Low Cost Auto Restoration Tools

dazed chevelle Remember back, driving your parents’ station wagon or sensible Buick, dreaming of the cool wheels beyond your reach? Cherry Bomb and header and 4-barrel carb were part of our vernacular, just not part of our lives. It’s funny how, now as we get older, we can do all the cool stuff we wanted to do when we were punk teenagers. We were car crazy, man, and many’s the time I envied the guys in the neighborhood who were out on their front lawns, working on their Dodge Challengers or GTO “Goats”—

—not just because they HAD them (which would have been enough), but because they WORKED on them. They probably borrowed their dads’ tools, saved up working shit jobs to get parts and supplies, and spent Satyurdays doing whatever it took to keep their wheels “cherry.” Nowadays, though, when you hear (and feel) a carb-powered 426 Hemi thundering down the road, it’s a geezer you’re more likely to see behind the wheel than a punk. And chances are, that geezer is one of us. Classic car restoration is more popular than ever, and with the help of online parts stores, chat forums and YouTube videos, guys who thought they’d never get to rebuild their favorite classic rides are now living the dream– in their garages (and on their lawns), doing just that. If you’ve decided to restore a vehicle yourself, I salute you. Not only will you save thousands of dollars, you’ll be embarking on a long, challenging– even therapeutic– journey that will reap rewards for years to come. But before we start doing that victory lap, to “Eye of the Tiger,” let me suggest some basic tools you’ll want right out of the gate to make the dream a reality (unless, of course, you like repeatedly going back & forth to the store when you’re in the middle of doing something): The Must-Have Tool The Air Compressor will quickly become your best friend over the course of your restoration. It’s the first thing you’ll need for your arsenal. Between the Die GrinderPaint Sprayer and Impact Wrench, you’ll get a lot of use out of it and, believe me, you’ll thank yourself every time you facea big chore that you don’t have to do manually. It needs to have a decent enough CFM—at least 5-6 CFM per minute at 90 psi– so that the long bursts of sanding, buffing or cutting won’t wear too hard on the compressor. You could get the job done with a 29-Gallon Tank Unit, but if you can swing it, go for a 60-Gallon Compressor, with power to spare. By the way, the Die Grinder is great for polishing the inside of the head ports, cleaning up metal and using with a cut-off wheel to repair panels. Air power, man… it’s a bacon-saver.

Engine Work Compression Tester will help diagnose vital motor issues, such as worn piston rings, burnt valves and bad head gaskets.  This is a great first tool to use when you get your new project car home. You can even take it with you to test a car before you buy it! While it’s not vital for the project, you may want to consider picking up a “cherry-picker” Engine Hoist, especially if you’re planning to restore more than one vehicle. A good 2-Ton Shop Crane should be sufficient, and will more than pay for itself in the long run. Most likely, you should have the cylinders re-bored. A cylinder bore gauge is needed to check for taper, out-of-round and oversize on the cylinders if you are rebuilding the motor yourself. Any critical wear on the cylinder can be reached with this gauge. An Engine Cylinder Hone will de-glaze the cylinder walls and give them a nice, smooth finish. Next, you’ll want a Valve Spring Compressor to remove the valves for a rebuild. Also a cheap valve lapping tool, with grinding compound, helps reseat the valves. Piston Ring Pliers will help you remove and replace the rings on the pistons without breaking them. A Piston Ring Compressor is needed for the installation of the pistons. Also, a piston groove cleaner will remove the carbon crud from the piston grooves. A Dial Indicator is used to measure run-out on things like the flywheel, and endplay on the crankshaft. While there are various types of mounts, including magnetic base and screw mounts, I recommend the clamping mount because it’s faster and easier to work with. Next, a Stud Puller is necessary for removing stripped, rusted and otherwise stubborn head studs, as well as exhaust & intake manifold studs. Another tool you cannot live without is the Torque Wrench—two, actually. Get both a 1/2″ drive and 3/8″ drive for your tool cabinet. These are essential to torque all your bolts to factory specs. Have a complete Tap and Die Set on hand, preferably with both SAE & metric. You’ll find this invaluable for cleaning up old bolts and restoring rusted holes. A good Digital Micrometer is needed to precisely measure anything.

Body Work MIG Welder. You won’t get through a restoration job without it. Why a MIG welder, as opposed to another type? Well, for starters, if you’re new to this kind of project, the MIG is the easiest to learn. Also, they work with the most common types of metals, overhead welding is easier, and the MIG welder works fast. You’ll also want a Hammer & Dolly Set, otherwise known as a “Body & Fender Set.” These tools go a long way in repairing and straightening steel panels, and all-around custom fab work. This one, made by Pittsburgh, probably has the best price you’re going to find, and one look at the customer reviews should convince you there’s no need to keep looking. A Step Drill is essential to make quick, clean work out of drilling large diameter holes for auto-body jobs such as installing chrome trim, and for firewall holes. A Spot Weld Cutter works great in restoration projects and does just what its name implies. Also, a Plumber’s Torch is great for softening and shaping metal. As you work on your project, you’ll find a Bench Grinder and Drill Press are extremely helpful in the auto restoration process.  Plus, a Wire Wheel on the grinder is a must and makes cleaning up parts quick and simple.

Additional Work Make sure you include various Brake Tools, a Tubing Bender and brake flare tool. Finally, get a CreeperPaint StripperTransmission JackDent Repair Kit, and a Comprehensive Mechanics Tool Kit, and you’ll be equipped to tackle most everything involved in your car restoration, as well as many other future projects. Of course, you’ll inevitably be needing cleaners, sealants, lubricants and the odd part along the way, but consider yourself the proud owner of an equipped auto restoration garage.

gremlin Now, get out there and make that Gremlin Funny Car a reality!

Vertical Jump – The Central Pneumatic 2HP, 29 Gal, 125 PSI Cast Iron Vertical Air Compressor

Get the boost you need to fully power your pneumatic tools and equipment! The Central Pneumatic 2HP, 29-gal. Vertical Air Compressor (#69865) allows up to 125 PSI of air at your control. Features include an easy-access handle, smooth rolling wheels and a fully-shrouded pump and motor for protection. Woodworking, sand blasting and metalworking shops– or anywhere where pneumatic tools are used– can benefit from this powerful air compressor! Out of the box, the cast iron vertical air compressor comes with:
  • An oil-lubricated pump for reliable performance
  • Twin capacitor motor for easy start-up
  • Adjustable handle and semi-pneumatic tires for easy maneuvering
  • Thermal overload protection
  • Dual pressure gauges and a built-in quick coupler

Here’s what a couple of happy owners of the air compressor have to say:

 “I’m using this for sandblasting small items and for normal home use. It can supply a steady 60 pounds of pressure indefinitely, and obviously a lot more for brief periods of time. The compressor is relatively quiet. It takes about 2 minutes to fill up and shut off. The tank seems to hold its full pressure indefinitely, and is ready to use anytime. After a month of use, it seems like a good quality product.”  newshirt – Colorado Springs, CO
“I find uses for it EVERY DAY. Blowing up balls, handheld palm & air nailers,staplers, impact wrenches… blowing off sawdust & ? after weed eating, cooling off, too! EASY to move, inside if it’s cold out for easier starting, it won’t trip breakers OR blow fuses that way! DARN good value for the money! H-F stands behind their products!”  Ugly Gene – Pinee Bush, NY
This sturdy, capable vertical air compressor, priced at the incredibly low $357.99,  is currently available only at Harbor Freight Tools  brick n’ mortar stores. Pick one up for your shop and never worry about having enough power again.

The Small But Powerful Pancake Air Compressor

pancake-compressorWhether you’re a professional contractor or a weekend warrior, you’ll likely need an air compressor at some point.  But at Harbor Freight, we know that not all air compressors are created equal and sometimes you don’t need one that’s big and powerful.  For general purpose work like stapling and nailing, the Pancake Air Compressor handles just about all your light duty work and takes up less space in your garage or workshop too!  And best of all, with this handy little item placed strategically in your work space, your friends will see you as a guy who’s always prepared.  Neighbor needs air in his tires?  He’ll come right to you.  Or perhaps your child needs some detailed air brushing done for his or her art project.  You can save the day by tirelessly doing the painstaking artwork yourself!  There won’t be any monetary compensation but the smile on his face when he gets that B+ for your stellar artistry will be reward enough.

 “For doing trim work, it has plenty of air and keeps up with the nailer just fine. It is light and easy to move around and most of all it is very quiet.” Max Linzmeyer from Nevada

“I paid just under $50 and it works like a charm!” BSBRoss from Ringwood, NJ

Of course, if you want, the Pancake Air Compressor is small enough to easily hide away from family and friends too. Let’s face it, your neighbor never returned your weed-eater and you’ll be instilling a strong work ethic in your child by making them do their own darn art project.  You work hard enough as it is!  But luckily, so does this tough little air compressor.  Just in case you’re in a generous mood.  And after spending just $55.00 on this Oilless 1/3 Horsepower Pancake Air Compressor, there’s a good chance you will be.