Gift Ideas for the Family Gearhead

Car + Garage

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the gearhead in your family, look no further. We’ll show you a few new tools that belong in every garage toolbox, as well as a few “golden oldies” that always earn their keep. Most of these tools cost less than $20.


By Ricky Muscoplat
Photos by Tom Fenenga Art direction by Vern Johnson

Vented funnels for faster, neater pouring

If you’ve ever tried to pour used motor oil from your drain pan into a recycling jug, you know it’s a glug-glug affair that takes forever, burps oil on your clothes and sometimes turns into a messy oil spill. Forget that!

You can pour quickly and neatly with SpeedyFlo vented funnels (a combo pack with a 10-in. and a 12-in. is $14 at speedyflo.com). Just plunk the funnel into a clear recycling jug and pour. Use the funnels to add gas or oil to your car and small-engine yard equipment.

The ‘gotcha’ magnet

If you drop a nut or bolt in an engine compartment, good luck—it will be like searching for a black rock in a coal mine. You can do a two-handed search with a telescoping magnet and light, or you can pony up $10 to buy this Craftsman Magnetic Pick-Up Tool with an LED light built into the magnet (model No. 46946; $10 at sears.com). Just turn on the light, extend the magnet up to 32 in. and go fishing for the missing part.

Solder, cut, shrink and heat on the go

Dragging out the soldering gun and extension cord to splice a wire can be a real, uh, drag. The Ronson Butane Tech Torch (No. 80012; $40 at amazon.com) has a trigger-start electronic ignition and a variable flame, and it comes with two soldering tips and a heater/blower attachment for heat-shrink tubing. Use the pointed flame to heat up and remove seized fasteners. Screw on a chisel or pointed tip to solder a splice. Cover the splice with heat-shrink tubing and finish the job with the heater/blower tip. Recharge with an ordinary butane refill.

Get a better grip

Adjustable wrenches are a great all-around tool for home and auto repairs. But they have one major drawback—you have to loosen and tighten the jaws every time you remove the wrench to grab another bite.

The Craftsman Extreme Grip 10-Inch Adjustable Wrench (No. 25825; $20 at sears.com) eliminates the back-and-forth. Just adjust the wrench so the jaws fit the nut, then squeeze the handle to achieve twice the gripping power of an ordinary adjustable wrench. When you need to grab another bite, just release the handle, move the wrench and squeeze—you’re back in business.

Diagnose problems like the pros

Got a squeak, chirp, rumbling or grinding noise coming from under the hood or in your lawn equipment? Do what the pros do—use a mechanic’s stethoscope to track down the culprit. This Lisle Stethoscope Kit (No. 52750; $15 at tooltopia.com) comes with two listening attachments. You don’t need to go to medical school to use it, either.

With the engine running, scan around the engine compartment using the amplifier attachment. That’ll direct you to the general area of the noise. Then switch over to the metal tip and touch it to solid engine components near rotating parts and listen. You’ll know you’ve found the trouble because the sound will be amplified—it’s that easy. Use the stethoscope to diagnose automotive, small-engine and home appliance problems.

An ever-popular creeper

We featured this Omega 91000 combination mechanic’s seat and creeper ($68 at tooldiscounter.com) in our Nov. ’15 issue. The tool seller reported being barraged with orders. But the most interesting part of the story is that more than one woman called in her order and told the folks at tooldiscounter.com that her husband had circled the picture of the creeper and left the open magazine lying around (hint, hint).

Do you hear that, all you gearheads? Get a red felt-tip pen and start circling the toys you want!