There are almost as many types of car repairs as there are types and models of cars on the roads. Even for the separate vehicle systems, i.e. engine, transmission, etc., there are a multitude of repairs for each system. Then there's also maintenance items to consider. Almost every one of the systems on your vehicle has a maintenance need to keep it running at peak condition. When you add it all up, it's becomes quite daunting, for non-professional mechanics, to maintain and repair a vehicle. None of that means that you can't, or more importantly that you shouldn't, do some of the minor repairs at home.
Here's an example: A standard front brake job consists of replacing the front brake pads and resurfacing both of the front rotors. The majority of repair shops have a set price they charge for this service, and nationwide it averages $200. Then you add on shop supplies, taxes and any other miscellaneous fees. So after all of that is added, you're going to end up paying $240-$275 for a front brake job. How would you feel about that price if I told you that you could do that repair by yourself for less than $100? Yes, that's exactly how I'd feel too! By watching a couple of videos on YouTube for your specific vehicle, and having a few simple tools on hand, you can do that repair in about an hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon.
Note: you don't have to worry about resurfacing the rotors. Replacing them is cheap, and it's part of the less than $100 that I mentioned above.
So without further ado, here's a list of tools that will help you accomplish some minor home auto repairs.
1. A socket Set. This is the most basic tool set any mechanic needs. The vast majority of your vehicle is held together by nuts and bolts, and a good socket set will help you take it apart. I'd recommend going to Lowe's, Home Depot, or Sears. They all have their own brand of hand tools, all are reasonably priced and they all have a lifetime warranty. It's hard to go wrong with that! Additionally, these places will usually have a starter kit, or something similar, that will have a pretty good variety of the basic sizes and drives that you'll need to get the job done.
2. A Set of Wrenches. A good set of wrenches is going to go a long way toward helping you do any at home car repairs. They can be used in place of sockets in a variety of places, and sometimes, they're the better option. There are a huge amount of sizes, types and even specialty wrenches available to buy. For most people there are only 2 sets that matter. The first is a metric set. These generally come in the size range of 10mm-19mm. That's going to accommodate pretty much anything you'll need for basic auto repair. The other set is a standard set. This will come in the size range of 3/8in-3/4in. On most all modern vehicles the metric sizes are what you'll be using, but there are some bolts on some cars that are standard size. You'll want to have them around just in case. There's not much that will frustrate your repair attempts more than having the job half done, and then realizing that you don't have the right tool to finish the job.
3. A Full Set of Screwdrivers. This seems like it would be so common that it wouldn't need to be on this list, but that's not the case. As with most anything else, if you need a screwdriver to remove a clamp, or to remove a clip that has a phillips head on it, not much else will do. At least not without a big hassle. When I say a full set of screwdrivers, I'm talking about the actual blade of the tool. There are different sizes of phillips head and flat head screwdrivers. If you need a size 3 phillips head and all you have is a size one, I promise you that you won't take that fastener off, and you'll most likely damage it to the point that the right size tool won't work anymore either.
4. A Code Reader. This is one that most people would never think of when it comes to a basic tool set for using at home. Yet it's every bit as important as all of the rest of the tools on the list. There is a huge variety of code readers on the market now. They range in price from around $50 up to around $7,000. Don't worry though, pretty much any option over $75-$100 is more than you'll need. With a decent $50 code reader you can see what codes have been set that turned on your check engine light, and you can erase it yourself. If there is a persistent failure, the light will come back on and you'll need to seek professional help at that point. There are also a wide variety of websites that you can visit that will help you with the codes that turned on your check engine light, such as mycheckenginelight.net. They also have an experienced mechanic on staff, ready to answer your questions. Check them out!
5. A Jack and Jack Stands. This is for anything from changing the oil to replacing front and rear brakes to changing a flat tire, and more. The jack and jack stands will usually be sold as a set, and again can be bought at Lowe's, Home Depot or Sears, for a reasonable price. Usually in the $150 range. Your owner's manual will show you where you can safely lift the vehicle and then where you can safely set the jack stand to secure the weight of the vehicle. Make sure that you use something to block the wheels that are still on the ground so that the vehicle can't roll. Safety is an absolute must at any time that you've got your vehicle even slightly off the ground! If you're not sure how to safely jack the vehicle, then watch videos for your specific vehicle, ask for help, and last but not least, if you still feel uncomfortable, then don't risk it. As I said, safety is an absolute must.
This is a very basic set of tools that will help you save hundreds of dollars, and over time, thousands. Keep in mind, you'll also want a good set of pliers, and if you intend on changing your own oil, you'll need and oil filter wrench as well. Overall you'll really be surprised at how many repairs you can do at home with this set, and it's a good idea to keep a smaller version of it in the trunk of your car in case of emergencies. If there is any job that seems too complicated for you after you've done some research on it, then I recommend seeking professional help. Happy fixing!