Your Corner Wrench: The gifts DIY mechanics want under the tree

Buying tools for a diehard gearhead as a gift is much like buying clothes. Unless you’re certain of the recipient’s taste and size, you’re likely to miss the mark. And it’s the same when you’re buying tools.

Many home-garage techs never get a chance to see what’s new in automotive tools, unless their favourite parts retailer has a good selection. I really think those mobile tool trucks that visit professional shops miss a potential goldmine in the DIY market. They could be rolling down collector-car residential lanes blaring out some Gone in 60 Seconds soundtracks to lure all the children of the chrome.

So from someone who deals with tools all day long, here are a few suggestions when you’re doing your Boxing Day shopping.

Inspection cameras

Also known as boroscopes, these handy little cameras with long, flexible necks provide a clear, well-lit, colour image in tight spots, such as the engine bay.  When they first appeared on the market, auto techs found them indispensable for peeking inside engines, but their high prices kept them out of the hands of many.

Good ones can now be had for around the $200 mark. They’re also perfect for an endless number of household uses as well – just where did Wyatt’s hamster go?

Lockable socket extensions

This answers the problem of straining , sweating, and swearing when you’re tightening an impossible-to-see nut or bolt, and it holds onto your socket when you pull the wrench out. Lockable extensions have a clip lock that makes it impossible for the socket to come off until it’s released.

Palm socket wrenches

These small hand tools are roughly the shaped and size of a large circular water-tap handle and are designed to fit in the palm of your hand. It may seem odd to make something that won’t deliver leverage and torque, but they’re perfect for hard-to-reach nuts and bolt heads where space is limited. Depending on your hand strength, they can deliver plenty of tightening force for most applications.

Bench steps

Even the simplest auto maintenance or repair jobs are hard on the muscles in the lower back, either from bending over, or stretching too far to reach something under the hood. Step stools are great, but you have to pay attention to where you put their feet, and you’re constantly repositioning them to reach different areas. This is why you’ll find wide step benches in most pro shops.

These give techs a much more comfortable position when working on high-standing trucks, and prevent the hassle of having to step off and move the stand when needed. Sturdy folding legs mean they’re easy to store out of the way. Put higher stands under them, such as saw-horses, and they can even be used as a temporary workbench.

LED under-hood work lights

No matter how much thought and design you put into a home garage lighting system, when you’re under the hood or under the vehicle, you’re likely in the dark. Rechargeable LED lamps come in a wide variety, but for working on vehicles, look for the extra-long light bar – three to four feet long – with foam-rubber-covered adjustable hooks that easily clamp onto the underside of a hood or under the vehicle to finally give you light where you need it. Happy shopping!