You’ve been wrenching for a little while and have started picking up quite the variety of tools. Now you’re stuck with a pile of sockets, wrenches and screwdrivers that you have to dig through every time you start a new job. It’s finally time to do something about the mess of tools and get organized.
What you’ll need for keeping your tools together has a lot of different variables. How many tools do you have? Do you see obtaining more in the future? Is there a space you can dedicate to storing your tools? Do you need a way to keep your tools secure from those with sticky fingers? I’m going to go over what I consider to be a happy medium sort of tool organization. It won’t be a $5,000 Snap-On box with specific holders for every single tool but it also won’t be a cardboard box that’s coming apart at the seams either. I’ll make some recommendations on mobile tool kits to keep in your car as well.
What’s in the box? A good tool box
When it comes to toolboxes, there is quite a variety of options in a large range of sizes and configurations. This is a category where quite a lot of money can be spent very quickly. For the average home mechanic who is going to be keep adding tools to their collection, I recommend going with a stackable tool chest and cabinet combination like this Husky set from Home Depot. Setups like this are great because they offer a good amount of tool storage with deep drawers in the lower section, which are great for holding power tools. They also can be upgraded by adding center drawer sections and side cabinets later on when you’ve started to outgrow it. If you’re someone who only plans on working on your own car every once in a while and aren’t planning on getting more tools in the future, a much smaller, portable toolbox would be a better choice. Portable boxes take up much less room than a standard tool chest does and can be moved around much easier. A simple, 3 drawer portable box like this little Husky box will save you quite a bit of money while still giving you some good tool storage. I have this exact box in my apartment for doing basic repairs and occasionally take it to the junkyard with me. If either of these options still seems pricey or if you need more tool storage, Craigslist is a great place to check for used toolboxes.
Riding on rails: Socket rails
A great way to keep all of your sockets in order is to use a set of socket rails. Socket rails are basically mini tracks with stamped sheet metal socket “fittings” on them than be be moved around and removed for whatever configuration you need. Socket rails generally come in 3 different sizes: 1/4″ drive, 3/8″ drive, and 1/2″ drive. There are a few options for socket rails that are available. There’s the much cheaper, stamped steel socket rails, which sometimes have a tendency to not always hold sockets securely. There is also the more expensive, molded plastic rails, which hold the sockets in nicely as they have the same “ball-detent” setup that ratchets do, though they are much more expensive. For keeping sockets together in your toolbox I’d suggest picking up a few of these cheap rails from Harbor Freight in a variety of sizes. At $0.99 each, it’s a hard price to beat and is cheap to keep some extras on hand.
All your ducks in a row: A wrench rack
Keeping your wrenches organized by type (SAE and Metric) and in order of size makes finding the right one when you need it easy. Most wrench holders are universal so they can handle SAE or Metric size tools. They hold the wrenches in at an angle so that it’s easy to identify the size marked on the wrench. Buying a couple of the holders that Sears offers will take care of most of the at-home mechanic needs. They have slots for 12 wrenches and I’ve found that they are even large enough to hold my set of Husky ratcheting wrenches.
What do you mean “Anti-Skid!?”: Non-slip drawer liner
Usually when a car guy (or girl) hears the term “anti-skid” it has a negative effect. In this case though, it means that your tools won’t get all jumbled up and disorganized every time you open or close a drawer in your toolbox. You can buy a decent sized roll of this stuff at Walmart in the kitchen department for $5. Although it’s original intent is to line kitchen shelves and drawers it works just as good in the garage. A roll of this size should leave you with some extra liner for later on too.
That does it for this week’s installment of the “Tuesday Toolbox”. I hope you found the information that I provided to be of some use to you. If you have any comments or suggestions or ideas for future topics, feel free to leave a comment here or send me a message directly. I’m still at work on the tool cost breakdown spreadsheet and I hope to have it formatted and posted for next week’s blog so stay tuned.
Wilson Oberholzer is a full time mechanical designer with a very heavy background in manufacturing and tinkering. He’s done everything from the basics like changing oil all the way up to advanced stuff like rebuilding engines and wiring in new engine management equipment.