- 6 Min Read
- By: Evan Madore
The FCP Euro Tool Guide
No matter the European car you own, from BMW to Mercedes to Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen, there are some basic tools we recommend having in your toolbox that will make your ownership experience more enjoyable and more affordable in the long run. While we can’t list them all, these are some of our favorites.
An OBDII scanner has quickly become one of those “must-have” tools for the modern car enthusiast. The dreaded check engine light (CEL) illuminates, and what do you do? Instead of limping your car to a repair shop, you can start the diagnostic process yourself at home (or anywhere you might find yourself). One of the easiest diagnostic tests you can do is plug in an OBDII scanner and scan for engine fault codes.
Nearly all of our engine or electrical system DIYs feature the most common engine fault codes associated with the issue at hand, making the diagnostic and repair process that much easier. This scanner, while basic, will provide you with all of your car’s engine fault codes as well as emissions readiness data—and best yet, it’s compact enough to keep in your glove box.
Autel has a range of OBDII scanners across multiple price points, all with varying levels of features if you want something more full-featured. We highly recommend the MX808 if you’re looking for something more robust, as it’s our go-to at the office.
We’ve written about this one before as it’s easily one of the most used—and most borrowed—tools in the shop. With a Motive Power Bleeder (also known as a pressure bleeder), there’s no need to get a friend or family member to help you with your brake replacement. “Pump, hold...Pump, hold…” no more of this all too familiar back and forth with someone who’d rather be working on their own car
To use this Motive Power Bleeder, you simply fill the reservoir with your choice of brake fluid (making sure that it matches your vehicle’s manufacturer-recommended specs), connect it to your brake fluid reservoir, and pressurize. From there, work your way from the farthest corner to the nearest corner of your car, bleeding the old brake fluid out from each caliper bleed screw. To make the process even easier and cleaner, we carry Motive brake fluid catch bottles made specifically for this purpose.
If you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, Motive makes a simpler version with a plastic end cap/adapter, a shorter tube length, and a lack of swivel fitting. For the occasional brake fluid bleed or flush, the simple “red label” version is more than sufficient.
If you’re not a fan of the power/pressure bleeding method, there’s a newer alternative that makes the job a hell of a lot easier. These bleeder wrenches allow you to bleed your brakes without the help of another person, and in some cases, even without having to remove your wheels.
The CTA bleeder wrenches utilize an incredibly simple yet effective, one-way check valve. This allows you to pump the brakes, bleeding old fluid out, without allowing air back into the system. All you have to do is connect the wrench, drop the end of the hose into a bottle or catch pan, get in your car, and pump the brakes.
This CTA Brake Bleeder Wrench Set contains wrenches for each of the common brake bleeder screw sizes, including:
While you could get by without a torque wrench, that’s ill-advised. Many jobs on your European car require accurate fastening torque to be applied during the reassembly process. Inaccurate tightening, either under or over, can lead to failure. Depending on the situation, that could easily result in catastrophic engine damage or an accident in the case of suspension components.
One all too often overlooked torque spec is for your wheel lug nuts or lug bolts. You might think, just tighten them as much as you can do with your longest breaker bar or zap them on with your impact gun—precisely the opposite of what you should actually be doing. Lug nuts and bolts typically only need to be tightened to 90 ft-lbs of torque, which feels like less than you might expect.
This Gearwrench ½” drive torque wrench is rated for between 20 to 150 ft-lbs of torque, making it a good all-around torque wrench for some of the smallest bolts on your suspension, lug nuts, and everything in between.
On modern European cars, manufacturers started mainly using lug bolts in recent years. While they’re more robust and less prone to failure, they tend to be a pain if you swap your wheels and tires often.
CTA sells wheel hangers that make your life much easier. Simply screw these hangers into your hubs, and slide your wheels on. Then you can screw in your lug bolts holding your wheel on securely.
Wheel hangers come in numerous sizes; which ones you need will depend on the make & model of your car.
Depending on the car you drive, simply accessing fluid fill plugs such as the ones on your transmission or differential can be a hassle—nevermind trying to refill the fluids through them. While LIQUI MOLY gear oil bottles feature pull-out spouts to help get to those hard to reach places, sometimes you still can’t get up in there.
This CTA fluid syringe has a fairly massive capacity of 1500cc or 1.6 quarts. With clearly graduated markings, you will be able to accurately measure the amount of fluid you are adding or removing.
The majority of the time, it might not be a “must-have,” but it’s one of those tools that when you need it, you need it.
Everyone should have a tire pressure gauge, plain and simple. If you own a car, you should be regularly checking your tire pressures. Slow leaks or changing weather can raise and lower your tire pressure. Pressure too high, and your car will ride more harshly than necessary and limit its handling. Too low, and you run the risk of a blowout when hitting a pothole.
Astro Pneumatic’s digital tire pressure gauge and inflator is the last tire pressure gauge you will ever need. This gauge is made to read more accurately than most, down to a tenth of a PSI, to be used with TPMS systems. The backlit LCD screen makes it easy to read in low-light, and the 21” braided stainless steel hose makes accessing those hard to reach valve stems a breeze.
Quality jack stands can save your life. If you have been following automotive media, you might have heard about a massive recall of jack stands from Harbor Freight recently. As they’re the cheapest jack stands on the market, that makes them some of the most popular, with over 1.7 million jack stands that had to be recalled. These stands would fail at the welds, allowing a car to potentially collapse on anyone underneath.
The OTC 3-ton jack stands we sell are more expensive than other options on the market, but you can trust that their product is quality. Why put your life in the hands of a cheaply made jack stand when you can spend just a little more to know that you will be safe. Beyond these being a high-quality jack stand, they also feature welded footpads that help distribute the load to the ground.
If you watch our DIYs, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen one or two of these kicking around the shop. These bright, compact, and lightweight flashlights get anywhere you need them to get and stay there with the swiveling magnetic base.
The flashlight itself is made up of quality components such as a COB LED array that offers higher-output and better battery life. On high, you will get about 4 hours of life out of a single charge, and if you use the top secondary light, you can get up to 11 hours of run time. Charging is made simple with the included USB charger.
Out of all of the tools on this list, this is one that I do not travel without.
This last tool on the list is all about convenience. Filling the cooling system on most European cars is a nightmare. And once you think you’ve done it perfectly, you find out that there’s still air in your system. This vacuum filler negates all of the worries with a simple mechanism that makes it nearly impossible to mess up.
The Airlift II uses compressed air from a compressor to create a vacuum in your cooling system. If there are any leaks in your system, it will not hold a vacuum, letting you know that you have an issue. Once the tool holds a steady vacuum, you open the valve to pull coolant into your cooling system. Since you pulled vacuum, there is no way for air to become trapped in the system, meaning that coolant fills every void.
The only downside to this system is that it requires an air compressor to work. If you have one, though, I wouldn’t hesitate to add this tool to your toolbox.
As with everything we sell on our site, all of these tools come with our Lifetime Replacement Guarantee. If one of the tools breaks or needs replacement for any reason, use our simple returns process to replace it free of charge.
The old saying “use the right tool for the job” holds true when it comes to working on your European car. Having the right tools from the start can make even the most frustrating jobs more enjoyable. Instead of paying a mechanic to do the work for you, using that money to invest in the tools will pay off for years down the line.
If you have any questions about the tools mentioned in this article, leave them in the comments below.
Writer/Editor at FCP Euro and owner of a daily R53 MINI Cooper, a track-built R53 MINI, and a 1997 Dakar Yellow E36 M3 Sedan. ••• Instagram: @evan.madore