Best Tap and Die Sets: Fix Those Broken Threads
Time to graduate from tinkerer to master with these tap and die sets.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Hank O'Hop / LAST UPDATED ON October 26, 2021
You might be good with a wrench, but things happen and you should be prepared to mess up. That said, if you don't know how to get yourself out of the bind you just put yourself into, the whole concept of saving money by doing it yourself goes out the window, especially when it comes to stuck or broken bolts and screws. A tap and die set is the kind of kit you need to keep around the shop. Otherwise, a chewed-up thread is going to make your life miserable. There's a lot of options out there, though. So, we want to take some time to talk about what some of our top choices are and give you the rundown on what to keep an eye on while shopping.
Tekton is known for producing relatively affordable tools that pack a punch in terms of quality. This 45-piece metric tap and die set is no exception and is backed by a solid warranty.
- Competitive pricing
- Respectable quality
- Covers most common fasteners
- Guaranteed for life
- Case is easily damaged
- Case contents tend to scatter in storage
- T-Handle tools seem to be something of a weak point
Why go broke collecting taps and dies? This master set is half the price of many less extensive sets, covering a wide range of SAE and metric fastener sizes.
- Affordable price point
- Covers a wide range of fasteners
- Separate storage cases included
- Not built to last
- Quality control issues are common
- Case has poor hold on contents
Gearwrench takes things up a notch with its ratcheting drive tools. The wide range of taps and dies covering SAE and metric sizes make it a must-have for many DIYers.
- High-quality materials used
- Ratcheting design makes work easier
- High-quality storage case
- Covers a wide range of fastener sizes
- Warranty description is slightly misleading
- Ratcheting mechanisms are a weak point
- Relatively high price point
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Best Tap and Die Sets Reviews & Recommendations
How We Selected The Products
Though these are specialty tool sets, it takes little more than basic knowledge of a project and what to look out for to make sure you're in the right ballpark. However, you have quite a few options to choose from when you perform a basic internet search, so it's only natural to question what exactly we took into consideration when narrowing things down.
For the most part, we decided it's best to stick with what we know. We know you need cutting tools made with precision and exceptionally hard materials. Much of the brands we leaned on here are those we've leaned on in the past, and we trust them to make quality tools. If we haven't used a brand before, we made sure it at least meets the demands of someone looking for a decent set of taps and dies that covers a respectable range or offers decent value according to what others have to say about it.
Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.
Buying Guide/What to Look For
There are a lot of different options when it comes to tap and die sets. The process of picking the right one can seem complicated when you consider all the different variables, but it's really not that bad. This quick buying guide is here to help you sort through your options and hone in on the kit that truly suits your needs.
What to Consider When Buying Tap and Die Sets
Types of Tap and Die Sets
The first thing to figure out is how big of a tap and die set you need to get the job done. This might seem self-explanatory, but it's always good to talk through the basics. This way, we can at least help you understand which kit makes for a good start and what to prepare for down the line.
What we're calling a specialty set would be a small kit that covers one or a few odd thread sizes. These are really handy if you need to create or repair threads that aren't all that common on automotive applications or those that are limited to specific applications.
It can seem tempting to try and find the tap or die that covers just one thread size to save money when you're getting started, but we don't recommend doing so. We say that because you never really know what kind of problems you'll run into with fasteners, and it's best to prepare for as much as possible.
Single Thread Type
Most kits on the market feature somewhere around 45 pieces and cover either metric or SAE fasteners. These are a great starting point for many as one kit is usually enough to cover the majority of fasteners car owners will deal with on a single application.
In today's day and age, most folks will want a metric tap and die set, while classic vehicle owners should lean toward SAE. That's nothing more than a rule of thumb, though. Eventually, you should invest in both, but it's ok to start with a kit that covers the types of fasteners your current application has to work with.
What we're calling a master set is one that covers sizes in both SAE and metric thread types. In all reality, this is usually the best starting point. We say that because there are applications that rely on either measuring system, you likely own plenty of projects that call for either, and there's never telling what the future has in store. Covering as many bases as possible now can save you headaches down the line.
The only real drawback to a master set is that they do typically cost more money because you are essentially buying two kits at once. You should also know that, even with a comprehensive selection, there's still a good chance that you'll need to pick up additional taps as it’s hard to find any single kit that covers absolutely every possible fastener size.
Tap and Die Set Key Features
Now that you know a little more about your options let's dive into the key features. You should be able to dial in on the best kit for your money in just a few minutes if you keep an eye on the details below.
Proper Thread Type
Obviously, you know you need a kit that covers the thread type you're working with. If you're working with a vehicle produced in the last 20 years, you probably just need a comprehensive metric kit. However, you should still check to verify as there's always the chance you'll need SAE sizes in any situation.
The more you know about your vehicle, the better. If there's one size that appears more often than others or an odd size is prevalent, you should pick a kit that covers them at the very least. If you can't find an odd size, still invest in a comprehensive kit and the funky tap or die on the side.
Useable Storage Case
The storage case has very little to do with the performance of the tools themselves, but we can't stress just how important they really are. Poor quality cases or those that can't fit where you need to store them are a surefire way to run into a massive headache. That one fastener you need under fire will go missing, and you'll be up the creek without a paddle.
It's easy to simply tell you to buy the best tools you can afford. There is a lot of merit behind that statement, especially when it comes to specialty tools like taps and dies, where precision is everything. Not everyone has the means or can justify the expense of pro-level tools, though. We suggest doing a little bit of homework and reading into the materials used and how well the tools are crafted. The product description will typically tell us what the taps and dies are made of, while the reviews are always the best way to find out what shortcomings are present. Your job is to decide whether or not the set is still good enough to tackle the job you need it to.
Tap and Die Set Tips and Tricks
Picking out and using tap and die sets takes a little bit of knowledge, but it's not rocket science. Even so, we do have a few tips to share with you that will help you to get the most out of any kit you select.
- Back Off. As you clean or create threads, make sure to back the tool off every 1/4-turn. This prevents binding and potential damage to the project or tools.
- Lube is Your Friend. Always keep your taps and dies clean and lubricated, especially when you're cutting threads. You're bound to run into trouble otherwise.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Thread Repair Kits: Sometimes, a thread is just too far gone. Thread repair kits make it possible to restore internal threads so that you can use the original fastener size.
- Keep it Clean. If you're tearing anything down, it's a good idea to run your fasteners through dies and clean internal threads with taps. This makes sure there's no debris trapped in threads that will slow assembly down or throw off torque readings.
You have questions of your own. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly what's running through your mind. However, we think addressing the FAQs surrounding tap and die sets will get you squared away.
Q: What is the best material for a tap and die set?
It's ultimately dependent on the material you're working with. You just need to make sure the cutting tool is harder than the material you're working with. In most cases, hardened alloy steels work just fine. However, carbon steel, titanium, and cobalt are all excellent choices.
Q: What's the difference between a tap and die?
To put it simply, a die creates external threads while a tap creates internal threads. The average wrench turner will likely use taps more than dies because hardware is replaceable, but you still want to keep both on hand.
Q: Can you tap cast iron?
Yes, you can tap cast iron. It is important to be careful of hard spots that can break your tools, though. The good news is that taking your time and not forcing your taps is the key to avoiding the situation.
Q: Is titanium a good material for tap and die sets?
Titanium is an extremely hard metal, making it a great choice for tap and die sets. It cuts through metal easier and will last longer than most alternatives. Just bear in mind that the entire tool isn't likely to be made of titanium — just the cutting edge.
We really think that the Tekton 7561 Tap and Die Set, Metric, 45-Piece is a great starting point for most DIYers, but the value of the Orion Motor Tech SAE & Metric Tap and Die Set 80pcs is hard to ignore for those who need tackle as much as possible on a budget. You tell us what you think. We'd love to know what you feel is the best tap and die set for the money.