Five Game-Changing Mechanics’ Tools Under $100

Feb 16, 2021

Faye Hadley / All Girls Garage host, technician, and owner/founder of Pistons & PixieDust

Friends in the industry often ask me for my top tool recommendations. I may be known for brand loyalty when it comes to car manufacturers, but that same rule doesn’t apply to my tools. I’m nothing if not practical when I stock my shop – and if I’m going to recommend a tool to a fellow wrencher, it has to be something that has proven its worth to me over time. It has to be something I use on a regular basis and have come to rely on, or something that has simplified or streamlined my work in a big way. Something I’d be lost without. In other words – a game-changer.

What Makes a Product a Game-Changer?

I’m sharing a list of my top five game-changing mechanics’ tools with y’all. But first, what’s my criteria for a game-changer?

Sometimes a game-changer is just the absolute best version of a tool that every mechanic needs in their shop. A game-changer can also be a tool that you never thought you’d need until you own it, and suddenly you can’t live without it. Tools from both of those categories fall into my list below.

Price as a Game-Changer

Now, let’s talk about price. I’m always looking for the best deal I can find, but I’m also a stickler for good quality. I know firsthand from years on a super tight budget that if a tool generally seems to be retailing for around $100 and you find a version for $10, it’ll probably end up busted the first time you try anything heavy duty with it. But, years of deal-scouting and tool-testing have led me to some true game-changing purchases that are still moderately budget-friendly. And trust me, these picks are worth the price tag.

My mom has always justified a splurge with one very helpful rule that I apply to all five of these picks: “price per wear.” Think of those expensive boots that made you cringe when you first shelled out the cash for them, but now that you wear them every day, any price would have been worth it. In other words, if you’re going to use something literally hundreds of times, think of the price tag as “10 cents per use” over the span of its lifetime, and suddenly that initial swipe of the credit card feels way less painful.

Which leads me to my top picks for game-changing tools under $100:

1. Kneeling Pad

On any given day in my shop, I can end up spending almost an entire day on my knees to get a project done. Any technician will tell you the same thing – wrenching is hard on the body.

I bought my ErgoKneel Handy Mat back in 2012, and I still own it. This kneeling pad has absolutely saved the health of knees. An older technician recommended this game-changer to me at the very beginning of my journey as a mechanic, and I have never been without one.

Is Your Tool or Product a Game-Changer?

Game-Changer Tip:  If your tool or product aids the user’s health and comfort, you’ll likely have loyal customers who not only buy your products, but recommend them to others as well.

2. USB Snake Inspection Camera

A high-end borescope like this one from Fantronics can run you over $1,000 (I’m looking at you, Snap-On – although I do love your products!), but there is a huge selection of borescopes at lower price points that do the job just fine.

Buy several in that price tier and have them floating around your shop, or get a couple for your higher-level techs to keep on their toolboxes. Many borescopes work with your smartphone, so you don’t have to worry about damaging an expensive screen.

These are a game-changer because they help technicians tell the story to the customer: you can remove a spark plug and guide the scope through the hole to show a customer proof of a blown head gasket or excessive oil consumption! You can bend the head and snake it to the back of the engine to snap a photo of their leaking circular plugs! You can find scopes in the $20 to $60 range in a variety of different flavors, without the stress of a massive investment.

Game-Changer Tip:  Think about how your tool provides the user that “A-ha!” moment by offering new or better perspectives (literally or figuratively).  Or consider how your product helps professionals provide better customer service.

3. Underhood Work Light

This one’s simple: you just make fewer mistakes when you can see well! My shop is actually pretty dark, so this item is definitely a game-changer for me. I’ve had this super-bright LED version from National Tool Warehouse since 2014. The telescoping and ratcheting brackets help to illuminate exactly where you need to see. A former boss bought it for me as a year-end bonus and it has been super helpful ever since, especially during late-night jobs and gray winter afternoons!

Game-Changer Tip:  Focus on what your tool or product can do to help the user get the job done right the first time – or how it helps them work faster.  Consumers can justify investing in a tool that will save them time, mistakes, and frustration in the long-run.

4. Bolt Organizer

I do a lot of engine swaps and a fair amount of long-term projects, so having a way to keep my bolts (of all shapes and sizes) organized in one contained place is a game-changer. I used to puncture holes in a piece of cardboard to store my bolts, and this seemed like a great idea until I inevitably spilled oil or coolant onto them, which disintegrated the cardboard and destroyed my organizational “tool”. Worse, it also meant I lost the placement of my bolts.

This organizer from Boltster features a large pad for labeling your projects, which is an added bonus. Plus, this one also can go right into the parts washer when you’re done so it stays nice and clean. It saves me so much time by keeping me organized.

Game-Changer Tip:  How does your tool or product act as a “workshop assistant”?  Does it improve the user’s workflow, keep their space organized, prevent headaches, allow for easy clean-up?  Think about what qualities make it worth “hiring”!

5. Shop Software

As a business owner who’s essentially running a one-woman show, cutting down on paperwork in order to maximize my time wrenching in the shop is vital. And let’s be honest – I didn’t become a technician because I love inventory management and calculating estimates.

Important as those things are, I just want to spend as much time as possible working on cars. Shop Ware’s shop management technology streamlines the business side of my operation. It helps me effectively communicate with my customers through photos, videos, and a chat thread, all of which cut down on the amount of time I would otherwise spend the phone explaining things to customers. At $75 a month, it’s well worth the investment given how much time it saves me.

Game-Changer Tip:  A tool or product that takes care of business, or handles those eyeroll-inducing tasks no one wants to spend time on, is definitely a game-changer. And a technology-based tool that’s easy to use “right out of the box” is attractive to potential customers who may be worried about the time they’ll lose getting it up and running.

What makes your brand a game-changer? If you’re not sure, why not get some help from our expert consultants?



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