In the classic film Dawn of the Dead, audiences were shown the first cinematic piece featuring a zombie outbreak and mass hysteria. Similarly to the out-of-nowhere horde of brain-hungry corpses, the Holiday season brings a seemingly overnight invasion of Holley leaves, tinsel, and public domain characters that mindlessly occupy the country. Along with the flood of decorations comes the wave of depression, anxiety, and Santa-induced stress that obnoxiously waves at you from your neighbor’s lawn as a fifty-foot-tall inflatable harbinger of doom. It stands as a brainless monument to the impending ordeal that is shopping for your friends and family. If you have an automotive enthusiast in your life, then chances are you feel a bit like one of Dawn’s zombies shuffling around a mall or internet store to find something that won’t wind up in the back of someone’s closet. This list is one I have devised as an enthusiast to help you make the right choice for your favorite gear-head that won’t have them contemplate leaving you behind in the event of a zombie apocalypse for getting them a clock that looks like a big brake kit.
While no car enthusiast is the same in their interests, we do have a unifying theme: we love cars. Not car-related things like overpriced beer mugs featuring our favorite manufacturer’s logo, model kits of engines, or anything not directly usable with our cars. There are, of course, exceptions for people who do like those things, but in general, if you are going to get an enthusiast something related to cars, why not make it something they actually need and or want instead of just another novelty?
The answer I often receive from friends and family members who know I am an avid BMW proselyte is that they either don’t know what I need or those good gift ideas are prohibitively expensive. After some thought, I would like to offer this advice to anyone searching for a practical gift that won’t break the bank and that a car enthusiast will actually want.
The short answer is: get them tools.
You don’t have to know their favorite car brand, what they drive, or even what they already have in their garage toolbox to make a sound decision here. Even if they aren’t the biggest DIYer on the planet, every car guy loves a good piece of equipment to add to their shop. Many of the tools they would want but haven’t had the chance to purchase are right in the sweet spot budget of $50 or less. Here are some I would recommend to anyone this season:
This is an excellent device for even the most surface level enthusiast. It makes changing your oil much less time consuming and labor intensive. Not that the job is particularly demanding, but the ability to just pop your hood, give the extractor a few pumps, and walk away while your oil essentially changes itself is a fantastic alternative, especially if you don’t have a lift, race ramps, or want to crawl underneath your car with a drain pan every 5,000 miles.
Insert joke about missing 10mm sockets here. No one will ever complain about having too many socket sets. Inevitably, the one they have will already be mismatched or incomplete. This socket set is designed to help remove nuts and bolts in tight spaces and will make any at-home mechanic happy by increasing the number of sockets at their disposal.
This is one of those tools that many people avoid buying on their own in favor of spending the money on ‘more immediate’ tool needs because it isn’t something you absolutely have to own in order to service your brake fluid. It does, however, give you the ability to do it quickly and effectively on your own. That is the big kicker, right there, as ordinarily brake bleeding is a two-man job where you have to fight over who is going to lay on the ground and have brake fluid splashed all over them and who gets to just sit in the car and pump the pedal. Absolve any future arguments in your driveway with a brake bleeder tool and watch as their brakes bleed themselves while you all stand back and enjoy a warm (or cold) beverage.
Unless you have a lift at your house, any work on your car that requires lifting it in the air requires a jack and jack stands to safely perform the service. No one has ‘too many jack stands.’ While they aren’t that exciting, having spare jack stands floating around are often better than not having spares. These are a must for any garage.
This one is more expensive but fairly self-explanatory. The difference between enjoying working on your car and cursing every second often comes down to the tools you use. Heavy jacks with poor casters that don’t fit under lowered vehicles make me want to do things I can’t write about without being sent to a company-ordered psych evaluation. Even if they already have a jack, owning two low-profile jacks definitely comes in handy, as some jobs at home are assisted by using the jack to lift up suspension parts. Having multiple jacks is always a good call.
There is a growing trend in the auto industry where manufacturers are using fewer standard nuts and bolts and instead favoring fasteners with Torx heads or other less common variants. This makes working on cars a headache because you have to buy new tools. The Specialty Bit Kit is 100 bits with Torx and other security fastener heads that will allow your favorite enthusiast to knock out that DIY job. This kit is ideal for anyone who has not yet justified the purchase but has complained about needing new sockets and bits to work on their car.
Lastly, this is an easy essential gift for which any enthusiast will thank you. On most European cars, the wheels are secured with lug bolts that thread into the wheel hub. This means any time you want to remove a wheel and then put it back on, you have to balance it on your shins while you sit on the ground and try to get the bolt holes to line up without spinning the hub. The wheel hanger quickly threads into the wheel hub and allows you to easily line up the wheel and hang it on the hanger while you thread in the rest of your lugs. No balancing it on your shins and no cursing your car’s manufacturer.
All these tool ideas are perfect for any enthusiast and, aside from the low-pro jack, won’t set you back more than about $50, which is good for most secret Santa gift exchanges or family functions. Instead of shuffling aimlessly through hobby stores or wondering which novelty tee-shirt that car enthusiast would want, get them something they will actually use. Tools and equipment make the best gifts and you might be able to convince them to help you do some work on your own car with those brand new tools courtesy of someone who showed a bit of forethought with their purchase rather than acting out of zombie-like obligation.