Best Mechanic's Tool Set
A good mechanic’s tool set is invaluable to anyone who prefers working on their vehicle at home to paying someone to do it in a shop. No matter what skill level you possess, a tool set is an essential thing to have. Regardless of your skill level though, all mechanic’s tool sets should have a few very key components. Whatever set you purchase needs to have a wide array of differently sized sockets. The set also needs to have at least one ratchet. Sockets could be the number one most used thing in a mechanic’s tool set, so the higher number of sockets the better. Your set should also ideally have a set of open or box ended wrenches. These come in handy in places where sockets and a ratchet normally don’t fit. Finally, your set needs to have a wide variety of supplementary tools to work with: drivers, driver bits, mallets, pliers, etc. The more supplementary tools you have in your set, the more valuable it is and the better chance you have of finding the right tool for whatever job you have to be working on.
So take a second to think about your skill level and give the appropriate list a look. Do you operate a shop out of your garage and want a professional set? Do you want a great, budget minded starter set? Or, perhaps you’re an intermediate level tool user. Whatever your skill level, there’s a set for you.
Craftsman 230 Piece SAE Metric Mechanics Tool Set
Kobalt 227-Piece Standard Metric Mechanics Tool Set
Craftsman Evolv 101 Piece Mechanics Tool Set
Stanley STMT74857, 173 Piece Mechanics Tool Set
Crescent Cooper Hand Tools Multi-Purpose Tools CTK148MP 148 Piece Professional Tool Set
Snap-On 9600GSBO Complete US Tool Set
Snap-On 9100GSO Apprentice Set
Mac MTS100AS, 265 Piece Essential Tool Master Set
Armstrong SGMTK1 General Mechanics Tool Kit
Craftsman Tool Kit, 540 Pieces
Once again, I’ve got to go with Craftsman for my number one pick. I probably spent more time trying to decide between the various Craftsman sets, than I did on making my other picks. I could easily fill this list with just Craftsman tools because they have such a wide range of sets available, but there really are a number of other quality tools out there. I have more Craftsman tools in my personal toolbox than any other brand. Why? Because I trust them. What makes Craftsman so good is their warranty. While there are lots of companies which offer a lifetime warranty, Sears has an outstanding reputation for backing it up. All you have to do is take your broken tool to your nearest Sears store (of which there are thousands), and they’ll repair or replace it, no questions asked. Of all the Craftsman sets, I’ve picked this one as the best budget set. It gives a great assortment of tools and sizes for a reasonable price; it even comes in a nice toolbox. If you can’t afford this one, they’ve got a smaller set for about half the price.
Kobold is Lowe’s in-house brand of tools; which they’ve made to be in direct competition with Sears, Craftsman brand of tools. Since they haven’t been around as long, they obviously don’t have the same reputation as Craftsman, although their warranty is comparable. I’ve never had to take one of their tools back, but people who have told me that the employees at Lowe’s didn’t give them any problem. I have a few Kobold wrenches in my toolbox which I like because they're beefy tools. You grab hold of one of those wrenches and you don’t wonder if it will hold up to the strain; you simply just know it will. With as complete as this set is, you won't be lacking for something to use on any mechanic's project. This set also comes with a plastic three drawer tool box, making it easy to organize and store your tools.
Evolv is Sears budget line of tools, and while it isn’t Craftsman, it’s still a pretty good quality tool. The nicest thing about these tools are the handles, all of which are rubberized for comfort and a good grip. While this tool set doesn’t contain as much as the previously mentioned sets (it only has a 3/8” drive ratchet, no 1/4” and 1/2”), it also comes in at a much lower price. All the most common sizes of sockets and wrenches, in both SAE (fraction of an inch) and Metric are included. The warranty for the Evolv line isn’t quite as good as the Craftsman line as Sears only offers a “limited lifetime warranty” on this line. Basically, that means two things. First, you must keep your sales receipt and second, you can’t abuse the tools. For example, if you put a six foot pipe on a wrench to use it as a breaker bar, Sears may not replace it if something goes wrong.
Stanley is a standard consumer grade of tools. You'll often find them in the big box stores, at least the ones which don't have their own brands. Nevertheless, they are pretty good quality tools, providing years of service. I've got a Stanley mechanics tool set that I've kept in the trunk of my car for years, as an emergency set. It's survived the rigors of my use and still looks as good as the day I bought it. This set contains three separate ratchets, ensuring you've got the right tool on hand for whatever you need. The ratchets heads have 54 teeth, giving you a throw of less than seven degrees. That's pretty good, when you look at the cost of this set because usually you have to pay much more to get a throw that small. While the sockets are 12 point (rather than 6) they are rugged and backed by a lifetime manufacturer's warranty.
Crescent is the company famous for the original Crescent adjustable wrench. Well, they're still making tools, especially for the do-it-yourslefer. This 148 piece kit comes packed nicely in a flip open box which makes it look like a pegboard with all your tools nicely organized. Personally, I like that level of organization so that I don't have to go looking for my tools. It's very complete too, with all three standard ratchet sizes, as well as assorted screwdrivers and a couple of pairs of pliers. If you need a really complete set, this one is actually more complete than the others on the list, even though it doesn't go as much in depth in some areas.
Snap-On 9600GSBO Complete US Tool Set
Snap-On has long been recognized as the leader in Professional Mechanics tools. Mechanics are well willing to pay the high prices for their more than 19,000 tools because of their reputation for reliability and their excellent warranty since 1920. With more than 4,000 mobile sales reps, they’ll bring the replacement right to the mechanic’s shop.This is probably the nee-plus-ultra in mechanics tool sets, including over 1,000 tools, packed in a huge roller cabinet with side box and top box. There's also a wall cabinet, with an extensive pulley and gear puller set included in it; Snap-on even provides you with a creeper! While few would have the money to actually buy this set outright, anyone who could would be guaranteed to have everything they need for all standard mechanic work. Even so, there are many additions that could be made, filling up any left-over space in the chest and top box. If you're getting into Formula 1 racing and have the money, this is the set to buy.
Snap-On 9100GSO Apprentice Set
If you want the best and can't afford Snap-On's massive "complete tool set" you might want to consider their Apprentice Set. This tool set includes over 100 separate tools, giving you everything you'll need for common mechanics work. As a starter set, it's excellent and you can count on the tools in it lasting you the rest of your life. Of course, by then, you'll have added a lot to it, turning it into a much more massive collection of tools. The apprentice set includes 1/4 and 3/8 inch six point sockets with ratchets, as well as a full set of combination wrenches. These are SAE, so if you need Metric, you'll want to look for Snap-On's equivalent metric set. A goodly assortment of screwdrivers, pliers and other general hand tools rounds out the set, giving you enough to handle most common repair jobs.
Mac MTS100AS, 265 Piece Essential Tool Master Set
Mac tools was started in 1938 with the idea of producing the best tools in the world. Their product line now consists of over 42,000 items. While Snap-On is considered by most professional mechanics to be the best of the best, Mac places a very close second. The one thing that I’d have to say keeps them from beating out Snap-On is the ease of warranty replacement on Snap-On tools. This 265 piece kit is just a bit more expensive than the Snap-On Apprentice Kit, but has much more in it, making it a better deal for those who are price conscious. Personally, I'd hold them up against Snap-On any day, although most mechanics would probably ridicule me for that. One thing that makes this set better than the Snap-On Apprentice Kit is that it includes both SAE and Metric sized sockets and wrenches. That allows you to work on a much broader range of vehicles, without finding that you're missing a critical size. Considering that Detroit's change from SAE to Metric was a slow one, many vehicles have a combination of the two. So, having a combined set is definitely an advantage.
Armstrong tools are more commonly used in industrial applications, than by mechanics in mechanics shops. However, that's not a reflection on their tools, as much as it is on the fact that they market more to industry than individual mechanics. They are also used extensively by the military, which says a lot for their quality. Simply put, the military doesn't buy cheap stuff as they expect it to survive combat. This set is essentially the civilian version of a set that is sold to the Marine Corps and as such, it's packed into customized foam trays in a Pelican case. That helps you keep your tools organized, as well as showing you at a glance if anything is missing. The case itself is drop proof up to five feet and waterproof up to a meter in depth. It contains a wide variety of tools for any need, in both SAE and Metric sizes. The only thing I would say against this kit is the price because while I consider it a better kit than the Mac, it's double the price. Some of that is due to the fancy case, but I have a hard time justifying it all.
Most people don't realize it, but Craftsman has a professional line of tools as well as their consumer line. The basic difference is that the professional line is somewhat more robust, designed to take the abuse of being used every day. Unfortunately, they don't have kits for those right now so I can't show you one. However, they do have this very nice 540 piece set which will probably provide you with anything you'd ever need, less specialty tools. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen so many sockets and wrenches in one place before. This set includes 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch drive ratchets with an assortment of shallow and deep-well sockets for each. You'll find both SAE and Metric sizes here so that you can do any job you need to. If I were in the market for a set of mechanics tools for my own use, this is the way I'd go. While I love Snap-On and Armstrong's tools, I can't afford their prices. Then again, I'm not making my living off of those tools either.
Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.
While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.
In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.