You know about screwdrivers, socket wrenches, C-clamps and vice-grip pliers. Here are a few of the more specialized automotive tools you will use in your career as an automotive service technician.
Torque Wrench – This specialized wrench has an internal tension mechanism to measure the tightness with which a nut or bolt is fastened. It is used when a bolt’s tightness is a critical factor.
Spark Plug Gap Gauge – The gap between the center electrode and ground electrode on a spark plug needs to be the proper width, or the engine will not run correctly. The thin blades of this tool measure the gap to ensure optimal performance.
Spark Tester – Spark testers allow you to test a misfiring spark plug without removing it from the engine. By attaching the spark plug wire to the tester and grounding the tester on the engine block, you san see if the wire is delivering electricity. Got a spark? You might have a bad plug.
Vacuum Gauge – These gauges measure vacuum pressure. They can be attached to an intake manifold hose to read the engine timing, used to gauge tire pressure, or used to gauge other measurements of air pressure.
Brake Caliper Spreader – To change a car’s brake pads or access the rotor, you first have to force the brake calipers apart. This specially designed tool is made just for that purpose, holding the brake calipers apart while you work.
Hose Clamp Plier – Hose clamps are what hold many of the engine’s hoses in place, and the best way to apply and remove them is using this specially designed set of pliers. The cups on the end grab the tongs of a hose clamp, then you simply squeeze them together to open the clamp.
Dead Blow Hammer – This small sledge-like hammer is usually made of rubber, plastic or another soft material, and is filled with sand or shot. This deadens the hammer’s strikes so as not to damage the struck surface.
Bore Gauge – Bore gauges are used to measure the diameter of a hole, such as a piston cylindar. There are a few types of bore gauge, but the simplest is the telescopic variety (pictured), which works by extending its spring-loaded arms to gauge the width of the hole. The spread of the arms is then measured using a caliper or other measuring device.
Automotive Lift – These heavy-duty lifts raise a vehicle off the ground to allow access to the underside, and sometimes for vehicle storage. They are often hydraulic and come in many varieties, including two-post, four-post, scissor, and other styles.
Spin Balancer – Wheel balancers are used to calculate the amount of weight needed to properly balance a wheel, and where on the wheel it should be applied. The wheel is attached to the balancer, which spins it to measure unevenness in centrifugal force. Some work by spinning the wheel on the vehicle while others require removal.
Tire Changer – These machines are used to quickly and efficiently remove a tire from a wheel. After deflating the tire, the mechanic uses the machine’s built-in blade to separate the tire from the rim of the wheel. The wheel is then placed into the wheel clamps, which turn it in place while a built-in arm removes the tire from the wheel. A tire iron is used to pry the tire from the rim.
Engine Crane – Hydraulic engine cranes are used to lift an engine out of an engine compartment, to allow access to areas otherwise blocked by a small, crowded compartment. Cranes are often used in conjunction with engine stands to hold an engine in mid air where they can be rotated, stored or worked on away from the constraints of the vehicle.
Engine Stand – These stands hold an engine suspended in place so the mechanic can work on it outside of the vehicle’s engine compartment. The engine is mounted onto the stand using bolts, which are attached where the fly wheel would normally go — thus, the fly wheel is removed prior to mounting. The engine is usually tranferred to the stand via an engine crane after being removed from the vehicle.
Brake Lathe – A brake Lathe is the machine used to refinish a tarnished brake rotor. The rotor is attached to the lathe, which spins the rotor in place while a machining bit cuts tiny grooves into the rotor’s surface. This machining removes debris and provides a proper surface for good braking power.
Brake Bleeder – There are several methods of bleeding brake lines (the process by which air bubbles are removed), but pressure bleeding is the one used by most mechanic shops. A brake bleeder is the machine used to cycle pressurized brake fluid through the brake lines, releasing air bubbles and purging the system of old fluid.