11 Essential Gadgets for Auto Tool Kits

A pair of pliers being held against an open hood of a red car.

If you don’t have the basic tools you need, you won’t be able to do any work on your own car—and that’s no good for anyone with a DIY spirit. Gather the 11 essential gadgets you need to keep your car running well and save yourself in the event of car trouble, and you’ll be prepared for anything.

1. Safety Basics

If you plan to work on your car at all, assemble the basic safety tools you'll need to get any job done. You want a sturdy pair of gloves to help you grip and handle parts of the engine. Add safety glasses to your safety kit to protect your eyes from debris and dangers while you work. And don't forget a good light. A simple auto light that can be attached to the hood of the car is best, but even a flashlight will do. It's a simple law of nature that if something's going to go wrong with your car, it will happen when it's dark out.

2. Drip Pan

A drip pan with oil leaking into it.

If you want to work on your car, but you don't want to create an environmental mess everywhere, get a drip pan. This is a simple but oft-overlooked piece of automotive equipment that will make a world of difference. Stick a drip pan under your car any time you're changing out fluids or moving major pieces in and out of the vehicle. The drip pan catches all those corrosive chemicals, which will otherwise rain right down on your driveway or garage. If you do end up spilling some fluids outside the pan, throw some kitty litter on the spill. The litter will soak up the chemicals and make cleanup much easier.

3. Tire Sealant

Always carry a can of tire sealant in the car in the event of a punctured tire. Sometimes, this little can will make the difference between getting home safely and putting a spare tire on your car. Small holes in the tire can be repaired with a can of tire sealant. It's a quick fix and it's not permanent, but it can help you get to your destination so you can more properly fix that busted tire.

4. Jumper Cables

Jumper cables against a wood background.

Having a set or two of jumper cables on hand is essential. Jumper cables allow you to jump start your car when the battery dies. Keep them in the car at all times because you never know when they'll come in handy for you or someone else. Jumper cables are marked with symbols on them to make them easy to use. Look near the handles, and you'll see where the cables are supposed to connect to the battery.

5. Pliers

Grab hold of spark plugs, hoses, and other sensitive parts of your car with a good pair of pliers. Always use the right tool for the job to prevent doing damage to your vehicle. Pliers allow you to handle pieces that you don't want to break or damage.

6. Ice Scraper

An ice scraper clearing a frosted window.

It's a simple tool that seems ubiquitous—until you step outside on a freezing winter day and discover that you don't have one. Always keep a good ice scraper in the car even if you live in an area where frost is rare, because you don't want to be caught unprepared when winter's fury strikes.

7. Strong Chain

If you live in an area with heavy snow and ice or you plan to drive in rough terrain, keep strong chains handy in the car. Tire chains prevent slippage and give your wheels better grip on dangerous roads. Tire chains are specifically fitted to your wheels, so purchase these for the vehicle you intend to use them with and not as an any-vehicle tool.

8. Socket Set

A socket set.

You won't get a lot of work done on your car without a good socket set. You'll need to remove bolts to reach your spark plugs and other stuff under the hood you might need to maintain or repair, so look for a standard, simple set containing both regular and metric measurements. Check that the set includes 1/2-inch, 1/4-inch, and 3/8-inch sockets, which are common sizes you'll need for auto work. The set will include the ratchet, so you'll have everything you need to grip those nuts and bolts that hold your car together.

9. Screwdrivers

Get a few screwdrivers in multiple sizes and types, and you'll end up using them for everything. Screwdrivers can help you with prying out pieces you need to work on or replace, and there are all sorts of screws holding your car together.

10. Wirecutters

A pair of wirecutters against a wood background.

A small pair of simple wirecutters will help you get all sorts of automated-related DIY projects done. If you have a mind to install a stereo or add speakers, wire new headlights or address any electrical issues in your car, you need wirecutters. Get a good, sharp pair that feels comfortable in your hand, and you can get to your car-related DIY projects even sooner.

11. Owner's Manual

One of the most essential tools you'll need is actually the owner's manual for your car. This will contain detailed specs and information that will tell you all sorts of stuff you need to know about measurements, tire pressure, and other vehicle essentials. Look up parts that need replacement and get the exact information you need to make the right purchase. Keep the manual in the glove box so it's always on hand.