There are only 10 things in this world you need to fix any car, any place, any time.
1. Duct Tape: Not just a tool, a veritable Swiss Army knife in
stickum and plastic. It's safety wire, body material, radiator hose, upholstery,
insulation, tow rope, and more - in an easy to carry package. Sure, there's
prejudice surrounding duct tape in professional competitions, but in the
real world, everything from LeMans-winning Porsches to Atlas rockets and
attack-helicopters use it by the yard. The only thing that can get you out
of more scrapes is a quarter and a phone booth.
2. Vice Grips: Equally adept as a wrench, hammer, pliers, baling wire twister, breaker-off of frozen bolts and wiggle-it-til-it-falls-off tool. The heavy artillery of your tool box, vice grips are the only tool designed expressly to fix things screwed up beyond repair.
3. Spray Lubricants: A considerably cheaper alternative to new doors, alternator, and other squeaky items. Slicker than pig phlegm, repeated soakings will allow the main hull bolts of the Andrea Doria to be removed by hand. Strangely enough, an integral part of these sprays is the infamous Little Red Tube that flies out of the nozzle if you look at it cross eyed (one of the 10 worst tools of all time).
4. Margarine Tubs with Clear Lids: If you spend all your time under the hood looking for a frendle pin that caromed off the pertal valve when you knocked both off the air cleaner, it's because you eat butter. Real mechanics consume pounds of tasteless vegetable oil replicas just so they can use the empty tubs for parts containers afterward. (Some of course chuck the butter-colored goo altogether or use it to repack wheel bearings.) Unlike air cleaners and radiator lips, margarine tubs aren't connected by a time/space wormhole to the Parallel Universe of Lost Frendle Pins.
5. Big Rock at the Side of the Road: Block up a tire. Smack corroded battery terminals. Pound out a dent. Bop noisy know-it-all types on the noodle. Scientists have yet to develop a hammer that packs the raw banging power of granite or limestone. This is the only tool with which a "Made in Malaysia" emblem is not synonymous with the user being maimed.
6. Plastic Zip Ties: After 20 years of lashing down stray hose and wiring with old bread ties, some genius brought a slightly slicked-up version to the auto parts market. Fifteen zip ties can transform a hulking mass of amateur-quality wiring from a working model of the Brazilian Rain Forest into something remotely resembling a wiring harness. Of course it works both ways. When buying a used car, subtract $100 for each zip tie you find under the hood.
7. Ridiculously Large Craftsman Screwdriver: Let's admit it. There's nothing better for prying, chiseling, lifting, breaking, splitting or mutilating than a huge flatbladed screwdriver, particularly when wielded with gusto and a big hammer. This is also the tool of choice for all oil filters so insanely located that they can only be removed by driving a stake in one side and out the other. If you break the screwdriver -- and you will just like Dad and your shop teacher said -- who cares, it has a lifetime guarantee.
8. Baling Wire: Commonly known as MG muffler brackets, baling wire holds anything that's too hot for tape or ties. Like duct tape, it's not recommended for NASCAR contenders, since it works so well you'll never need to replace it with the right thing again. Baling wire is a sentimental favorite in some circles, particularly with the Pinto, Gremlin, and Rambler set.
9. Bonking Stick: This monstrous tuning fork with devilish pointy ends is technically known as a tie-rod separator, but how often do you separate tie-rod ends? Once every decade if you're lucky. Other than medieval combat, its real use is the all-purpose application of undue force, not unlike that of the huge flat-bladed screwdriver. Nature doesn't know the bent metal panel or frozen exhaust pipe that can stand up to a good bonking stick. (Can also be used to separate tie-rod ends in a pinch, of course, but does a lousy job of it).
10. A Quarter and a Phone Booth: See tip #1 above.
* If it won't go - force it. If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway....
* Any tool dropped while repairing your rod will roll underneath to the exact center of the car.
Other useful tools:
BATTERY ELECTROLYTE TESTER: A handy tool for transferring sulfuric acid from a car battery to the inside of your toolbox after determining that your battery is dead as a doornail, just as you thought.
DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against that freshly painted part you were drying.
E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool that snaps off in bolt holes and is ten times harder than any known drill bit.
ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning steel Pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age, but it also works great for drilling mounting holes in fenders just above the brake line that goes to the rear wheel.