Amazon Basics 36-Piece Allen Wrench Set is Fine If You Temper Your Expectations
Align your expectations with the tools’ price tag, and you’ll be a happy camper.
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Spend any time at all working on your car, bike, motorcycle, or lawn equipment, and you’ll find yourself in need of a hex key, also called an Allen wrench. These tools come in several sizes and shapes, and they always seem to be missing when you need them the most. If you’re a casual wrencher, as most of us on the The Drive team are, you don’t want to blow the budget on high-end tools that only get used a few times a month.
Amazon Basics has a solution to this problem with its 36-piece Allen wrench/hex-key set, which can be had for less than $20. The tools are fairly solid and come in nicely labeled plastic holsters, but they’re not professional grade, and they’re lacking some packaging/organization features that could really set them apart from other cheap tools.
Let’s dive in and see what’s what.
Unboxing the Amazon Basics 36-Piece Allen Wrench/Hex Key Set
First things first, this is an Amazon Basics product, so there should be no expectation of fancy packaging or elaborate engineering. These tools are designed to work, out of the box, without much fanfare. The tools arrived in a plain Amazon box, and were simply packaged with plastic bags inside. There are two sets of 18 pieces each — standard SAE and metric — and both sets come with a carrying holster labeled with individual sizes.
The holster-type carrier is common for Allen wrenches and hex keys, but the way these are stacked, one on top of the other, make it hard to pull out the right-sized tool for the job. The two carriers have smaller sizes on top of larger sizes, and while it’s easy to see each size, there’s too much fiddling around required to get them in and out.
Getting After It With the Amazon Basics 36-Piece Allen Wrench/Hex Key Set
- Good: The 36-piece hex-key set from Amazon offers nearly every size of SAE and metric Allen wrenches you’ll ever need at a super reasonable price.
- Bad: If you’re looking for heavy-duty tools, look elsewhere. These are for quick fixes and light work.
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If someone handed you this set of Amazon Basics tools, you’d be hard pressed to find anything wrong with them visually, but the situation becomes clearer the more they are used. The included holsters, or organizers, are a nice touch, but they lack any way to mount or hang them from a wall, and the quality is such that the wrenches sometimes slide out. This is great if you intend on using that tool, but I spent more time looking for them than I’m happy admitting, so I’m just storing them in my garage drawer for a few days during this review.
To test the wrenches, I recruited my neighbor’s Jeep Wrangler. He’d complained earlier that the passenger-side grab handle had come loose during the previous weekend’s off-road trip. Here, the largest 5/16 wrench did the trick nicely and felt solid. That isn’t a surprise, given that it’s a beefy hunk of metal. Using smaller sizes to adjust my daughter’s inherited 10-speed bike showed that these wrenches flex more than I’d like.
The wrenches are also great at everyday jobs, such as building a small shelf for my barn/garage. Testing them in heavier applications, however, such as tightening a bolt under a car seat, it’s clear that smaller sizes aren’t as rugged as they should be. The Amazon seller backs the tools with a lifetime warranty, but let’s be honest: Ordering replacements is a real pain.
What’s Good About Amazon Basics 36-Piece Allen Wrench/Hex Key Set
If you’re like me, the eyeball test is your first and best approach to finding the right wrench. The fact that there are 36 sizes of the tool to choose from is great for a “measure once, cut twice” type of person. Also, having each wrench’s size clearly labeled on the front of the holsters is a bonus. Amazon went a step further and made the holsters different colors for the two sizes and tool types.
The range of sizes is also great, as it’s usually either one size larger or smaller that you need and don’t have on hand. Thirty-six wrenches in this set means there’s almost never a size you don’t have.
What’s Not Great About Amazon Basics 36-Piece Allen Wrench/Hex Key Set
While it’s nice having labels and different colors to help you find the right tool, the quality of the holsters themselves is lacking. Some of the holes for individual wrenches are too large or too small, making the keys difficult to remove and too easy to lose one in a bag or toolbox. Some just fall out if the wrench next to it isn’t turned to hold it in place.
Some buyers report uneven sizing and machining, and while I didn’t run into that problem, it’s easy to see that these are not made to stand up to heavy use over long periods of time. That’s likely a result of the price, so judgments on quality have to be balanced with right-sized expectations.
Our Verdict On Amazon Basics 36-Piece Allen Wrench/Hex Key Set
Should you buy these things? Well, if you’re a home mechanic or handyman who needs the occasional Allen wrench or hex key, absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with these tools for simple, everyday use, and they stand up to light automotive work without issue. Don’t expect the world from these tools, and they’ll treat you right. The good news is that the Amazon seller backs the tools with a lifetime guarantee.
Your expectations of these tools should be aligned with the price. These are not professional-grade pieces, nor are the holsters or packaging conducive to heavy use. There are no hanging hooks or loops on these wrenches, so you won’t be able to hang them up in the garage, and you’ll need to get used to the occasional wrench sliding out of the plastic holster in your toolbox or garage drawer.
FAQs About Amazon Basics 36-Piece Allen Wrench/Hex Key Set
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. What’s the difference between hex keys and Allen wrenches?
A. There are two names for the same thing. The Allen Manufacturing Company originally produced set screws with hexagonal heads and made Allen wrenches (or Allen keys) to drive and loosen the screws. Hexagonal screw heads and hex keys are now made by many companies around the world, and Allen wrench has become a generic term for hex key.
Q. What are the different types of Allen wrenches?
A. There are several types of Allen wrenches, which can include L-style wrenches, T-handle wrenches, folding wrenches, ratcheting drivers, bits, drivers, and more. The Amazon Basics tools are L-style keys.
Q. If I break one size hex key. Can I order an individual?
A. If you end up breaking one or more of your Amazon Basics wrenches, you can contact either Amazon or the seller for a replacement under the lifetime guarantee, but there does not appear to be a way to order an individual wrench for the same set.
Q. What if I don’t have a hex key or Allen wrench?
A. There’s certainly a proper tool for every job, but the reality is that you don’t always have time or money to get the right tool. In some cases, you can find a screwdriver that fits securely between the notches in the bolt or screw head and get enough torque to turn it without stripping it. This should be a last resort, however, and ends up causing damage in most cases.
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