Photos by David Merrill

Tools frequently separate those who can’t from those who can. Those who fancy themselves as self-reliant and prepared truly aren’t unless they have an assortment of basic tools to work with and the knowledge to use them. Whereas many take the low-cost disposable option, those of us bent on preparedness should choose durable, reliable, and repairable gear — this applies to items in your home, your vehicle, and your bug-out bag. Everything we do for preparedness is predicated on the belief that one day we may not be able to easily replace many of the items that are often taken for granted or have them serviced by an outside technician.

While an assortment of basic tools is critical, some jobs require tools that are more specialized. Many times, a specialty tool can save hours of needless work, such as removal of other parts to get at a fastener in an inaccessible area. Sometimes a bolt is just plain stuck or was installed with so much torque it may be difficult or impossible to remove it with hand tools. And sometimes power tools or air tools that we’d normally rely on won’t be feasible due to lack of power. Certain specialty tools can help overcome the lack of power in an emergency. Here we list and discuss a few you may not know about. There are many brands and types, but we’ll focus on a handful of our favorites.

1. Torque Multiplier

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X-4 Tool
(Various)

Common Use
Removal of extremely tight fasteners without the aid of power tools

MSRP
$400+

URL
www.x4tool.com

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A torque multiplier, as the name implies, is a hand tool that when utilized with a normal ratchet can substantially increase the amount of force applied to a fastener. The amount depends on the gear ratio of the torque multiplier. The example shown is a 4X multiplier. What does this mean in real-world terms? If an individual can apply 250 foot-pounds of torque with a normal ratchet, the same person could apply 1,000 foot-pounds of torque with the aid of the torque multiplier.

The torque multiplier can make quick and easy work of lug nuts on large trucks or military vehicles and can loosen or tighten stubborn fasteners. This could likely only be otherwise accomplished through the use of power tools or an unwieldy large breaker bar.

2. Low-Profile Sockets and Ratchets

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Snap-on
10 pc 3/8” Drive 6-Point Metric Flank Drive Low-Profile Ratchet/Socket Set (8, 10, 12–18 mm)

Common Use
For use in tight areas

MSRP
$266

URL
store.snapon.com

Frequently, a fastener is in a spot with limited access — especially in automotive applications. Standard sets of sockets and ratchets are often too long to fit into a location you may really need to get to. If your tool can’t reach the work, you may need to remove additional parts just to free up space, which only increases the amount of time you have to spend on the job.

Low-profile sockets and ratchets are made to get to those limited-access fasteners, potentially helping you avoid a lot of extra work. These tools are about half the height of standard sets, allowing you to get into those hard-to-reach areas.

3. Hose and General-Use Picks

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Snap-on
Set, Radiator Hose Pick, Soft Grip, 6 pc

Common Use
Removal of stuck hoses for repair or replacement

MSRP
$192

URL
store.snapon.com

After years of use, hoses (such as those on a car’s radiator) can often be stuck firmly in place. These picks are used to separate the hose from its connector without damaging either. Without hose picks, people often try to loosen the hose with channel lock pliers, which can lead to damaging not only the hose, but potentially other hard-to-replace parts, such as a radiator end tank.

The picks are used by loosening the hose clamps and sliding the tip between the hose and the connector/hose barb. It can then be worked around the circumference of the hose to lift it from the barb. The pick can also be used to help pry it off the barb. Like many tools, picks can be multi-use; examples include scraping, retrieving lost tools or parts, and removing old gaskets.

General-use picks can be utilized in applications where E-clips, split rings, O-rings, and cleaning or debris removal are required. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and are invaluable once you have them. They’re also super handy for cleaning guns or installing small parts.

4. Service or Thin Wrenches

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Snap-on
5 pc SAE 15° Offset Low Torque Slimline Open End Wrench Set (7/16–1”)

Common Use
Low access / small wrench flat fasteners

MSRP
$287

URL
store.snapon.com

Service wrenches are thin in profile compared to standard wrenches, allowing them to work with very small wrench flats, such as those found on bicycles and muzzle devices on firearms. They’re sometimes referred to as “bicycle” wrenches. They’re also very handy when working in limited-access areas — for example, close to a vehicle firewall.

One application we’ve found them very useful for is holding a studded fastener with a ground wire attached to a nut, such as frequently encountered on intake manifolds. Using the service wrench prevents the wire from getting broken or mangled. We also use them frequently on muzzle devices with very small wrench flats and minimal clearance next to a barrel.

5. Universal Sockets and Extensions

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Snap-on
Six-piece universal socket assortment

Common Use
Reaching fasteners at odd angles

MSRP
$307

URL
store.snapon.com

Universal sockets and extensions are named for their “universal” joint. The U-joint on these tools allows them to be used at an angle, for locations where a straight approach simply isn’t possible. These are also often referred to as “wobbly” sockets. Universal sockets are available in all the usual drive sizes, in six- and 12-point configurations, deep and shallow versions, and versions for use with impact guns. You might find one or two of these in a standard hardware store ratchet set, but they’re so valuable and versatile that it’s always worth expanding your collection.

6. Slide Hammer

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Snap-on
8-Way and 10-Way Slide Hammer Puller Sets

Common Use
Pulling seals, bearings, axles, and hubs

MSRP
$226

URL
store.snapon.com

A slide hammer allows its user to apply hammer force more effectively to pull an item rather than push it. An example would be to remove a wheel bearing or its race without damage. It’s extremely useful where prying on an object to remove it isn’t possible. Anytime you need to apply force to remove something you have no rear access to, a slide hammer is a great option.

We use them for removing grease seals without damage to axles and hubs. There are even slide hammers to break tire beads off of wheel rims in a pinch. It’s a very useful tool that has little to no substitute when you absolutely need one.

7. Cordless Impact Gun

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Milwaukee Tool
½-inch Cordless Impact Wrench

Common Use
Loosening or quickly tightening fasteners

MSRP
Approx. $450 with battery and charger

URL
www.milwaukeetool.com

Modern high-torque, lithium-powered, rechargeable, electric impact guns are becoming more common, but unless you frequently work on cars, you might not own one yet. They’re an incredible tool and can replace an air compressor, hoses, and pneumatic impact guns. Better yet, they frequently meet or exceed the torque ratings of air-powered versions, making tire changes and dealing with fasteners with high-torque specs easy. But they’re not limited to the garage. This particular tool features 1,400 foot-pounds of removal force and 1,000 foot-pounds of torque for tightening.

It’s often used for fast lug nut removal and installation, but any work where there are many high-torque fasteners will benefit from it. The 3/4-inch air-powered impacts can be used for large military vehicle lug nuts, but this 1/2-inch drive cordless version has enough power to make quick work of those, too. It’s a very worthy addition to a preparedness toolkit, along with provisions to keep it charged. We haven’t yet met a fastener that this tool couldn’t handle in the normal course of operations.

8. 8-Point Sockets

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Snap-on
(Various)

Common Use
4-point drain plugs, 8-point fasteners

MSRP
Varies

URL
store.snapon.com

Six- and twelve-point sockets are the norm. But what about four-point fasteners, such as those found on many drain plugs? Eight-point sockets are primarily used on these type of fasteners. A stuck drain plug can be difficult to remove with conventional open-end wrenches or adjustable wrenches without rounding off the fastener. An eight-point socket is made for this purpose.

Although rare, there are eight-point fasteners as well. Should you encounter one, good luck removing it without one of these sockets. If you have to scavenge gear lube from abandoned vehicles for heat or fuel, an eight-point socket may be a better way than ventilating the oil pan with a .45 ACP. They’re very common on differentials and transfer cases.

9. Battery Tools

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Snap-on
Battery Service Kit

Common Use
Maintenance of lead acid batteries

MSRP
Approx. $400

URL
store.snapon.com

In a grid-down situation, batteries take on a whole new importance. There are specific tools to help install, remove, and maintain wet-cell lead acid DC batteries that can make those tasks much easier. Batteries can be the difference between life and death, so having tools to work on them just makes sense. The basics are angle-nose pliers, side battery terminal cleaner, cable clamp pliers, a cable clamp puller, and a battery terminal cleaner.

Angle-nose pliers hold the square bolt head so you can loosen or tighten the nut on the terminal clamp. Side terminal cleaner cleans the terminal connection on side post batteries, which are flat and frequently hard to get to. Cable clamp pliers spread terminal leads for installation without deforming or damaging them. Cable clamp pullers remove stuck terminal leads without damaging them or the terminal posts. Terminal posts are easy to break if you aren’t careful. Battery terminal cleaners clean terminal posts and ensure a good connection, which is probably the most common problem with batteries in general. They also reshape terminals and make a better seal against corrosion.

Also pictured are a load tester and a specific gravity tester. Diagnostic tools such as these are important because they can tell you if you have a viable battery. The load tester is used by attaching the clamps to the appropriate terminal of a fully charged battery, then the tester will apply a load and tell you whether the battery will hold a load or not on its meter. If it reads bad on the load tester, it’s time for a new battery. The specific gravity tester can also be used to determine if a battery is viable by opening the battery and drawing the electrolyte/acid into the tester itself. The tester has a float and, based on where the float line is, will tell you individual cell state of charge — a good way to tell if your battery is on its way out.

10. Line Wrenches and Sockets

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Snap-on
(Various)

Common Use
Loosening or installing nuts on tubing

MSRP
Varies

URL
store.snapon.com

Brake, air, transmission, power steering, and air-conditioning line fasteners can be difficult to deal with using conventional wrenches. Line wrenches and sockets are slightly open to allow them to pass onto the line being worked on and prevent damage to both line and fastener. They also allow more torque to be used to remove stubborn fasteners. Crows feet and cut-away sockets are designed to help you in limited access areas, which are frequently encountered when dealing with air, water, coolant, and oil lines.

It’s very common to damage line fittings using conventional open-end wrenches or crescent wrenches. Frequently, there might not be a ready replacement or a good way to repair a damaged line in these circumstances. Using the proper tool such as line wrench sockets can prevent additional damage that you’ll need to address. It’s much more difficult to damage these soft fasteners when using the proper tool.

11. Swench

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Power Hawk Technologies
Swench

Common Use
High-torque manual applications

MSRP
Approx. $3,000, depending on the model

URL
www.powerhawk.com

The Swench is a manual impact wrench. It works like a ratchet or torque wrench. When it cams over, a spring-loaded striker is released and impacts the fastener, similar to what happens with an impact gun. This tool helps loosen very large or high-torque fasteners without electric or air power. If you need to change the track on a tank or propellers on an aircraft this is the tool for you. Unfortunately, this power comes with a stratospheric price tag.

12. Clamp Tool

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Mayhew Pro Tools
28650 Spring Loaded Hose Clamp Pliers

Common Use
Removal or installation of spring type hose clamps

MSRP
$130

URL
www.toolsource.com

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This clamp tool is used to reach into hard-to-access areas and remove or install spring-type hose clamps. It features a long, flexible cable with a hose-plier end that’s actuated by a trigger — when pulled it locks open and releases the clamp. When used to install clamps, the opposite is true.

Spring-type hose clamps have become very common in automotive applications and can be very difficult to address with conventional pliers. This tool allows you to reach and easily remove hose clamps to deal with the underlying issues. It’s an invaluable tool for working on newer automobiles.

13. Stud Pullers

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AST
Stud puller set

Common Use
Removing screw-in studs

MSRP
Approx. $100

URL
asttool.com

This is a really cool socket that addresses the issue of removing threaded studs with minimal to no thread damage. Without this tool, the method commonly used is to tighten two nuts on the stud against one another. When being used, one simply slides the socket over the stud. The tool has a segmented sprag, and when rotational force is applied the sprag grips the stud and removes it or installs it.

Having used both methods, this tool is far more efficient and is just plain cool to use. These types of studs are frequently encountered in almost all automotive applications and are used in places such as timing covers, oil pans, water pumps, and so forth.


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