Only Skilled Mechanics Will Know What All of These Items Are For. Will You?


By: Nikki Weed

7 Min Quiz

Image: Greensky438 via YouTube

About This Quiz

Popping the hood of your vehicle can be incredibly overwhelming, especially if you're stranded and in need of repair. It can become exponentially worse should you find that a standard crescent wrench just isn't going to do the job. Do you need an extension or a pitman arm puller? Do you even know where to start looking to troubleshoot the issue? The complexity of an automotive engine is a beautiful demonstration of symbiosis, all things working together to achieve an end goal. When something isn't working, it throws the whole system off, and you're scrambling to twist the right screw to fix it.

The general stereotype of a mechanics toolbox includes some various wrenches and a socket set, but it's so much more complicated than that. If you've ever taken a stroll through the garage section of an automotive dealership, you'll know that a typical mechanic's toolbox stands 5' tall and has more drawers than the average bedroom dresser.

How well do you know the items that are hidden behind those drawers? Take this virtual tour through a mechanics toolbox and see how many of these obscure implements of repair you can identify. You might find yourself so intrigued by their shape and purpose, you'll be tempted to buy some for your own toolbox.

This little tool was handy back in the day and was found on many mechanics key chains. What is it?

Spark plugs act as little detonators for a series of explosions, so if they're not appropriately gapped, they can fire at the wrong temperature. This incorrect temperature can cause several engine issues, including misfire and inefficiency. Almost all spark plugs require a gap that falls into the 0.028-.06 inch range. You should always check the gap on a clean plug, so using a wire brush to clean the electrode might be needed before measurement.


This wrench is used to remove what automotive part?

It's no surprise that the underside of a vehicle is an incredibly nasty place that acts as a sponge for roadway grime. This grime accumulates on the oil filter and can make it incredibly challenging to get a tight enough grasp on to change it. Other tools that are practical to use for removing an oil filter include specialty channel-lock pliers or grooved wide-mouthed pliers.


Can you wrap your head around what this special tool is called?

The Irwin Vise-Grip has been gracing mechanics toolboxes since 1924, and not much has changed about its design. A good pair of these multi-function pliers have been known to be passed down from generation to generation. Other companies create a similar tool, like the locking pliers shown here, but unless it says Irwin, it's not a true Vise-Grip.


The inability to use this tool properly might leave you stranded. What does it measure?

The tire pressure gauge isn't something that should just be tossed into your glove box for use if you notice your tire looks a little low; it needs to be used more than you think! With every fluctuation of temperature, a significant change in tire pressure can occur, causing your rubber to meet the road inefficiently. Even with modern TPMS equipped vehicles, it's still a good idea to check for yourself. Better safe than stranded with a flat!


An impact wrench is a handy tool to have around and use in all but which of these situations?

They might share a verb, but an impact wrench and an impact driver are two very different things. An impact wrench is used most commonly for lugnut removal and can deliver a massive amount of torque in a fraction of the time. Using an impact wrench to loosen an incredibly tight nut can take only a fraction of the time conventional elbow grease could provide. An impact driver, however, does a very similar thing, but for driving screws.


What very specific part do these pliers extend?

Piston rings can pose an incredibly difficult challenge for a person trying to rebuild an engine without the correct tools. Once you're deep inside of the engine cavity, you will find a cornucopia of little pieces, like the piston rings. After you have pulled the piston to access the ring, you'll need a small tool that can stretch the ring enough to slide over the piston. You could MacGyver your way using various tools lying around, but why?


What does this fun tool do?

A timing belt tension gauge is specially designed to determine the exact measurement of timing belt tension. If a belt is too tight and runs over a long period, the pressure can actually snap the camshaft. Should the belt be too loose, it will rattle around in the engine and create various forms of havoc internally. Bad timing belt = no travels!


What makes a pair of channel lock pliers one of the handiest tools to keep in your travel toolbox?

Not everyone has room to haul around an entire mechanics toolbox on every outing, complete with various socket sizes and wrenches. That's why a fully adjustable pair of channel locks is a perfect tool to throw into your truck and hopefully forget about. The length of the handles gives you great leverage for loosening tight bolts, and the adjustable pinch point can quickly transform from a gaping opening to a tiny crack in no time.


Don't have a pneumatic impact wrench, use a breaker bar instead! What force does it utilize to deliver maximum power to the stuck bolt?

Believe it or not, a lot of physics goes working on your vehicle; you just might not have thought about it. A breaker bar is a perfect example of how the laws of physics make simple, yet tricky tasks possible by using leverage. A seized bolt might not budge with your standard handled wrench, but throw an additional amount of handle to it, and the bolt magically budges. A combination of radial and tangential forces create this impressive display of brute force, with minimal effort!


This handy, pocket-sized device can tell you a heck of a lot about your car. Where do you plug it in?

OBD, also known as on-board diagnostics, was first introduced in 1969 and was found in the Volkswagen Type 3. Fast forward almost 50 years, and every single car has them. These handy ports can inform you in incredible detail what's going on with your car, beyond what an illuminated "check engine" light on the cluster can tell you.


These pliers aren't your typical needle nose variety; what are they specially designed to clamp?

Hoses, especially those that are part of the cooling system, undergo incredibly high pressure and can be in tricky places. These pliers are equipped with a flexible extension that can snake its way into some of the hardest to reach engine cavities. Distancing yourself from the hose can also protect you from getting sprayed or dripped on by any fluid trying to escape. Even if you only use your hose clamp pliers once or twice, they're still cool to have!


This entire kit can transform a messy project into a clean and contained procedure. What does it extract?

Braking systems rely on hydraulic force to work, so if there are any inconsistencies with the fluid in the system, like an air bubble, problems will arise. Whenever that system is jeopardized, like a failing master cylinder, air can infiltrate the closed system. A brake bleeder kit uses a vacuum force to pull fluid from the system and extract air, making room for new fluid. All four wheels must be bled, not just the serviced area.


What painful sounding task does this tool do?

Sometimes nuts aren't in the mood to be loosened. Even with all of the twisty tools in the garage, even the best impact wrench can't budge it. Don't give up, use a nut splitter instead! Place the open end of the nut splitter over the stubborn nut and twist the screw bit until the nut cracks. From there, you'll be able to remove it and go about your merry way.


This tool might look like something you'd see at the dentist, but it's actually something in almost every mechanic shop. What does it hook?

These hooks might not look like much of a big deal, but anyone who has ever had to fish wires or thin hoses out of tight spaces will beg to differ. Not only can these little hooks fish out stubborn to reach items, but they can also be used to separate wire or tightly coiled springs. It's also pretty handy to dig that piece of meat out from between your teeth after lunch, giving you more time to focus on your work and not the meaty inconvenience in your mouth.


The brake caliper tool is handy for doing what?

When it's time to change brake pads, it's not always as simple as just slapping a new set on. The caliper that pushes the pad into the rotor has to compensate for the gradual pad wear continuously, and the piston that does this eventually becomes fully extended. Replacing that piston requires this handy dandy caliper tool. Without retracting the piston, it would be impossible to replace the brake pad without totally disassembling the brake system.


Which of these isn't a practical use of an infrared automotive thermometer?

Much like taking your own temperature to find out if you're sick, you can take your car's temperature in various places to see what ails it. By pointing and shooting at places like a belt pulley, you can see whether it's spinning smoothly or not. It's also helpful for diagnosing and locating issues with the cooling system, like a blockage.


What part, located deep inside the engine, does this tool service?

When you're a dedicated mechanic, the guts of a motor don't frighten you. With this tool, you don't have to worry about damages to volatile cam lobes, bearings or any surfaces surrounding the area. All engines are different, and there are various cam tools for each one!


Instead of taking a little sip to see if it has spoiled, this tool does it for you. What does it take a tiny taste of and test?

There might be fluid in your radiator, but is it really doing an efficient job at keeping your engine cool? After virtually countless cycles of boiling and cooling, antifreeze can become funky. The tester can determine if what ratio you're running, with the goal being at least a 50/50 ratio of water to antifreeze. Should your nifty tester determine an inappropriate ratio, a fluid flush is in order!


This tool looks like something out of a Fisher-Price playset, but actually come in really handy! What does it do?

These incredibly simplistic plastic tweezers can make the chore of pulling questionable fuses an absolute breeze. The layout of many fuseboxes is cramped and leaves very little room for fingers to navigate the fuses arranged in incredibly close proximity. Skip the pinching attempt and splurge on this tool, which costs less than $5. Worst case scenario, you can use it on your nose hairs at stoplights between fuse swaps.


This tool might really help pull what pesky pin?

Braking systems undergo a massive amount of stress every single time you step on the brake pedal, which leads to them getting pretty worn out. A caliper pin can become stuck or "frozen," and cause the entire caliper to malfunction. There are methods of removing this pin without the use of a slide hammer, shown here, such as using a torch.


These cog-shaped pieces act as an extra set of hands while you install what part?

A transmission assembly is an incredibly bulky and cumbersome object to work with, especially if you're trying to install a clutch. If the clutch disc happens to slide, twist, or somehow become misaligned while jostling around the transmission, all of what you have done will be for nothing. This alignment tool slides into the clutch disc and then into the flywheel, holding them together. From there, you'll be able to install the pressure plate and tighten the clutch down to keep it from wiggling around.


If you're using this tool, you're probably not having the best day. What does it do?

Have you locked your keys in your car so many times you have the local locksmith (or criminal) on speed dial to pop your locks? Maybe it's time to invest in your very own set of "jiggler" keys like those shown here!


This might look like it could be used on your teeth or face, but that would be a bad idea. What is it really meant to clean?

You might not think about it often, but the battery is really an epicenter of action under the hood. A little bit of corrosion around the terminals is acceptable, but when it starts to get caked up, action needs to occur. Caution should be exercised while cleaning corrosion due to the caustic nature of the substance, and this little brush will expedite the cleaning process.


You won't need to use this tool on most engines, so, which of these engines do you use it on?

BMW motorcycles produced between 1969 and 1995 were equipped with a unique, heavily finned exhaust nuts. Without a special tool, it is almost impossible to remove the exhaust without doing some damage to the fins. Although the fins are made of durable metal, they can bend and break under tool torque. Given the nature of the environment, these nuts can become caked with carbon between the treads and make it very difficult to turn, even with this special wrench.


This incredibly simple wrench is purpose-built to work on which part?

The fan clutch pulley can be tricky to remove because unless you have to hold it still with one wrench while turning with another to loosen. By using this implement, you can separate the pulley from the fan clutch without a bunch of busted knuckles. Should you find that the bolt holding the assembly seems impossible to budge, you can use a breaker bar to give you more leverage.


What is the technical term for these tools?

Pinch-off pliers are different from standard pliers because they can pinch something and stay pinched without your help. They can come in handy for projects where you need an extended grip on a bolt or object and aren't able to keep one hand dedicated to holding the pliers. They can come incredibly handy while doing coolant system work and can pinch off a radiator hose to prevent leaking while doing the work. Think of them as an extra hand around the garage.


What does a pre-load wrench adjust?

Maybe this isn't a mechanic specific question, but this tool will undoubtedly be found in the garage! This item enables you to adjust the shock length on your motorcycle to compensate for a second rider. Before going for a ride two-up, the rear springs should be lengthened. Failure to do so will result in a very unbalanced motorcycle ride and general difficulty while maneuvering.


These specialized tools will make swapping out what essential engine element a breeze?

If you haven't noticed yet, many automotive parts have specific tools that make servicing them easier. The alternator is no different and has its own tools available to alleviate at least some of the aggravation that accompanies having to swap out a clutch-type alternator pulley. You don't necessarily need these unique tools, but hey, what's another specialty toolset going to hurt?


When you just can't get to it, you use this tool. What's it called?

There isn't much explanation needed about this savior of the socket set. Ratchet extensions in a couple different lengths are something everyone with a mechanics toolbox needs.


Toe-in? Toe-out? A camber adjustment kit is in order. What tool do you need to install one?

This kit is most likely found in an alignment shop and is used to fix vehicles that are a little less than driving on the straight and narrow. These kits can adjust and make small changes, but are hardly a solution should the alignment be severely out of whack. In those cases, more drastic measures are called for, like replacing the control arms.


Absolute precision is required when using this tool; what does it measure?

A cylinder bore gauge is used to determine the exact inside diameter of a cylinder head. After a piston travels in a cylinder for a prolonged time, friction takes its toll and wears out the walls. In some aluminum blocks, the cylinder head can become slightly oval from heat and pressure and need to be rebored to achieve an efficient chamber again. Getting the precise measurement of the bore is imperative for efficient piston travel.


A torque wrench measures what?

Every single bolt that goes into a vehicle has a particular job, whether it holds a wheel on or keeps your seat in place. Most of these bolts can simply be tightened to a vague degree of tightness, but more strategic bolts need an exact amount of snug. Perhaps one of the most critical pieces of the automotive puzzle to be torqued correctly is the head bolts. Improper tightness can destroy an engine!


This unique adapter can make wrenching at an angle a breeze! What is it called?

Remember that kid in your class that could weirdly bend their finger and was incredibly proud of being double-jointed? This is the tool version of that kid. The Gimbal ratchet can pivot to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. In some circumstances, it can even prevent you from having to remove other parts to work on the part you really want to work on.


What is this specialty bolt called, and where would you find it?

We promise this is the very last brake oriented item to be included in this quiz. A Banjo bolt, despite its catchy name, isn't an up and coming Bluegrass band. The bolt itself is specially designed for use in fluid-filled systems and has a hole in the shaft for fluid transfer. Depending on what mechanic you ask on the internet, some say they're called banjo because they were used for tuning banjos, others say it is because they resemble a banjo. You be the judge.


If you're using this oddly shaped tool, what are you trying to do?

The air conditioner clutch holding tool does about the same thing as the alternator wrench and the clutch fan tool. Despite being shaped like a fly swatter from Mars, it's actually quite useful. The posts lock-on and pretty much instructs the clutch to stay put while you wrestle with the surrounding elements. It saves you a lot of busted knuckles and curse words.


You can try to use this tool to remove what membrane?

The tedious task of replacing a crankshaft doesn't need to be compounded by trying to remove an aggravating seal! A crankshaft seal puller can do it for you. The seals' primary purpose is to prevent oil from going where it shouldn't; therefore, it spends its entire life becoming incredibly gross. This tool is designed to slide behind the seal and remove it in one fell swoop as cleanly as possible.


Engine not running quite right? You can hook this up and test what?

An engine needs to be both an open and closed system but at very different times. When required to be closed, the pistons travel downward and require an airtight seal to compress the air and fuel mixture the most effectively. When the system is open, all that compressed air escapes. When the compressed air tries to escape before the exhaust cycle, due to worn piston rings or an improperly seated valve, the engine struggles to work efficiently. If an engine signals that it's not happy, a compression test is a great place to start.


Let's hope that you never have to use one of these, but if you did, what would you be doing?

For whatever reason, you might have to remove an airbag; doing so in the wrong manner can result in it exploding in your face. Using an airbag removal tool takes the fear of the explosion out of the equation while working. This tool releases the retention springs and causes the airbag to be inoperative. The most common reason to use this tool is to alleviate an airbag fault light. A lesser reason is to extract the bag to prepare for a 24 Hours of Le Mans race.


If you were to turn your steering wheel and not get the desired results, you might find yourself reaching for this tool. What is it called?

If you wiggle your steering wheel and have a lot of play without your actual wheels moving, chances are you might have to replace your pitman arm. The pitman arm is nestled in a steering shaft and needs a little coaxing to get out; that's where the removal tool comes in! Most modern cars have converted over to electric steering and do not need a pitman arm puller.


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