5 reasons to own duplicate tools

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Each wrench has it's place and once used to the setup I can see if anything is missing at a glance. Kyle Smith

Playing with vintage cars, trucks, or motorcycle is expensive. No two ways around that, and often times folks will bring up doing your own maintenance as a way to save a few dollars on your car ownership journey. The reality of that is that you often create another sinkhole to fill with cash by becoming a tool buyer.

Tools are addictive to most folks. You want tools that work without causing you stress or damaging what you’re working on. Sometimes that means making things work in ways they may or may not have been designed, or heaving a big sigh while swiping your credit card for that very special, specific-use tool. Regardless, if you dip your toe in the Do-It-Yourself water, it’s only a matter of time before your toolbox becomes a point of pride. One of the strangest things I’ve realized on my DIY journey is how many times I’ve been happy to own multiples of the same tool.

On the surface, having doubles seems wasteful. Good tools aren’t cheap, and buying twice prevents spending money on things like parts or materials. Hear me out though, as I’ve found five reasons to justify owning a pair of any given tool. I apologize for turning your toolbox into Noah’s Ark for ratchets. Actually, you should thank me.

Your road trip tool kit

road trip tools laid out
Kyle Smith

If you own a car, you’re gonna want to drive it at some point. With vintage machines being, well, vintage, things fail and you would be wise to be prepared. Packing a basic toolkit is easy, but if you have only one of any given tool it means you’ll have to rob from your home kit whenever you take a road trip. Splitting up your tools is a recipe for frustration when the car is ready to go but you need a screwdriver or socket for something else in the garage and you have to try and remember that it’s in the car, not the toolbox.

My top tip for assembling road trip toolkits is to scour pawnshops and yard sales for tools to get what you need. It’s tempting to just go to your local hardware store and buy a generic toolkit in a blow-molded case, but I promise the quality of most of those kits will leave you frustrated when you have to rely on them. You’ll probably end up spending more for a new set of inferior tools than you would by buying higher-quality, second-hand tools that actually work.

Sometimes it’s literally necessary

Tired old spring out of silverado
Out with the old, in with the new. Kyle Smith

While it would be a wonderful world if we only had to work on vintage cars and trucks, most of us eventually shift to maintaining our newer cars and daily drivers as well. These modern machines were built with a substantial focus on packaging and cramming as much as possible into the limited space available. Attempt to service the serpentine belt on something built after 2010 and suddenly you realize having only one box end wrench of a given size is not going to work out well. Random jobs like this pop up, and while you can’t be prepared for everything, having a set of ratcheting box wrenches in addition to a regular set is an easy way to cover a lot of bases. Same for screwdrivers and pliers.

You’re gonna lose one

Sockets on rails
Does one person need all of these all the time? No, but it sure helps sometimes. Kyle Smith

If you are careful it’s a rare occurrence, but generally it isn’t a matter of if but when a tool will take an unplanned vacation. We’re going to leave the joke alone about the forever missing 10mm and focus instead on a tip to help keep you from losing things: put sockets on rails or other organizers, and keep wrenches in order. A drawer full of loose and random sockets is no way to store your tools. For only a few bucks, socket rails can keep sets together, and a carabiner through looped end of box wrenches keep them together and easily accessible. If money is no object and you like perfectly organized things, there is Kaizen foam cut to fit everything perfectly in your toolbox. Is it over the top? Not to me.

It allows friends to work too

Pair working on vintage kawasaki H2
Kyle Smith

A helping hand is a nice thing, but when those helping hands can’t do anything because there aren’t enough tools to work along side you, it’s a bummer. Doing a job like wheel bearings, you can cut the time in half when you have a person working on each side of the car, but if you have only one tool to remove the brake calipers, coordinating the work is an extra chore. You want free labor right? Gotta have the tools to make it happen. I suppose you could always ask your friend to bring his or her own tools, but that seems like a long shot depending on who your friends are.

You can modify one

This is a tough one for me to talk about. I’ve never been a big fan of chopping up tools to make one job just a little easier, but sometimes its downright necessary. There is a 9/16-inch wrench folded 90 degrees that has lived in my toolbox for 15 years now, just in case I need to do transmission mounts on an early model Corvair again. It is the only way to do that job, and yet in that decade and a half I’ve yet to take on another job that requires that specific tool. Don’t jump straight to modifying your tools if you can help it, but having a “spare” means you won’t have to un-modify anything or be stuck with a single-use tool until you can pick up another.

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