In my last article I compiled a list of essentials for your toolbox. Jalops let me know in short order how incomprehensive my list was. I humbly submit this addendum based on what I missed the first time and some of the favorites ya'll offered.

Honorable mention goes to cell phones because of their incredible versatility. A number of you mentioned using them as a sort of high tech mirror-on-a-stick. I heard a story from a friend who couldn't figure out why his car battery kept dying. In a moment of pure genius he switched his cell camera to video mode, tossed it in the trunk, and shut the deck lid. The footage revealed that his trunk light was staying on and thus causing his battery to run down. Just like that the problem was identified without an expensive trip to a mechanic.

5. Razor Blades

I have a utility knife that I love, but a fresh razor blade is often my go-to cutter. They're light weight, cheap, manageable in tight spaces, and dang sharp.


I find a use for these on practically every project whether I'm cutting some hose to length, or precisely masking something, for paint these things are irreplaceable.


A word to he wise though, if you're using lots of these you're also throwing lots of them away. Be careful when you go rooting around in shop trash can looking for the socket you unintentionally threw away. Better yet round the corners and dull the edge of your used blades on a grinder.

4. Flashlight

Some guys like to think they do their best work in the dark, for everyone else there are about a billion options for illuminating dark spaces.


Rechargeable, cheap, pricey, positionable or wearable, flashlights are a staple in the home, shop, and garage. I don't care how well lit your shop is, it's still dark up under the dashboard of your project. I look for value for money and don't have any specific brand preference. I kind of look at flashlights like I look at sunglasses; I'm probably going to lose or break them in pretty short order. I go for loads of cheap, functional ones over an expensive one.


3. Retrieval Tool

A good retrieval/pick-up tool like this one can be a lifesaver when you drop that breather assembly nut down the throat of your carburetor.


This type of tool has saved my bacon a number of times. I usually go for the Dr. Octopus style grabber because not everything I drop is attracted by the magnetic style retrievers. Not to mention how frustrating it is when I'm trying to get to my washer and the tool keeps sticking to the inner fender instead. The one featured above seems to be the best of all worlds and it comes with a little light to see what you're doing.

2. Masking Tape

Not all tape is created equal. I use this stuff daily for masking jobs, labeling, or just holding something where I want it.


While you don't have to drop 10 bucks a roll for tape, you do need to make sure that the tape you buy is suited to the job you're going to tackle.


Cheap tape can bleed through. This is not good if you're trying to keep paint from reaching a surface. In fact it defeats the purpose of masking in the first place.

If it's not sticky enough the edges will come up and if it's too sticky it will take forever to get it off and could leave residue behind.

Whatever you get make sure it's reasonably fresh. Time can be the enemy of tape. The adhesive can go all gooey and the material can get brittle. I'm sure when people see me in the store squeezing rolls of tape they probably think I'm some sort of odd pervert. But really that's how I was taught to check for freshness.


Give the roll a squeeze between your thumb and forefinger. If it's supple and yields a little it's generally good stuff. If it's hard, it's likely dried out and you should pass.

Personally I don't use the blue tape. 3M makes more amazing products than you can shake a stick at but there are cheaper rolls of tape which also don't stick to anything.

1. Zip Ties

These little guys were hands down the most suggested items by Jalopnik readers.


I prescribe to a relatively old-school mentality on these things. I don't see them as a permanent fix, especially in situations where they are exposed to the elements, over time they will get weathered and break. That said, when the lines from the transmission to the radiator on my car began to rattle because the OEM mounts rotted away (thanks GMC) I fixed the horrible racket with a half-dozen strategically placed zip ties.


Their uses are almost limitless, and are indispensable for wiring projects. If you're into recycling some are even reusable.

Zip Tie Tip: After the excess has been clipped off the plastic is left sharp. I like to use a cigarette lighter and melt the ragged ends slightly to avoid cutting myself on them later.


2 years ago Aaron Vick Starnes quit his well paying bank job to pursue inevitable poverty as an automotive writer. He has experience in automotive restoration, and works at a shop restoring and customizing cars. He also is a grad student in journalism. Follow him on Twitter @AaronVStarnes and check out his blog.