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So You Want to Start a Workshop


What equipment do you need?

As featured in AAAA Magazine – July 2022

A career as a mechanic can be rewarding and allow you to work a flexible schedule in a job that continuously challenges your skills.

Starting your own service repair business gives you even more control over your professional direction, allowing you to specialise in a certain area of mechanics and develop your own customer-service policies.

If you have business skills and access to some capital, you’ll be in a good position to learn how to start a service workshop of your own.

One of the first things you will need to do is formulate a business plan.

Your plan will need to include things such as advertising methods, capital equipment and expenses, as well as particular (specific) start-up costs that you’ll have to pay.

You don’t necessarily have to open your own service workshop from scratch. You could look into buying one that already exists. You’d already have a suitable building to use, as well as a few employees who may stick around under the new ownership, as well as returning customers and an established marketing presence.

If you want to start your own business, then you will need to pick out a proper location. Your location will play a large role in whether your business succeeds or fails. A service workshop located by highways or in the middle of busy cities typically fare much better. You may even be able to find an old building that already has all the necessary equipment in it. When picking out a location, make sure that you consider how much the lease will cost you on a monthly basis.

You can save some money by leasing the equipment instead of buying it. The amount of money that you’ll have to pay will mainly depend on the size of your operation. Starting a service workshop that can repair up to four vehicles at a time will obviously be more expensive than one that can only service two. When you start a  service workshop, you also need to decide what services to offer.

You could specialise in a certain area such as roadworthy inspections, air conditioning systems or brakes. However, doing so would significantly limit the amount of money that your shop could make.

Most shops are general but remember that customers love niche businesses and if you specialise in, say, roadworthy inspections, you’ll have a much more established credibility to start off with.

However, sometimes it’s best to offer as many services as you can. Just make sure you take the time to do it carefully. Always start out by creating a business plan that outlines your goals and remember it may take months to a year to finally be profitable.


Fixing vehicles today requires an intimate understanding of the computer systems that run it. Technology now has a huge impact on the way vehicles run and mechanics must have the tools to understand and repair that technology.

Most diagnostic equipment these days requires connection to either a computer or the internet or both. If you intend to do government-sanctioned roadworthy inspections, most jurisdictions now require results from testing equipment to be directly transmitted to a government website.

If you are applying for roadworthy-inspection approval, you must have certain equipment to inspect the different vehicle types listed in your approval. You must also ensure the equipment is maintained so it efficiently and accurately performs the function for which it is designed, meaning regular maintenance and calibration.

This does not limit, excuse or provide you with a defence for providing inadequate equipment that prevents an approved examiner from carrying out a thorough inspection of a type of vehicle under the relevant code of practice or vehicle-inspection guidelines.


General tools and equipment

  • Light transmission meter
  • Measuring equipment and gauges for disc rotors, brake drums, brake pads and brake linings
  • Wheel chocks
  • Kingpin gauges (for HT vehicle type if applicable)
  • Turntable locking tester (for HV vehicle type if applicable)

Equipment to check a vehicle’s underbody

You need equipment to allow an approved examiner to thoroughly inspect a vehicle’s underbody. This may include a hoist, pit ramp, vehicle jacks or vehicle stands.

Equipment to check a vehicle’s headlamp aim

Equipment to test vehicle’s brake system operation

You need equipment to test a vehicle’s brake system such as a decelerometer (brake meter). Any handheld or portable brake-testing equipment should be of a type that can be located securely in the vehicle that is being tested and does not dislodge under braking.

Equipment to test vehicle’s brake-system operations (required for CL vehicle types)

Brake testing equipment must be capable of producing the required brake-test result (either paper or electronic) which records the date, time and GPS location of where the successful brake test was conducted. The brake-test results must be able to be uploaded to the inspection record.

Additional equipment for trailers (required for LT and/or HT vehicle types)

  • Equipment for testing the operation of the lighting system and any electric brakes via the trailer plug or socket
  • A device capable of compressing the tow coupling to test the function of any override braking system
  • A vacuum source capable of testing the function of any vacuum braking system
  • A compressed-air source capable of testing the function of any full air or air-assisted braking system

Other mandatory tools


You need general tools and equipment to allow for the removal and refit of vehicle systems and components as required and other equipment necessary to conduct a thorough vehicle inspection.

While you may use more high-tech equipment to diagnose an auto problem, you will still use traditional tools to fix the problem once they discover it. Basic include power tools, a pneumatic wrench is one of the more common examples and is used to remove tire bolts. Additional basic tools include:

  • Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers
  • Drills
  • Lathes
  • Grinding machines
  • Flame-cutting tools
  • Pliers
  • Jacks
  • Hoists

Other useful tools

AutoTest Products and its network of distributors can provide many of the mandatory tools and equipment for a service workshop.

AutoTest provides a range of state-of-the-art automotive testing and diagnostic products designed to improve the accuracy of the test results used to meet safety regulations, offering product lines to cover all corners of brake testing, brake friction material, brake fluid and suspension.

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