The Way to Your Car’s Heart Is through Your Toolbox


There are two basic types of screwdrivers: standard, or slot, screwdrivers (the most common type) and Phillips screwdrivers. The difference between a standard screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver is the shape of the head. You use Phillips screwdrivers with Phillips screws and standard screwdrivers with — you guessed it — standard screws.

Offset screwdrivers, which are “S”-shaped and have different-sized tips at each end, also are very handy because they make it easy to get to screws that have little clearance over the head. Offset screwdrivers come in both standard and Phillips styles and some have one of each type of head at either.

Using the wrong type or size screwdriver can damage the screw, the screwdriver, and even you if your hand slips while you’re struggling to use the wrong tool. Always use a screwdriver with a tip that’s the same width and type as the head of the screw you’re working on.

vice versa (although there are some exceptions), and because your vehicle is fitted with both types of screws in a variety of sizes, you need several of each type of screwdriver (not just for your vehicle, but for almost anything around the house).

Screwdriver shafts vary in length too, which is useful because a longer shaft provides greater access to “buried” screws that are sunk below the surface of some parts instead of level with them; a shorter shaft gets into tight places more easily. Handles also vary. It’s important to have large, easy-to-grip handles to help you loosen tight screws

You can get all the screwdrivers you need to work on your vehicle for relatively little money. Look for sales on plastic-or rubber-handled screwdrivers in sets of varying sizes. Also available are nice gadgets that contain assorted Phillips and standard screwdriver heads in a single, magnetized ratchet handle. You just pop the right-sized head on the shaft and twist the handle to turn the screwdriver automatically. This magnetized tool also serves as a screw holder (see the next section).

The turning of the screw

If you find yourself confronted with a screw that’s difficult to start unscrewing, try giving it a slight twist in the opposite direction (clockwise), as though you were trying to tighten it. Then loosen it (counterclockwise). If this trick doesn’t work, tap the screwdriver on the head with a hammer, which may loosen the screw a bit.

If strong-arm tactics don’t get you anywhere, try squirting the troublemaker with penetrating oil. (Don’t use penetrating oil on a running engine or on any really hot areas because it could ignite.) Remember to keep your temper with difficult screws; otherwise, you risk stripping the threads and turning a fairly simple job of replacing what you’ve loosened into a hair-puller.


Screw holders are perfectly marvelous for hanging onto screws that have to fit into tiny places. Instead of holding a screw in place with the fingers of one hand while wielding the screwdriver with your other hand, you simply fit the screw into the screw holder and use the screw holder instead of a screwdriver to insert and tighten the screw.

Last word

Ranches are probably the most basic tools for auto repair. You need a couple of different kinds in different sizes. There are several types of wrenches, and some have very specialized uses, but the following sections cover the kinds you need for most jobs.

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