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Tools You Gotta Have in Your Rod Garage: Part 1

Tools You Gotta Have in Your Rod Garage: Part 1


Hot rodders and kustom car builders use lots of tools to make their machines look, run and perform well. There are basic tools you’ll see in every shop like wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers and sockets. You do have to have these tools to do any type of work on a car, but they’re not “Gotta Have” tools.

The way to spot “Gotta Have” tools is to pay attention when you visit other shops. When you do, you’ll notice that they have certain tools for going that extra mile in a car build. Then, you realize those tools are something you “Gotta Have.”

“Gotta Have” tools aren’t necessarily big or small—or expensive. If you buy a name brand tool, you’ll almost always pay more and get better quality. However, if you are not in the business of building rods every day, “clones” of expensive tools can be found in discount tool stores, swap meets and online. Most of these will work well for those building cars on the hobby budget.

We knew one professional who bought many lower-priced imported tools for his busy shop. He would take them apart and replace the cheap fasteners with American made nuts and bolts. He swore they were then as good as name brand tools. Another way to save money is to look for tools being sold by out-of-work mechanics. Due to the sluggish economy, there are good buys around.

As “tool junkies” there are many times that we would rather buy a name brand tool in used condition than a brand new knock off. With a media blasting cabinet you can clean those old S-K sockets and Snap-On wrenches that you buy at swap meets and garage sales. Here’s a few “Gotta Have” tools

Crust Busting Whatcha’ma Call It

When you’re building a hot rod from the remnants of an original old car, chances are pretty good the chassis will have rust, grease and crud all over it. Sometimes you’ll run into undercoated parts, too. If the frame is completely stripped down, you can sandblast it, but what do you do if you’re working on a frame under a car? What tool can clean a chassis or remove undercoating? The answer is a Composite Pistol Type Air Needle Scaler. A what? Well, the name might be hard to remember, but the tool looks like a gun with metal “needles” about 7 or 8 inches long sticking out of the end. The needles deliver around 4000 blows per minute and sand all that bad stuff off chassis parts. You can clean A arms, spindles, fender wells, coil springs, leaf springs, etc. in minutes. Northern Tool ( sells a variety of different styles of this handy tool.

It Don’t Mean a Thing if You Ain’t Got the Swing

With a tight 30-degree swing angle, Chicago Brand’s Open-End Ratchet Wrenches can ratchet in about half the room that other wrenches need to start clicking. Their hot rod friendly “inter-active” design creates the prying action of a fulcrum that actually transfers the force applied to the handle as a gripping action on the fastener. These unique stainless steel tools also have small heads that fit in tight places. Four sets—two in metric and two in SAE sizes—are available. Call (510) 656-5155 or visit

Coolest Compressors Build Hottest Rods

Since 1979, C-Aire has designed, built and distributed conventional and custom air compressors that are perfect for rod builders. A cornerstone of the C-Aire design philosophy is to utilize a broad range of the highest quality components so every rodder from a home builder to a pro can find an air compressor that perfectly matches the job. All units are hand assembled and tested using top line components including: domestic approved UL motors, steel belt guards, ASME hydrostatically tested air receivers and low rpm cast-iron constructed pumps. Since C-Aire pumps run slow, they run quieter, cooler and more efficiently and last longer. Call (800) 762-2247 or visit

For Nuts & Bolts With a Stubborn Streak

We use this Campbell Hausfeld Twin Hammer ½-in. Impact Wrench in our shop. Newer models look a little snazzier with their red, white and blue color scheme. This affordable tool (we purchased it at Wal-Mart) produces 350 ft. lbs. of torque for fast removal of stubborn fasteners. Smooth, low-vibration operation reduces user fatigue and the tool’s center of gravity is directly above the handle for better balance and stability. Other features include user-friendly controls like a push-button trigger and a rear integrated power regulator. It is perfect for home hot rod shop use. Call (800) 543-6400 or visit

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

Metal fabricator Trent Lewis uses a Baleigh Industries BR-18E-36 Power Bead Roller in his Midwest Metalworks shop. The tool comes standard with a heavy-duty industrial grade motor and gear reducer transmission. With all-steel construction, this metal bead roller has a very generous 36-in. throat depth, making it perfect for a car builder or restorer. It can make rear deck lids, hoods, and roofs. The BR-18E-36 includes a heavy floor stand with a roll rack. Over 50 different roll sets are offered to fit most bodywork on cars, motorcycles and airplanes. This power bead roller comes standard with variable speeds. The foot-pedal controls make working large pieces of sheet metal a breeze. Call (920).684-4990 for details or go to

U-Tube Tool

If you want to bend a piece of tubing into a nice U shape, Eastwood’s Triple Head 180-Degree Tubing Bender is the tool you need in your shop. You can use this under-$40 tool to make accurate and kink-free radii and bends up to 180 degrees in 3/16-, ¼-, 5/16- and 3/8-in. tubing. This a must-have tool when making brake lines for your hot rod. It also comes in handy for bending fuel or transmission lines. For info call (800) 343-9353 or visit