When I was 15 I stopped asking for toys and video games at birthdays and Christmas and started asking for tools. Quality tools can be handed down to your kids, and the more tools you have the more stuff you can fix. Here are a few things that I find indispensable that may surprise even die-hard DIYers.
5. Krylon BBQ Paint
Ok, stick with me here. This High Heat Krylon goes on smooth and is tough. Satiny black and smooth, this stuff is a near perfect match for anything underneath a car. I've seen whole exhaust systems, excluding the headers, painted in this stuff. It's cheap, durable, versatile, and looks good for a long time. Prepare the surface well and this stuff is a cheap way to get a protective coat on a part quick.
4. Weatherstrip Adhesive
Weatherstrip Adhesive 3M Weatherstrip Adhesive can be messy but it's unparalleled in its variety of use. Apply it to two surfaces that bonded, wait until tacks off, stick 'em together and viola, fixed.
This comes in black and yellow and like any adhesive it has its limitations, but this versatile little tube of glue can do anything from sticking displaced weatherstrip back where it belongs to sticking the fabric down on your door panels. I've seen a headliner installed in a '69 Camaro with this stuff. The work wasn't done by a hack either, he was a pro who knew the capabilities of this quality product to do a long term repair.
3. Juicy Markers
What are you going to use to write on all those bags with? If you don't have a selection of these little babies scattered around your shop the short answer is, you won't.
In 1964 Muhammad Ali won his first heavyweight title, Corvette decided to drop that sexy split rear window, and the world was introduced to sharpies. These things are infinitely useful. They're still a quality product. I like to keep one within arm's reach at my desk, in my truck and in my shop.
2. Cell Phone
A phone is probably the most valuable non-tool on the list. I snap pictures almost ceaselessly the first time I tear something down, that way I have a photographic record to back up my faulty memory when it comes time to put it back together. I always have it with me so if I need to show someone exactly what I'm talking about I have a picture right there in my pocket.
Even my broken old iPhone is internet capable, which is essentially like having the answer to any question ever asked at your fingertips. And, astonishingly, this little device can be used to talk in real time with other human beings who may have a sense of what to do in the face of a mechanical conundrum.
1. Zipper Bags
Get a couple sizes Ziplocss and get into the habit of bagging parts as soon as take them off of working on. Write the project name on the bag, the contents and the date.
The project name seems obvious, but when you have your little sister's radio torn apart and the carburetor off your dirt bike writing a name on a bag avoids confusion.
Write the contents on the front of the bag along with any details you think will be helpful. "But I'll remember where it goes, besides I'm putting it right back on." Maybe you will, but I don't know how many times I've taken something apart and for some unforeseeable reason it sat for months before I got back to it which is enough time to forget what it is what where it goes.
Date it. This is just one more clue to what's in the bag. I remember taking my emergency brake cable off in the summer so that narrows the search through bags of parts down to the warm weather months.
Finally, this speeds up re-installation. Things just seem to put themselves back together when all the necessary pieces and hardware are right in front of you.
My tools are my most cherished and valuable possessions. I'm not much of a collector, but you could say I do collect tools. I can spend a c-note on tools without batting an eye, but when I spend it at the grocery store or buying clothes I wince every time. What are the tools you can't live without?