Do you long to be able to do more of your own auto repairs and maintenance yourself? Is the only thing holding you back the fact that your tool chest is nearly empty along with your wallet? If that’s the case, let me share with you some of my tips and tricks for putting together a selection of equipment any mechanic would approve of while also letting you afford groceries and the other little necessities as well.
Even though you can save yourself a lot of money when you do your own car repair and maintenance, you are also apt to notice that buying the tools and other hardware necessary to equip your home garage for the work is not cheap. Just a few items like a good selection of auto-compatible sockets and wrenches plus some containers to hold drained car oil or brake fluid can break the budget in a tight week. Considering you almost need a loan to pay for gas today, few of us are ready to plunk down hundreds upon hundreds of dollars hardware we may use just a few times a year.
The first time I went out to purchase some much-needed items to do my own repairs, I dropped more than $50. Yet I only had a few items on my list with dozens more to go. Yet I soon discovered that buying very cheap tools, for example, was not the answer. Cheap tools often won’t stand up to hard labor and a tool that doesn’t help you get the job done doesn’t deserve to be called an implement.
So I began to look around for better options. One venue I discovered is watching the local newspaper for going-out-of-business sales. Sad but true, I’ve gotten some great buys from businesses from service stations to auto supply shops that were liquidating their inventory to shut down. A set of excellent sockets that normally sold for over $100 was priced below $20, for example, and I got a heavy-duty car jack for less than the replacement cost of the lightweight jack that came with my car.
Yet going-out-of-business sales can be tough to find. By the time they advertise their last days, their selection may be fairly well picked over because they let good customers know ahead of time.
A better and slightly more consistent venue for finding hardware is going the used route. Second-hand shops not only sell already-owned dishes and bedding but collections of tools or individual pieces of hardware. I’ve purchased some excellent body-work style mallets, paint brushes, and an air compressor this way for much less than I would pay for cheap quality new.
Likewise, look for yard or garage sales that may give you a clue that a lot of men’s merchandise is being sold. I mention the male part because I’ve found some of the all-time best selections when a wife was clearing out the garage of all her ex-husband’s tools, parts, gadgets, and gizmos. One time I got a set of brand new, high quality radial tires for $30. Another time, I bought some very professional mechanic’s gear for less than $50 which I resold to an actual pro mechanic for three times that much and he still considered the deal quite a bargain. I then used the price difference to buy more of the items I needed for my simpler home car repair and maintenance operation.
If you have a mechanically oriented friend getting ready to sell his – or her – home, quietly ask if he or she wants to sell any of his tools or repair hardware. While precious equipment is apt to move with such a person, the likelihood is high that the person won’t want to tote everything along. You may be able to find at least a couple of good buys for far cheaper than you would pay even at a big discount auto supply shop. One such friend gave me a set of containers I still use for storing used oil and radiator fluids – ones that would cost me at least $30 new – and sold me a great under-vehicle slide, the kind pro mechanics use, for $10. I’ve never seen one of this quality sell for less than $150 brand new, so I was thrilled.
Even if you aren’t a mechanic but someone in your family is, consider these used equipment and big sales routes for gifting the guy or gal who may do your next tune-up or radiator flush for free. A used tool in good condition is never an insult gift!