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Tool Buying Advice

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Old 03-15-2019, 04:57 PM
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Tool Buying Advice

Hello Forum, I need some advice on expanding my tool collection. I'm looking to buy some sort of impact driver. Air or Electric? Pros and cons? I already have a compressor, so not a big deal there.

Also, torque wrench recommendations? 10$ from harbor freight or $200 from Snap On? Something in between?

Lastly, any other tools you recommend that seem to really come in handy when working on cars?

I don't want to spend and arm and a leg, but don't mind spending reasonable money for something that will last.

My plans for the future include light modification and restoration work, including shocks, downpipe, swaybars, and intercooler. I also do my own maintenance, tire rotation, oil etc. Ive got 2 floor jacks already, 4 jackstands, ramps, basic sockets, and hand tools.

THANSK!
 
  #2  
Old 03-15-2019, 06:13 PM
Capt_bj
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I already have a compressor

there are compressors and then there are compressors . . . .

the metric you must look at with air tools is CFM .... cubic feet per minute and even here you must look at the pressure the CFM is stated at .....

most common air tool will run at a recommended 90 psi ... and will have an average CFM recommendation at this pressure. So you need to know if your compressor can provide this CFM/pressure and for how long ..... In general an impact tool or an air ratchet or a nail gun is used in short bursts and this can allow a small compressor/storage tank to 'catch up' ... but a grinder or a spray gun is used more continuously so unless you have a BIG storage tank on the compressor the motor will run continuously trying to keep up and this brings us to another important metric ... duty cycle. This is typically given as a percentage or the time in a 10 minute period the motor is expected to run without damage from heat or other causing damage. So a small compressor with a 10% duty cycle is only rated to run for 1 minute out of 10 ... never gonna keep up with a grinder and is probably gonna struggle even with an impact if you take off two wheels back to back with lil time in between. Run the motor more than the duty cycle means it get hot and burns up . . .

Other 'opinions' .... there are 'oil less' compressors ..... these are never as strong as one's with oil. If the compressor runs fine on a 10 amp circuit it is a small one! Pancake type? Forget about it.

let's look at a 21 gallon, electric, oiled, 2.5 hp compressor from Harbor Freight. This is rated for 4.7 cfl @ 90psi ... a typical grinder is rated at 6cfm @ 90 psi ... I have a similar compressor and for wheel work it is fine ... but by the third wheel the motor IS running to recharge (and BTW that's another consideration .... they are always LOUD) The rating is also 5.8 [email protected] a decent spray gun wants 15cfm/40psi ...... This 'low end compressor' does not list a duty cycle btw so you can expect it is at BEST 10% and more likely 5% or less . . . . and I have this on a 20 amp/120v circuit ..... which it needs

A 5hp, 60 gallon compressor from HF is rated at [email protected] or [email protected] ..... and costs $800 ... 21 amps/240 volts . . .

In other words ... serious air tools need serious air supply .... unless you have a need for or already have a system for serious air ... consider those electric impacts . . . .
 
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Old 03-15-2019, 06:20 PM
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I like the torque wrenches available on Amazon. They are better quality than harbor freight yet only 10.00 more.

For impact I'm happy with harbor freight but you need a 1/2 inch one to break loose big stuff. The 3/8 just doesn't get the job done sometimes. I like the harbor freight air ratchets too.
 
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:40 PM
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You are likely to need more than one torque wrench. Lug bolts and transmission pan bolts require very different settings. And TPMS sensors are much lower still.
 
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:55 PM
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You'll need a set of Torx drivers. MINIs have plenty of T20, T25, T30 fasteners and the screw that holds the rotor on the hub is T47 (Gen2). There are also some fasteners like the steering rack on the Gen2 cars that need the Torx sockets. I have a set of Torx screwdrivers from Craftsman and a set of 3/8 and 1/2 inch drive Torx bits and sockets from Lisle.
 
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Old 03-15-2019, 10:27 PM
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I've never used an electric impact, so I can't comment there.

I started my air tool collection by buying a HF set that came with an impact, 3/8 air ratchet, air hammer, and some sort of cut off wheel setup. It was good for a starter set, because buying the same tools in the quality I want would have set me back 3-4 times as much. Every time one of the pieces crapped out, I went and bought a good tool to replace it. Most likely your impact will be the first to go. Then you want a good quality IR (or similar) tool.

Torque wrenches: you'll want 3, in my opinion-1/2" drive that goes to 150 ft/lbs or more, 3/8" that covers the lower range well, then an inch/pound wrench for fine work. I would NOT buy them from HF. In my opinion, HF is good for infrequent use, non-critical tools. Torque wrenches are critical tools in my book. You want them to work properly, read accurately, and be dependable. Also, how old are you? My wrenches were good in my 40s, but my eyesight makes the little window for the analog dial reading very difficult to see in my 50s.

Back to HF for a second: I also don't recommend them for anything that would have a safety role, including managing potential energy. Too much of their stuff is made with low-quality steel. I split one of their pickle-forks in half once on a Suburban suspension. Anything where there's a lot of force involved, that could become dangerous if something breaks? Not HF.

As far as what else to buy: A good set of ratcheting combination wrenches. Crows foot wrenches. You'll find that it's a process... just have access to enough of a tool fund that when you have to go buy a tool, you can buy it as part of a good quality set. Eventually, you'll have a pretty respectable toolbox and you'll find yourself buying tools less and less. Oh, get a good quality box, with enough space that you can organize your stuff and FIND IT. If your garage allows, pegboard to hang stuff in view is useful in conjunction with, or as a substitute for a nice box. Don't skimp on crappy drawers though. You'll eventually load them down, and cuss them every time when they don't open/close smoothly.
 
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Old 03-16-2019, 02:38 PM
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torque wench:

I've been using a $20 HF for years .. wheels mostly and a wheel has never fallen off nor have I stripped a lug. OTOH had had this same result when using a simple lug wrench and the one UGH method! Is there a difference between a $20 one and a $120 one? YES .... but in your use will this matter? The difference is accuracy. If using the HF ones ... stay in the MIDDLE of the scale ... at the ends, high or low, they will be WAY off typically while a high end wrench will be better (but in general stay away from the ends on any 'click' style). Don't discount the old school 'beam' style torque wrench. Simple and they work! In general, high end mechanics have their torque wrenches calibrated annually or any time they are DROPPED. AND with a click style, crank it down to zero when you put it up .. don't leave it 'tensioned' if not going to be using it for a few days. {so comments about different wrenches in different sizes IS valid since the range of a 1/2 inch drive is WAY different then the range of a 1/4 inch drive .... if you need this. I have two tq wrenches, both 1/2 inch .... a HF clicker, and a Craftsman beam!}

air tools

when I bought my first compressor (Lowes, 30g, oilless) it came with a set of tools including an impact wrench. Imagine my surprise when I could not get a wheel lug off the first time I tried. After checking all sorts of things about my pressure, hose and tool I went out and bought a 'decent' impact wrench and OMG the lug spun right off. There IS a BIG difference in tool quality . . . . even in air tools ... which are NICE because air tools tend to cost LESS then their electric equivalent . . . that oilless compressor burned up in less than a year btw ... the 'warranty replacement' didn't last two. I replaced with an compressor that uses oil for lubrication now and that one has been good for 10 years. (HF)

tool chest

good mention here ... when your tool collection begins to out grow a 'tool box' and you look for a 'chest', drawer quality is important. Especially for drawers deeper than 1 inch ... you can easy load 'em up with several pounds and roller bearing sliders are the best. In a smaller cabinet you can get away with good - no bearing - sliders .... but this an area where a few extra dollars makes a big difference in the long term.

EDITORIAL:

I've mentioned to the folk running this site that a 'tool' forum would be very useful. Done this a few times over the years and always been ignored ..... I'm also a Miata guy and on one of their big sites (around years before MINI returned to the states and still going) there IS such a section and there's a TON of good tool info here .... everything from hand tools to air tools to home lifts ....
https://forum.miata.net/vb/forumdisplay.php?f=23

lastly: I've found many a specialty tool here over the years .... https://www.eastwood.com/ they have never done me wrong
 
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Old 03-16-2019, 03:58 PM
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I agree with Capt BJ about the air tools and compressors. While the tools tend to be a lot less expensive than a cordless tool, in the end, they are only as good as the compressor running them. Also a big plus for the cordless system is there's no requirement for an electrical outlet at the work site. In my case, when my landlord built our new storage buildings, they ended up about 75 yards from the house and with no power. I have a nice Campbell Hausefieild compressor gathering dust and a drawer full of air tools that I can't use. With a quality cordless unit you just have to make sure you have a couple batteries charged.
For torque wrenches I have a 3/8" and 1/2" by Craftsman. (pre-china)

I will mention the Tool SubForum to the honchos and see what happens.
 
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Old 03-18-2019, 07:20 AM
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Thanks for everyone for the advice!

I think I've learned that I'm not quite ready (financially) to dip my toe in the water of air tools yet. Like many things, it seems like air tools are "do it right, or don't do it at all." "buy it right or buy it twice" I'll leave my little pancake "compressor" to fill the car tires.

For now, I'm going to focus on getting nice set of torque wrenches and getting better organized. I've outgrown my toolbox storage and need a better set up where I can find to everything. A pegboard and a chest of draws is in my future. Great advice about not skimping on roller bearing draws. You definitely saved me some frustration in the future.

Another great consideration about "loud" air compressors. I've got small children and sometimes I can slip away to the basement to get a little work done while they are napping, but not when a compressor is banging away!
 
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Old 03-18-2019, 07:25 AM
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I buy a variety of different tools from different places. Some brands, some Harbor Freight. I take it on an individual basis but my general rule is I avoid Harbor Freight for any kind of power tool.

Originally Posted by squawSkiBum View Post
You'll need a set of Torx drivers. MINIs have plenty of T20, T25, T30 fasteners and the screw that holds the rotor on the hub is T47 (Gen2). There are also some fasteners like the steering rack on the Gen2 cars that need the Torx sockets. I have a set of Torx screwdrivers from Craftsman and a set of 3/8 and 1/2 inch drive Torx bits and sockets from Lisle.
Between my R53 and my Harleys, I've fully stocked up on Torx drivers and sockets. I still don't get it, but I guess it is above my pay grade.
 

Last edited by Derek86; 03-18-2019 at 11:06 AM.
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Old 03-18-2019, 11:00 AM
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Old 03-18-2019, 04:46 PM
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I bought both 3/8"and 1/2"drive (click-style) torque wrenches at Harbor Freight and they've been invaluable. I recently saw an online comparison to a much more expensive torque wrench and the Harbor Freight variety was actually more accurate. I'm assuming, like me, that you're not going to be doing commercial repairs and that it won't be used on a daily basis so the more reasonably priced wrench at HF is perfectly adequate.
 
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Old Yesterday, 05:40 AM
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There is one invaluable tool from HF you need to get and is under $10. It is a telescoping magnetic pickup tool. I have had to buy many "special "BMW nuts and bolts, to replace ones that magically disappeared into the abyss that covers the underside of the car, at an average cost of $5 each.
 
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Old Yesterday, 09:12 AM
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When I was a poor college student, I used to buy Snap-On tools. I have 3/8' sockets, ratchets and combination wrenches in SAE, metric and Whitworth. Snap-On's prices have grown much faster than inflation and I can no longer justify the prices they ask. I now buy almost exclusively Harbor Freight tools and haven't broken one yet. I have broken my Snap-On 3/8" ratchet and had it in my car for many months until I finally chased down a Snap-On truck and got it repaired for free, still, a pain in the butt.
 
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Old Yesterday, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by SFMCS View Post
There is one invaluable tool from HF you need to get and is under $10. It is a telescoping magnetic pickup tool. I have had to buy many "special "BMW nuts and bolts, to replace ones that magically disappeared into the abyss that covers the underside of the car, at an average cost of $5 each.
True. Bonus if you can get the grabber snake with magnets on it. Best tool ever.
 
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Old Yesterday, 09:35 AM
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Amazon is a great source for tools these days. You can shop most of the name brands (IR, Astra, Lisle, OTC, etc) and find the lowest price. Both my SnapOn and Cornwell dealers carry some of that stuff, but it's way marked up from what it's available for from Amazon, so I never buy that stuff from them.

The HF stuff has really come a long way in the last 5 years, or so. For a weekend wrench there stuff is plenty adequate. Some of the stuff gets so cheap with a coupon you can buy more than one and have a backup, like electric grinders. I have two of their 4" grinders that I bought for something silly like $8/ea with a coupon and they haven't failed me yet. I also have an electric chop saw that use for exhaust tubing that was $40 or $50 with coupon.
 
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