You probably know that sinking feeling when a critical washer or nut drops out of sight.

It’s horrible.

(Image/Wayne Scraba)

I’m sure all of you have had that experience. Here’s a personal example:

In a shop I once owned, a mechanic was absolutely positive he had accidentally dropped a small nut down an open carburetor bore. He didn’t see it hit the floor and he couldn’t find it when he took the carb off the engine. He was convinced it must have bounced and rolled through an intake port, past an open valve, and somehow ended up in a cylinder bore. Before tearing the engine down (yuck), we decided to spend some quality time with a couple of magnets surrounding the intake. It took some effort, but sure enough, the wayward nut turned up topside of the engine—not inside. Another bullet dodged!

Magnetic tip pickup tools come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the bigger rigid telescopic tools can handle upward of 30(!) pounds (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Different Types of Magnetic Retrieval Tools

So what kind of magnets did we use? One was telescopic. The other had a flex handle. But those are only the tip of the tool iceberg. is filled with different types of retrieval tools. Some are magnetic, like those mentioned above, while some are even cooler.

Note the differences in lengths. Some of the little pocket size jobs aren’t much bigger than a ball point pen when collapsed, but some extend for a considerable distance. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Cases-in-point: The flexible pickup tool from Mueller Kueps has a thin, near-sixteen-inch flexible shaft. The shaft is super small in diameter and can fit into extremely difficult to reach locations. OEM Tools has another version with a thicker shaft but it is even equipped with a tiny LED light inside the magnet. This tool has a 24 inch reach.

This is that tiny retrieval tool from Mueller Kueps. with its extremely thin shaft that allows it to access tight spots in your project. (Image/Summit Racing)

Some magnetic pickup tools are simply large telescopic rods with magnetic heads that you can adjust. For example, this one from K-Tool has a 20 inch reach. But if you need something with some real beef, K-Tool makes another retrieval tool that can pick up and hold a whopping 30 pounds! Instead of a flex handle, it works by way of a telescoping handle. It has a maximum reach of 28 inches and a minimum length of 16 inches.

Telescopic tools such as this K Tools International part number KTI-70915 can pick up as much as 3.5 pounds and its head can be adjusted for direction and angle. (Image/Summit Racing)

Titan Tools offers several different pocket size telescopic magnets. A popular example is part number TTN-11663. This little pocket tool has a closed length of 6.5 inches (not much larger than a typical ball point pen) while the total extended length is a considerable 33 inches. It can support 5 pounds.

Here’s the combo claw-magnet OES-25292 from OEM Tools mentioned in the text. It has both a magnet and a set of retractable claws. (Image/Summit Racing)

Another means to pick up errant hardware is by way of the good old fashioned retractable claw tool. OEM Tools puts a different spin on it with part number OES-25292. The tip is magnetized and it also has four retractable claws. The handle is flexible too, so it can go almost anywhere.

Lisle Tools offers a similar example (part number LIL-31140) that doesn’t have a magnetized end.

Of course, locating that elusive missing fastener is also rather important! That’s why telescopic mirrors are so useful. As noted in the article, they’re also great for tracking down leaks. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Something else you’ll find useful is a little telescopic inspection mirror. I have one in my tool box and it’s pretty much the go-to tool if you have look around a blind corner. They’re handy for all sorts of chores including searches for missing hardware, checking for leaks, and so on.

Magnetic tool trays are inexpensive and extremely useful. These two examples from Summit Racing are manufactured from stainless steel and they have polished surfaces. The bases have magnets, but they also have integral rubber feet to prevent scratching. (Image/Summit Racing)

That’s not all. Instead of fumbling with hardware for a job, consider the use of magnetic parts trays or bowls. You’ll find plenty of examples online, but here are two good ones from Summit Racing: part numbers SUM-910061 and SUM-90060.

One of my go-to pick up tools is this old flex handle magnet. The flexible handle works great for getting behind something to find a dropped fastener. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Honestly, we’ve scratched the surface here with little shop retrieval tools.

“Pick Up Tricks”? Absolutely. They’re the best solution to keep wayward fasteners in check. You’ll appreciate these inexpensive little tools once you have them on hand.

OEM Tools makes this flexible retrieval tool (part number OES-25934) that features a handy LED light in the center of the magnet end, which can be pretty useful in the dimly-lit corners of an engine bay. (Image/Summit Racing)
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Author: Wayne Scraba

Wayne Scraba is a diehard car guy and regular contributor to OnAllCylinders. He’s owned his own speed shop, built race cars, street rods, and custom motorcycles, and restored muscle cars. He’s authored five how-to books and written over 4,500 tech articles that have appeared in sixty different high performance automotive, motorcycle and aviation magazines worldwide.