Automotive Tool Review

Every Cooling System Tool a Mechanic Needs

Coolant systems can require special tools to diagnose

Your automobile engines cooling system must operate correctly in order for the car to stay running properly. When something goes wrong and the car overheats or springs an antifreeze leak though, it can be one the hardest issues for mechanics to diagnose.

Unlike the emissions system, there is no code reader to hook up and tell us if the water pump or head gasket failed. A good tech can use a scan tool to get some diagnostic info on the cooling system, but usually we have to look for mechanical symptoms like overheating, white smoke from the exhaust, coolant loss or little to no heat in the vehicle.

In this post, I’m going to show you a few tools I’ve used over the years to really help me diagnose everything from bad head gaskets to water pumps and other overheating conditions.

By the time we get to the end, you could have a whole cooling system repair kit for around $300 total!

Auto tech replacing a thermostat.

Having the Right Tools is Important.

This phrase applies to many things in the auto repair industry, but some people let the Snap-On dealer talk them into spending thousands for nothing more than their logo. In this post, I’m going to show you how to get everything for a good coolant system diagnostic tool kit for a total price between $200-$300.

When a tech starts to put together his or her cooling system diagnostic tools, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the appeal of tool truck brands. I’m telling you from 20 years of experience, you can put together a very respectable cooling system setup for finding antifreeze leaks, head gasket leaks, bad water pumps or any other common cooling system issue.

Mechanic working on his cooling system.
It used to be easy to diagnose a cooling system, but with new advances in HVAC system and cooling systems for electric vehicles, problems with the cooling system can be harder to figure out and repair.

When I started, I wasn’t sure what tools I needed to figure out cooling system problems.  I found out early on that the first thing I needed was a pressure tester. Without being able to put pressure to the cooling system and try to recreate operating conditions, a tech can miss small antifreeze leaks or other issues that result in costly come-backs for the tech, the shop and the customer.

Cooling system pressure tester.


Cooling system pressure tester Amazon
This coolant pressure tester set is typically around $90. Keep track because we’re going to try keeping this diagnostic test kit $300.

In almost any scenario involving the coolant system, you are going to need a pressure tester. By putting pressure on the cooling system, a tech can replicate your drive-ability problem or find coolant leaks anywhere in the engine. An antifreeze pressure tester is a valuable tool because it can pressurize the cooling system in the same way your engine does when it’s running.

Average Price- $90

Vacuum Refill and Evacuation Tool

One of the fairly new innovations in cooling system and radiator tools is the vacuum refill and evacuation tool powered by air pressure. The main benefit of a vacuum evacuation and refill kit is to prevent air pockets in the radiator, heater core and block of the engine which can cause loss of heat or overheating conditions.

If you decide to buy the pressure tester above, you will get the functions of a vacuum refill and evacuation system. If not, something like this next tool made by OEM will be acceptable.

OEM tools sells one part number 24444 that usually costs around $75-$80 depending if it’s on sale or not that will do the job just as well as a Snap-On SVTSRAD372TA that costs $525 list.

Oem tools 24444 cooling system tester evacuation tool
This OEM tools evacuation tool is considered a budget cooling system diagnostic tool. Click for more info and latest pricing.

Trying to bleed a coolant system on some engines like the BMW e34 can be a nightmare that literally can’t be done properly without a vacuum bleeder. With vacuum, it naturally sucks all of the air from the system and purges it when refilling the antifreeze.

Right up there with the pressure tester, this one is a necessity when bleeding air after a head gasket, water pump or any other repair involving the cooling system.

Average Price~ $70-80


Related- MIlwaukee Extended Reach Cordless Versus Snap-On 14.4 

Spring-Clamp Pliers

Picture of Hose clamp plier set
This set of hose-clamp pliers with almost everything you need for radiator hoses.

A number of auto makers use spring type hose clamps on radiator hoses, heater core hoses and even hoses on other systems but they can be a pain to remove. This is especially true when it’s in a hard to reach part of the engine and we have to figure out how we’re gonna get the spring clamp off.

You can buy a good quality pair of hose clamp pliers in a set that comes with the cable-style remover along with radiator hose picks and other variations of hose-clamp plier.

That set of pliers designed for hose clamps is going to be a great addition to your cooling system diagnostic kit, and it’s usually listed about $40 online.

Buy a set of hose clamp pinch pliers also. They are cheap and will save you a ton of messes. They’re more of an extra than a necessity, but pinching a rubber hose properly is always best practice to prevent leaking radiator hoses and costly come-backs.

That kit listed above even includes pliers to remove all different styles of hose clamps.

Final Price- $40

Combustion Leak Detector

One of the easiest ways to detect a bad head gasket is by confirming combustion gas in the coolant because in a healthy cooling system, there should be minuscule or no combustion gases in the antifreeze reservoir or radiator. So if you can smell fumes when you pop the radiator cap, you might need this kit so you can confirm the bad head gasket.

When a head gasket develops a leak, often times gas from the combustion chamber will be present in the antifreeze. Sometimes you can smell it in the coolant, but often times a combustion leak finder is the best way.

Average Price~ $40

Lisle 24680 No-Spill Funnel

The Lisle 24680 funnel kit for antifreeze is a god-send at times when I need to add some  antifreeze but don’t want to go through the procedure of vacuum refilling it.

Lisle no-spill coolant funnel kit
Click the photo more details and latest price on the Lisle no-spill coolant funnel and bleed kit.

And aside from just being super-easy to use, the Lisle coolant funnel only costs around $20. It’ll save you that in antifreeze in a weeks time. If you put too much coolant in the radiator or reservoirs, there is a cool plug that allows you to save whats that’s left in the funnel.

OEM Tools came out with a similar concept (it might even be re-branded) in the PN 87009 No-Spill coolant funnel. I prefer Lisle because it’s known to be high-quality.

Final Price~ $20


Gearwrench Double-X Hose Pliers

One of the least-known cooling system tools out there are hose-removal pliers like the Gearwrench Double-X style shown below. Although you can likely find a cheaper brand online, when it comes to this style of plier I suggest going with a mid-level brand like GW and I’m going to tell you why.

Gearwrench Double-X hose removal iers
This style of Gearwrench Double-X pliers can double as spark plug boot removal tools among other things.

The Gearwrench Double-X pliers can be used very well to remove spark plug boots and small vacuum-type hoses along with coolant hoses that they are intended for. I had a set of Blue-Point pliers like these ones from GW and the uses I found for them were surprising.

Average Price- $60/set

Honorable Mentions

Probe Tester

Sometimes when everything else has been checked, the heater core checks out, radiator checks out, thermostat is opening and closing,  it’s time to look for an electrical issue that could be keeping the fans from running if it’s an overheat concern.

For these situations, I bought an Autel probe and it’s better than a Power Probe IV in my opinion. Invest the less than $100 in an Autel probe tester versus a couple hundred or more for Power Probe. They make the best for hardly nothing.

The probe tester will cost you around $90 for the Autel but I didn’t plan for it to be part of the cooling system diagnostics post. That’s the beauty of a probe tester though, they have so many uses like non-working fans or other components with jacked up wiring.

Average Price~ $90

For $350 we Put Together a Cooling System Diagnostic Kit Anyone Can Afford

I wanted to provide a high-quality cooling system diagnostic and service set that the average mechanic could afford.

We did it for less than $350. That’s an average weekly payment to the Snap-On truck.

If you see any other techs with Snap-On cooling system tools, ask them how much money they spent on just one. It will blow you away if you are a new mechanic. 

Author- John Green


If you purchase through my website, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All posts are well researched and meant to find you better tools at a cheaper price. 

By John Green

I’m John Green. I’m a 33 year old auto technician from Upstate New York. I have 18 years of experience as an automotive light duty and heavy duty truck mechanic. Cars, trucks and anything with moving parts are my passion in my professional life.

Aside from my life as a technician, I am also a seasoned investor and consider myself very financially literate. I use this other passion combined with my passion for cars, trucks and tools to look for ways to save money for my technician friends.

Raising my three girls and teaching them the proper way of life is my personal passion in life. If you want to know more, just ask! I’m on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well!