The Garage Tools

Craftsman Overdrive Mechanic’s Tool Set Hands-On Review: High-Torque Tech is Worth It

A little extra grip goes a long way.
Craftsman Overdrive Mechanic's Tool Set Review
Hank O'Hop

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The whole point of buying a mechanic’s tool set is to get the best bang for your buck. Bundling everything together reduces the overall expense and saves you the hassle of having to track down everything you need piece by piece. To put it simply, the more one can do for you, the better. And if you’re looking for something that can do more than most, Craftsman’s Overdrive mechanic’s tool sets might just be worthy of your attention. 

Craftsman’s Overdrive line is all about solving problems other mechanic’s tool sets struggle with. Despite looking like a pretty basic set of tools at first glance, two features are present to help separate this line from the pack. Those are the 180-tooth ratchets along with the special High Torque Technology wrenches and sockets that offer grip on fasteners that have been rounded up to 70%. 

Both features sound really good on paper. However, when Craftsman pitched me the opportunity to test these tools out, the questions I formed is if they’re really necessary, and how well will they work in real-world scenarios, at least as far as DIYers go. After using these tools for some pretty extensive projects around the shop, I feel I can provide some real answers. 

Craftsman Overdrive Mechanic's Tool Set Review

The Rundown 

Craftsman set me up with a 284-piece mechanic’s tool set from its Overdrive line. The kit includes pretty much everything you’d expect from something it’s size. It comes with 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch drive ratchets and standard and deep well sockets for each. It has a decent spread of combination wrenches and ups the piece count with some Allen keys, a bit driver, and bits to match. Craftsman also throw in some extensions, drive adapters, and universal joints. Everything is neatly organized into labeled molded plastic trays. Even if the retail price of $379.99 is a bit more than you’d expect to pay for Craftsman tools, it’s hard to deny the value of this kit. 

It’s important not to think of value solely in terms of piece count in relevance to pricing. Instead, it’s how much more use you’ll get out of this tool set on account of the aforementioned specialty designs. 

Craftsman Overdrive Mechanic's Tool Set Review

The 180-tooth count on the ratchets is a detail that’s sure to catch everyone’s eye. This gives them a super tight 2-degree swing arc, which allows it to function in extremely space-limited situations. Craftsman totes that this super-high tooth count comes at no compromise to strength. That’s because it doesn’t actually have a 180-tooth mechanism but instead a twin-pawl 90-tooth setup.

As for the sockets and wrenches, they’re set up with Craftsman’s Overdrive High-Torque Technology design. This puts three special grooved patterns on three of the six-flats in six-point sockets and ratchets. This provides engagement on the flat surfaces on hex-fasteners, providing grip even when the points have been rounded off. These same grooves are also found on one flat of the open ends of the combination wrenches. 

The Overdrive line is of course backed by a lifetime warranty. Unlike the V-Series tools, Overdrive tools seem to be easy to find at physical dealer locations, not just online. Unfortunately, they are not made in the USA, nor are they assembled here with globally sourced parts. Instead, they’re boasting that “Made in Taiwan” stamp most DIY-grade tools are these days.

Wrenching in Overdrive  

As soon as the 284-Piece Overdrive set showed up, I set it up in my tool box and have been using it as my go-to mechanic’s tool set since. I’ve got some pretty big things going on, namely swapping my 1969 Dodge Charger over to Heidts’ Pro-G front suspension and a 4-link in the rear. This set is on the front line. Over the course of a couple of months, I’ve grown familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. 

Overall, this 284-piece set is solid. You got more than enough for it to function as a viable central set for your shop. It could stand to benefit from extending the wrench spread with a few larger and smaller sizes. But overall, I dig what you have to work with here and I rarely find myself having to pull tools from other collections because this doesn’t have what I need. I think it’s an especially nice touch that you get multiple extension sizes and universal joints for all three ratchet drive,  too. Most mechanic’s tool sets really seem to lack in this department, and this ultimately makes it more functional than those without. 

The labeled trays are just OK. They do lay everything out nicely for you, and I really like having them as a way to keep my tool box drawers organized. This level of organization really helps projects flow and It has inspired me to get the rest of my shop in order. However, they’re really thin and fit kind of awkwardly in the V-series tool chest’s drawers. I know that, with time, they’re bound to start falling apart, especially since the 22-inch by 11-inch size forces me to stack them to fit everything in one 58-inch by 19-inch drawer. 

Overdrive Trays in drawers

As for the quality of the tools, there’s plenty of good and bad to talk about. The good qualities are present in the overall aesthetic, feel and performance. The ratchets are a bit bulky but they operate smoothly, and do offer a nice tight swing arc. The wrenches feel good in your hand, are clearly have nice clear scribing, and offer excellent grip on the fasteners. The same general traits flow through to the sockets, allen keys, and bits and bit driver. 

The bad starts with quality control issues. My kit came with a second 5/8-inch deep-well socket in place of the 9/16-inch deep-well. This is a minor fault, but considering that 9/16-inch fasteners are the most common size on my car, it does get really annoying. It also seems like the 9/16-inch wrench has some sort of defect as well. It generally struggles to slip onto fasteners. While I want to write this off as a quirk of the wrench’s specialty design, I came to find it’s not the case for other sizes. 

The Extra Flex of Overdrive

The wrenches and sockets are the real attraction here. In fact, they’re pretty much what justify spending $100 more than you would for a similarly sized Craftsman Versastack set. And I’m not just saying that to add to marketing hype. The claims of enhanced grip thanks to the High-Torque design do hold water. 

I tested the High-Torque design to see how well it worked for myself. I did so by torquing a bolt down, then ground off the edges with a grinder. Even with all six points gone, these tools have no trouble biting down and tearing them free. Aside from the isolated issue with the 9/16-inch wrench, nothing about the design keeps these from functioning as normal tools. So, if you could only have one set in the shop, this isn’t a bad way to go. 

And, yes, these are very similar to Mac’s RBRT design. However, I won’t go as far as to say these are Mac tools with Craftsman’s name on them. The functional designs that work with rounded fasteners are alike, but there are some glaring differences in how deep the grooves are as well as they’re positioning in the box ends. 

As for the ratchets, I do side with the argument that 180-teeth is overkill. That’s largely because I never run into a situation where the 2-degree swing arc will save my skin. In most cases, a 90 tooth ratchet gets it done. The twin-pawl design also does add depth to the head. So, in order to get that tight swing, you are taking a hit in terms of profile which can also limit use in tight spaces. Furthermore, I suspect the twin-pawl design directly contributes to the relatively high back drag of these ratchets. While they work just fine and you do get a really tight swing arc with no compromise to strength, it is important to consider these trade-offs. 

The verdict on Craftsman’s Overdrive Mechanic’s Tool Set 

I think the way Craftsman markets this set is just right. It’s a nice step up from the usual Craftsman tool sets but isn’t quite as bougie as the V-Series line. Though the quality is very similar to that of more recent Craftsman tools, the addition of the High-Torque design helps cement its place as the next step up from the usual kits. 

Craftsman Overdrive Mechanic’s Tool Set

Considering Craftsman does stand by its customers so well, I don’t think the quality control issues I ran into really qualify as problems. I have no doubt they’ll be rectified with no hiccups whatsoever. Still, I do think some people will expect better with the price being considerably higher than what Craftsman customers typically pay. 

Again, this Craftsman Overdrive 284-piece set goes for $379.99. Compared to the Craftsman Versatstack 262-piece set, which goes for $279.99, that does seem steep. Still, I think it’s worth considering spending the extra $100 to get the High-Torque Technology wrenches. They will save your skin in sticky situations. I won’t say you need them right now. But if you’re buying new tools anyway, it is a nice feature to invest a little extra in.