The Top Tools Every DIY Mechanic Should Own

Innova Electronics diy mechanic working underneath the hood of their car with a ratchet

Learn what tools the pros say must be in your toolbox to better tackle that next car, truck, or SUV repair and maintenance challenge.

As avid do-it-yourselfers (DIYers), the thing we most love to do is to check out the latest tools and gadgets at our favorite parts retailer or local tool merchant. But with the overwhelming choices, how can one select and invest wisely on the optimal DIY mechanic toolbox? To answer this question, we decided to consult with our expert team of ASE Certified technicians and experienced DIYers to come up with the ultimate DIY toolbox. What was our criteria? Find the best tools that will adequately tackle vehicle diagnostics, basic repair, maintenance, and hobby work. Below are our findings.


Automotive Diagnostic Tools

Through the years we’ve seen how computers have taken over our vehicles to create driving efficiencies, convenience, safety, engine performance, and enhance our entertainment. Long gone are the days where you could open a hood to quickly identify what’s wrong. Luckily for us, automotive tools have also kept up with technology to simplify how we diagnose our computerized vehicles. Here are the top diagnostic tools our experts recommend:


INNOVA Scan Tools OBD 2 Code Readers
  • OBD II Code Reader / Scan Tool – (check out our 2024 recommendations) the only way to talk with the 50+ computers/modules found on today’s vehicles is by using an automotive OBD II code reader or scan tool. These powerful and universal devices are designed to scan and troubleshoot a variety of check engine, powertrain, brake, safety, and other reporting systems. Some even allow you to view advanced factory data for a more in-depth analysis. (Learn More)


INNOVA RepairSolutions Mechanic Online Solution
  • An Online Resource – having a helping hand is not only smart, but essential to make sense of the technical and complex data retrieved by code readers and scan tools. A mobile app like the INNOVA RepairSolutions® 2 simplifies the process and eliminates the fear of searching the internet for an untrustworthy solution. With the RS2 app, you get access to the most comprehensive automotive repair database – with real-world VIN-specific verified fixes – led by ASE Master Technicians across the country. Empowering stuff...check it out!


  • Automotive Stethoscope – just like a medical doctor needs a stethoscope to diagnose body ailments, an automotive stethoscope is the perfect tool to help pinpoint hidden vehicle problems. It can be used to listen for issues in the engine, transmission, valve train, rear axle, cabin noises, and even track down minor leaks.


  • Inspection Camera – for those areas that are impossible to see by the naked eye, an inspection camera is essential to investigate hard to reach places in the engine compartment, intake manifold, or engine heads to locate and inspect parts or fallen bolts. (See it here)


Under Hood Work Light

A good and versatile under hood light is necessary to view and inspect parts under your car when performing repairs – particularly at night or in other dark conditions. There are lots of choices out there, but you’ll want to select one that offers different brightness (Lumen) settings, is weatherproof, and can be mounted with hooks and magnets for a hands-free work experience.


Socket and Wrench Set

You cannot repair a vehicle without the proper socket and wrench set. There are a lot of choices out there, but for automotive use you will want to look for a set that has a drive size of 1/4”, 3/8”, and 1/2" to give you the most flexibility. Another factor to consider is the type and size of sockets you’ll need. Options include:

  • • Impact – needed if you plan to use air tools (manual sockets do not work on air tools)
  • • Manual – the most common and the one you want to start with
  • • Imperial – these are your standard or SAE socket size, which increase by 1/16” increments
  • • Metric – sockets that use the metric system and increase by 1mm size increments
  • • Torx – these are specialized sockets in the shape of a star (open the hood to see if your vehicle uses these)

As a rule, the more pieces it has the better options you’ll have. However, budget can play a big role when selecting your ideal set. Just make sure to select one that offers at least a 1/4" and 3/8” drive size and includes both imperial and metric sizes to get the most range. Here are some of our picks (with estimated 2021 prices) that meet our criteria:

  • • Amazon Basics 123 Piece Kit = $60.00
  • • Stanley® 201 Piece Kit = $80.00
  • • Craftsman® 135 Piece Kit = $140.00
  • • SK Tools® 49 Piece Kit = $350.00


INNOVA Ratchet Extender Essential Tools

Ratchet Extender

Protect yourself from the frustration and potential hand injuries by using a ratchet extender to maneuver around tight compartments and access unreachable bolts. Simply attach your ratchet to one end and the socket on the other to reach for that distant bolt.


Needle Scaler

With vehicle age and the harsh elements, you will ultimately encounter vehicle corrosion. A needle scaler is an air tool accessory that uses metal rods to vibrate at 4,500 blows per minute to quickly buff out rust, corrosion, and scale from metal surfaces. Our experts see it as the must tool to have if you love restoring cars. It is a bit of an investment, but it will save you a ton of money and time if you do lots of metal body work.


Nut Splitter

A nut splitter is a practical tool that easily removes a rusted and seized nut by breaking it in half. It works by attaching one end to your ratchet and the other to the rusted nut; then by turning it clockwise, it uses a small chisel to cut into the nut. Sayonara nut!


Locking Extension Bar

The worst scenario is when you’re installing a spark plug that is deep inside a well (like on a dual overhead cam engine), the socket falls, and you can’t get it out. Ouch! A locking extension bar saves you the trouble by using a spring-loaded mechanism to lock onto the socket. This makes it impossible for the socket to come loose while you are replacing items like spark plugs. 


Pick and Hook Set

A pick and hook set are a group of hand tools that aid in pulling wires through holes, removing connectors, removing O-rings, cleaning crevices or groves, and other areas that require delicate handling. Their small, curved tips allow for more precise alignment–versus using a plier or screwdriver–to prevent damage to fragile clips, wires, or fasteners. Sets come in a variety of group sizes, but a 4-piece set is a good starting point.


Spark Plug Pliers

Spark plug pliers, or spark plug boot pliers, are special tools designed to remove a spark plug cap easily and safely. Never use a standard plier to remove a spark plug boot because you run the risk of damaging the spark plug cap and/or cable.


Floor Jack INNOVA Essential Mechanic Tools

Floor Jack

A floor jack is an investment you will use again and again. The typical scissor car jack that comes with a vehicle is not really designed for continuous use – it only helps change a tire. A floor jack can lift at various heights and its wheels makes it easy to reposition it anywhere around the vehicle. You may wish to consider adding jack stands for working under the vehicle – never use a floor jack on its own while under a vehicle. Another option is to accessorize it with a lift cross beam, which reduces the chances of undercarriage damage, and adds stability by being able to lift the vehicle in two simultaneous places.


Magnetic Belt Clip

An annoying situation is when you lose a nut or metal fastener while performing a repair. A magnetic belt clip solves this by keeping those loose small metal pieces right on your belt.  No more blowing a gasket for lost nuts!


Now that you’re ready to add the perfect tools to your mechanic DIY toolbox, what’s first on your repair list?