Best mechanics tools for DIYers and mechanics
My recommendations for the best mechanics tools
Over the year I’ve used Craftsman, SK, Snap-On, Mac, Matco, GearWrench, Harbor Freight and Kobalt from Lowes. There’s no doubt that I like my Snap-On tools the most. The feel and finish is incredible, but my wallet doesn’t like them at all. Given that most DIYers will never buy Snap-On, Mac or Matco here’s my take on the rest of the brands and my picks for the best mechanic tools.
But first, some history on mechanics tool brands
Some of the largest tool manufacturers own more than just one tool brand. Here’s a list of who owns which brands. I’ll start off each list with the brand of their mechanics tools
APEX Tool Group
Mechanics tool brands: GearWrench and KD Tools,
Other tool brands: Weller, Airetool, Apex, Atkins, Belzer, Campbell, Cleco, Collins, Crescent, Delta (Truck Boxes), Diamond, DGD, Doler, Dotco, Erem, Geta, H.K. Porter, Iseli, Jacobs Chuck, Jobox, K&F, Lufkin, Master Power, Mayle, Metronix, Niagara Tools, Nicholson, Plumb, Quackenbush, Recoules, Sata, Spline Gauges, Utica, Weller, Wiss, Xcelite
Ideal tool brands
SK Hand Tools, Ideal, Anderson Power, Casella Measurement, Pratt-Read, Trend Communications, Western Forge
Kobalt brand tools from Lowes
Snap-On tool brands
Snap-on, Acesa, ATI, Bahco, Blue Point, CDI Torque, Irazola, Irimo, Lindstrom, Palmera, Sioux, Wanda, Williams
Stanley Black and Decker Hand tool brands
CRAFTSMAN brand, formerly owned by Sears
FACOM • MAC Tools • Proto • Sidchrome • Stanley • Irwin • Lenox • Hilmor • Pastorino
Irwin sub-brands: Hanson, Marathon, Marples, Quick-grip, Record, Speedbor, Strit-Line, Vise-Grip, Unibit
Stanley Black and Decker tool chest brands
Lista • Vidmar • USAG
Stanley Black and Decker Power tool brands
DeWalt • Porter Cable • Bostitch • Powers
Techtronic Industries (TTI) tool brands
Hart hand tools (for construction), Stiletto (hammers, striking tools) Empire level
Techtronic Industries (TTI) Power tool brands
Ryobi, Milwaukee, AEG, Hart,
Techtronic Industries (TTI) Appliance brands
Dirt Devil, Homelite, Hoover, Vax
Textron tool brands
Greenlee, Klauke, Paladin, Rothenberger
What I like and don’t like about Craftsman mechanics tools
Let’s face it; it used to be the go-tool brand for DIYers and
beginning mechanics. You’d go to a Sears store, buy what you needed, supplement when you needed more and do an over the counter exchange if you had a broken tool. But there were two keys to the success of the Craftsman brand; 1) Sears stores were everywhere and 2) the over the counter exchange worked well.
But Sears is gone and the Craftsman brand now belongs to Stanley Black and Decker. You can find Craftsman at Ace Hardware stores and in some other stores. BUT, getting warranty replacements isn’t that easy anymore. Here’s the procedure for getting a warranty replacement:
“To obtain the warranty coverage stated below, return the product to the retailer from which it was purchased. Coverage will be fulfilled according to the retailer warranty exchange procedure and may be subject to a limitation on the number of items allowed per exchange.” craftsman.com/customer-care/warranty-information#point1
That means if you bought the tool from an Ace Hardware store you’re subject to the store’s return policy. If you bought it online, you’ll also have to follow the seller’s return policy. What this means is that you’ll get a free replacement AFTER you cough up the receipt and pay the shipping costs; both ways in some cases.
In addition to the warranty issue is the now more limited selection. Retail stores are carrying a much more limited selection of Craftsman tools. Want a specialty Craftsman tool like a flex-head or fine tooth ratchet? Good luck finding it at the local Ace Hardware.
Lastly, and this is a minor peeve, I personally think that Craftsman blow-molded cases are crap. Removing the sockets from their nest requires a tool to snap it out. Plus, the latches and hinges break way too soon. If you’re buying a tool set, you want the case to function properly so you can get the pieces in and out without a fight and you want the hinge and latches to last.
What I like and dislike about GearWrench mechanics tools
Gearwrench makes great tools. They look good, feel good and work
great. Yeah, they cost more than other brands but they also provide value. The downside? You have to buy them online or at some select retail automotive parts and hardware stores. Limited selection at retail.
What I like and dislike about SK mechanics tools
Let’s get this out of the way; I LOVE my SK tools. They look good, feel good and work great. Good luck finding them locally and even better luck getting warranty replacement.
Kobalt mechanic tools by Lowes
In my opinion, Kobalt mechanics tools used to be total crap. But they’ve invested heavily in redesigning their entire line of Kobalt mechanics tools. I’ve used them and think they not only work as well, if not better than Craftsman tools, but are also a better value if you buy them on-sale.
Lowes really paid attention to detail when they redesigned the Kobalt mechanics tool line. The sockets are color coded to denote metric versus SAE. The socket size is laser etched into the side, rather than stamped in microscopic numbers at the bottom of the socket. They’re fully polished. The same applies to the Kobalt brand wrenches.
But the best part is their lineup of ratchets. Choose from 72 and 90-tooth
ratchets. A 72-tooth ratchet provides a 5° swing arc and a 90-tooth ratchet provides a 4° swing arc. That means you can shove these ratchets into tight places and rotate just a bit to get another bite to loosen or tighten the nut or bolt. That a HUGE deal.
Cheap 30-tooth ratchets have a 12° swing arc. Good luck working with them in tight spots.
Is a fine tooth ratchet just as strong as a coarse tooth ratchet?
Yes! It’s a myth that a fine tooth ratchet can’t handle the same torque as a coarse tooth ratchet. If a fine tooth and coarse tooth ratchet are both made to the same ANSI specs, they both can handle the same torque. Period! So why would anyone want a coarse tooth ratchet? Get it? No one would.
©, 2018 Rick Muscoplat
Posted on by Rick Muscoplat