Garage Must-Haves for the Modern Gearhead

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From tools to care and maintenance products, this is everything you need in your garage.

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It doesn't matter if you're a small-time tinkerer or a major car modder, there are certain must-haves for your garage that you can't do without. When it comes to building the ultimate garage man cave, these must-haves can make or break the final product, and not having the correct stuff in your garage can mean costly trips to the mechanic that you don't really want. Fortunately, modern garage essentials are just a click away thanks to online shopping, and the number of high-caliber products available to us means you'll almost never be found wanting. But where do you start, what do you need, and how do you go about building the best garage for home car maintenance? We've compiled the ultimate guide of garage essentials to help you out.

Storage Space for a Car

Can’t do Much Without a Work Table

One of the most essential items you must have in your garage is a solid work table or bench. Think of this as the equivalent of your office desktop, a simple item but one that affords you the space to work on anything and everything, even non-car related things. It's important to make sure you consider ergonomics when choosing or installing a garage work table, as a sturdy table set at waist height will help prevent you having to bend or crouch excessively, avoiding muscle aches and back problems. This worktop should be free from dirt, smooth, and level, allowing you to assemble and disassemble car parts without losing small components in gaps and ruts, or without small pieces getting lost.

Worktop
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Garage Doors - The Right Kind of Glory Hole

A garage is more than just four walls and the car in the middle. When it comes to building the ideal space for your mechanical delights, a quality garage door is of utmost importance. Not only can it transform the aesthetic of the space, but it's a prime security component to keep your favorite four-wheeled child secure.

We advise making sure a garage door can always be locked securely, but it's also important it's made of strong materials. This serves a two-fold purpose as:

A) a strong, quality door is less likely to be broken, and

B) strong, well-protected materials serve as excellent protection from the elements, keeping at bay rain, snow, and the cold.

A motorized door makes life more convenient, but so too can the type of door itself. A solid panel that lifts up might look great, but if your garage is small, this could rob you of storage space in a makeshift loft. For this purpose, a stylish, well-assembled roller door is a great, compact idea.

Climate Control isn’t Just for Your Bedroom

We're used to climate control in the cabins of our cars but climate control for your garage can be just as important, particularly if you live in a state frequented by Jack Frost. Cars are designed to operate best in a certain temperature range, and fluctuations in and out of this ideal spectrum aren't beneficial. Fluids can freeze, rubber hoses can get too solid, and seals can perish if they get too cold and brittle. Likewise, too much heat and moisture in coastal states can cause rusting of body parts. Fortunately, air conditioning and garage climate control are now available, ranging from AC units to underfloor heating. Keeping the space fresh and temperate isn't just good for your vehicle, either. Working on your car in a room that isn't too hot or cold is also important, as anyone who's bashed a hand working on a car in winter will attest to.

Jacks & Jack Stands - Jack Lives Matter

Possibly the most underrated piece of equipment you can invest in is making sure you buy the best floor jack for your home garage. Part of car ownership means that whether it's for changing tires or draining oil, you'll be jacking up your car at some point. When you do this, you'll require a strong, reliable floor jack. While there are many available that all look great and an abundance have wheels for easy maneuverability, at the end of the day, a great floor jack must have two key features: high lift, and a heavy weight rating. A high-lift jack is great for making sure you don't work in a cramped space, but the weight rating is most important. A jack that isn't rated to lift your car's curb weight could collapse on you, and we don't have to explain what happens when several tons of metal lands on the human body. It may seem like overkill, but always buy a jack rated for greater weights than what you'll be working with. You never know what your next car will be or when you'll work on a friend's truck, so always err on the side of caution. Ideally, a hydraulic jack is the best, capable of lifting the entire car high in the air to make it easy to work on, but these are expensive, so can be done without.

Equally as important as the jack itself are jack stands. Robust jack stands will support the weight of the car once jacked-up, adding an extra layer of safety. It's important not to skimp, always to research the best manufacturers, and generally avoid those with a poor reputation like a recent batch of Harbor Freight stands.

Jack Stands for Your Garage

Safety First - Wheel Chocks

What happens once your car is in the air? Well, if you've only lifted up the front or rear end of your vehicle and you still have a wheel or two on the ground, the balance and angle at which the car is propped up means that there's the potential of it rolling off the jacks and stands, particularly if your brakes aren't engaged properly. A simple, but ultimately safe solution to preventing unwanted accidents, is to invest in a quality set of wheel chocks for your car. Chocks are small, inexpensive, and easy to store, but they are also important. The best ones are sturdy, have a strong wedge shape, and have a rubberized coating to make sure they don't slip on the floor.

The Right Power Tools for the Job

Unless you're into heavy custom fabrication, the right power tools are something you won't really need much of in your home garage. But, there are a few that are always worth having:

  • Angle grinder: Sometimes, you just have to stop asking nicely. As much as we hate to admit it, some problems can only be solved by cutting out the problem. From bodywork to sheering off the head of a bolt, an angle grinder comes in handy as a last-ditch effort.
  • Drill: Not only can a variety of attachments be used to turn your drill into a high-powered impact wrench, but it can also come in handy if you have to drill out broken bolts. It's not an ideal thing to have to do, but when the going gets tough, the tough have a power drill on standby.

Blow Me Like an Air Compressor

More important than any power tool is a reliable air compressor. It's one of the most versatile tools in any garage, used for everything from pumping up flat tires and powering an air impact wrench, to simply using jets of compressed air to clean dust from inside your engine bay and in tight spaces. A good compressor for your car doesn't take up much space, but it's important to make sure the hoses are kept properly so they don't break.

Also handy, more to keep in the trunk of your car than in your garage, is a 12-volt air compressor. This is powered by your car's 12-volt power socket and is handy for reinflating tires on the road.

The Right Tool Set to Loosen Your Nuts

The old adage says "a bad workman always blames his tools," but a good workman wouldn't have poor tools to start with. You can never have a large enough toolset, but there are certain essentials to have on your list of items in your garage:

  • Screwdrivers: Make sure to have a wide range of sizes, and try to make sure they have magnetized tips so you don't lose screws. A ratchet screwdriver with interchangeable tips will make your life easier.
  • Socket Wrench Sets: Gets both metric and SAE imperial sockets, and it often pays to have various extension arms and elbows to reach tricky spots in an engine bay. Importantly, stock up on common sizes like 10mm or 13/32" that regularly go missing. Crucially, spend on a high caliber, as a stripped socket will give you headaches.
  • Torque Wrench: Whether torquing head bolts or rotating tires, torquing your bolts to the correct rating is an important aspect of making sure nothing goes wrong before it's supposed to.
  • Pliers: Long nose, short nose, adjustable joint - have them all. Whether it's for simply holding onto something or removing hose clamps, these can't be rated highly enough.
  • Spanners: These and socket wrenches go hand in hand. Make sure you have all sizes, both metric and imperial, and make sure they're manufactured from hardened steel, or better yet, chrome vanadium.
  • Others: Hammers, wire cutters, zip ties, duct tape, electrical tape, and more are always important. In reality, any tool will eventually find good use.

Crucially, it pays to spend on high-quality tools; cheap tools break often and don't last, adding frustration and often causing more damage than doing good. Look at a comprehensive craftsman tool set from an established brand to get you going, and build up from there.

Wall Storage

Lighting up Your Undercarriage - Best Lighting Advice

Unless you're Richard B. Riddick, you can't see in the dark - make sure your workshop is well-lit. Great lighting in the garage is important for seeing fine details, working in tight spaces, and spending hours late into the night getting your project up and running. The best lights are LED ones which are bright without using much electricity. An LED leadlight is vitally important when working under the car or in the engine bay, so make sure you have one on hand. Various wireless LED lights also work, and those with magnetic mounts are ideal for mounting under the hood when you require both hands. When all else fails, a good headlamp is also a worthwhile investment so you don't miss anything in the shadows.

We didn’t Start the Fire, But We Sure as Hell Extinguished it

You can try all you want, but sometimes, bad stuff happens to good people and you need to be ready for all eventualities. When things go up in flames, a functioning fire extinguisher is a must-have for the home garage. You might think water is sufficient but electrical, oil, and gasoline fires call for something more, so a dry powder extinguisher that has been regularly serviced is a key piece of safety equipment.

Fire Extinguisher for Safety

Recharge Your Batteries

Even if you're still resisting the surge of EVs, you need a battery charger in your life. Whether you have a faulty alternator, an old battery, or just don't drive your car over the winter months, you'll have occasion for a trickle charger on hand to keep your battery juiced and ready to go. Trickle chargers retain charge but don't damage the battery, but as always, it pays to opt for something highly rated rather than the cheapest option available.

Garage Storage - The Right Trunks for all Your Junk

We've already gone through a fairly comprehensive list of tools and garage car accessories, but when you have a garage full of stuff, you'll be desperate for somewhere to store all of it. These are just a few of your possibilities for item storage in a garage:

  • Wall Storage: Various wall storage options are available, from wall-mounted cubbies and cabinets to pegboard organizers with slots for loops and hooks. Use your walls to their fullest.
  • Under Table Storage: Your work table is vitally important, but use the space under it to your advantage, too. Drawers, cabinets, and even hooks can be used to store all sorts of tools, compressors, and even odds and ends like screws and nuts.
  • Kayak Hoists: Even if you're not an avid kayaker, these hoists come in handy to maximize storage space overhead using ropes and pulleys to suspend large items.
  • Loft Storage: If you have exposed ceiling trusses, lay down a makeshift floor to store large, lightweight items in a space-efficient manner.
  • Tool Chest: Knowing where to find the appropriate tool when you need it is a godsend, so get a large tool chest that can help you with decluttering your space. For added security, get one that can be locked to protect your treasure trove of spanners and sockets.
Tool Chest

Wax on, Wax off - Car Care Products

Mr. Miyagi knew his stuff - you have to keep your car immaculate and well protected, and for that, a comprehensive array of car care products is on our list of must-haves for a garage. You'll want more than just wax, though:

  • Shampoo: a quality car shampoo creates a medium-thickness foam that separates dirt and grease from the paintwork without damaging it. These work best with a high-pressure washer with a foaming attachment.
  • Wheel Cleaner: Pristine wheels are pretty wheels, and a proper wheel cleaner will bring back that showroom shine in no time.
  • Glass Cleaner and Sealer: An untarnished windscreen is a safety feature, particularly at night or when it's raining. The best glass cleaners are accompanied by a glass sealer that helps water bead and run off the glass before it has a chance to settle.
  • Engine Degreaser: Keeping your engine bay unsoiled is not just aesthetically pleasing, but it's good for your car too, preventing grease build-up that could pose a fire risk or result in various components seizing.
  • Quick Detailer: After washing, this product helps seal the paint, prevent watermarks, and create a protective barrier that prevents dust bonding to the paint.
  • Leather/Interior Cleaner: It's easy to forget what our leather interiors looked like when new, but a proper cleaning agent can bring out the original color and depth. Various products also cater to treating and protecting the leather against cracking, retaining the suppleness of the upholstery, while similar products treat and protect the dash from the sun's harsh rays.
  • Rubber Dressing: Window, door, trunk, and engine bay seals are all prone to cracking and perishing after prolonged exposure to excessive heat, cold, or direct sunlight. This product keeps the rubber supple and stops it from perishing, and as an added benefit, it doubles up as a tire cleaner.
  • Synthetic Wax: After washing and drying your car, a good wax not only seals the paint but helps create a protective barrier and fill in minor scratches. This makes the paint look good as new and gives depth to the color. Modern synthetic waxes are advisable, but a solid carnauba wax will suffice.

There is an abundance of marques manufacturing car care items in the USA, but it pays to go with quality producers such as Meguiars, Mothers, and Turtle Wax.

Car Wash at Garage

List of Other Useful Garage Items and Facilities

There are always more cool things for your garage than you'll have space for, but it's worth looking into them to make your ideal man garage must-haves part of your life. In addition to the obvious storage space for a car, here are the extra nice-to-haves we recommend:

  • Decor: Car-related decor is cool as heck, and the internet is awash with racecar memorabilia or vintage-style posters. This is the ultimate finishing touch to turn the garage from a storage space into a gearhead's retreat.
  • Plug Points: You can never have enough plug points, so if you have a say in how the garage is being built, make sure you have plenty of them well distributed throughout.
  • Garage Creeper: Unless you're fortunate enough to have a hydraulic lift, a creeper is a perfect way to glide in and out from under your car on jack stands.
  • Safety Goggles: Safety first - when dealing with anything mechanical, you do not want to lose an eye. Always have appropriate safety goggles on hand.
  • Oil Pans: A routine service is likely the bare minimum you'll do in your garage, so have a few oil pans around so you can perform oil changes without messing on your pristine floor.
  • Rags: Finally, never forget to have a rag handy to mop up spills, grab hold of hot items, etc. Old clothes make ideal rags on the cheap.

Conclusion

The perfect garage is never complete, but the best ones are those that you pour yourself into to make your own. The must-haves in a garage will differ depending on your needs, but as long as you create a space where you feel at home, and as long as you don't compromise on quality, the ideal car-space is always attainable.

Garage is a Space Where You Feel at Home
Garage Area

FAQs

What tools can I go cheap on?

Some tools can be bought cheap, like hammers and pliers, but when it comes to spanners, screwdrivers, floor jacks, jack stands, and sockets, it pays to buy quality.

Which tools should I buy first?

So you're just starting your home garage and want to know what's most important? Start with a quality floor jack, jack stands, a good set of spanners, sockets, pliers, and a few screwdrivers. The rest you can build up over time.

What type of fire extinguisher is best for the garage?

When you need to tackle an automotive-related fire, a dry powder extinguisher is best. But it's also worth having a bucket of sand handy, which is also an easy way to mop up oil.

What are the best garage work lights?

When it comes to a well-lit garage, we recommend a wireless LED light with a proper diffusing cover. This uses less electricity, produces less heat, and gives you better visibility.

What brand of car tools are best?

Bias aside, this is a tricky question to answer. Some expensive manufacturers aren't the best, and some cheap ones are brilliant. Generally, look for those with a strong reputation and impressive reviews. We've always been partial to Gedore equipment, but any reputable brand will do.

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