There are quite a few tools I have picked up over the years to work on BMWs. Some of them are BMW specific, but most of them are tools that you would expect any DIY person to have in their garage if they do more than 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 good start. Neither does every DIYer need every single tool on this list, many of these tools I did not pick up for years after I initially started maintaining my own vehicles.
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 sticking away from the cheap ones found all over the internet for $20. Sure, you might get some limited use out of them, but the quality and usage you will get out of a quality scanner is worth the additional cost. I paid about $120 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.
If an impact gun is a little too much of an investment than you ABSOLUTELY MUST have a breaker bar. Some people call them cheater bars or just heavy duty ratchets, but they are useful tools. You will need one to remove wheel studs, axle retaining nuts and potentially other giant, torqued down bolts. I picked mine up for $40 but they can easily cost upwards of $80.
Great tool and easy to use, there are a million things that this tool can help you with diagnosing. Alternator, battery, power window switches, and any other sensor can be tested with a multimeter. They are fairly cheap and can be picked up at your neighborhood parts or home improvement store.
Get in the habit of purchasing entire socket sets, instead of a smaller 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 wont have to buy any singles for a long time.
This rule does not apply to 10 mm sockets, which 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.
BMWs typically come with a small tool kit inside the top of the trunk. These tools are helpful for basic repairs and the kit includes a spark plug removal tool.
Other important hand tools include:
Low Profile Jack
Although it’s very likely you will need a jack, a low profile jack is not an absolute necessity. On the other hand, I have found it very useful for the low-lying 3 Series. I don’t even use my normal 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. The jacks that come in BMW trunks are cheap and are only meant to be used for emergencies, for real DIY maintenance you should invest in a real jack.
Along with a jack you will also need jack stands and possibly wood blocks. I use 4×4 wood blocks just in case the jack stand fails.
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.
Impact guns can be quite useful in some tough situations and they are a huge time saver. The obvious drawback is that they are expensive. Mine broke about a year ago and I have not yet felt the need to buy another one. However, they are extremely helpful for any suspension components or for taking tires and steering wheels off.
This is a tool that most people don’t NEED but everybody WANTS, especially after you get one.
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 replacement. 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.