lot of stuff. But having lots of expensive tools isn’t always necessary for building an effective engine. You can rent and borrow tools for the jobs you are only going to do once. Everything else, such as a socket set, screwdrivers, wrenches, etc., becomes useful to other car-building efforts. These are the tools you purchase.
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We suggest Sears Craftsman tools because they have a lifetime warranty, great reputation, and it seems like there’s a Sears store around every corner. The Craftsman warranty is a no-nonsense, nofine- print warranty. Bust a socket and Sears will replace it with no questions asked. Strip out a ratchet and Sears will hand you a new one or rebuild your old one. This makes Sears Craftsman tools the best tool value there is. They’re costly going in, but worth every penny when it’s time to get to work. The next best tool value going is Husky. You can find Husky tools at nearly any home improvement or hardware store for even less than Craftsman, yet with the same no-nonsense lifetime warranty.
Here’s what you’re going to need to get started:
- Set of Common and Phillips Head
- Screwdrivers of all sizes.
- Set of open-/box- end wrenches (1/4, 5/16, 11/32, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 7/8, 15/16, and 1)
- 3/8 Drive Socket Set (3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, and 3/4)
- 1/2 Drive Breaker Bar
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Diagonal Cutting Pliers
- C-Clip Pliers
- Set of Vice Grips (Vice Grip brand only!)
- Set of Punches
- Small and Large Hammers
- A Five-Pound Sledge Hammer
- Torque Wrench (optional, but a great investment)
- Drill and Bits (spend the money and opt for high-quality bits)
- Putty Knife or Gasket Scraper
- Hack Saw (use 24 teeth-inch for best results with metal)
- Magnetic Bolt Tray
- Large Top Chest or Heavy Duty Tool Box with drawers
This list is suggested to get you started, but these tools will last you the rest of your life if you take care of them. Most of us buy socket sets, but we forget to go for the deep well sockets, which you will need in the course of an engine build. And one other thing — opt for 6-point sockets as well as 12-point. A 6-point socket won’t strip a bolt head and provides a firm grip, but the 12-point socket is easier to fit when you’re working in a tight location. Make sure your socket sets have at least two extensions: one 3-inch and one 7-inch. Spring for the universal adapter as well for easy access. If you can afford it, buy a matching set of 12-point shallow and deep well sockets because they do have a purpose with some engine applications.
When you’re shopping for screwdrivers, hold one in your hand first. You want a screwdriver that feels good in your hand and offers adequate grip, comfort, and mechanical advantage. If your hand slips around the handle, then it is a poor design. The tip should be supertough tool steel that will not strip out or break. Cheap screwdrivers always strip and break. Go the extra mile and invest wisely now in a screwdriver or screwdriver set that will last you a lifetime. Another idea is to buy screwdrivers with bright orange handles for visibility and safety. This lessons the chance that you’ll leave them where they don’t belong.
We push the idea of quality tools because there really is a difference. Low-buck wrench sets you can buy for nine bucks won’t get the job done effectively, at least not for very long. Cheap forged or cast tools will tend to strip out and leave you hanging on a Sunday afternoon when you need them most. With Craftsman, Husky, MAC, or Snap-on tools, you get a lifetime warranty you can count on. And it’s a warranty that’s good for as long as the tool exists – for you, your child, your grandchild, great grandchild, and more. MAC and Snap-On tools tend to be very expensive and available only off the sales truck or their company websites, which makes Craftsman and Husky a better value and easier to find.
Proper tool care is important in keeping your tools clean and serviceable. Lubricate ratchets periodically with engine oil or white grease for best results. Drill bits should be sharpened periodically. Don’t waste your money on cheap drill bits; buy only the very best. And when you’re using a drill, run the bit slowly and keep it wet with lubrication. Drill bits begin to squeak whenever they’re dull. Invest in a drill-bit sharpener or find a reliable shop in town that sharpens drill bits. Just about anyone who sharpens lawnmower blades and chain saws can sharpen your drill bits.
One other thing: know when it’s time to retire tools. Tools that are broken and unusable can be dangerous. A loose hammerhead, for example, could rearrange someone’s dental work, break a window, or dent a fender. Cracked sockets, worn wrenches, busted screwdriver handles, and stripped ratchets mean it’s time to invest in fresh equipment. Your safety and the integrity of your work are important.
A good rule of thumb when you are buying tools is to purchase them as you need them. It’s a good idea to start with everything we’ve addressed here. However, once you have the basics in place, spend money on tools only as you need to. This frees up cash for more important things – like engine parts!
Written by George Reid and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc
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