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Converting Your Garage Into A Mechanic Shop

As a gearhead, you need a long-term place where you can put your project race car on jackstands for a few months.

Having taken on an engine tuning or rebuild project every year for the past several years, I've come up with some decent ideas on how to get the most value out of a tight space.

Floor Jack

I'm constantly amazed at how many of my buddies are still trying to do their mechanic work on cheap bottle jacks.

A good, low-profile floor jack like some of these jacks reviewed on Tooltally.com require a little more room, but they make the work so much easier.

When you have a good jack and the jack stand to support your project, it makes it a lot easier to get started.

Tool Box

It goes without saying that you are going to work faster if your tools are organized. However, a toolbox for the house is the one thing in which married mechanics often struggle to invest.

Investing in a good toolbox with ball bearing rollers on the drawers is going to make it easier to keep your tools organized.

I am amazed at how much faster my projects go when I am not sorting through piles of sockets to find the ever-elusive 10 mm socket.

Good Lighting

My buddy is an electrician, so I had him come over and put a few outlets and extra lights in the ceiling.

This makes it easy to hang lighting in all parts of the garage and to pull them over to where you are working. Your shop and engine bay should look like an operating room, with ample light illuminating your workspace.

Additionally, invest in some smaller, magnetized flashlights that you can stick on the car to provide the light where you are working.


This might be the hardest thing to fit into a garage since Workbenches take up so much space.

However, there is no good way to keep all of your pieces organized unless you have a safe area to spread them out.

A workbench provides that space for your projects.

The trick is keeping your workbench clear of everything else. This is where a little Marie Kondo's decision-making comes in handy. How badly do you need that thing that is sitting on your workbench?

I recently threw away a toolset that I used for the replacement of a 2007 GMC timing chain. It was one of those tools that cost $200 but hadn't been used in over five years.

The first job paid for the toolset, so it made no sense to keep hanging onto it.

Aggressively pruning the garage can make a massive difference in your productivity and how quickly you can get a project done.

Another thing that comes in handy is to have a couple of 5-shelf storage racks for keeping your engine parts on. After a project has been staged on the workbench, you can move it over to a spot on the shelf while you prepare the next part of the project. This keeps everything well organized and frees your working area.

Cordless Tools

It was only about five years ago that everyone was investing in pneumatic tools.

Pneumatic tools are extremely helpful. However, for the mechanic that is just getting started, these can require a hefty cash outlay.

An alternative is to buy some rechargeable tools. These small impact drivers can often work almost as well as a pneumatic tool for removing the nuts and bolts on your project.

Horizontal Air Compressor

For most of the tasks that you need an air compressor for, you can get away with using a 30-gallon air compressor.

These small compressors come in a horizontal tank design that can slip nicely under your workbench. This gives you the ability to use the air-powered impact wrenches and ratchets for those times when the cordless tools won't do the job.

Cheap Computer

Everything from tutorials to interpreting diagnostic codes requires a computer.

Typically, home mechanics will go inside, get cleaned up, and then work on the home computer to get their answer.

Not wanting to risk the family's nice computer, investing in a cheap laptop for the garage can make it easier to stay focused and get the job done.

Check on Craigslist and get a cheap one. As a bonus, you are able to use to play your movies while you work.

Beer Fridge

A beer fridge -- even if it is a small one -- is a must for the shop. My garage went for several years before I got one.

Having a place to store a few cold ones -- or your ham sandwich -- is a nice luxury. It also means that my friends are more likely to come to hang out with me while I tinker on the project.

The pro tip here is to buy one in black. It hides the grease much better.

Working on cars in your garage is supposed to be fun and relaxing. If it isn't, you probably don't have the right tools. Investing in the right tools makes all of the difference between being a winner, and being a runner up.

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