“What’s the one tool in your toolbox or garage than you absolutely cannot do without?”

Summit Racing recently put that question to its Facebook fans and received an impressive amount of input, which we’ve pared down to a Top 12 list. We’ve done this for a few reasons:

  1. Beer and bottle openers are not really automotive tools. That took care of several hundred responses—give or take a few hundred. Also, it turns out the word “tool” can sometimes have double meaning (settle down, Beavis), so we got rid of the X-rated responses and bingo—we eliminated a few dozen more answers.
  2. Lists make for convenient debates, and we want to hear from you. Tell us your most indispensable tool in the comments section below.
  3. It’s the holiday season. Every car guy needs the tools listed here, and if yours are missing, broken, or worn out, this post can be easily shared using the buttons on the left side of this page.

Without further ado, the gearheads have spoken…

12. Mini Fridge

We would’ve went toolbox here, but since beer and bottle openers were such a popular response, we’re giving the Tool Fridge an honorary spot on the countdown. It’s kind of like a toolbox, but it holds beer (or other refreshments) instead.

You’re welcome.

 11. Work Light

As Rob B. so eloquently said in his Facebook response: “If you can’t see, you can’t do your job properly.” Apparently, many agree with that theory because a shop light or work light was a popular response on Facebook.

10. Jack/Jack Stands

Suprisingly, two-post lift came up a couple of times in responses. More often, a good floor jack and jack stands were cited as necessities for getting parts or all of a vehicle off the ground. These are the automotive everyman’s go-to tools.

 9. Pry Bar/Breaker Bar

What does it take to tackle just about any automotive project? “Breaker bar and patience…lots of patience,” according to Jeff Y. Whether you call it a pry bar, breaker bar, or “negotiator bar,” it’s good to have leverage in your tool arsenal.

8. Air Compressor

Work smarter, not harder. For many of us, working smarter involves spending a little extra cash on air tools to the make the job easier. That way, we’re fresh when it comes time to beat on our vehicles with the #7 tool below…

7. Hammer


“Big friggin hammer.”

“BFH.” No matter what you call it, the trusty hammer was cited as a necessity over and over again by auto DIYers. Standard hammers, sledgehammers, sheetmetal hammers, and rubber mallets were all mentioned and lumped under the hammer label. And if those don’t work, pay a visit to #12 on our list.

6. Welder/Torch

If you’re not the type to beat your projects into submission, you may appreciate #6 more. Welders and torches allow you to cut, fabricate, and mend your vehicle instead. Welders—specifically MIG welders—and torches are apparently a must-have for many hot rodders.

5. Torque Wrench

Few things are more synonymous with wrenching on a car than a torque wrench. It’s no surprise this symbol of gearhead-ism landed on your list of go-to tools.

Enough said.

4. Duct tape

Some folks were kidding; others were not. Either way, duct tape showed up enough to land in the top half of the list. What? No paper clips or chewing gum too, MacGyver?

In all seriousness, there is a lot you can do with duct tape, and it’s smart to have a couple rolls on hand—especially the “120 mile-per-hour duct tape” that  Billy M. mentioned.

3. Cordless Impact

See #8 for our remarks about the cordless impact. Buying a cordless impact wrench, whether it’s air-powered or battery-powered, qualifies as working smarter, not harder. Plus, nothing says “Hey, there’s serious wrenching going on here” quite like the sound of the impact wrench.

2. Vise grips

“Vise Grips!!! The all-purpose tool.” —Andrew B.

“Vise Grips…I can fix almost anything with them.” —Jeremy C.

It seems like many gearheads agree with Jeremy C. and Andrew B. because the virtues of vise grips were shared over and over again.

1. Wrenches and Sockets 

At #1, we’re really getting to the nuts and bolts of the essential tool conversation. Coincidentally, this is where wrenches and sockets land. These come in a lot of different flavors—standard, metric, ratcheting, box, adjustable crescent—and respondents listed wrenches and sockets in just about every variety. Some cited complete wrench and socket sets as a necessity; others called out the old 9/16-inch wrench as the go-to tool.

Honorable mentions: WD40/PB Blaster, timing light, tire gauge, degree wheel



Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.