My top 5:
Multimeter: god at the shoddy wire runs i would have went insane over if i didn't have one to test things out with. Such an invaluable tool not only in the car but aroudn the house.
Wire Cutters: keep a few various sets around with me, a few snub nosed with long handle for the 8 - 2 gauges, and a normal pair like Will had in the 2nd pic for the smaller gauges. Also carry a small razor blade to cut insulation on the big gauges.
Soldering iron: Not just for soldering! Sometimes you get that client whose old dash plate was just a wee bit sun warped, and theres no way in gods name i am bending that fragile plastic without having a little give in it, ;) Great for the heatshrink for your splices after your done soldering thing up... and the occasional time where somehow, you've misplaced those wire cutters, :eek:
Assortment of bits and hand tools: Sure wire cutters are hand tools, but with as many as they make, and as valuable as they are, they get a cat of their own. My kit has suck things like: torx bits, star bits (with saftey punch) 90 degree screw drivers (for those tight spaces), sockets and drivers, as well as the usual screw drivers. When you start messing with all the manufacturers various ways of doing things, your learn quick that they can be screwey with things.
Cleanups: Split loom, zip ties, fasteners, and the likes. When i get done i want my install to look like it rolled off the line that way. No shortcuts. It may have taken an extra 30 minuites to fish the wire in that manner and fasten it under the dash.. but did you know it was there till i told you? Didn't think so, ;)
I would add that if possible, the multimeter should be able to measure at least 10 amps, and preferably more, though they tend to get expensive when they can measure that much amperage. If not, you can buy a Panel Mount Amp Meter (from someplace like www.allelectronics.com) for about 15 or 20 bucks, and just use that.
Also, a lighter. You use the lighter to shrink heat shrink tubing, though there are better or other ways, a lighter is pretty easy, cheap, and easily replacable.
A small socket wrench, with extensions. You may not need a bunch of sizes, since 10mm seems to be a very common size that one works with on a car, I would get at least a set with 14 mm being the biggest, going down to at least 4 or 6 mm.
I would add to this list,
a nice tone/probe generator, http://cache.smarthome.com/images/9039.jpg this tool helps with tracing wires in a bundle, great underneath the dash, as well as in home theater, where its a godsend.
and probably the best tool radioshack sells, a small butane soldering iron
this guy is cheap, works great especially stuck underneath a dash, best 20 bucks I ever spent.
Pick tool for getting panels off or all sorts of things.
Battery for checking speakers/polarity and other uses that I can't remember for now. Just make sure you know they are speakers wires before hand with a DMM by checking for resistance first. Otherwise see next post.
Here is a good example. You have a factory amp you just removed. You want to use the speaker wires and you have located the speaker wires via testing with DMM. Then you can use a standard battery to check which speaker wires go to each speaker by essential "popping" it with the battery.
power probes are a really bad idea in the hands of an untrained installer / diy'er.
I know of too many airbags set off by power probing the wrong wire.
Testing a wire for OHMS is usually a good way to see if its your wire first (2,4,8 are all numbers you should see pop up), then using a power probe on those wires to see which ones would be a good idea, just test first...
True. Very good point. First post edited
Originally Posted by nserpa9248