Basic TDI Tool Kit


Veteran Member
Apr 7, 2006
Alexandria, VA
2002 golf
Choosing Tools

This is a bit presumptuous because it's difficult to guess what sort of work needs to be done, or event the type of D-I-Y work a random person would attempt. But when I got my car I asked the question, so I figured other may also.

There have been a number of posts addressed to the question I began searching for -- What tools do I need? Obviously there isn't really an answer here, but here's some reference material. (My background is listed at the bottom of this message.)


More on getting a good tool kit at a cheap price at the end of this post)

Obviously, we'd all like the Apprentice Set of tools from Snap-On, but want to pay for the ones in the "discount bin" at the local variety store. Here's my take on it.

Cheap tools are generally bad economy because they hinder you rather than help, either by being hard to use, by stripping fasteners, or by breaking. In one sense, the amateur needs better tools than the professional, because the tool goes a long way in helping the job along.
To unwind the rear brake caliper you can get either:

A jigged unwind tool, such as Metalnerd's or part of a set (Not the 6-piece set; it must include VW!)

A "cube" brake unwinder, which uses a socket wrench extension.

A block of wood.

The "cube" is a lot cheaper than the Metalnerd tool, but will fight you. Stay away from the cube unless it's the only option available. (The block of wood is obviously even harder.)

The Metalnerd tool sort of guides you along. So for under $50 you can get the Metalnerd tool and still save on a brake job which of course pays for the tool on the first job. Plus neither the block or wood nor the cube will spread the front caliper, but the Metalnerd tool is also a conventional caliper spread tool.

Get the Metalnerd tool or the 11-piece universal set.
There are some compromises. The polished finish of Snap-On wrenches (also available from other manufacturers) makes the tool seem easier to work with. But the key to a good tool is whether it properly engages the fastener. This can be accomplished with mid-range tools like Craftsman, Kobalt (Lowes) or Nikko. Some of these are as good as top end -- for example I'm sure my Nikko allen (hex) drive sockets are as good as Snap-On, at least for most applications.

It may be possible to mix-and-match cheap and good tools. For example if you have a good set of short sockets, you can probably get away with cheaper long sockets. Even a professional mechanic doesn't need Snap-On allen sockets in the toolbox. So get at least a basic set of good quality tools, because they are at the core of the work you will be doing.

There's another alternative, listed in the next post, describing a core set of good tools.

The Brands
Some are better than others, but there are some good bargains, especially on Kobalt, Herbrand and independent Craftsman sellers (eBay "Buy-it-Now") (These are mostly N.American brands)

high quality
Armstrong, Snap-On, S-K, Hazet (Germany), Allen, Proto, Williams, Mac, Bonney

good quality
Kobalt, Herbrand, Craftsman, Nikko,

Note that high end tools on eBay typically sell for near list price. So unless you want to "play" on eBay, you're at least as well-off buying fixed price (eBay "Buy it Now"). You're better off at local used tool sources. On the other hand, I've found some good mid-quality stuff on eBay.


(See post approx. 7 down in this thread.)


Hence the Snap-On list (Apprentice Set of tools from Snap-On). I don't think this set is intended as a "purchase this set" set. I think it is a suggestion list. "Here is what VW mechanics suggest you may need if you become a VW mechanic." The reason I say this is that anyone accepting a job as a VW mechanic probably has at least some good tools. They're not going to buy the entire Snap-On Apprentice set.

... taken form other threads

Topside oil drain:
Topsider or Pella (6000) are most popular, but there are others.

vacuum extractor (used as brake vacuum bleeder). Sears sells the miTvac as well ($35) for the brake fluid/fuel filter changes

Oil filter wrench - 76mm or 74/76mm, 14 flute (eco type oil filter). NOT for A3 or pre-99.5 TDI. Money is no object -- get a cheap one.

Torx: T-15, T-20, T-25. T-25 is important and often not in quick-change screwdriver kits. I found a 6-in-1 screwdriver by "Enderes" configured with torx bits which I found really nice, and included a T25.

Sockets: essential ones are 7mm 10mm 17mm 6 pt. sockets are better than 12 pt.

German cars use 6 , 8 , 10 , 13 , 15 , 17 , 19 , 21 , 30 , & 32 although you don't need all of these. also some 11, 12 and 16 on VW. Someone mentioned 16 and 18 but I'm not sure of those. (Japanese use 6 , 8 , 10 , 12 , 14 , 17 , 19 , 22 , 26 , 30 , & 34, so the 12 and 14 may be good to have.)

For sockets, get 6 point which are less likely to damage nuts. (The ratchet provides the fine positioning.)

Combination wrenches - get a set, common sizes 8 , 10 , 13 , 15 , 17, 19. Choose a set with the right "feel" for you. I personally found Kobalt to feel better than Craftsman. I personally prefer 12 point for these.

17 1/2 inch drive socket (wheel lugs, in case you need to apply 150 ft. lb to remove them)

a set of allen key sockets, 5, 6, 7, 8 You'll need at least the 5 to be short.

Torque wrench - you can get away with 75 ft-lb (wheel lugs are 80 ft. lb) but a 150 is more convenient. Most common torques are 15 to 25 Nm. I'd suggest a low range needle-bar type and an upper range clicker type. New needle-bar types are in the $25 range.

floor jack and jackstands

3/8 socket drive to fit cordless power drill

Flare Nut wrenches - including 11 (brake lines) 17 (injector lines). These must be good quality.

crowfoot 17 (to torque injector lines)

Rear brake unwinder tool - either screw-clamp (e.g., Metalnerd; 11 piece unwinder set),

hose clamp tool (band clamp pliers) - the "long reach flexible hose clamp pliers" (with a cable) is worth the extra money. examples: Astro Pneumatic AP 9409; SK (higher cost than Astro). Everyone who bought one of those hose clamp pliers with the cable is pleased with the purchase.

The Bentley Repair manual


5 & 6mm "long ball end hex bit"

1/4 sockets or ratchet wrenches.

8 mm 12 pt tool for struts -- I saw one suggestion for, 8, 10, and 12 triple square set.
Whatever size triple wrench fits the door hinges (perhaps the 8mm 12 pt tool used on the struts). The 8 also fits the seatbelt receiver. 12 for head bolts (so don't get the 6-8-10 set)

"clicker" torque wrench good for 150 ft.lbs. for lug nuts


radio removal tools (if I can't get Pendeflex "ape hanger" folder wires to work)

air or electric impact wrench.

Here's a List of Tools for Specific Jobs. These are not the complete sets for these jobs; just the specialty tools:

1/2 in drive sockets:
30 mm 6 pt: front axle nuts
24 mm 6 or 12 pt: steering wheel
36 mm 6 pt: Plastic cap on VR6 oil filter. (Used as an oil filter wrench)
22 mm 6pt: various, such as oil cooler. etc.
6mm star socket (EMPI brand) for CV joints
headlight aiming - 6mm allen
19 mm oil drain (but you might never open it)
12mm 12-point star (triple square) and 12 wrench for head
8mm 12-point star (triple square) - bolt for A4 seatbelt receiver, suspension on A4, A5
12mm 12-point star (triple square) - inner CV boot and alternator pulley (partial)
alternator freewheel pulley - 12mm 12-point star (triple square) and spline tool in Metalnerd set. (See HOWTO link)
axle end nut - 30 mm 12 Point Socket (Metalnerd sells impact grade)
rear brakes:
8mm allen drive, 15mm open wrench, piston windback tool, #3 philips socket or impact
front brakes
7mm allen, #3 philips socket or impact

alternator: 16 wrench & socket, T27 Torx (maybe __ triple square)

Here's the Snap-On Apprentice set

VW Specialty Tools:

One Craftsman dealer on eBay:

Tool Kits
What tools/ set should i buy?
Tools for changing fuel filter?

What tools and parts do you carry in your TDI?
What few tools for trip?
What road tools?
trunk tools

I am not a professional auto mechanic. I am a qualified aircraft mechanic, although I'm no longer in the field. I've been maintaining my own cars, although I hadn't rebuilt a diesel or done some of the heavy work such as changing clutches for quite a while.

- stan
'00 Golf (Rocketchip II, 520, TT 17 wheels, Valeo ECE lights)
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Veteran Member
Apr 7, 2006
Alexandria, VA
2002 golf
... A Good Tool Kit at a Cheap Price


If you look at some of the above lists, you'll see that most of the work is done with a limited set of tools -- sort of a glorified "in-car" set. For example, the above list mentions:
8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 19 and maybe 11, 12 hex wrenches​

Obviously a toolkit limited to just those sizes would be... limited. But what about a good quality or high quality set of the most commonly used wrenches, and complete set of junk tools? In other words, a good "core set" of tools and a junk "complete set".

So the idea is to check what you have. Then take a copy of the above list (or any other list) and head to a flea market. Sift through the tool bins to find:
1. good quality versions of the tools you identified as a "core set"
2. a complete set of wrenches and misc. tools to make up a complete set.

My suggestion - buy used at a flea market if you have the time. The prices may be lower, and the middle quality tools are low in cost.

If you do happen to get a "complete set" of junk to augment a "core set", you in effect have yet another tool kit -- the parts of the "complete set" which are duplicated by the "core set". These could be convenient at a vacation home or as extras in the car.

- stan
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Fortuna Wolf

Veteran Member
Apr 28, 2006
Wilmington, NC
2002 Jetta TDI Auto Sedan
Eh, you know, for me sets of Kobalts on sale filled my need for wrenches. I found a set of size adapters and universal joints on sale for $10, and a set of extensions at harbor freight as well. Harbor Freight's 100 piece security bit set for $7 added in M6-M10 triple point drivers as well as torx, and adapters for the bits to a 1/4" wrench.
How is the quality? Good. I like it. Haven't had a problem with it yet, except when the 8mm hex driver sheared in half when I hit the wrench with a hammer hoping to unstick the bolt. No, I don't blame the tool. The 19 piece open ended metric wrench set from harbor freight isn't the best (ok, its adequate) but for $12 I'm not complaining.
I looked at the prices for Snap Ons. $10 for a single socket? $20 for a ball peen hammer?
Dear god.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of ingenuity either. Get a pela (or Oil Boy), and hook a smaller hose to it. Presto! You have a vacuum actuator and brake bleeder!
The $20 brake caliper set from Harbor Freight worked like a charm too.

oh, and getting the axle nut off of my car required a 30mm 12 point socket (Kobalt @ Lowes was my friend here), a 1/2" breaker bar (yay Harbor Freight), and a 6 ft long black iron cheater bar (yay Lowes).
I just want to point out that you can survive and do work just fine with cheap tools.

Yes, I've had some problems, like the hose clamp tool from Ebay, but I still think Ive come out in the end.

Ian F

Veteran Member
Sep 26, 2002
Croydon, PA
Jetta Wagon, 2003, Indigo Blue

I'm a tool junkie... and also work on a lot more cars (more often) than just my TDI... However, I recently completed a TB change and still have the tools I used reasonably fresh in memory.

Basically, your standard metric socket set is needed. This will include 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" drive sockets and wrenches as well as assorted extensions and adapters. I used all three for various tasks. Yes, I might have bee nable to get away with fewer, but I have them... Some of my tools I've had for many years... Currently, the two cars I wrench on most are my g/f's '73 Volvo and her '79 Spitfire - oddly enough, both are mainly SAE rather than metric, so more than half of my sockets are fractional.

For the engine cover I use a 10mm universal socket on a speeder wrench. I've had a 3/8" dr speeder wrench for a long time and it gets quite a bit of use.

For the belly pan, I use a T25 bit in a 9.6V cordless drill. While removal is no big deal, one trick to using these without destroying things when installing screws is to use the clutch settings most cordless drills have. For mine (an old Makita), setting #3 seems to work well. I also use a 18V drill to install lug bolts and then torque them after putting the car on the ground. I use the highest clutch setting so that when the bolt stops turning the 18v drill doesn't suddenly try to take your arm off.

Torque wrenches. I have the three Craftsmans that Sears sells and when I did the TB used all of them.

Flare wrenches. This is where I disagree about not buying Snap-on. Flare wrenches are one area not ot skimp on, IMHO. I have used too many "cheap" versions - including Craftsman - to trust them anymore. After getting a set of Snap-on flare wrenches, I won't buy any others. They simply fit better and considering you only really need them for initially breaking the nut loose (I switch to an easier open-end wrench afterwards), fit is very important.

Definitely agree about the cable-band clamp pliers. What an awesome tool.

For wrenches, I'm loving my metric and fractional Gearwrenches. They are often my go-to wrenches for many tasks.

Another important tool to own is a GOOD set of taps and dies. And by "good" I mean "not cheap". No, that $20 set from Harbor Freight won't do. Trust me... BTDT... they are crap.... actually, they are WORSE than crap... worse than having none at all... That was $40 that I literally threw into the trash... I was so pissed at them... :mad:

I suppose what I'm getting at is if all you're going to do is wrench on your TDI once in awhile, then no, you probably don't need an extensive tool collection... But when a large portion of your spare time is spent wrenching on cars (my g/f and I have seven cars between us, plus I work on a few friends' cars often), you start to understand why pro mechanics have $50K worth of tools... and you can actually justify the expense of Snap-on for a few select tools. I simply don't have time to be frustrated by cheap tools anymore. Buy a good tool once and have it for life and enjoy it everytime you use it.

Where Harbor-Freight is good is for infrequently used tools or for tools where tight tolerances are less important. For example, I have a 3/4" dr ratchet & socket set from H-F. Cost a whopping $40 and hasn't failed to work for any situation when I've needed a 2" socket.

Lastly, you can never have enough storage space... :eek:


Well-known member
Jul 23, 2006
WC Indiana
02 Jetta auto
I have more tools than the law allows but am always seeing something and wondering what I could use it for. Remember when you needed a tool and didn't have it? Be prepared. Anyway, I once and a while find a "hole" in my tool set and find that purchasing one or two sockets is almost as much as buying the whole set so my advice to younger or first time tool purchaser's is to buy the big set, it will be cheaper in the long.


Active member
Mar 13, 2006
2004 TDI NB
Road kits can include some of those triangular, stand-up reflectors so cars can avoid you if you are stuck.

My trunk emergency kit has three of those. The rest of the trunk kit is assembled according to what I might need if stuck out here in the desert. It is mostly water, food, an emergency charger for my cellphone, a shovel, strips of carpet to put under the tires if stuck in soft sand, and a tarp and ropes for shade.

My sister's kit, assembled by me, has snowshoes cus she lives in a suburb of Chicago. It also has a folding chair so, after she gets a local parking place shoveled out, she can save her place when she leaves with the chair. She claims that is a legal way of saving parking places in the Chicago area, but I doubt it.

Ditto on making this a sticky. Great info!!


Veteran Member
Apr 7, 2006
Alexandria, VA
2002 golf
Road Tool Kit (trunk tools)

(In less than one day, this thread has 7 replies. And I'm not even selling a set of TB tools for 1/2 price.)


There's another set of tools -- what to carry in the car (trunk tools). That's a bit of guesswork, to decide what could possibly go wrong.

My take on this: Whatever you decide on, plus a 10mm nutdriver or socket, T-15, T-20 and T-25 Torx, and something that works as a hose clamp tool.

And a 10 and 13 wrench.

A 17 flare nut wrench may be useful if you ever need to bleed an injector line.

I found a 21 piece Craftsman magnetic nutdriver kit from fleaBay, which is ideal as a trunk tool set. I bought them from this guy: leontyleradam This should show up in this search:
(search for 'set')

Also a cellphone charger (I've done patent work for 2 of the largest cellphone companies, and can assure you they're programmed to have dead batteries when you absolutely need to call somebody.)

- stan
'00 Golf (Rocketchip II, 520, TT 17 wheels, Valeo ECE lights)
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Fortuna Wolf

Veteran Member
Apr 28, 2006
Wilmington, NC
2002 Jetta TDI Auto Sedan
Having a 17mm wrench is a good idea for the injector lines.
I find that 10 and 13 mm sockets and 5 and 6mm hex drivers are the most common. T-20, T-25, T-30, and the assorted phillips heads.
I wonder how academic this is. The only thing I've done is run out of fuel (hehehe), and if you don't have a 17mm wrench you can still crank it every minute till it starts.