You need basic automotive electrical tools on hand before your automobile experiences problems. When an electrical issue shows up, you want to be able to grab a test light and perform some initial diagnostic tests. You don't have to be a professional mechanic to own a test light or an automotive electrical repair kit.
Let me give you a real world example of how even the most basic car electrical repairs benefit from having these tools at home. Let's say you're behind a police officer and they look in their rear view mirror and you have a marker light out. After they issue you a written warning, you go home and start looking into the problem.
Initially you’re thinking it’s a burned-out bulb. However, when you pull the socket out of the housing we find damaged wiring. Of course, if you're driving a Chevrolet pickup truck you probably have a Chevy daytime running light issue. This requires more than a bulb. Next, you open up your basic automotive electrical tool kit and pull out the test light. Surprise, there's no power reaching the bulb.
Upon further inspection we see melted wiring. Mechanics run into this common scenario on a wide range of vehicles. But now you have everything on hand needed to quickly handle the repairs. With the low cost of these basic automotive electrical tools there's no reason not to include them in your tool collection. Next we'll review two of the important individual tools and a complete automotive electrical repair kit after that, in the $30 price range.
A good quality automotive test light doesn't have to cost a lot of money. If you’re a professional auto mechanic then you may opt to spend more money for a tool that will last the length of your career. However, a do-it-yourself in the driveway mechanic can get their hands on a nice test light in the $10 range.
Let me state for the record that this particular recommended electrical tool far exceeds the quality that you'll find in a basic kit. Let me highlight some of the benefits of spending a few extra dollars on this separate diagnostic tool. This test light has a coiled 12 foot lead. This means it stays out of the way, yet remains long enough to span the distance of the engine compartment. Plus, the bulb is replaceable.
Many auto mechanics say, "You shouldn't use a test light for diagnosing automotive systems". Instead, they want you use an automotive meter. On basic 12 V systems the test light remains satisfactory for diagnosis. And a digital multimeter can confuse the average DIY’er. As an example, when looking for power at the blower motor a test light does the job. This tool also makes quick work of testing automotive fuses without having to pull them out and physically look for a break in the fusible link.
As for the automotive wire stripper and crimper tools, this becomes an area where you can save a few dollars without sacrificing the quality of the automotive electrical repair. In fact, the tool in the all inclusive kit, we’ll discuss below, works excellent in a home use situation. With that said, you do need a tool capable of performing all three car electrical repairs.
You need to cut the wire, strip the insulation off to expose the core and crimp on a new connector. Most of the automotive wire stripper and crimp tools perform all three of these tasks well. Let's go back to the light bulb repair mentioned in the beginning.
When we checked for power at the socket we found none, because of melted wiring. In order to correct this common problem we need to cut out the problem area due to the shorted socket. Then we need to strip back the wire insulation and finally attach the new socket with crimp connectors. Ideally, we’ll use, specialized heat shrink connectors that shrink to seal the electrical connection when we apply heat.
This keeps water out and provides a permanent repair. In my toolbox I have an automatic wire stripper. This tool becomes especially handy for those that do a lot of electrical repairs on cars. A car audio technician comes to mind. However, I believe this remains overkill for those do-it-yourself mechanics performing repairs in the driveway.
There's another problem with the automatic wire stripper tools. The larger head of the device requires more room than the simple tool recommended here. There's yet another problem with the automatic wire strippers.
When you're repairing vehicle computer and sensor wiring, we need to be careful. The automatic strippers can mistakenly remove a few strands of the copper wire.
This can change the resistance in the circuit and possibly cause performance issues. You reduce the risk of damaging the core of an automotive wire when using the tool that strips according to size. That's why you see small to large holes specifically for common automotive gauge wiring on the combination wire stripper and crimper tool.
If you're the kind of DIY car mechanic that tries to do everything they can themselves on their automobile I recommend buying the test light and the combination wire stripper crimping tool separately.
This way you get better quality tools that can last a lifetime. Nevertheless, for those wishing to have the tools on hand, but not sure how much use they’ll get, the basic automotive electrical toolkit represents a good value.
Below you'll find a complete list of what's included in this specific set. The good news is you get a test light, the combination crimp tool and a nice assortment of wire repair parts. One notable inclusion becomes the heat shrink tube you can slide over the wire to protect it from the elements. These work well.
Another nice addition becomes the jumper wires with alligator clips.
This can extend the length of the cable included with the test light.
You can also use them to jump and test automotive relays.
In conclusion, we believe that the best way to keep your old ride on the road is to fix as many things as possible yourself. In the case of wiring or vehicle electrical repairs those issues only accrue labor charges. You can save hundreds of dollars by figuring out what's wrong using logical electrical diagnostic steps.
Remember, diagnosing and repairing connector and wiring problems falls within the skill level of many competent driveway technicians. However, you need to have the basic automotive electrical tools ready to go in order to find success.