Top 7 Best Mechanic's Tool Sets
By | Last updated: May 15, 2020
best mechanic's tool sets

Gearheads are lucky. We’re interested in vehicles, so the natural extension of our interest is to pick up a set of tools to poke and prod at the very machines we enjoy. Someone who is interested in horses would be well-advised not to do the same, for example. Or those who have more than a passing interest in household electricity.

Buying a set of tools isn’t a problem. They’re sold everywhere from high-end retail stores to highway rest stops. The quality of those tools, however, varies greatly. Few things on this earth are more frustrating than getting halfway through replacing a thermostat only to have one’s ratcheting wrench start to spin futilely in its gear set.

We’ve picked out several different options for the shadetree mechanic, all of them with different strengths. Most good gearheads seem to accumulate tools over the years; perhaps these will make the grade and take up residence in your basement or garage.

Try doing that with a horse.

1. Editor's Choice: DEWALT Mechanics Tools Kit and Socket Set, 204-Pieces

Choosing a tool kit from a well-known brand is usually a safe bet. After all, only the silliest of companies would put their name on subpar equipment (ahem *Black & Decker* ahem). This set from DeWalt immediately puts your author in mind of Matt Kenseth’s NASCAR racer, a testament to modern marketing efforts.

As for the set, it is packed with most of the common sizes of sockets one will need to tackle the majority of basic automotive work. The ratchets are advertised to have 72 teeth, a feature that should permit the removal of bolts in even the tightest of places. Three drive sizes are in the kit, along with some box end wrenches and spark plug sockets.

Pros/Good name, great reviews
Cons/Make sure you get exactly what you ordered
Bottom Line/A solid start for the budding gearhead

2. Crescent SAE/Metric Mechanic's Tool Set - 30 Pieces

If all you need to carry around in the back of your pickup is a basic set of sockets for common repairs, this kit might do the trick. Included in the plastic blow-molded case are deep and shallow sockets of both 6- and 12-point variety. If you don’t know why 6-point sockets are a benefit, give us a shout when you round off your first bolt.

Said to be an updated version of a previous offering, this set has a new sturdier case with steel hinges and 2 latches to keep your tools organized and secure. The ratchet has 60 teeth inside its teardrop-shaped head (sounds like we’re talking about horses again) and is 10 percent longer than the ratchet in their old set. May the torque be with you.

Pros/Compact size, includes most common tools
Cons/Nothing else is included but sockets
Bottom Line/Tuck this one safely under the seat

3. WORKPRO Tool Set with 3-Drawer Heavy Duty Metal Box - 408 Pieces

These chrome vanadium forged tools are advertised by the seller to have the toughness and durability to withstand our ham-fisted repair attempts. A full polished chrome finish helps with anti-corrosion duties if you leave the things out in the rain, you slob.

The piece count is padded by the likes of Allen keys but does also include an agreeable number of sockets and screwdrivers. The tools are organized in a sturdy aluminum box that has three drawers so you can pretend to be a real mechanic, at least until you start snapping off exhaust header bolts with reckless abandon. No mention is made of the ratchet tooth count, a worrying omission for an off-brand product competing with the big boys.

Pros/Includes oddball kit like a tape measure, the toolbox is included
Cons/Small items simply pad the piece count
Bottom Line/Impress your gearhead spouse on their birthday

4. Craftsman Mechanic's Tool Set - 450 Pieces

While your author would love to pretend and explain American bankruptcy law, he is far better equipped to explain the finer points of a Weber carburetor. Yes, this brand was tightly knit with the now-defunct Sears department store chain but does appear to stand on its own now that the bricks-and-mortar shops have been shuttered. Digging into specifics caused this scribe’s head to spin with words like ‘tortfeasor’ so let’s just agree that the Craftsman name has a bit of weight and leave it at that.

These tools also have a bit of weight, with customers reporting a pleasing heft and smooth ratchet actions. All three drive sizes are represented by a variety of sockets in 6-, 8-, and 12-point configurations. Half a dozen extension bars of varying sizes and drives help you reach that third bolt on the starter motor.

Pros/Brand name (you judge if that's a good thing), wide array of tools
Cons/Expensive, less-than-great carrying case
Bottom Line/A big red box full of good stuff

5. Iron Forge Tool Box Kit - 39 Pieces

Some shoppers don’t need the benefit of having hundreds of tools on hand, content with only having the minimum they need to handle small issues that might arise in their 37th-floor condo. This starter tool kit is fine for assembling furniture, putting up a picture, and perhaps a couple of very minor repairs on the car.

Included in the little case are a set of slip-joint pliers, some screwdrivers, and a hammer. The latter should be saved as a last resort when assembling furniture, especially if it’s from IKEA. It is all conveniently sized to fit under the sink in a small apartment or in that cupboard above the stove.

Pros/Affordable, cheap insurance
Cons/Not intended for anything beyond very light duty repair
Bottom Line/It's better than trying to fix the bathroom fan with your bare hands

6. AmazonBasics Mechanic Socket Tool Kit Set With Case - 145 Pieces

Yes, the House of Bezos has even managed to put its stamp on a set of mechanic’s tools. Despite my sneering introduction, this set is filled with 6-point sockets, a delight when most kits feature wretched 8 pointers (or, worse, 12s).

Metric sizes go up to 17mm while SAE measures reach 11/16. Both of those are 3/8-inch drive sockets, by the way. Only those and 1/4-inch drives are included, it should be noted. Customers report good quality, though how much of that is simply in the ‘better than expected’ category is unclear. There’s a spark plug socket and a few screwdriver heads in here as well.

Pros/Positive reviews, includes deep and shallow sockets of many sizes
Cons/You'll have to explain the brand name to yer buddies
Bottom Line/A seemingly successful rebranding effort

7. Kobalt Polished Chrome Mechanic's Tool Set - 227 Piece

If the DeWalt set reminded your author of Matt Kenseth, then this Kobalt-branded kit has Jimmie Johnson written all over it. It includes 117 commonly used 6- and 12-point sockets plus a trio ratchets with which to spin them. The balance of the piece count is made up of combination wrenches, Allen keys, and other assorted tools.

Packaged in a natty blue box with three drawers and a lift-top lid, the whole kit and kaboodle weighs about thirty pounds. Best to keep it on your workbench, then. By the way, the third drawer is purposely kept empty so you can add your favorite tools to this set. Shrewd move, Kobalt.

Pros/Six-point sockets, great feedback in terms of tool quality
Cons/Allegedly poor quality drawer inserts
Bottom Line/Great tools in a middling case

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: Ant Photo Studio / Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

23 Comments on “The Fix Is In: Best Mechanic’s Tool Sets...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I own a slightly older version of that Kobalt set. I also have a Craftsman set and a Stanley set (came with the tool box). My torque wrenches and my battery-powered stuff is all DeWalt or Kobalt. Then a bunch of more automotive-specific niche stuff from various makers.

    The only two tools I’ve ever had break on me were Craftsmans, but I might have been using them beyond their specs.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    I’ve been buying Tekton the last couple of years and find them to be very good quality, very consistent, and a good value.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Ditto.

      Koken is fantastic, but is hard to find and getting up there towards SnapOn price wise. Nothing I’m aware of, beats their ratchets for lack of annoying “backdrag” (I’m not a mechanic, so I’m sot sure that’s even a proper term…). Which may matter more for the generally smaller nuts and bolts, and tighter spaces, of motorcycles and bicycles, than for cars.

      But Tekton is my go-to. Easy delivery of anything from Amazon and elsewhere, and, at least in my experience, good quality. And good prices, even for impact rated sockets.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Umm it is going to be rare to find the set with 8 pt sockets. Craftsman is one of the few to offer them is some of their more extensive kits. There are only 3 and it is not a big deal to not have them for working on cars since they are for square nuts which are not found on cars. You do want the 12 pt as your go to option. Makes it easier to get the socket on the fastener in tight spaces.

    The DeWalt ratchets are a little clunky so I’d go with the Craftsman of the sets shown, though I have not used the Kobalt hand tools so they might be alright.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Country of origin on each would have been helpful. Pretty much all of my mechanic’s tools are Craftsman, mainly bought in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, so all US made. My cordless stuff is DeWalt, but I really would like a Milwaukee Fuel 18v 1/2″ drive cordless impact (I bought a set of US made Craftsman 1/2″ drive impact sockets off eBay, so I’m ready for one).

    Amazon offers lots of tools, some from small American manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Who still manufactures tools in the US? Aside from Nascar-team priced stuff? Tekton makes some stuff here, but most seem to be from Taiwan.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Sears sold the Craftsman brand in 2017 to Stanley, who originally made most of the Craftsman tools in the US for Sears. Stanley merged with Black & Decker a decade ago. Almost all Stanley hand tools are made in the US.

        Some Black & Decker hand tools (inluding Craftsman for Sears) were made in China, but they announced over a year ago that they were moving production back to the US. They believe their state of the art forging machinery and the Trump tariffs will keep them price-competitive with Chinese-made tools.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I own a set of Industro sockets that I purchased in 1978 when I purchased my first car. They were manufactured in Chicago. Most of the sockets are 12pt, the smaller sizes are 6pt. Years later when I needed a set of metrics I bought some off brand that are of decent quality.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I have the Kobalt one, or its a similar version with the 3 drawers. I would NOT recommend it.

    One of the ratchets broke and another flops between forward and reverse on a whim. Kobalt sells different ratchets but oddly none of them fit the molds in the case so now I have empty slots where nothing fits. The kit contains mostly 12 point sockets which are useless as far as I am concerned since all they do is round off perfectly good bolts. Also the drawers either get stuck or slide out too easily, flip a coin as to which is going to happen at any time. Lastly the markings on the sockets themselves are in a grey ink on a chrome part making it impossible to tell what size your dealing with. I’m waiting for someone to come up with glow-in-the-dark yellow BIG numbers on matte black sockets – my credit card is ready.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      The problem I have with Kobalt is that the name doesn’t mean much. Some stuff is fine, some is not so great. It’s just a name they put on a bunch of different items.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It’s super frustrating how hard it is to find quality 6pt wrenches in general these days. I agree, 12pt are largely worthless for more than casual use – or where you just can’t get a 6pt in there.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    As I’m assuming this list is meant for the first-time tool purchaser, I’d like to offer a bit of advice as a lifelong mechanic. I went to Snap-On for all my hand tools after constantly breaking 1980s craftsman tools. The last straw was the chrome plating that peeled off a deepwell socket and sliced my fingers badly before I realized what was happening. Bought my first two rails of Snap-On that day and still have them 30 years later. That being said, I have a nice set of polished craftsman wrenches in a tool roll in my trunk that are much better made than the old ones (I’ve been told Craftsman went through a dark period and the quality got better since). Also have some Carlisle (NAPA sells them) wrenches at the other shop that successfully copied the Snap-On flank drive and are really nice for what they cost. My suggestion is to buy tools as you need them rather than making a huge investment all at once. Find out what you like the feel of, and buy different adapters, extensions, wobble joints, and wrench lengths if you really start getting into more difficult repairs. In my experience, 12-point sockets are useless and I have hardly any in my huge assortment that I’ve built over the decades. If you can’t fit a 6-point, wire brush the fastener and try again; you’ll round it for sure with a 12-point. Better to get a set of Irwin Bolt Grip bolt extractor sockets at your local auto parts store. For what they cost they are AMAZING on rusted fasteners and have saved me too many times to count! Buy the 5 piece set in the sturdy blue case for $20, then spend another $20 on the expansion set to fill the case the basic set comes with. You won’t be sorry!!

    • 0 avatar
      cantankerous

      I wholeheartedly agree. Nothing is more frustrating than having a tool that is almost, but not quite, the right one for a particular job. In the long run you’ll end up spending a lot more money if you buy a so-called “master” set containing a large number of tools of marginal utility and less-than-stellar quality than if you slowly add quality tools to your collection on an as-needed basis.

      And about those Irwin Bolt Grip extractor sockets–I used one of them to save my bacon a week ago when a bolt on an underbody cross brace decided it had been removed and reinstalled one too many times over the last 15 years and turned from a six-sided bolt to a rounded hunk of steel. I’m a believer!

  • avatar
    randyinrocklin

    Thanks to all you mechanics out there to keep our cars running and your sound advice.

  • avatar
    randyinrocklin

    I’m just a construction dude that’s a car guy. I’ve done some thing as a teenager but, it’s like baking cake. When things go wrong they really do go wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Those cases of things going wrong usually have nothing to do with the tools. With the internet and online video to walk you through any task, the I-didn’t-know-what-I-was-doing disasters should be few and far between.

  • avatar
    18726543

    I came across an interesting brand of tools a few years ago. They go by the name “Metrinch” and their gig is they make what LOOK like 12-point sockets, but what’s really happening in there is 6 points are a metric size, while the other 6 points are the closest SAE size (13mm and 1/2″ in the same socket, for instance). I looked into these and apparently in the 80’s and 90’s they were an as-seen-on-tv product…best I can tell. They’re American-made and carry a lifetime warranty, though I have no idea how you’d collect on said warranty at this point because I think the company went under. You can find sets of all sizes on Ebay though.

    Initially I bought a 10-piece 3/8th drive set which came with a somewhat cheesy ratchet and a 3″ extension. I don’t use the ratchet much, but if I’m working on the lawnmower or something else where I’m really not sure what kind of bolt sizing I’m going to encounter, I go straight for the Metrinch set. Likewise, for junkyard trips or when I go offroading I grab the Metrinch set because it just takes up less space. They also bite into rounded off or rusty fasteners well since they have 2 sets of slightly differently sized gripping points. Really a great tool and I’ve bought sets for many of my junkyard and offroad-going friends!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Metrinch is a brand of a Dutch company that’s still in business. They still advertise on TV and their tools are sold by Amazon. I can’t vouch for the quality, but they also make industrial tools and have been an EU registered business since 1986.

      I can’t vouch for the lifetime warranty either, but I remember when the Cardinals won the World Series led by Whitey Herzog in 1982. Eighty-three year old owner Gussie Busch came down to the lockerroom and told Whitey, “I’m giving you a lifetime contract.” Whitey asked, “Whose lifetime – yours or mine?”

      Busch died in 1989, and Whitey was let go the following year. Whitey is 90 years old and still living, so it was Gussie Busch’s lifetime. It pays to ask about those lifetime guarantees!

  • avatar

    I was always a Craftsman fan. Sears used to give you a new one if you broke anything, right there at the store. I knew Sears was really dead the day they told me “you’ll get the replacement in the mail”….OK, I did get it a week later, but the lack of ability to give me a new one right there removed the best part..the tools didn’t break often and if they did, you just got a new one immediately. They even replaced worn out (not busted) screwdrivers. It may have been loss-leader but that got you into the store. Sad to see they’ve been private equitied and the name is now in big boxes.

    Growing up, it was S&K if you were professional, Craftsman for shade tree, and nothing else !

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I have some SK stuff and they are really good. As pointed out above, I would buy sockets and the like as I needed then. This augmented my Craftsman tools over the years. The local parts store carried SK and I would buy what I needed if the Craftsman set didn’t have what I needed. I do have a few “Strap-On” sockets but they are way too expensive for me to buy on a regular basis…

  • avatar
    Terry

    Retired dealer auto technician/shop foreman 43 years in the trade. Packard had a slogan which still applies today: “Good enough isn’t good enough”. For the professional, tools don’t cost you money, they make you money. Day in/day out, there are Snap- on tools… and the rest of them. I bought Snap-on tools ONE TIme, and if a problem arose, got it replaced or serviced no questions asked. I recently sold my last Snap-on Big Bettha toolbox combination, well worn, empty, for over half what I paid for it 21 years ago. When other wrenches or sockets slipped on. Rounded but or bolt head, Snap-in’s Flank Drive turned them. Their screwdrivers didn’t slip out of slots or cross slots. And if their get worn, they were replaced. Yes, I have MAC, Matco, S-K, Craftsman and Cornwell among with others. But more often than not, I reach for the Snap -on tools. The storage boxes are lifetime as well.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    “Nothing I’m aware of, beats their ratchets for lack of annoying “backdrag” (I’m not a mechanic, so I’m not sure that’s even a proper term…).”

    If that’s not the proper term it certainly should be, and as far as I’m concerned it is now!

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Those comprehensive tool sets are a good deal, but they always include tons of stuff you don’t need. For instance I only have a very few SAE tools, since everything I work on is all metric. So why would I want a complete SAE range? More importantly, they’ll always lack tools you do need, since new standards are always coming into use: Torx, E-sockets, triple-square, etc. Before you know it that nicely fitted case of tools won’t hold the stuff you actually use.

    I have a scant few Snap-on tools, but I’m not a professional and, while my tool budget is fairly elastic, it’s not unlimited. Snap-on tools are excellent, but really, egregiously, expensive. That’s probably due in no small part to their distribution model of independent owner-operator sales trucks.

    Most of my regular sockets are the old Craftsman Professional line. Finer construction, polished, much nicer than regular Craftsman — but they likely aren’t available any more. I also have some German Stahlwille sockets that I bought almost 50 years ago (yes I am that friggin’ old) in Switzerland. I fully expect them to last another 50, and beyond. The premium brand I wish I owned some of is Facom, from France. Lovely stuff!

    @ dukeisduke, who “really would like a Milwaukee Fuel 18v 1/2″ drive cordless impact,” just go buy one! This is an awesome power tool that blows off lug bolts as if they were nothing, plus it’s small and light enough to use for many other purposes on the car. I hardly ever use my air impact gun now. You’ll never regret the purchase.

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