Universal Auto Repair Tools

Impact Universal Socket Joint

Impact Universal Socket Joint

Are you thinking about adding universal auto repair tools to your collection? See how a professional car mechanic feels about these alluring tools. I’ve purposely chosen the word alluring, because of its extended definition. Mr. Webster says the word stands for having a strong attractive or enticing quality.

Our friend the Internet dictionary describes the definition as a temptation or attraction to something desirable. How does this apply to universal auto repair tools? What if you could buy one tool that performed the job of a complete set of tools. The answer is, you would spend a fraction of the price and at the same time get a tool that satisfied your every need.

Does this sound too good to be true? In my opinion, it is too good to be true. With that said, I have more than three universal auto repair tools in my professional collection at this very moment. In this article we’ll provide examples of universal tools that will surely disappoint you. To balance this out we’ll provide a couple of universal tools I would never live without when it comes to fixing cars.

Universal Socket Tool

Universal Socket Tool

Universal Socket Tool

There are several different varieties of universal socket tools available. One of the more popular styles becomes a large socket filled with hardened steel pins. As you push the socket over the nut or bolt it displaces the pins in the way by pushing them upward into the top of the cylinder. The remaining steel pins surround the bolt head and provide the force necessary to remove the fastener.

There remain several issues with these kinds of designs. In an automotive tool application you often need deep or shallow sockets. When the pins rise up into the tool they often don’t allow the clearance necessary to accept the head of the fastener. Another issue becomes the remaining pins leave a little slack on the flats or corners of the nut or bolt. If this threaded retainer is extremely tight, the possibility of slippage and stripping the part exists.

However, one of the biggest drawbacks becomes the physical size of this universal tool. The tool shows removal of fasteners from a quarter inch to three-quarter inch in diameter. Of course, this also applies to 7 mm to 19 mm retainers. In fact, that’s the plus side of this universal auto repair tools. It doesn’t care if the fastener is standard or metric. With that said, if you are removing an 8 mm bolt you usually don’t have that much room around it. If automotive manufacturers use a small fastener they do so because of limited accessibility.

Universal Wire Stripper Pliers

Universal Wire Stripper

Universal Wire Stripper

I’ll try to get into a rhythm of mixing in the truly valuable tools among the ones that I would pass on. When it comes to a universal auto repair tool, my favorite is the universal wire stripper. These wire stripping pliers cleanly remove the insulation from almost any size automotive wire. My pair advertises coverage from 10 to 24 AWG wires. It’s rare that you’ll find an automotive application outside of these specifications.

The tool works by automatically sensing the gauge of the wire with a plastic feeler blade as it clamps on to the wire. It works on both solid core and stranded types of wire. The cost of this universal auto repair tool comes in at only a few dollars more than your standard wire strippers. Although I use this tool in most situations, I still own a smaller pair of specialized automotive wire strippers.

The reason is, you need a fair amount of room to use these types of automatic wire strippers. Another slight downside to using this tool becomes the case of stranded wire used on automotive sensors. In the situation where there’s a small gauge wire, the automatic function can sometimes clip off a few strands. With the gauge of the wires already tiny, losing a few more strands can change the operation of the circuit. Nevertheless, despite a few shortcomings, this is my go to automotive electrical tool.

Universal Multi Use Tool

Universal Multi Tool

Universal Multi Tool

I’m sure you’ve seen these heavily advertised universal multiple usage tools. They claim to replace a toolbox full of sockets and wrenches with a tool that you can hold in the palm of your hand. If you say this sounds too good to be true, I believe you’re correct. The list of shortcomings of this particular design becomes quite extensive. Nevertheless, I’ll hit on a few of the main points.

As you can see this tool will not handle any nuts where the bolt sticks through more than a quarter of an inch. It’s a very short or shallow well socket. The other problem becomes that they designed the tool to fit metric and standard hardware alike. They do this with an odd pattern on the inside shell. Surprisingly it fits firmly on a wide variety of metric and standard fasteners. However, the fact that it’s universal becomes an issue on stubborn nuts and bolts.

The length of the tool provides a clue into this issue. They don’t give you a lot of leverage with a long handle, because the tool slips and then strips the corners off the fasteners when you apply a major amount of force. This isn’t the kind of tool that you can slide a pipe over for extra leverage. If you elect to ignore this warning, you’ll either strip the fastener or break the tool.

Universal Ball Joint Press

Universal Ball Joint Press

Universal Ball Joint Press

The universal ball joint press is a tool that I don’t get to use very often. However, when I need it there’s no substitute for the job it does. Although we consider this tool a ball joint tool, it performs a variety of other functions as well. It’s great for removing u-joints out of rear wheel drive shafts. It’s also good for removing brake caliper anchor pins.

Believe it or not, you can get your hands on a decent ball joint press in the $50 price range. One of the factors that determine the cost becomes the amount of included adapters. Obviously the more adapters contained in the kit the wider the coverage for the automobiles that you might run into.

As an example, I have an eight piece universal auto repair tools set that covers a nice variety of cars and trucks. It cost me $60. A 16 piece set runs in the $150 range and gives you more depth of coverage. With that said, if you buy a large 16 piece ball joint press you’ll probably have adapters that you’ll never use in a lifetime.