LAST UPDATED: June 3, 2019
Best Mechanic's Tool Sets: Expand Your Automotive Tool Set
The best mechanic's tool sets to cover your most basic automotive needs
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON June 3, 2019
All mechanics have their preferred set of tools. Beyond the assortment of necessary tools, the individual's preference ultimately drives a lot of purchasing decisions when starting or expanding a toolset. This is what makes a standard mechanic's tool kit so great: it provides a good starting point to get the most common tools out of the way so you can start with typical automotive maintenance tasks from the start as you expand the collection. If you don't have your own preferred toolset, here is our handy guide to some of the best mechanic toolsets available today.
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Why Buy a Mechanic's Tool Set
- Start from scratch. Automotive tools can be expensive when starting out. This is especially true for the most common types of tools like wrenches since you need to acquire a large collection of different sizes and attachments. A toolset takes a lot of the challenge of starting off out of the equation. Instead, you can choose a handy kit with the right size for your needs.
- Upgrade an existing set. If you have a few tools set in the kit already, a mechanic's tool set is a great way to expand on what you already have. Some kits, in fact, are designed as expansion sets more than anything else. Typically, these kits come with a larger range of sockets and other attachments with different or less common sizes.
- Keep everything in one place. Almost all mechanic tool sets have a case included with the kit. While the quality of the case varies, often depending on the price point, one place to keep everything together equals better organization and more efficiency with common automotive tasks. A small mechanic's toolset is also portable enough to take with you if you want an emergency kit or do some automotive work away from the garage.
Top Brands of Mechanic's Tool Sets
Craftsman has a special place in many professional toolboxes, whether it’s on a truck or on a job site. The wide range of tools the company offers has a lot of quality that working professionals rely on as a good long-term investment. For professional and everyday use, the 320-Piece Mechanic's Tool Set is one of its best mechanic's tool sets.
Founded by Raymond DeWalt in 1922, the company that bears his name has been a staple in hand and power tools for decades. It's signature yellow scheme is recognizable nearly anywhere, and the company offers a level of construction that matches its brand recognition. While it excels with general use tools, mechanic's tool sets like the 181-Piece Mechanic's Tool Set have won the company a place in many automotive garages.
Mechanic's Tool Set Pricing
- $50 and under: Budget mechanic's tool sets are usually limited in size and quality. The best ones still have high-quality tools, but some corners may be cut with the case or included accessories, especially anything made of plastic. It is common, however, to find a decent 100+ piece in this range.
- $50-$100: In the midrange, there are many durable mechanic's tool sets for DIYers. You will tend to either find smaller kits with better tools or larger kits that cut the same corners with the included accessories.
- $100 and above: This is the range you will want to consider if you want something that is near professional quality. Professional kits use materials that can survive the typical abuse automotive maintenance can dish out and include larger sets with less common tools you may need every so often.
It may seem rather obvious, but the most important feature of any tool set is the selection of tools it offers. All kits are different in the number of pieces they include, but most tend to offer a standard array of common tools and sizes as a start. At the very least, the kit should come with a complete wrench set and a healthy assortment of sockets, nut drivers, combination wrenches, and hex keys. Look for larger, more expensive kits if you want less common tools like a tape measure, utility knife, spark plug sockets, and torque wrenches. If possible, make sure the set includes tools made of the same material like chrome vanadium steel or alloy steel.
The more tools you have, the more you will need in terms of storage and portability. This is where a quality storage case or tool chest comes in handy. For the most part, the case needs to offer a decent amount of protection and organization to keep everything in place. Hard plastic cases are the most common type. Make sure the outer surface has enough rigidity to survive knocks and scrapes or the unexpected fall if necessary and an anti-slip coating to keep the case in place. On the inside, the case should have a dedicated spot for each piece it includes with slots that will hold the tools in place if you move the case around.
- Automotive Needs: There isn't a single best mechanic's toolset available. Instead, the best one is the one that meets your unique needs. To know which one that is, you need to think about the types of automotive issues you want to address. Do you need one for simple, periodic maintenance? Do you need something more expansive to cover less common problems? The needs and intended use of the toolset will help you determine which one you really need.
- Multiple Sizes: The real benefit of the best mechanics tool sets is the modularity socket wrenches and sets offer when it comes to dealing with different fastener and part sizes in a vehicle. This makes the size of the sockets and other attachments important. First and foremost, you should have a set that has both metric and SAE sizes. You should also have the most common sizes for typical fasteners you're likely to find in your local hardware store.
Best Mechanic's Tool Sets Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This kit has 204 pieces, including ratchets, extensions, swivel heads, short- and deep-set sockets, combination open-end and box wrenches, Allen wrenches, and screwdriver-tipped sockets.
The knurled beauty rings on the ratchets give you a firm grip and the sizes on the sockets are laser etched so they are clearly marked—which means a lot less fumbling around in search of the correct sized socket. The 72-gear system gives you high torquing ability, while the 5-degree arc swing provides maneuverability, especially in tight areas. The carrying kit is great for storage and transporting the tools to the work area where you need them.
There are a couple of downsides, though. The hex wrench sizes may not be big enough, especially for doing brake work. Also, the pieces can get loose in the case, and the full case is quite heavy to carry around.
The Crescent CTK170CMP2 Tool Set makes a great starter or upgrade kit for mechanics and DIYers alike. The set actually comes with a few different options for included pieces, but the 170-piece kit offers the most bang for the buck.
Meeting ANSI and ASME specifications, the tools around the 170-piece kit are geared around the most common automotive tasks and parts. Coming with a variety of sizes of rachet and socket wrenches (both metric and SAE), the tools are high end and feel sturdy in the hand. The size of the case also makes it easy to store in a vehicle or in the garage in compact spaces.
While the tools are good, the case is a different story. Made of the typical cheap plastic near-budget tool sets use, the case is flexible and hardly impact-resistant. It's also somewhat difficult to keep the individual tools organized within the case since the plastic organizers and slots don't keep everything together when carrying the set around as well as more expensive options.
When it comes to sheer bulk, Craftsman's 450-piece mechanic's tool set takes things to the extreme. Using three quick-release ratchets, the kit includes a number of sockets, extension bars, and combination wrenches to tackle almost anything a vehicle can throw at you. Outside of a few pliers, gloves, and other random automotive tools, this kit includes it all.
The real draw of this kit is the variety of tools and bits it includes. For working on different cars or different areas of a single car, this kit comes the closest to being "ready for anything" outside of 1,000+ piece kits. Quality wise, the tools share the same construction quality as other Craftsman tools (and other mechanic's tools around the same price).
Given a large amount of included pieces, carrying around the entire set is less than ideal due to the weight. The kit is divided into separate cases, so you can take a portion of the overall toolset if needed, but it's less convenient. The cases also suffer from the common toolset issue of failing to keep tools in place while moving the kit around.
- If you are buying your first mechanic's toolset and don't know where to begin, start off small. It is easy to expand on the number of pieces you buy with other kits or individual purchases in the future.
- Pay attention to the quality of any tools with moving parts since these are the most likely to fail at first. This can include a ratchet and adjustable wrenches. Spending a little bit more for higher quality tools with moving parts can save you money down the road.
- A good mechanic's tool set also makes a great general toolset. Since most of the wrenches and attachments work on common fasteners, you can pull double duty with other weekend or home projects with the same toolset.
Q. How many pieces do I really need?
A. There is no golden answer in terms of the appropriate size you may need for a mechanic's tool set. The more you have, the more you can do, but the most aren't always warranted. Instead, pay attention to the types of tools each kit has so you'll know what you'll have to use for typical automotive maintenance.
Q. Do I have to store my tools in a case?
A. Not at all. In fact, any typical toolbox or organizer will work since the tools are similar, if not the same, as general tools. Included cases are great for portability, but they tend to lack in quality. It may be a smart investment to find your own case instead.
Q. What kind of toolsets are meant for automotive work?
A. Since most vehicles have parts and fasteners typical wrenches and other tools can handle, there isn't much to make a kit "automotive worthy." Durability, however, is one factor that sets apart a lot of kits. Good resistance to water, oil, dust, and other liquids and debris that are common with automotive maintenance is a must. Otherwise, you will start to notice your tools starting to rust or corrode before you know it.
The Dewalt Mechanics 204-Piece Tool Kit, our pick for Best Overall, is a fine choice to consider for your first set. It has great variety, quality, and value.
The Crescent CTK170CMP2 wins our pick as the Best Value for a mechanic's toolset. It offers plenty of different tools for a great level of versatility in one set.