Nearly every car enthusiast (mostly the guys) dreams of having a home garage to rival that of the average NASCAR team. Most spouses of car enthusiasts simply dream of a home garage that doesn’t look like a cross between a salvage yard and the clearance rack at the local parts store. Here are five things that will help make your automotive “man cave” functional, organized and even “acceptable” to your wife.
1. WORKBENCH W/ A VISE. This can be as simple as a mounting an old solid-core door or some medium-density fiberboard on top of two sawhorses. If you want something more sophisticated, there are hundreds of easy-to-build designs floating around the Web, or buy something ready-made from Sears or even IKEA! Be sure to install a good vise to make those projects easier and safer.
2. GOOD LIGHTING! You can’t work on a car (or any other project, for that matter) if you can’t see properly! Most garages have minimal lighting, such as the lights on the garage door openers or exposed bulbs hanging from the rafters. Luckily, it’s not too difficult or costly to upgrade your lighting with ceiling-mounted fluorescent light fixtures. Hanging shop lights are single-, double- or four-bulb fixtures that drop down from above your workbench to provide illumination where you need it most. Sometimes just adding one of these lamps to an otherwise dimly lit garage can lead to noticeably better visibility. A portable worklight is also a must-have, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time under the hood of your car.
3. PROFESSIONAL-QUALITY FLOORING. The slab of cement that came free with your house is perfectly usable as a garage floor. But an upgraded finish will be more forgiving to dropped objects, as well as make your floor more appealing and keep it that way by protecting it from spills. Some people prefer epoxy finishes, which are available in “kits” with tons of color and “fleck” options and very easy to do yourself. Modular tiles are also a great way to go. A little more expensive, but installation is easier, and tiles offer numerous color and style options, including checkered flag patterns. RaceDeck is one of the best garage-floor tile manufacturers on the market – nothing but positive feedback about their products and customer service.
4. A GOOD TOOL CHEST. The more tools you own, the more important organization becomes. Few things are as frustrating as spending an hour looking for a tool you need for a 10-minute job. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars for a SNAP ON tool chest. For a few hundred bucks, you can get a 6-drawer Craftsman from Sears that holds plenty of tools with room to grow.
5. POWER STRIPS & EXTENTION CORDS. A 6 to 10-outlet power strip (or two) is perfect for placement on a workbench and can easly accomodate cordless-tool battery chargers. Use smaller power strips to make difficult-to-reach outlets more accessible, and be sure to use metal-encased power strips with built-in surge protection. Extension cords are also essential. A ceiling-mounted retractable reel is indispensable for working on cars. It offers greater range and eliminates the need to drag power cords across the floor. You can get these cheap at Harbor Freight, Northern Tool or even Lowes. If you will be using multiple power devices at the same time, consider upgrading the wiring in your garage to its own circuit and fuse box.
You don’t need a big budget to have a great home garage. A little organization combined with some design flair will go a long way to giving you a functional automotive project space that your spouse won’t be afraid to show to the neighbors.