A Guide to Cool Tools, Equipment, and Accessories for the Home Shop
Whether you simply clean and detail your hot rod, handle the required maintenance or mild upgrade, or are in the midst of a complete ground-up build, we all need tools and garage gear. And no matter what your skill level or plan for your garage or home shop, there are plenty of useful appointments and specialty tools to help outfit your workspace and achieve your goals.
Through our history of garage tours before events or just hanging out shooting the bull with friends, we’ve seen small two-car garages to professional shops on to 50-car showrooms! One thing they all have in common are tools and useful accessories.
Whatever your garage gear needs might be, there’s sure to be a company that makes the right tool or accessory to help. We’re talking trick work benches, lifts, welders, tool storage, lighting, fabrication tools, and air compressors. If you can use it, or plan to learn how to use it, the companies we talked with can help you out. We even got a few suggestions from the pros on their favorites or recommended tools to take your car crafting to the next level. Check out just a few of their suggestions in our Guide to Garage Gear and Tools.
Figuring Out Fitment
There is just no room for error when ordering custom offset wheels on pro touring builds or modern rods. To help ensure that you get the right sizes every time, Speedway Motors offers this handy Wheel Fitment Tool that allows you to test fit the tires while measuring backspacing and clearance for the wheels.
This heavy-duty tool is made from laser-cut 10-gauge steel for strength to hold the tires you plan to use. Adjustments are set through 1/4-20 carriage bolts and wing nuts to secure the tool and help measure 14- to 20-inch wheel diameters ranging from 7- to 17-inches wide. Once secured to the hub you can check for frame and suspension clearance by cycling your suspension up and down with a floor jack and confirm any lock-to-lock steering interference.
Anyone who has owned a car or two understands how parts just seem to accumulate out of nowhere. Over time, these parts and pieces end up taking up a lot of floor space which means it’s time invest in some shop organizing products with the help of Levrack.
Levrack’s patented suspended high-density shelving system maximizes your current storage capacity and provides a clean, organized, and efficient alternative to ordinary static shelving. Their storage units are made in the USA with industrial-grade steel providing over three tons of load capacity with no motorized parts or complicated assembly required. They offer multiple sizes, workstation add-ons, and accessories to fit your garage needs.
Break-in Before it Goes In
After spending a lot of time and money building a fresh engine, it’s a great idea to break it in before installing it in your car. Not everyone has access to an engine dyno, but Summit Racing can help with their Engine Run-in Stand so you can make sure there are no leaks or issues while breaking in the valvetrain and ring sealing.
The heavy-duty stands are made from sturdy steel with a powder-coat finish for lasting service. The engine mounts are adjustable to set the proper height and the backing plate is set up to accommodate Chevy and Ford V8 engines. The stand also has adjustable radiator mounts and a tray for a battery and fuel cell. Lockable swivel casters make the stand easy to move through the shop and the control panel is already setup for 2 1/16-inch gauges.
Pro Tip – Murray Kustom Rods
“I think a great piece of equipment that most novices could truly benefit from and up their game with is a bead roller. There are numerous die profiles available, and you can also make your own to fit whatever needs you may have. With the right knowledge you can make a lot of sheet metal shapes you find on most cars with a bead roller.”
If you’re working on old cars with crusty pars and pieces, you’re going to need an abrasive blast cabinet to save time making those parts look new again. TP Tools is a great source for blast cabinets to fit any garage or shop application such as their popular 960-DXL Deluxe model.
The 960-DLX has a big work area of 46x28x28-inches with an overall height of 64-1/2-inches and features a huge 12×33-inch viewing area. The large side door makes loading parts easy, and the powerful foot-pedal operated gun will remove every trace of rust, scale, and paint within minutes. The USA-made Skat Blast cabinet is supplied with the blast gun, gloves, two floodlights, 45-lbs of abrasive, an automatic abrasive recycling system, and a vacuum pump to remove dust during blasting. TP Tools has the cabinets fully assembled and ready to ship!
Cut and Brake
When asked for a helpful shop tool, the crew at Woodward Fab couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Rather, they recommend two basic tools to help get you started with sheet metal fabrication; a shear and brake.
Woodward’s Throatless bench top hand sheers (SPHS8) allow you to cut down a piece of steel in very straight cuts with no burrs. Once the piece is cut to size, you’ll likely need to put a bend or two in it so having a Sheet Metal Brake such as their 4-feet Box and Pan (WFBP4816) will come in handy when working on a floor or firewall. Woodward offers several different size brakes to fit your needs for the thickness and width of the materials you plan to work with.
Pro Tip – South City Rod and Custom
“The angle grinder is one of the most underrated and invaluable tools you can have in your toolbox. Using it with a cutoff wheel, you have a much better and precise angle for cutting metal, and we use 3-inch grinding discs on these grinders to sand and finish all welds. This seemingly simple tool will change your life!”
Light Weight Ramps
Lugging around jack stands or the excessively heavy ramps to roll up on a four-post hoist can take a toll on your back. There’s just got to be another way, and that direction takes you right to Race Ramps and their lightweight, high density foam ramps and Wheel Crib stands.
The Wheel Cribs are a safer alternative to jack stands and are available in 8- to 14-inches and feature a durable anti-slip textured coating on the bottom. Each Crib can hold up to 1,500 pounds so a full set can easily handle most classic cars and hot rods. For the lucky people with a four-post hoist, Race Ramps offers three different drive-up ramps with 6.4-degree approach angle so even the lowest rides can pull up. Best of all, each ramp weighs only nine pounds!
LED Pod System
We all know Griot’s Garage for their line of advanced cleaners and waxes to make our cars look their best, but did you know they also offer a number of cool garage accessories? One of the best upgrades you can make in your shop is to update the lighting and Griot’s has a bright solution with their 5-Pod LED Ceiling Light Kit.
The kit consists of a central hub that screws into an existing socket (E26) like a conventional light bulb and four satellite pods that can be placed up to 9 1/2 feet away. Once installed, your retinas will quiver the first time you flick on the light switch! Another nice feature is that the lights can be activated by motion and there’s a USB port that can be used to power a security camera (not included).
Pro Tip – Strange Motion
“After running a hot rod shop for almost 30 years, you end up having favorite tools or end up making ones that you need. For years I would have a piece of metal, a paint stick with tape, or other randomness to measure gaps through metal fab stage and finally came up with something to do the job – the Gap It.”
“This small has four measuring ‘fingers’ in 1/8-, 3/16-, ¼-, and 5/16-inches, is made from plastic so it won’t scratch paint, and not only helps panel fitment, but can also be used during interior panel fab to measure and allow material wrap space. You can get them on the tool page of our website!”
A press brake isn’t something you’ll use every single day, but it’s something you’ll be glad you have when you need it. Trick-Tools offers this compact benchtop press brake that is an ideal solution for the fabricator needing to bend small sections of sheet metal as well as heavy plate steel. The assembly is made of ¼- and 3/8-inch steel plate for strength and powder coated.
The press functions with a 20-ton bottle jack (not included) so it doesn’t need a power source or specialized pump. The tool is ideal for making body and suspension support brackets and if you’re working with 3/16-inch and thinner materials, Trick-Tools recommends their 4-way V-die. With its relatively small footprint, this press is also a perfect fit for those with limited working space.
Hoist it Up
Once you have a hoist in your garage, you’ll be forever spoiled when it comes to oil changes, maintenance, or detailing the chassis after a summer of cruising. Advantage Lifts offers a hoist for pretty much every application including two- and four-post models along with accessory lighting, ramps, and everything else to outfit your new lift.
One of their most popular four-post lifts is the DX-9000-HD with its 9,000-pound capacity and 7-foot 9-inch height. If you need a little more ‘lift,’ there is an XLT model that stands at 8-foot 9-inches with a little extra width and length making it ideal for full-size trucks or other beefier projects. The lifts are supplied with a set of casters to move the lift around, wheel chocks, flapper end stops, drip trays, a rolling jack tray and 36-inch ramps. Advantage builds their lifts with quality, safety, and strength in mind and backs it up with a five-year warranty on structure, cylinder, power unit, and functional components.
According to RaceDeck, “all great garages start from the ground up,” and we have to agree with that logic. After all, a clean and good-looking work space makes for a happy and productive workspace!
RaceDeck is ready to transform your old, unsightly concrete into the floor of your dreams with their unique modular garage flooring system! RaceDeck is engineered tough to handle all garage environments including petroleum products and most chemicals, not to mention the different weather and seasons. Choose from our standard garage flooring lineup that includes nine styles and 14 colors, or opt for custom colors, logos and even designs to create the garage you’ve always wanted.
Pro Tip – Creative Rod & Kustom
“I think a vital tool for someone looking to become more serious with building hot rod and custom cars would be a good quality shrinker stretcher. From making simple rust repair patches to more advanced custom panels, we use ours on a daily basis. A second tool would be a good quality belt sander. From shortening a bolt to fine tuning a weld joint on exhaust tubing, it’s another tool that gets used daily.”
Mittler Bros. Machine
If you’re looking for a fun way to add some details to your fresh interior or engine panels, take a look at some of the different Dimple Dies offered from Mittler Bros. Machine and Tool. Not only are these handy for aesthetics, but the dies are also ideal for creating an instrument panel (each die can be used without the flare for a perfect circle).
Mittler offers several automotive and aircraft punch/flare kits ranging in dies from 1- to 3-inches in diameter. The dies are available individually or as a complete kit if you’re getting really serious. Also, thanks to the bolt and threaded lower die, no press is needed. Once the hole is punched, the top die follows with a 45° flare with a length of about .25” for a smooth, finished transition. As far as material, the dies are designed for use with metals ranging from .023”-.065”. The end result will make you look like a pro!
Snap-on took the guesswork out of working in dark spaces such as under the dash or underneath your car with their 550 Lumen Auto-Focus Light. This unique lamp, ECARF052, keeps illumination consistent during use by detecting the distance from the light to the object and automatically adjusting the level of brightness. No more blinding lights next to a dark hole!
The Auto-Focus Light can quickly adjust from manual and auto-focus modes for up to 10 hours of runtime on lower settings and up to 3.5 hours on the highest. With its dual-angle rotation enabling multiple beams and built-in magnets for hands-free use, this light will be a welcome addition to any garage!