Flipping cars takes work, y’all. If you’ve been reading Car Bibles, you’ve probably read our Flippin’ Out series, in which I rehab derelict junkers into halfway decent cheap transit for folks on a budget. Y’all have filled up my inbox and comments sections, asking “How do I get started? What tools do I need? What do I need to know” Well, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, or just happy Monday: Here’s a list of ten different things I recommend for those ready to get their feet wet in the DIY car-flipping business.
Flying blind into a new flip isn’t the wisest idea. Most of my flips—or at least the ones that ran when I bought them—had the check engine light illuminated. The light itself could mean anything, but this cheap little OBD II reader can help you figure out if a flip car is worth your time or not. It uses WIFI so it’ll work with iPhones. It pairs with a multitude of free or paid OBD II apps in Google Play or the Apple App Store. It’s tiny, cheap, and easily fits in a glove box or back pocket.
This one is definitely more pricy, but it’s worth it. BlueDriver’s OBDII scanner uses Bluetooth, pairing seamlessly with Android and iOS devices. The Bluedriver scan tool also can access “body” codes, too – not just check engine light and emissions codes. Tiny, fits anywhere, highly effective.
Ok, so my Daewoo Lanos wasn’t a flip car, but it sure as hell had a parasitic phantom drain, embarrassingly refusing to start at least thrice during my shitbox gay circuit race. I’ve looked at plenty of potential flips that have ruined or completely flat batteries. A portable jump box is a way more elegant solution than jumper cables from your own car to your potential profit, baby.
4. Floor Jack
Scissor jacks are for the birds. Finicky, fiddly, and kind of dangerous, a sturdy (yet light) portable floor jack is worth its weight in gold. Now, we all know that Harbor Freight isn’t known for the best quality, but this cheapie low-profile floor jack is small, light, and attainable enough for the occasional use. Pack it up, throw it in the trunk on your way to check out a flip.
Now, you’re probably not going to be doing a lot of full-on wrenching at your flip car’s initial inspection point, but it might be worth carrying a few basic tools, just in case. Wrenching in the seller’s yard is a no-no, but some disassembly might be necessary to assure if a car is worth your time.
6. Lug Wrench
In my travels, I’ve noticed that maybe a third of my flip cars’ scissor jack and lug wrench is completely missing. A four-way lug wrench can save your skin, when you’re trying to roll home a hooptie with tires of unknown quality and age.
Did you know you can gift these things? AAA’s remarkably useful, especially when your new flip car konks out. The “Platinum” tier membership even comes with a complimentary tow up to 200 miles. The rental car, hotel, and amusement park discounts are useful, too.
I own one of these, and it’s the best $100 dollar ish I’ve spent in my flip car history. Most of my flip cars are filthy inside, paying someone to detail often is out of my budget. Detailing a flip car is the most satisfying part of a flip, and this mini-extractor will take your flips from amateur to dealer-level. The Bissel Spot Clean pro is used by a lot of detailing YouTubers, it’s a solid vacuum that makes quick work of car upholstery.
Air conditioning recharging isn’t that hard, I promise. For my flips, oftentimes, my mechanic undoes the AC compressor when an engine is swapped. Refilling isn’t hard, and this kit should include instructions on how to check for AC system leaks.
Spills and fluid hemorrhages are a part of that car flip life. Don’t leave a mess, though, that’s gross. These super absorbent polyester shop pads are amazing at absorbing large amounts of oil, and other fluids.
OJ, that’s a great start for your budding car flipper. Get out there, have some fun and get ready to (hopefully) make some money.