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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hopefully another thought-provoking general question... After reading a bunch of posts on how to fix about everything, I've noticed more than a few times that people have said "I'd never work without (blank)" or "I'm glad I had (blank) in my toolbox"...

So, for someone that is starting from scratch with only a bare minimum of common tools on-hand, what are some of the uncommon toolbox items that people love to use and are glad they have handy. I'd love to get a list together, so that while I shop for my fixer-upper (on which I'd like to work my way into fiddling with everything) I can start filling said tool box (also yet to be purchased).

***Warning! If you are getting divorced, don't leave your tools in the garage because you are moving to an appartment! Even if she says that it's no problem!! She will have a garage sale within the month!!! She will use your feeler gages to clean crud off of something, the micrometer will be on a shelf in someone else's garage with the $1 price tag still on it, and the oil filter wrench will be used as a hammer to drive in the stake for the garage sale sign... (Who knew that she could sell the grease gun, but not the 4 new tubes of grease that were next to it on the shelf...) :shock:

:wink: I mention this, because if I have a "cool tool" wish list handy, I might be able to hit some garage sales, sponsored by the ex of some other poor fool...

Premium Member
5,577 Posts
What a great question to open the flood gates :) Second only to an oil question, you'll get lots of opinions on this one.

My list of uncommon but must have or I'll just pay someone to do it are:

Gear Wrenches - I love my Crescent offset set. They have an angled head and a direction button near the head. I have a couple of the non-angled GearWrench brand ones and they are fine, but in 10mm especially the offset lets me access things that I'd otherwise have a problem with. ... 4?v=glance

These pullers are wonderful when working on the steering: ... mber=36861

Here is the Tool Sermon that I wrote for a few years back for a friend who had no tools at all:

My recommendations:

Combination wrenches: ... number=541
This set it metric, but is a good example of what I'd suggest. It has
larger than you will probably need on a regular basis, so take the 2
largest ones out and leave them in the garage. The roll up pouch is very
handy, but will wear out in a year or two. After that, a small mechanics
toolbox will do well.
SAE here: ... number=551

An assortment is good. Get at least needlenose, standard slip joint
("regular), and dikes ("diagonal cutters").
If you want a good assortment, here is what I'd get:
Big pliers: ... mber=44874
Vice-Grip: ... umber=5827
And a set similar to these: ... mber=35439
This set will do fine, but you'd be better off getting a 4 or 5 piece set
from Sears or similar. I got a 5 piece set at Sears for $20. It wasn't
craftsman, but has lasted me a few years and they have a nice feel.

I'd recommend getting a good set of sockets. I had great luck with Popular Mechanics brand from Walmart, but it turns out that they are made by Stanley, which Walmart also sells. Home depot has Husky, and Lowes has Cobalt. Craftsman, Husky or Cobalt are preferred, but you pay a premium for them. I am not at the point of paying that price yet, so I have a decent set, and went and bought a 3/8" drive ratchet handle from Sears, since that is what you will probably break, and sears will replace it for free, for life.
So, for a complete set from Harbor Freight, get: ... mber=45468
If you get excited, also get a deep wall set like: ... umber=4467 in either 1/2" drive or 3/8" drive.
Don't bother with swivels, impact sockets, ball joint sockets or any of
that until such point as you know that you need them.

Get a 3 piece 3/8" drive extension set however. 2", 4" and 6" makes a good set. ... umber=2762
is a good set.

Again, quality will make a difference here. Go get a good set locally. I
like craftsman over the others, but I've had very good luck with the
"cheapies" from tool companies - If you want to get a set from HF, here is
one that will probably serve you well: ... umber=1648

Also buy some kind of case that you like. Pick something locally so that you can get a feel for it. Thin plastic is bad. Thick plastic or metal is
good. You will use this as a seat when you are trying to get a stuck brake
caliper off some day.

A hammer is a good idea. Something with a metal or fiberglass handle is a big plus. If you spend more than $15 on a hammer for the truck, you will have wasted money. ... umber=7349 will do just fine for truck stuff.

A pry bar is always useful. A crowbar of almost any shape will do for most purposes.

A knife of some kind. Almost anything that is sharp. It sucks cutting off a
radiator hose with your screwdriver and a pair of wire cutters.

Electrical tape, always good. Spare fuses, zip ties and electrical crimp
on connectors are also a plus. I also carry a spare set of spark plug
wires and a distributor cap. They are cheap and make for great
insurance. Radiator hose, heater hose, and duct tape round out my list.

I'm not in any way tied to harbor freight. They sell some real crap. For
your uses, these tools probably will be fine. If not, upgrade. It won't
hurt you to get something better up front, but like with my pitman arm puller, I won't use it very much. Ever. If you prefer craftsman, buy
those. The socket wrench, screwdrivers and pliers are where the quality
will make a big difference in feel.

For the house, I'll add a few tools to the list:

Outlet tester. This has 3 lights and tells you that an outlet is
functioning properly (or not)

Adjustable wrench. ... umber=3288

Drill + bits. If I had to have only one drill, I'd have a corded drill.
I do use the cordless one more often now, but there are some tasks that
cannot be done with a cordless drill, mostly because of the limits of
battery life. Be sure to get some good screwdriver bits at the same time.

Tape Measure + level. The level doesn't need to be long or expensive.
Test it in the store. Place it on a shelf (level or not) and note the
position of the bubble. Spin the level end-to-end and see if the bubble
sits in the same spot (with regard to the center line on the glass). If
it doesn't, get a different level.

Set of drywall anchors. These are the plastic anchors that hold screws in
drywall, and a set will come with screws + anchors.

Hand saw. Start with a mitre saw + mitre box. They are sold in sets and
will cut almost anything that you need to trim around the house.

Gloves + safety glasses. Get glasses that are comfy, otherwise you won't
wear them.


166 Posts
Wow, that took some time to write out, Tad. Great post. I am a big fan of Harbor Freight for a lot of things, but like Tad stated above, not all of their quality is up to standard. For example, Pittsburgh brand impact sockets are crap. Broke one into three pieces trying to unbolt a head. Good thing is that most of Harbor Freight's stuff has a lifetime warranty, but some getting back to the store is a lot harder than bringin in a Craftsman socket to your local Sears. I am very partial to Husky sockets, Craftsman screwdrivers, and I actually really like my set of Pittsburgh box-end wrenches. The Gear Wrench sockets I have friom Husky are the bomb. I can't believe it took me this long to get a set. I just got latest Harbor Freight flyer in the mail yesterday and I am all set for a shopping spree. You can get great deals on little misc. stuff like electrical connectors for about half the cost at your local stores. Probably the best Harbor Freight deal is their angle grinders. I have a 4" grinder that I put through hell redoing the body on my old FJ40 and it hasn't missed a beat and is showin no signs of slowing down. Stay away from the Harbor Freight (usually Chicago Electric brand) battery-powered tools. Most of them do not have internal charging regulators in their chargers and you can easily cook a battery is leave it charging too long. For home use you can't beat the deal on the Ryobi 18V cordless sets. The little 5" cordless circular saw is great around the house for little jobs and the cordless drill/driver is great.

The best tool yet that I've used is made by Bosch. I'm on a tech resue team here in Chicagoland and we bought a fire department spec sawzall that is just the bomb. It has a white LED light on the tip for working in dark areas, plus has a new quick blade release that makes swapping blades a snap with heavy firefighting gloves on. No more burned hands quick-swapping a blade. It's pricy, but if you're sawzalling a lot, it's worth the extra price. Might have to get it from a Bosch dealer or rep since I don't think it's stocked in your local HD or Lowes.

Just my .02


38 Posts
Tad's list is pretty thorough, but I'd add a few items--especially for Isuzu specific stuff:

Torque wrench(es). The 1/2" drive is the standard, but a lot of bolts & nuts on these aluminum block 2nd gen engines call for inch/lbs and for that you will want a 3/8" or even 1/4" drive. Shop carefully--a 1/2" drive that goes down to 10 ft/lbs and a 3/8" drive that goes down to 120 in/lbs are the same. You'll eventually want something that goes way down on the in/lbs scale. I think I've seen Isuzu torque specs as low as 17 in/lbs!

Allen wrenches or allen head sockets (or both). It's nice to have the socket type so you can put them on your torque wrench. Torx bits can be a nice addition, but I usually wait until I need one and then buy that particular size.

Definitely buy tools with unconditional lifetime guarantees. Even cheap x-mart tools are ok, so long as they're guaranteed. When you crack that socket, it's nice to have it replaced free of charge. Most good tools (read expensive) are unconditionally guaranteed. You don't need Snap-On, but there's a noticeable difference between acceptable and really nice tools.

Fish scale - for pre-loading the front wheel bearings after that brake job.

Magnet on a stick - for plucking that dropped bolt out of the nether regions of the engine compartment.

Double-jointed circus midget - for those really hard to reach bolts.

2,725 Posts
The little dental mirror comes in handy from time to time.

A good set of pullers for crank pulleys, steering wheels, etc. will save a lot of grief.

A air compressor & air wrench really come in handy when you're working under the rust buckets.


25 Posts
One of the things I now can't do without in my tool box is a pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors. I bought a pair at the local k-Mart to use in my kitchen and they never actually made it inside! I use them quite often for cutting all sorts of things. The other thing I use a bit is a 12" socket extension. If your budget extends to it a set of tube sockets are quite useful. If you use your vehicle off road throw a 2' length of 4x2 in the back as well. This can be quite useful, I've used mine for putting under jacks, using as a buffer to hit with the back of the axe to straighten/beat dented sills so the door(s) will shut and have even used it to level up a gas cooker on a sloping camp site. Also if you offroad, don't climb under your vehicle without safety glasses, dirt in your eyes is a pain in the proverbal, especially if you wear contact lenses.

7,209 Posts
Snap ring pliers

1/2" Impact wrench

1/4" air ratchet

I will second or third the gearwrenches.

I'd like a set of the stubby gearwrenches in both SAE and Metric.

A sawzall will be handy in more than a few situations, and of course the universal wrench (oxy acet. torch).

A can of PB Blaster is also a must.

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