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Have you ever looked at multi-tools and thought, “that’s nice—until I need a REAL tool”? Same. We always think we’ll get far more leverage with a pair of pliers, a longer screwdriver, or a bit driver. Maybe a knife that’s more like your regular EDC knife.
The problem is, do you want to haul all of those tools around with you? A multi-tool can solve that issue—but at what compromise of size, weight, and utility? What are you willing to pay for this convenience?
I received this Gerber Center-Drive multi-tool at the same time I had the SOG Powerlitre multi-tool in for review (coming soon). While they are not direct competitors, the contrast between the two was interesting as I used them on many of the same tasks. This Gerber was ordered from Amazon at a price of $114.99, nearly double the price of the SOG. It is also substantially larger and heavier, like a Toyota RAV4 as compared to a Sequoia.
Unboxing and Initial Impressions of the Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool
When you take the box out of the shipping package the heft of the tool is immediately noticeable. The box is your basic thin cardboard; what comes out of it is much more than basic.
You are greeted with a coyote brown-colored Cordura sheath with the Gerber name and logo embroidered in coyote brown thread. There are no instructions included so it takes a few moments to familiarize yourself with all its features and tools. Open the Velcro flap of the sheath and you see two pockets. The front contains a rubber bit holder containing 12 bits.
The rear pocket contains the tool itself. When you pull the tool out you get an immediate take on its size and weight. While Gerber’s official weight on the tool is 9.6 ounces, on my scale it weighed in at 9.9. If you include the sheath and the rubber holder with all the bits, it clocks in at 13.7 ounces—more than three-quarters of a pound. On the rear of the sheath is a snap loop so that you can wear it on your belt if you want to hang that much weight around your waist.
The tool in its fully collapsed state is 4.75 inches in length, and 1.5 inches in width. Extend the pliers and the bit driver the length of the tool expands to 9.5 inches of length.
The party features of the Gerber are two-fold. First, rather than a butterfly motion to deploy the pliers, you push a button along the spine of the tool and the pliers emerge like a missile from a silo, ready for launch.
The second is the namesake bit driver that can be deployed while the tool is closed. It centers up along the axis of the tool, hence the moniker “Center-Drive.” The knife is the only other tool that can be deployed while the tool is in a closed position.
Getting After It with the Gerber Center-Drive Multitool
- Good: Large multi-tool that provides good leverage; knife is sharp and bigger than the one on most multi-tools; 12 included bits fit common-sized bolts and screws.
- Bad: Big equals heavy, with an actual weight of 9.9 ounces; lacks a level of refinement you’d expect at this price.
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Changing out the gas struts for the rear window of my Honda Element, the pliers were thick and blunt at their tips—ideal for grabbing hold of the clip I needed to pull out. Interestingly, the nail puller turned out to be the perfect tool for getting underneath the clip and getting it out far enough that I could then use the pliers.
The knife is a three-inch blade. It cut through zip ties and rubber hoses with no issues. The steel is 420H Stainless, which is solid, medium-grade steel. The blade came well-sharpened and kept its edge with repeated use.
The length of the bit driver proved useful as I was reinstalling some bolts on the side cover of my Yamaha XS 400. It made it easier to get around some of the shapes, like the clutch hub, so I could just continue to rotate the tool rather than have to restart every quarter-turn as I would have with a smaller multi-tool.
Of note, at the base of the pliers are replaceable carbide wire cutters. Feel free to cut away at safety wire, wiring harnesses, and other items knowing that when they dull, you can change them out with a small Torx screw.
The file included in multitools can often be of questionable use. To test this one I went into the engine bay of my Honda Element and decided to tackle a couple of rough finished pieces of metal that I’ve caught my hand on before. The file has two sides, a coarse side, and a fine side. The coarse side is fairly aggressive. It took the edge off and smoothed out the metal around the radiator with just a few swipes. The fine side of the file didn’t take off much metal but could be useful for when you need to deburr something quickly. On a piece of scrap 2x4 in the garage, the coarse side was very effective at quickly taking down the material.
What’s Good About the Gerber Center-Drive Multitool
The advantage of the Gerber is that its size allows you to get more leverage on what you are working on. The jaws of the pliers grip strongly, and the larger cutting tools inside make quick work of zip ties and other materials.
The high-quality three-inch blade is also notable. In many multi-tools, the knife is a bit of an afterthought, be it in material, size, or sharpness. That is not the case here. A standard test for knife sharpness is to take a piece of paper and cut it at an angle while holding it. If it easily cuts paper, the blade is sharp. This one passed the test with flying colors.
While the knife is great, the bit driver is the real star of the show here. It extends to give you impressive reach: 3.5 inches from the pivot point of the tool to the tip of most of the bits. The driver is magnetized to hold bits in place, and the thickness of the tool means that you can get a good grip and apply solid torque where needed.
What’s Bad About the Gerber Center-Drive Multitool
At just under 10 ounces, this is a large and heavy multi-tool that lacks value at a price point of $115. Sure, it’s solid, pretty well-made right here in the U.S., and useful. But it is, in a word, massive. Any multi-tool I carry and use often needs to be lightweight and easy to tote around. This Gerber is not that.
It also lacks refinement, especially at this price. There’s friction in the mechanism to slide the pliers out; rather than a smooth glide, there is a good deal of resistance. In deploying the other tools, the story is much the same. There is an inconsistent amount of effort required. Some take less effort than others, but all of them lack a smoothness; you can feel the grit of metal surfaces that are not well finished up against each other. Perhaps with time and use, those surfaces will grind down the rough spots and actuation will require less effort but out of the box, it’s a bit sticky. For over a hundred bucks, we expect a bit more.
Our Verdict On the Gerber Center-Drive Multitool
If this Gerber looks like it fills a need for you, then you should buy it—but only where you’re confident it can be returned, because it won’t be for everyone. You’ll know quickly if this is the right multi-tool for you.
It is extremely solid and robust. But its size, weight, and cost keep me from enthusiastically recommending it as an everyday-carry, go-to multi-tool. I don’t see it as an essential item of EDC—although it could come in handy if you stowed it in your glovebox.
FAQs About the Gerber Center-Drive Multitool
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q. Does this Gerber Multi-tool come with a warranty?
A. Yes it comes with a 25-year warranty for the entire kit. It covers any and all manufacturing defects in materials or otherwise.
Q. Is this made in America?
A. Yes, the Gerber Center-Drive is designed and made in Portland, Oregon.
Q. Do all of the tools lock into place?
A. Yes, all tools lock solidly into place.
Q. What material is the bit driver made of?
A. The bit driver is made of cast metal.
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