Bang For The Buck

Tools Autoblog editors recommend and actually own

These are tools we love and have been using for years

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If you have a toolbox, you have tools that you really appreciate (and a few you want to throw across the garage, too). For this list, we asked the Autoblog staff to talk about favorite tools they personally own — with the limitation that they must be new enough to still be in production, so you can buy one yourself. An heirloom hammer is pretty neat, but it's a lot harder to come by than a nice new Estwing.

Craftsman cordless drill and compressor

Craftsman Drill and CompressorCraftsman Drill and Compressor

My favorite tool is my Craftsman Bolt-On drill. While it lacks the beefy torque of other, conventional drills for really tough jobs, it's been good enough for virtually everything I've thrown at it, and its versatility is indispensable. Besides its standard drill bit attachment, there are a variety of accessory heads that accomplish any number of tasks. In my case, I went with the air compressor that I use to keep my car and bike tires topped up. No need for a separate compressor or a trip to the Arco. — West Coast Editor James Riswick

Stanley MaxGrip 10-inch locking adjustable wrench

Stanley MaxGrip Wrench

This is, hands down, my favorite adjustable wrench. And frankly, I don't like adjustable wrenches much when I'm working on cars, due to slippage and strippage concerns, and the fact that the thumb wheel can be hard to adjust when you're pretzeled up under a car. With a locking adjustable wrench like this Stanley MaxGrip, you adjust the jaw width to touch the nut or bolt faces, crank the Vise-Grip-style handle, and it locks in place. This means you can put a fair bit of pressure on it if you're trying to break free a stuck fastener. Where I have room to use it, I tend to have it be the "backer" gripping a bolt head while I break free the nut with a breaker bar. There will be places where it won't fit, and for smaller hardware you'll want to use non-adjustable tools, but the MaxGrip wrench eliminates a lot of the fundamental drawbacks of adjustable wrenches in general. It's a serious tool with real utility, and it's also super cheap. Other companies, like Craftsman and Crescent, make very similar wrenches if you'd rather have a different brand. — Senior Editor Alex Kierstein

Williams stubby combination wrench set

Williams Stubby Combination Wrench Set - SAE

These might be the best combo wrench deal on the planet — Williams' stubby combo wrench sets, in metric and SAE. Williams is a sub-brand of Snap-on, and they're made in Taiwan. The finish and quality of these wrenches is top-notch, but the vinyl storage bag they come in is pretty mediocre. I find that these grip fasteners really well and, like any stubby wrench, fit well into small spaces. Some people will prefer American-made tools, and there are some other options from respected brands that are just as compelling. Proto makes a lovely set of stubbies, but at a significantly steeper price. — Alex Kierstein

Vessel 220 JIS screwdriver

Vessel 220 JIS Screwdriver

Do you own a Japanese car or motorcycle? You might want a JIS screwdriver like this Vessel, if not a whole set. After stripping what I thought was a Phillips head fastener held tight with thread locker in one of my cars, I looked more closely and realized it wasn't quite a Phillips. The JIS fastener standard is similar but slightly different from a regular Phillips. The bottom line is that JIS fasteners won't cam out like a Phillips will. It also means a Phillips screwdriver might not be perfectly sized to grip a JIS head. Do yourself a favor and pick one up. The ball-handle models are really nice to actually use, too. I sometimes pull this out for Phillips heads as well, provided they're not really stuck in there, just because I like using this driver better than any of my cheap Craftsman screwdrivers. — Alex Kierstein

Dewalt 20V driver/impact combo kit

Dewalt 20V Tool Combo Set - Drill and Driver

I usually research the living hell out of anything I'm considering buying, but picking up this Dewalt tool combo was an impulse purchase. And mainly for the drill — I didn't use the impact driver for more than a year. Then, while spinning off lug nuts manually like an idiot at a track day, I realized I was missing out. The impact driver here can't really spin off seized fasteners, but it's great for quickly loosening or tightening fasteners you've already broken loose. I use it all the time now for not-sensitive tasks, like rotating tires or quickly attaching or detaching my WRX's undertray. If you don't need the drill, consider getting just the impact tool and a bigger battery. Consider the 3.0 amp-hour packs at a minimum, and note their considerable cost compared to just the tool itself. (That's how they get their hooks in ya.) — Alex Kierstein

Makita 12V lithium-ion cordless vacuum

Makita 12V max CXT Lithium‑Ion Cordless Vacuum

I actually have an older version of this cordless vacuum from Makita, and I love it. The vacuum uses the same 12-volt lithium-ion battery packs as my go-to portable cordless drill, which means I can stock up on a single type of battery and keep a charger in my home, in my garage, or even in my car. That's super convenient. The vacuum is also surprisingly good at sucking (and I mean that in a good way). There's ample power to clean up all the little debris that tends to accumulate in the floors, seats, and trunks of my cars. Best of all, the little vacuum is portable and comes with me and my drill when I go camping in my vintage '75 VW van. — Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski

Mastech MS8268 digital multimeter

Mastech Multimeter

Electrical work is my least favorite part of fixing up old cars, and a really good multimeter makes that work a lot easier. I like that this Mastech is auto-ranging, which just makes the whole thing easier to use. It has a real fuse inside to properly protect the unit, and has excellent reviews from folks who know more about electricity than I do. Fluke is the gold standard of multimeters, but I don't use one enough to justify dropping that kind of money. If you need the best of the best, though, the legendary Fluke 87 line of meters is probably what you should invest in ... but at almost 10 times the cost of the Mastech, make sure it's worth it for you. – Senior Editor Alex Kierstein

Foxelli USB rechargeable headlamp

Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp

This might be the most useful item in my toolbox. Drop lights and flashlights are great, but nothing beats a good headlamp. The benefit of having something that moves with your eyes and isn't tied to a wall outlet can't be understated. Sometimes you need both hands, and if you don't have someone to hold a flashlight, things can get tricky. This is the exact model I use. It has multiple brightness settings as well as a floodlight filter to disperse the light. It's also waterproof, lightweight and charges using micro-USB. If you're looking for something a little less expensive that can run on AAA batteries, check out this headlamp from Vont. – Road Test Editor Reese Counts

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