I have seen a lot of articles out there on the best tools to have as a diesel tech. I had a guy on r/dieselmechanic on Reddit ask, “What tools do I need to get started as a diesel mechanic.” I wanted to write you guys a list and give you some great resources to get you going in your new job.
What tools do I need to be a diesel mechanic? I have complied a list with 18 categories and those related tools for you to use. Feel free to print this out and use it as a checklist for getting started.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. It is meant to give you a good idea of what you need to get started. You don’t have to start with a complete set but, you need the essentials. Borrowing tools is not a good route to take.
I have only listed a few of the tools I recommend in the list. Scroll past the list to see more about tips for buying and what is the best bang for the buck.
Here is a complete list of tools for the new diesel mechanic
1. Toolbox or Cart
- Standard size. You don’t need anything crazy. Most mechanics would tell you that you can get away with a cart. This is the one I own Tool Cart (Link To Amazon)
2. 1/4” Drive Socket Set Standard (SAE) & Metric - Deep and Shallow
- 3/16” - 5/8” 6 point and 12 point
- 5mm - 15mm 6 point and 12 point
- 3” & 6” Extensions
3. 3/8” Drive Sockets Standard (SAE) & Metric - Deep, Shallow and Impact
- 5/16” - 1” 6 point and 12 point
- 7mm - 20mm 6 point and 12 point
- 3”, 6”, 12”, 24” Extensions
4. 1/2 Drive Sockets Standard (SAE) & Metric Deep, shallow and Impact
- 3/8” - 1 1/4” 6 point
- 10mm - 27mm 6 point
- 3”, 6” & 12” Extensions
5. Bit Adapters
- 1/4” to 3/8” & 3/8” to 1/4”
- 3/8” to 1/2” & 1/2” to 3/8”
- 1/2” to 3/4” & 3/4” to 1/2”
6. Allen Wrenches Standard and Metric
- 3/32” - 3/8”
- 3mm - 17mm
7. Feeler Gauges
- Standard 0.0015 - 0.0035 thousandths
- Metric 0.04 - 0.88 thousandths
- Dead blow, Ball Peen, 5-pound sledge hammer
9. Air or Battery Tools
- Impact Guns - 3/8”, 1/2
- 90 Degree die grinder
10. DVOM - Digital Multimeter
- Digital readout and Auto ranging
- Needle nose, adjustable, vise grips, Snap-ring, Slip lock-type
- 12”, 2’, 3’
- 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, breaker bar
14. Screw Drivers
- Flat head & Philips #2 stubby, #2 regular, #1 regular. I also recommend torques drivers.
15. Torque Bit Drivers
- T10, T15, T20, T25 (T25 is the most used. Get 2), T27, T30, T40, T45
16. Electrical Tools
- Hand held torch, Wire cutters, Wire stripping tool (I prefer these auto wire strippers best tool ever), Soldering gun, Crimping tool, 12v test light (I recommend the Power Probe III but it’s not required.)
17. Wrenches Standard and Metric
- 5/16” - 2” (Usually sets stop at 1 1/4” I suggest grabbing cheap larger wrenches) 8mm - 22mm
- 8” & 12” Adjustable wrench
- Ratchet Wrenches (I perfer GearWrench)
18. Mechanic Accessories
- Inspection Mirror, Gasket Scraper, Pick Set, Truck tire pressure gauge (0-150 PSI), Small and Large oil filter wrench, Magnet with extendable rod, 12’ Tape measure, Bottle of white out, Pocket calculator, A good flash light**, 6” brass or aluminum punch, Creeper, Tire tread depth gauge (1/32”), Safety toed shoes
5 Tips For Buying Tools
Let me offer some advice for tool buying. Here are just few suggestions when you start to collect all these items.
1. Stay off the tool truck 🚚
The first piece of advice I want to give you is to stay off the tool truck. While it sounds like a good deal it is not. The prices on the truck are typically 300% more than other tool providers. That is not a typo guys.
These trucks prey on new guys and the fake status that you get with their brands. You don’t need a certain brand tool to be a professional. You need tools that work.
We could argue quality but, I have a set of Husky pro hand tools that have lasted 13 years. I have worked on OTR and heavy equipment with them. Do I have a busted a few sockets? Yes. Only the ones I really used a lot. My 13mm socket went first. At about 5 years in I had to get another. You know what I did? I got a free one. Yep, Husky has lifetime warranty as well.
They also take advantage of the mechanic with poor credit or can’t buy this complete list at one time. I have always called the tool truck a rolling Rent-A-Center because they do the pay by the week format. Don’t put yourself in that position. Writing off a portion of your paycheck is not a great way to start financially and there are better ways.
If you can’t afford to buy all the tools at once, buy as much as you can and try to get by until you get paid again. If your shop requires you to have a certain number of tools and you just can’t do it. Look into family or a retail credit card at a Loews or home depot. You would come out way cheaper even if you had to pay some interest.
2. Brand Isn’t Everything
An experienced mechanic will roll his eyes at the guy with just has to have the Brand name tools. They know what I know. I have broken just as many Snap-on sockets as S&K or Craftsman. Now I will say that I prefer certain tools over others. I would never recommend a professional mechanic use Harbor Freight or even Craftsman Ratchets.
A Ratchets is something that you literally use every day and have a close relationship with. You should get a nice one. That doesn’t mean you need one from the tool truck. My favorite Ratchets is a GearWrench. You don’t have to pay 200 bucks to get a nice ratchet contrary to what the tool man says.
3. Growing with time
No decent employers expect you to shell out thousands on your first day. That said, you need a good base and then set aside some amount per month to reinvest in your tools.
Your tools help you earn that living and are an important part of keeping up and making your job much easier. You will find that paying a little more and getting a special tool for your job can make certain jobs much easier
It is a great idea to have a plan for your next couple years in tool purchasing. If you are intentional, you can get pretty much everything you would want in a couple years without having to eat Roman and owe the tool man.
Set aside an amount that you deicide and then spend it as soon as you have enough to buy the next tool on your list. (Or it will get gone.) Best if it is in cash.
Over time you will build up a great set of tools. If you are budgeting for it, you will be surprised just how fast you will amass all the tools you can possibly need.
4. Don’t forget About The Shop Tools!
Before you go and buy a dial indicator make sure that is not in the shop tools. Shop tools are the tools that the shop itself provides. Not all shops provide that same things but, most provide the larger or more expensive items and have them for all the techs to share.
My shop always provided the dial indicator, toque wenches, very large sockets (over 2”), tire bars, 3/4 impact gun, Drills, Creepers and others.Not all employers provide the same things.
During your interview this is a great question to ask. Check out what is there before you buy things that they already provide and, in some cases, require you to use. i.e. At one job we were required to use their toque wrenches because, they had them calibrated regularly.
5. Look Online and elsewhere
With the resources for online shopping today there is not really a good reason to pay the mark-up that the retail stores have. Do you research. Read reviews. Ask more experienced mechanics what they think. You will find that you can get pretty much everything you need from Amazon or others.
I do recommend a few tools on here but, do your own research. Tools are a personal thing. You need to find what works best for you.
Look on swap sites like Criagslist and garage sells. You might find a retired mechanic or a window looking to get rid of a whole set for cheap. You can find some great deals and get a lot of tools at once like this.
I once bought a box from someone for 50 bucks and it was loaded with great stuff. It had several brass punches ans some high end wrenches. You never know what you can find out there! Take a look.
Toolbox Set-up and Maintenance
Once you have invested all that money into your tools, you need a plan to take care of them and organize them. You need to keep your tools in great condition, so they work great. Ever tried to open a pair of rusted pliers? No fun. Likewise, when your favorite ratchet is missing you are not a happy camper 🏕️
Cleaning Your Tools
Every day you need a few minutes after you are finished with work or finished with a job and before you wash your hands to clean your tools up and put them bac into their specified spot in your box.
Most companies allow for this time in a work order or give you a few minutes after each day to do this.
Cleaning your tools helps them to last longer and a more pleasant experience the next time you need to use it. Also, this practice ensures that you have all your tools. While you are cleaning you may notice that you don’t have a tool you used on the last job and you can go locate it. That is why I suggest cleaning up your tools as a part of each job. That way you are able to keep up with your tools and make sure you haven’t left a tool on a vehicle or piece of equipment.
Oiling your tools can also give them more life. Especially in air tools. Make sure you use a good air tool oil each time you use your impacts, die grinders etc. in order to have them work for a good amount of time. You want to get your use for what you spend and enjoy the full power that they have from new to old.
Tool & Socket Dividers
There is a lot you can do to prevent your tools for unnecessary wear or damage. One of the best things you can get is tool racks or dividers. Having your toolbox set up in logical and ergonomic manner will be extremely helpful in your day to day work.
You need these in order to quickly identify the needed socket size and be able to have a place to put it back after you have cleaned it. Also, when you are cleaning up will notice a lot faster if something is missing.
It is very easy to misplace a socket or something small. Having a divider or socket rack and a specific place for each tool will make seeing that something is missing extremely easy.
There are many different options when it comes to tool organization. I prefer socket stands because of the ease of use. Just a glance and I know right where to grab. There are other types but, I find they take up more space and are not as easy to use.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Most companies for the benefit of safety provide PPE to their mechanics. It is important to use what works for you. I know some the of the equipment my company provided was not right for me. So, finding the right safety glasses, gloves and shoes can be huge if it makes you more likely to use them more.
There are a lot of cheap options when it comes to safety glasses. Most companies are going to opt for the cheaper options. That makes things rough on us. So, finding the right pair for you can make all the difference.
My favorites can be found Here
Buying a nicer pair has some great benefits. The better brands have better anti fogging which is a big deal when you’re working hard. It is tough to keep a pair of glasses on when your sweating and they get fogged up. Invest in a good pair you won’t regret it.
Most shops I have worked give the old leather gloves. Not the best. I have always opted for the better mechanics gloves. With the cheaper ones it takes talent to screw a nut onto a bolt and I just don’t have it. I suggest getting a decent pair. your hands and your sanity will thank you.
Some shops supply a face shield for you. If yours does not I recommend getting one. You wear this over you safety glasses when you are grinding and spraying brake clean under a vehicle.
You may think, “Man..I’m too cool for one of those”. To that I say, yep you are. I cannot tell you the number of times I have got an eye full of brake clean laying on a creeper. Not a fun experience. Wear the shield. 🛡️
Silicone Wedding Band
Learn from my first hand ✋experience. Learn from my mistakes. They have some great silicone wedding bands on Amazon and they will save you a scar and trip to the ER. Find some Here
So important! After a long day you will know that you had Wal-Mart shoes on. Hopefully you company gives an allowance if not, don’t skimp here. Get a good pair of shoes.
You are on concrete all day and you need a comfortable pair that will last. Non-slip is preferred and maybe even look into a good insole.
Note: some companies require steel toes and some just require safety toed. Make sure you ask so you don’t waste money on a pair you are not allowed to wear.
You don’t need good tools to be a good mechanic but, man they make your life a lot easier. Be smart when you are first buying tool and you will save a pile of money and be better for it. You don’t make much starting out don’t spend it all on overpriced tools. Remember to budget some money to continue to grow your collection and soon you will realize you have all you need.