11 garage essentials for any DIY car enthusiast

Kyle Smith

A garage is often a compromise between a dumping ground and a professional workspace. What jobs we do and how long each takes is up to us, how prepared we are, and a healthy dose of luck. The last we can’t really control, but the preparation factor is something we very much can.

Our tools are pretty much always at the ready, but breaker bars and gasket scrapers are not the only supplies you need. If you plan to regularly take on automotive projects, you’ll want to keep these 10 lubricants, fasteners, and clean-up materials on hand.


chassis grease tub garage
Kyle Smith

So many components need the sticky lubrication of grease. Generic chassis grease, in a tub or tube, is critical. If used correctly, it can solve a lot of problems, from capturing shavings while drilling into metal to holding needle bearings in place during engine assembly. A well-prepared garage should never run out of it.


Mobil 1 race oil on workbench garage
Not all vintage cars leak, but the vast majority seem to magically disappear oil from their crankcases. Kyle Smith

If you run to the parts store every time you need to top up your vehicle’s oil, you’re on a fool’s errand. Buy a few quarts up front. Stash one in the car and a couple underneath your workbench or on the shelf.

I like to keep everything needed for a full oil change on hand all the time, just in case. That decision hinges on the fact my vehicles’ oil filters are not readily available from the local parts store. Your mileage may vary.


gas containers on garage floor corvair
If you have a lawn mower or other small yard equipment, you likely keep some fuel around. Kyle Smith

Having a gallon or two of fresh gasoline can be handy for diagnosing a poorly running vehicle or priming a car before it comes out of storage. The trick here is to use your garage’s fuel stash often and top up the cans to keep the fuel from going sour.

Remember: Gasoline should not be used as a solvent or cleaning solution. While it’s tempting, since you have some on the shelf, fight that urge. Use the proper chemicals rather than risking a fire that could burn your whole garage to the ground.

Carburetor and brake cleaner

carburetor and brake cleaner garage
Kyle Smith

Since you aren’t cleaning with gasoline, keep actual cleaners around. Between aerosol carburetor– and brake-cleaners, you have two of the most popular and versatile solvents.

Some people use them interchangeably, but brake cleaner can often leave a bit more residue. Will carb cleaner do the same job in a pinch? Yes, but using the right tool for the job is always best practice.

Cutting blades

workbench garage cutting blades
Kyle Smith

Regardless of what project you are working on, and especially if you’re fabricating, there is a non-zero chance you will need to cut something. From hacksaw blades to razor blades, a sharp edge can be critical in rescuing a project.

Wire and some connectors

wiring connectors and bits
Kyle Smith

Most enthusiasts seem to despise wiring projects, but the vast majority of wiring problems are simple fixes. Most electrical issues trace to broken wires or corroded connections, and the best things to stock are a handful of connectors and loops of wire in various gauges.

Unlike most of the other supplies on this list, wires and connectors don’t go bad. Buy in bulk now, and forget about the cost when you dip into the stash.

Penetrating oil

penetrating oils
Kyle Smith

Just like having carb- and brake-cleaners around, keeping your favorite penetrating oil on the shelf and ready will make your life so much easier. I always keep a brand-new can next to the open one. Once I open the new can, I restock. This ensures I will never be mid-project without the ability to break free stuck hardware.

Rags and oil-dry

Spills happen. The appropriate mess-control methods are important to keeping your working environment safe and efficient. Rags are also helpful for cleaning off tools at the end of the day and for plugging inlets that you don’t want to fill with debris—like intake ports, if you’re working on carburetors.

Zip ties

zip ties
Kyle Smith

They aren’t the solution to everything in life, but zip ties solve a lot of problems, from tidying wires to organizing disassembled parts.

Pro tip: Buy black zip-ties. The carbon black added to the resin makes these more UV-resistant than white or clear ones.

Common hardware

spare hardware bin
Kyle Smith

The number of times I’ve needed to fabricate something to replace a stripped fastener … yeah, don’t ask. I now know the bolts and nuts that I’m most likely to encounter on my projects, and I keep these fasteners well-stocked. It’s confidence-inspiring, because, if something happens, I know I’ll save time by avoiding a special order.

Your shop manual

garage shop manuals on shelf
Kyle Smith

It’s not a consumable, but you should always keep a shop manual in the garage. From step-by-step instructions and wiring diagrams to exploded drawings of individual components, shop manuals are a godsend.

My favorite approach is to find a .pdf version of the appropriate manual and save it on my computer before printing it off and putting it into a three-ring binder. Original, bound printings are great, but decades of storage can make pages delicate. A self-printed manual can always be printed again if you spill oil on it or otherwise damage it.


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    You’re making an old guy feel pretty good on a snowy Friday morning. I can check off everything on the list!

    I feel for my Northern snow-bound brothers and sisters. 72 this morning, I called in late and took a little time to drive.

    You didn’t list it, but you pictured it – the absolute most important feature of my shop: the coffee maker! 😁

    Look under the shop manuals picture…”Fast Perk Automatic Coffee Maker” Kyle is the main man!

    It’s 40 degrees, rainy and windy today, and I have to do something that requires opening the shop door and partially pushing the car out to gain some room. Trust me, the coffee maker is MUCH more important to me than a beer fridge right now! Check back with me in July or August… 😃

    I keep everything on hand in this article except for Blaster and rags. Having had a spontaneous combustion rag fire years ago I only use paper towels, Bounty, the big rolls and when used on greasy or oily things, they go out in a safe area till trash day.

    Was it an organic oil mixture? I’ve never heard of petroleum hydrocarbons decomposing and causing it, but it’s worth noting if you had it

    Any guess which oil it was?

    Solvents used in cleaning parts. The most common type of Spontaneous Combustion fires are those caused by improperly disposing of oil and stain soaked rags. It happens, Auto body shops go up in flames now and then. If you use rags, get a rage safety container.

    To prevent fires from spontaneous combustion, an airtight metal container is essential for storing used shop towels between washes.

    Don’t wash your oily rags without pre-washing them in the utility sink. Especially if they have gear oil on them. I use disposable towels and my wife has forgiven me.

    I have everything but the oil dry.
    However, I think the #1 item should have been a fire extinguisher. Especially when the #1 item you listed was gasoline.

    Agreed on the fire extinguisher as I also carry one in the car along with a small tool kit and duct tape.

    I keep the shop manual in the house just because the environment of the garage is conductive to decades of life for paper manuals. I pull it out when it’s needed.

    These are great articles.

    Y’all don’t forget a good First Aid kit! And latex gloves to use with all those solvent cleaners.

    Gees Michael………..don’t we have enough negative blah blah everywhere these days? Be cool man. Enjoy life if you know how.

    Agree, just bc Michael has read it doesn’t mean EVERYONE has!!! TV shows have reruns all the time…change channel and move on Michael.

    Shop manuals: I had every shop manual for every vehicle I’ve owned EXCEPT my 2021 GMC Sierra because they don’t PRINT them anymore. I do not want to scroll through some software on my laptop with greasey hands to find the solution to my problem. My last truck, a 2002 GMC 2500 needed 5 manuals to cover everything. I had em all. Progress? I don’t think so.

    I have a big screen TV in the garage but would rather listen to the classic rock station on the radio.
    Also never any alcohol until the job is done. That’s my rule. You need to keep your mind focused so you don’t hurt yourself or screw something up.

    I have to say…

    You’re forgetting two of my more important things; that have evolved in the last 5-10 years. I can’t live without a laptop, TV and Chromecast (or the like.)

    There are so many things that I don’t dip into regularly (right now, rebuilding a Tilt/Telescoping GM column from the 60s and replacing entire A/C system in an older Benz), with outstanding videos, diagrams, service manuals, etc online. I own manuals for my cars, but the hands on video diagrams are priceless.

    Plus, when you disassemble whatever you’re working on, you have that laptop there to get the fresh parts to your door.

    I buy a few generations back (doesn’t need to be fast or pretty, just durable), and run them for several years, let them go when they get too slow, or broken. Worth their weight in gold.

    Flare tool , metric or std fittings and a big spool of copper alloy tubing/line suitable for what ever you are working on. Spare cut off wheels -dremel and std size. Oh yeah…a “cuss box’ when things don’t go right .

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