Sitting inside the garages of countless homes in America are cars waiting for their day to go on the road again. Unluckier cars await the same, but in driveways or backyard mud pits. Many sit because their owners don’t have the time and sometimes because they don’t have the tools. While I can’t help you squeeze more hours out of your day, there is a certain kind of library to lend you some tools.
For this week’s Cool Tool, I was gearing up to write about an inline spark tester, but I stumbled upon a report by a local paper about something wholesome and meaningful. Spreading across communities all over the nation — maybe even yours! — are libraries. But these aren’t for books; instead they loan you the tools you need to finally get that project car running — or at the very least, your house fixed up.
I’m sure you’ve been in the same place I have. You want to do something — maybe suspension work, an engine overhaul, or even an engine swap — but you stop because the cost for the tools required for the task add up quickly. I’ve been there many times as a teenager and a young adult, and if you’ve been there, I don’t need to tell you how much it sucks. It’s even worse for a job that you may end up doing maybe only a couple of times ever, so you can’t really rationalize the spending required.
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Two-way talk function
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And that’s where these libraries really shine. These aren’t tool rental stores, hence why they compare themselves to a library. Instead, they’re organizations that seek to make tools available to everyone.
While tool libraries continue to open around the country, they aren’t a new concept. The Grosse Pointe Public Library in Michigan, for example, has had a tool library since 1943. Another tool library was opened in Columbus, Ohio in 1976. And here’s one all the way out in Seattle.
Most of them work like a library, too. You either pay a small fee to become a member and get a library card, or you pay a small fee for each tool. Some operate on sliding scales, and some are entirely free. While many of the tools are home improvement-focused, there are also a great deal of car tools, too.
For example, at the Mundelein Tool Library near me in Lake County, Illinois, there are hundreds of tools that could be used on a car, including stuff you may only ever use once like an engine stand.
Mundelein boasts 800 tools for all kinds of work for all kinds of projects. It’s the first tool library in the whole county thus far.
The Chicago Tool Library (unrelated) is similar, where you could find even more auto-related tools like timing lights, fuel sender lock ring tools, spring compressors, bearing pullers and even the cable to make a Ross-Tech system work on your broken Volkswagen.
And Chicago’s inventory? It’s an incredible over 2,000 tools strong.
The only downside I could find is that you often need to be a resident of the city or local area to use a tool library. But it makes sense, as these libraries — non-profit organizations often run by volunteers — couldn’t support an entire state using them. Since I don’t live in Chicago or near enough to Mundelein, I still have to rent tools from auto parts stores. Maybe one day the concept will reach out into the Crystal Lake area where I’m at.
But if you can find one near you, give it a shot. They might have just the right thing to get you one step closer to getting your project on the road.