The garage: it’s a refuge. A mecca. A social club. A school. A bar. A place of solitude where one can escape from a nagging spouse. (In some cases, a garage is also a bedroom, or a doghouse. Just sayin’.)
However you use your garage outside of its intended purpose it is still, ultimately, a place meant to be functional, operational, and usable in all aspects of maintaining, building, and detailing your ride.
Here’s a look at some items to consider for your garage for said detailing and maintenance activities, with an eye to saving space, and whether your need for a functional garage is basic, intermediate or advanced.
The Basic Garage
This is the everyman’s garage – where you’ll swap winter tires, vacuum dog hair from your Civic, change basic parts and fluids as part of your vehicle maintenance routine, and otherwise kill time fiddling and fussing with your ride.
What You’ll Need
Wall-Mounted Detailing Provisions: For light-duty detailing, think wall-mounted and compact to save space on the garage floor. A small wall-mounted Shop-Vac or Duravac is powerful and effective, and a wall-mounted caddy for detailing products and rags keeps commonly used cleaning and detailing supplies nearby, without chewing up floor space. Plus, with everything out, accessible and ready to use, you can give your ride a quick pre-trip tidy-up in three minutes or less.
Simple Toolkit: Head to your favorite tool retailer and grab a do-it-all toolkit with wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers and a full socket kit. Be sure to grab a few packs of spare 10 mm sockets while you’re there, as most folks lose about 847 of these commonly used sockets a month.
Lighting: Working on your ride with poor lighting sucks. Consider some quality, energy-efficient overhead LED lighting to make life easier on your eyes. Costco and Princess Auto often have affordable solutions. A rechargeable or battery-powered LED trouble-light (or two) are ideal for seeing into hard-to-see places.
Ramps or Jacks: For inspections, fluid changes, brake pad changes and many other duties, you’ll need to lift your ride off of the ground. If you’ll only be doing oil changes, a set of ramps is probably all you need. More advanced work may require a floor-jack and a set of jack-stands, to lift your ride and its wheels off the floor. Ramps, jacks and stands are relatively inexpensive and take up minimal space.
Oil Change Gear: Doing your own oil changes makes you a total champ, and all you need is an oil catch pan, an oil filter wrench, some rags and the proper wrench or socket to remove that oil drain plug.
ClosetMaid Wire Shelving: These shelving segments are designed for closets, but they work great in a garage, too. You can find them at Home Hardware or WalMart, and they’re easy to install and highly functional. The wire shelving design is sturdy, but allows rags to hang dry through the shelf itself. Some variations even have a clothes-hanger bar, which can be used to dry larger shop towels or hang various organizer bins or bags on, possibly using hooks.
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The Intermediate Garage
This is the garage used by the gal or fella who spends more than minimal time caring for and detailing their ride. More intensive, complicated repairs and maintenance routines are often carried out here, including replacement of vehicle parts. The intermediate garage user often has buddies that help with weekend wrenching, and many also have a weekend project-car to pick away at too. Detailing activities are more intensive here as well.
What You’ll Need
Magnetic Storage: Think wall-mounted magnets, to keep tools and fasteners you’re using accessible but out of the way, if your project will take several days. Princess Auto sells packs of ultra-strong magnets that can be fastened to your wall lickety-split, holding sockets, wrenches, fasteners and more. Everything stays where you left it, but doesn’t chew up floor space.
Upgraded Toolbox: For bigger jobs, consider upgrading from a toolkit to a proper toolbox. They’re available in many sizes and shapes, and with modular designs for full customization, it’s easy to create the perfect toolbox to keep your stuff organized, without taking up excessive space.
Air Compressor and Tools: An air compressor and air tools are a weekend mechanic’s best friend, especially when the job is tough or involved. A small air compressor and basic air tools can make any job easier and faster, whether it’s removing a transmission pan, changing a ball-joint, or just blowing the garage floor clean. With an air compressor, it’s easier to inflate tires regularly, to blow water off of a recently washed car, and to make seasonal tire swaps.
Code Scanner: A diagnostic code scanner is little larger than a smartphone and can be easily stored away in a cupboard until it’s needed. Use a code scanner to diagnose check-engine lights and other vehicle electronics issues easily, effectively and without a visit to the shop.
Quality Cleaning Gear: If you’ll be partaking in serious detailing work on your ride, a quality paint buffer is a fantastic idea. Chris Minor owns a popular detailing business called Refined Shine in Lively, Ontario, and comments, “Having the right tool for the job is of the utmost importance when it comes to auto detailing. I prefer the Rupes LHR15 polisher, since it offers plenty of cleaning and polishing pads, and it’s very versatile. This is a pricier, high-quality unit, but you’ll have it for years.”
Another staple in any auto detailer’s tool collection is a quality steam cleaner. “I prefer the Tosca, or Hill Injection, from Dupray. They’re able to tackle heavy grime buildup in the door jams, clean under-hood buildup, disinfect, and they’re great for deep-cleaning fabric and leather while killing bacteria. Again, these are pricier than mainstream brands, but their performance is vastly superior.”
The Advanced Garage
This is the garage of the passionate professional detailer and mechanic. Any and all maintenance and repair jobs are tackled, including advanced tasks like engine replacement, paint correction, suspension work and more. The Advanced Garage makes visits to your local mechanic all but a thing of the past.
What You’ll Need
Overhead Power and Air: Ceiling-mounted retractable air-line and power cord provisions make it easy to get air and power where you need it, with no use of floor or wall space, and no tripping hazards. Mount the provisions to the ceiling, and you’ll have what you need within reach, but never in the way.
Wall-Mounted Organizer: Numerous garage wall organizer systems are available at your favorite retailer, with reconfigurable bins, racks, shelving and hooks that can be dispatched in any combination to fine-tune it to any job at hand. Organize your tools, fasteners, how-to literature, and anything else you need with ease. The right organizer can be easily matched to any job.
Upgraded Air Compressor: For advanced use, consider a higher-capacity air compressor, especially when air tools will be used often and for extended periods. Reduced pump engagement, longer pump life, increased air capacity and reduced noise levels are among the benefits. If your garage has a storage room attached to it, consider placing the compressor inside of it, and running the air line through the wall, to preserve space in the garage itself.
Engine Lift / Cherry Picker: Sometimes, advanced jobs require engine removal – so consider a cherry picker or engine lift to get that powerplant out of your ride, without lowering it out the bottom and having six buddies help you drag it out of the way. Some models are collapsible when not in use, taking up less space.
Car Dollies: Consider plunking your spare-time project car onto a set of car dollies, which make it possible for one person to push and slide the vehicle around the garage with ease. With a set of car dollies, you can pull your project car into the workspace whenever you like, and push it off to the side to make room for other projects as needed.
Floor Treatment: Advanced work is tough on your garage floor, so consider treating it to a durable roll-on finish, or a special tiled surface designed for heavy-duty garage floor protection. Applied to a garage floor that’s in good shape, the proper finish can seal out moisture, chemicals and spills, helping fend off further damage. Once treated, your garage floor will be easier to clean too.