Look, I’m not saying you can’t send me Lego kits, G.I. Joe playsets, and Nerf guns, but the things I wanted when I was 8 aren’t the only things I want anymore. And since I know none of you cheapskates are going to buy me a ’32 Ford or a BMW M1, here are some of the tools I’d like for Christmas, categorized by winter maintenance needs.
Switching to Winter Wheels
There’s no question that a good set of winter tires will drastically improve your traction in cold weather. Summer rubber, conversely, works better in the heat. And while many of us are simply equipped with a set of all-season tires, the best solution is to keep two sets of wheels for your vehicle, one with each type of tires.
To make the wheel swap quicker and easier, I’d like a few things. I want an electric impact wrench to quickly zip off the lug nuts. Ideally I’d have an air compressor setup with central lines, but I have neither the space nor the money for this, so a simple electric wrench, corded or cordless, will do nicely.
My torque wrench was built before man split the atom, and just has the antiquated needle pointer to measure tightness. I’d like a clicker-type upgrade, which will help me torque the lug nuts down to safe and happy spec.
While I have the wheels off, I can take a look at the brakes, which should be kept in fighting trim, especially during these months of reduced traction. If the pads or rotors need replacing, this caliper tool makes it quick and easy to press the caliper pistons out of the way. This is especially useful if you have a car with silly rotating caliper pistons. I usually check this kit out from the parts store for a $50 deposit, but it just makes more sense to keep my own.
Finally, my tire pressure can change severely on extremely cold days, so an Auto Meter precise tire gauge will help keep my PSIs healthy.
Hoses and Belts
Any list of recommended winter-prep maintenance will admonish us to check out our belts and hoses for wear, and replace what’s needed. Rubber can dry out and crack more easily in the winter, so cold weather failures aren’t uncommon.
I’d love a pair of hose clamp pliers to grab and slide any spring-type hose clamps. Unlike normal pliers, these babies have little, clawlike grippers at the tips, and these grab onto those pesky spring clamps and don’t let go.
Bent-nose pliers, which I also need, because I’m dumb and left my last pair at the junk yard, are another option for those tricky spring clamps, but not as good as something more specialized.
Spring-loaded belt tensioners are fairly common on many modern engines. Most are fitted with a half-inch square hole, into which you can plug a socket wrench. Haul back on the wrench, slip the belt free, and you’re halfway done. But sometimes the clearances beside this tensioner can be tight, and a bulky half-inch wrench won’t fit.
So I want a flat steel tensioner tool, which works the same way but is much thinner and easier to use. Parts stores check these out for a deposit, but I’d rather have my own.
Working in the Dark
Aside from that rare, free Saturday, most of my winter work time is dark, since the sun seems to go down around lunch time. So I want lights.
An LED head lamp can be extremely useful. Wherever you look, you can see. Sometimes, though, I can barely fit my noggin into a space, let alone my noggin with a light strapped to it. Probably because I have a huge head.
I want this Moroso LED magnetic flashlight that will stick to my car, anywhere I need it to.
I’d also like some sort of battery-powered lights I can easily attach to the sides of a creeper.
Working in the Cold
Speaking of a creeper, I’d like a low-profile creeper. A rolling platform always makes working under a car easier, but in the winter it can be especially useful, keeping my frail mortal frame off of a concrete floor the same temperature as deep space. And if I get a sturdy one, it can double as a shop dolly for heavier car parts.
I have yet to find the perfect pair of cold-weather work gloves. Mechanix makes good gloves, but they’re not the warmest. Their own winter work gloves are unwieldy. I’m open to ideas.
I’d like this set of Proform AN wrenches. No, I’m not planning to replace any fuel or brake lines, but if I do, AN wrenches are the best tools for the job. AN, or Army/Navy, fittings can be found on metal lines in most cars. In a pinch, I can use conventional wrenches on them, but AN wrenches create a better, more balanced grip on the fittings, reducing the risk of cracking, which can increase in cold temperatures.
Last winter I did alot of plastic work on my busted, old CRX. It was fun, but I was always worried about cracking it in the cold. This can be solved with a heat gun, which I can use to warm up all kinds of stuff before I work on it.
But I’ve worked with a heat gun before and sometimes wish I could have both hands free. There’s a tool for that! A heat gun holder does exactly what it sounds like it does, and it should round out my wish list nicely.
Okay, okay. I’m not actually expecting you guys to get me any of this. But if you’re looking for gearhead gift ideas, you can’t go wrong with this list.
So that’s me. What tools are you guys adding to the list?
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.