There are a lot of useful tools I have picked up over the years performing DIY work on my BMWs. Some of them are BMW specific and some of them are tools that you would expect any DIYer to have in their garage if they perform more than basic oil changes. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the tools you will and/or may need overtime, but it is a really solid start. Not every DIYer will need every single tool on this list. Keep in mind that I personally did not pick up some of these tools until several years into maintaining my own vehicles.
Bentley Service Manual
A Bentley Service Manual is the very first and most important tool to purchase as a new BMW owner. Think of the manual as a fairly in-depth source of maintenance and repair information for your particular year and model BMW. These manuals come chock full of diagrams and detailed information for most repair and diagnostic procedures. Bentley Service Manuals will contain wiring diagrams, fluid and torque specifications, and will often contain tips and tricks for removing and installing parts.
In addition to being quite useful for BMW DIYers, Bentley Service Manuals are a great resource for owners who wish to engage in more intelligent communication with their mechanics when discussing repairs.
Bentley Service Manuals can typically be picked up online for around $200, you can check out your manual here.
BMW Scan Tool
If you do more than oil changes and air filter replacements on your car you are going to want a scan tool. I suggest staying away from the really cheap and flimsy generic scan tools found all over the internet for $20. Sure, you might get some limited use out of them, but the more detailed diagnostic information you will obtain from a quality scanner is well worth the additional cost. I paid about $180 for my BMW scan tool and it has been good to me for years. They help take the guess work out of diagnosing a problem and scan tools are extremely easy to use.
While there are quite a few quality BMW-centric scan tools available on the marketplace, my best experience has been with the Foxwell NT510. I initially came upon this scanner due to a friend’s recommendation and after seeing that it was highly recommended on the BMW forums I decided to take the plunge.
For a little under $200 the Foxwell offers a lot of bang for your buck. The first thing that you will like is that this scanner will work with both OBD I and OBD II BMWs. Reading the codes on BMWs built in 1995 and earlier can be a pain if you don’t have one of these scanners. This scanner will register your battery, read codes (including BMW-specific codes of course!), adjust idle speed and throttle and troubleshoot Air conditioning issues.
The Foxwell scanner is also quite compact and does not require any additional tools to use. Overall, I find Foxwell to be a user-friendly scanner that offers enough diagnostic detail for the vast majority of DIYers.
You can pick up the Foxwell scanner here!
Alternatively, one other really interesting scanner that many BMW owners appreciate is the Carley Adapter. This tool is literally an adapter that you plug into your BMW’s OBD II port and it works with your cellphone via Bluetooth. The adapter will pull codes, register your batteries, customize iDrive and unlock additional features via ECU coding. You can check out the Carley Adapter here.
Every DIY mechanic who has had to contend with an incredibly stuck bolt or nut knows that there is a standard escalation procedure. The process typically goes in this order: (i) wrench, (ii) spray area with pb blaster and then try wrench again, (iii) breaker bar, and (iv) torch + breaker bar. An impact gun can of course be used instead of a breaker bar, however, there will come a time where a breaker bar is the only tool that can get the job done.
I most frequently find myself using my breaker bar on suspension components where I can’t seem to fit my impact gun. You can pick them up for the cheap (under $50) from your local autoparts store or alternatively, right here.
Multimeters are useful tools for BMW owners, regardless of whether you perform DIY work or not. Multimeters can be used to troubleshoot batteries, alternators, power window switches, and pretty much any other electrical sensor.
Multimeters are also typically fairly cheap and can be picked up at your neighborhood parts/home improvement store or right here. Multimeters can run up to several hundred dollars but I have found that there is a diminishing return past the $50 for the vast majority of DIYers. There simply is not very much that a $300 multimeter can do differently for a DIYer compared to a $40 multimeter.
Get in the habit of purchasing entire socket sets, instead of a small piecemeal set or a socket here and there. If you purchase one or two big socket sets and you are relatively neat in your organization, you will not have to buy any singles for a long time. Dewalt sells a solid 192-piece starter kit, which you can pick up here. Alternatively, I find that Lowes Home Improvement and Home Depot will have great holiday sales from time to time.
Remember, no matter how big of a tool kit you get, you will likely still find yourself buying individual 10 mm sockets far more frequently than you would prefer. 10 mm sockets are an extremely common size on BMWs. I lose these things all the time. I should probably just buy a set of 10 mm sockets and be done with it.
Plastic Clip Removal Tool Kit
A plastic clip removal tool kit is probably the most underrated tool for BMW owners and no one thinks about purchasing this tool until after you have destroyed the inside of your door panel or speaker panel. If you have ever had to remove a BMW door panel for whatever reason, you will have noticed that they are held to the door frame by a combination of flimsy plastic clips and screws. Unfortunately, I used a flathead screwdriver to remove my first door panel, which resulted in the damaging of my door panel and the destruction of all of the plastic clips.
The removal tool kit is incredibly inexpensive and made of nylon so that it will not damage your door panels. These tools are worth their weight in gold when it comes time to use them and you can pick them up here.
Pick Up Magnets
A lot of people forget about this tool or don’t know what it is until you are searching the internet for how to pick up a bolt that you dropped into the engine bay. I feel like this is how most people get acquainted with the pick up magnet. It is by far my favorite tool, it’s cheap, extremely useful and it’s long enough to where you probably will not lose it. It has saved me numerous times when I have dropped bolts, sockets and nuts down into the engine bay with no chance of getting them out by hand.
This tool is a must for anyone doing any sort of repairs that involve small metal parts. I have bought several over the years from my local auto parts store, they cost between $5-$15.
Other important hand tools include:
Inverted Torx and Torx bits
Hex Key Set
Low Profile Jack
As a DIYer, you will absolutely need a jack, but a low profile jack is not an absolute necessity. On the other hand, I have found low profile jacks to be very useful for 3 Series BMWs. “Low profile” is just a term used for jacks that sit in a resting position very close to the ground. This is incredibly useful for lifting cars such as 3 Series BMWs that typically sit below the threshold of a regular jack.
I don’t even use my normal height jack anymore for anything but my truck. Low profile jacks can be purchased for $50+, and they are worth every penny. Whenever you need to perform an oil change, fuel filter replacement or brake pad replacement you will need a jack.
You can purchase a high quality low profile jack here or find one at your local auto parts store.
It’s true that BMWs traditionally come with a scissor jack inside of the trunk. However, I strongly recommend that you do not rely on these jacks for regular maintenance as they are really only meant to be used in an emergency.
Along with a jack you will also need jack stands and possibly wooden blocks. I use 4×4 wood blocks just in case the jack stand fails.
Impact guns can vary significantly in price but they are an absolute godsend in some tough situations and they are a huge time saver. The obvious drawback is that they can get expensive and you have to properly maintain this tool or it will wear out prematurely. Mine broke about a year ago and I have not yet felt the need to buy another one. However, they are extremely useful for removing tough nuts and bolts connected to the suspension, wheels and of course the crankshaft pulley bolt.
This is a tool that most DIYers don’t necessarily NEED but it is a huge time and lower back saver.
You can do some research and find the best impact gun out there which will likely set you back several hundred dollars. Alternatively, I have had a lot of success with sub-$100 impact guns over the years. You can find a solid and inexpensive impact gun here.
An air compressor is not really a necessity for DIY repair. If you have a track car or a backyard used tire shop, than by all means buy one. But I have had the same cheap plastic air compressor for years and I have not used the thing once.
A Torque Wrench
A torque wrench is not a necessity for most DIY people. The only time I ever use my torque wrench is for head gasket replacements. Why? Because there are a lot of bad things that can happen if you do not torque the head bolts down to specifications. Besides that, the vast majority of the time I use a regular old ratchet.
That being said some DIYers get a little extra peace of mind when tightening exactly to specifications with a torque wrench. Some people use them for all kinds of repairs that I would never bother using a torque wrench for. Make sure that you get one with a metric scale, as BMW specs are always metric.
It’s up to you on this one unless you plan on doing major engine work, and in that case you better get one. Torque wrenches can vary quite a bit in price, you can pick one up for as low as $25 and more expensive ones go for $100+. My only bit of advice here is to STAY AWAY from Harbor Freight for torque wrenches. I have had too many poor experiences with their ratchets breaking apart within a few days of owning them to ever recommend those kinds of tools from that store.
That’s pretty much it for tools that most DIYers will need. It certainly varies by what level of DIY work you intend to do, but equipped with all of these tools will make BMW maintenance significantly cheaper and easier for you.