- 2 Min Read
- By: Alex Fiehl
How to Make Your Own DIY Automotive Tools
If you buy good tools, you’ll likely have many years of faithful service from them. But what if you can’t (or won’t) get good tools? You may choose to fabricate your own for different reasons such as:
- You’re starting out with DIY repairs and you don’t have an unlimited budget
- You’re not sure how often you’ll use it so you reduce the risk by making it yourself
- You can’t find the right tool
- You’re in a pinch, can’t wait for an ordered tool to arrive and need it now
- You have plenty of good material around to make your own tools
- You refuse to pay “the man” a ridiculous amount of money
- You’re resourceful/curious enough to enjoy making it yourself
I’ve been in each of those scenarios at some point. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy buying awesome tools that blow away anything I could have made. But the reasons above are enough to entertain the idea of making your own.
I’m also not saying you can make all of your own tools. For example, I’m not sure how I’d fabricate my own sockets (though I'd like to hear in the comments below if you know how). Or I may not know if a tool’s design is lacking or unsafe. But there are definitely some you can do and here are examples that I’ve made:
A 612” piece of 4x4 makes a great wheel chock. You can even attach some straps or rope at one end to make carry handles. They may slide a little bit but usually the edge will catch the tire tread and hold still, unless it’s snowing or icy out which then gets a bit unpredictable.
I had a need for car ramps that would work with lower profile vehicles like a Corvette. I couldn’t find car ramp options at the time that would work: they kept getting hung up before reaching the tires. I ended up buying pieces of 2x8s, cutting them down and screwing them together using 3in screws. They’re heavy but they’re also rock solid! It’s a pain though if you need to work on the sides of the car since the ramps extend far back and may interfere with your access there:
Brake fluid collection bottle
This was a case where the tool I first bought seemed too small of a bottle so I went and made my own with an old plastic 20oz soda bottle. You can get tubing at a hardware store and simply drill a slightly smaller hole in the cap to fit the tube inside.
Once I needed just the right sized punch for a job and was able to modify an old screwdriver as the shank had the right thickness. I used a grinder and cut off the end, then smoothed it all out. Still works like a champ!
Rough wheel alignments
I don’t have a need to align wheels very often, unless I’m changing tie rod ends. I usually end up taking the car in for a professional computerized wheel alignment but for a temporary solution I use some string against the back and front wheels so it’s roughly aligned. I have string set up on both sides of the car to ensure the wheels are as straight as possible, making adjustments on the car as needed to get it lined up:
I almost didn’t list this as it seemed too intuitive but I remembered how I couldn’t get myself to buy a nice drain pan when I first started out. At the time I already had plenty of alternatives around to catch drained fluids. This varied based on how much room I had to work with and how much fluid I needed to contain, ranging from a 5 gallon bucket to a deep plastic tray. They weren’t great at pouring the old fluids into portable containers to drop off at a fluid recycler but it got the job done:
I’ve since bought good tools to replace many of these. I still have them around as backups but good tools do make DIYs so much easier!
Alex is FCP’s Blog Editor and a Desktop Engineer from Endwell, NY. He has over 9 years of experience working on a wide array of import makes, but has found his home with European cars. With a BMW and Volvo at home, the garage is always busy.