If you buy a complete new tool set in a box, you will be paying a high price for a number of spanners that you will never use.

Anybody who wants to save a bit of cash on car maintenance will obviously need a good workshop manual and a reasonable set of spanners.

There are many top-quality sets available but, if you buy a complete new set in a box, you will be paying a high price for many spanners that you will never - or hardly ever - use.

I believe it is best to buy a mid-price range set, or visit one of the many places that sell used tools. You will see many top names, such as Snap-On, Teng, Britool and the like for sale and provided they are not damaged or distorted by using incorrect sized spanners on fasteners, or going crazy with extension bars, could well be good buys.

With a mid-range spanner set, it might be a good idea to add a top-quality ratchet handle as cheapies eventually fail. You will soon see which spanners you use most often and it is these that it will be worth replacing, one at a time, with top-of-the-range spanners.


Open-end, box-end combination and Allen wrenches are used to turn bolts, nuts and screws. The open-end spanner holds the nut or bolt on only two flat sides and slips off or rounds the nut more readily than the box-end type. Sizes range from 6-32mm and Allen key sizes usually from 2-20mm, although other sizes are available.

Adjustable spanners may be handy in emergencies, but generally should never be used in place of the correct sized spanner or socket. Pipe wrenches are for use on pipes only and will quickly ruin any nut or bolt to which they are applied.

The more specialised (and delicate) measuring tools such as inside and outside callipers, micrometers, and the like should be stored in their original cases. Be careful not to drop them.

Precision surfaces, such as micrometer anvils, straightedges and calliper jaws must be protected. The accuracy of measuring instruments should be properly checked if there is any doubt. Check them against any other tools known to be accurate.

Gauge blocks can be used to determine micrometer accuracy.

Feeler gauges are relatively cheap and, in theory, should, like your spanners, last a lifetime provided they are not allowed to corrode. Wipe them clean with an oily rag after use. They have their thickness marked in thousandths of an inch or in millimetres or both. Non-magnetic blades are used for checking where magnetic force exists.

Stepped feelers have their tips a bit thinner than the rest of the blade and are used for “go/no go” quick measurements.

Never force or bend feeler gauges as this will destroy their accuracy.

Dial gauges and dial indicator sets are not essential for the beginner, but they are capable of many functions in the workshop.

The obvious ones are to check flywheel and brake discs for run-out, transmission and crankshaft end-play and differential gear backlash.

They are expensive to buy new, but may often be picked up quite cheaply in used-tool shops. Check new prices first to avoid being conned.

Building a good toolkit should not be a hurried exercise. Read the local press ads and watch out for sales and garage clearances. - Star Motoring