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car2shirt 09-16-2010 07:50 PM

Expensive Tools Vs. Cheap Tools
Hello, I was wondering if anybody has had any horror story about cheap tools. I have a mix of snap-on and an off brand in my tool box. I have not noticed a huge difference, but then again I am not a full time mechanic. I have heard that the sizing on the cheap ones will bend and change over time, any truth to this???

LATECH 09-16-2010 08:30 PM

any tool will wear out.snap on wrenches and sockets are pretty tough. Probably the best (JMO) Cheap stuff is ok a lot of the time but if it bends easy it will stretch, deform end wrenches tend to open a little. Honestly I have used snap on mac and some matco. I like snap on the best. Mac tools work OK but dont perform as well as other brands.
The way a tool fits in your hand can make a big difference. I had a set of mac wrenches and they were kind of a square shank design. Worst wrench I ever used.Those square edges tend to pull your knuckles apart when pulling hard. They just dont "cradle " in your fingers as well as a snap on.
If I had to choose a different tool brand it would be Craftsman. They feel good in the hand they are pretty tough and the warranty and service is very good.

2ndchanceauto 09-16-2010 08:40 PM

to put it simply you get what you pay for. although you have to shop. i to love snap-on tools and matco. i have found that cornwell has become wayyyy too proud of their hand tools. i havent seen a mac dealer for years so i couldn't say. a diy'r will do just fine with a craftman or S/K set-up

Overdriv 09-16-2010 10:20 PM

It's always good to have a few cheap tools on hand in case you need to modify a tool for a special purpose. I just won't cut up a snap on or craftsman.

JeffB 09-16-2010 11:07 PM

I filled in a few items with Stanley from Wal-Mart and they have done well for me, one thing I like is a set of hollow sockets and ratchet I got, it allows the socket to fit over studs that protude thru the socket,the ratchet fits over the outside of the socket.

OneMoreTime 09-17-2010 08:24 AM

Certain tools that see heavy use need to be good ones and there are "special use" tools that also need to be good ones. The rest of it can be something else and someone alluded to the tool feeling comfortable in the hand. I have a mix and now only buy just what I need..the latest was a set of the special wrenches for brake lines and they make it nice.


joe_padavano 09-17-2010 08:49 AM

I'll also chime in and say "it depends". Tools that see heavy use (breaker bar, sockets, ratchet) I'll use Craftsman. On the other hand, I've got Costco sledge hammers and a very large Chinesium bench vise that work fine. Note that I get my Craftsman tools used at Carlisle, since even a broken tool can be exchanged for free at Sears.

I've got a couple of Chinesium die grinders and the problems are 1) they use a lot of air and run the compressor down, and 2) they tend to be disposable. That's a case where I need to upgrade to brand name.

Then again, it's kind of hard to screw up a C-clamp or an anvil, for example.

35terraplane 09-17-2010 03:06 PM

cheap tools
I at one time use the best I could get in my opion at the time. Now when the tape measure is showing less in my favor than I have seen, I hate to spend good money on a tool I will use today and I will tip over tomorrrow, if you know what I mean, it's all about age.

Later 35terraplane

oldred 09-17-2010 07:14 PM


Originally Posted by 35terraplane
I at one time use the best I could get in my opion at the time. Now when the tape measure is showing less in my favor than I have seen, I hate to spend good money on a tool I will use today and I will tip over tomorrrow, if you know what I mean, it's all about age.

Later 35terraplane

That's the way I see it these days too, when I bought my Chinese built lathe everyone said "an American or European machine will last 50 years and that cheap Chinese outfit won't last half that long", ok at my age so what if it only lasts a few years? :rolleyes:

Same thing with hand tools, and it is not always because of age, sometimes it just don't make sense to buy the best. When I ran my shop I made a living with my tools and tool failure cost me big time so I learned early on not to buy cheap. After retiring and for what I use them for now it would just be plain dumb to buy Snap-On but I won't buy the cheapest thing out there either. There is a middle ground between tools for making a living and tools for home/hobby work, Craftsman is the most popular home/hobby tool and probably top of the line for that even if they are not true industrial quality but even more money can be saved by buying some of the other import tools available today. I would not bring home HF wrenches and sockets if they were giving them away for free but even Stanly wrenches and socket sets from WalMart are a good buy for the money and IMO rival Craftsman for home use, however Craftsman has a much better warranty.

Lately I have acquired a few Kobalt tools from Lowes and I was really surprised at how well they are made! I got a set of "Channel lock" type pliers and these seem to be very well built with the teeth holding up well even under some real abuse, the screw drivers also seem to be a real bargain for the money and although I have yet to try the ratchets and sockets I suspect they too are a cut above most cheap sets, of course the Kobalt line is not dirt cheap but it is not expensive either.

35terraplane 09-17-2010 10:06 PM

cheap tools
Your right buying to make a living, and buying to use at home are two different things. The trouble with me is I see a tool I have to have it. I bought a crimper for a cable i needed to put a loop on one end, I buy a crimper thats 3' long and cost $130.00< I have used it once in the last 15 years that i have had it, pretty costly crimp. I have enough tools to last 4 guys a lifetime. I have had some 50 years, now the darn things are wearing out, i have to take them a get replacements, i don't know what i will do with them, I was hope they would last until I quit using them then just give them away , but these are like new now so I guess I will have to have an auction which I didn't want to fool with, oh well maybe I will live another 50 years or so.

Just keep me out of the tool dept. 35terraplane

cboy 09-18-2010 07:28 AM


Originally Posted by joe_padavano
I'll also chime in and say "it depends".

I'll second that, and not offense to others, but in my experience I have not been at all convinced of the old adage "you get what you pay for". I've purchased rather expensive tools that have failed and I've purchased inexpensive tools that have held up very very well. And then, as oldred and terraplane have said, some tools are best purchased based upon your age and limited usage.

I would also agree that Craftsman hand tools are a good safe bet for hobby use or even for moving into the pro ranks. For power tools, air tools and other larger scale tools..."it depends", just like Joe said. So when looking for something specific, I'd first try using the "search" function here on HR.Com. A lot of specific tool choices have been discussed in some detail and you can get good guidances as to which brands have worked well and which haven't.

Jake_Dragon 09-18-2010 07:42 AM

I think it depends on how an how often you use them.
I have some cheap wrenches that I have had for 20 years, they are not used often. I don't bust loose stuck bolts with them but they have swivel ends on them and they do come in handy.
For every day use I have drawers full old craftsman tools. I purchased most of them new years ago and now snap up used ones when I find them.

OneMoreTime 09-18-2010 07:55 AM

For air tools I have found the Astro tools to be good and at at reasonable price..Even the spray guns work well..

Sometimes the high dollar stuff is not all it is advertised to be


topwrench 09-18-2010 08:39 AM

Ive probably helped keep Snap On in business for years,they looked good and felt good in your hands.
I have quit buying most of them,way too high I would much rather spend the money on good parts.
Still when it comes to certain tools you have to think quality,IE torque wrenches,precision tools,dial ind. mics. etc.
I think the advantage to Snap On is the guy comes to u.
All in all consider this.What would be the difference between using a 1/4 inch ratchet with a 7mm socket under a dash Snap On vs. el cheapo.
Now as far as torquing heads or bearings or measuring rod bolt stretch,then I want the best!
All my torque wrenches r Snap On,I just turn them in for re-calibration,they get sent off n the guy brings them back to me.
I made a bet with another mechanic one time.I threw a Snap On screwdriver on the shop floor along with an el cheapo wooden handle one.
We watched another tech walk around with the cheap screwdriver in his hand trying his best to find out who lost it.
Snap screwdriver dissapeared in about a second,it had my name on it.I found it ,but I had to ask for it!

Silverback 09-18-2010 09:32 AM

I have a few snapon type pieces, a lot of middle of the road craftsman (some Kobalt and Huskey) and a surprising number of cheaper HF and other stuff.

I have made a living with them at times, but most of the time it's just what I would call serious hobby use (lets face it, you're serious when you have a bridgeport and metal working lathe in your shop to make pieces because you don't feel like much of what is on the market is made correctly).

I'll be honest, I can't think of any Snapon type tools that I've been happier with than Craftsman, I'm not sure why people consider them better. They usually cost much more, sometimes look cooler, but I've never seen them function better, and I've had some snapon stuff that has really pissed me off to the point that I've thrown it out when I found something cheap that worked better.

the _really_ cheap stuff like harbor freight... that you have to look at on a case by case basis. The Pittsburg sockets and wrenches can be quite good, I have some that are as good as my craftsman and snapon ones. My basement/take somewhere/junkyard set of wenches cost $9.99 each for SAE and Metric (minus a 20% off coupon) so I'm not going to worry that much about loosing one in the jy, and I'll be honest, in function and feel I can't really tell them from my $$$ ones, and I don't even own $$$ impact sockets or deep wel 1/2" drive sockets, I bought some Pittsburgh ones for cheap and they do the job so well that I never bothered getting "good" craftsman or better ones.

You just have to be careful with the stuff, they have good stuff at Harbor Freight, you just have to pick it out. Also, you might find that lots of places have a similar tool for vastly different $$$ and that the quality is the same but that one might just work better for you. Like I really like the 4 or 6 way screwdrivers (the ones that have a hollow shaft and a reversible bit in each end). The $1.99 HF ones are just as good (actually I've found some quality issues with other places more expensive ones, so unless you pick through their piles, I would argue, quality wize the HF ones tend to be better), but for some retarded reason I like the Home Depot, buck brother's ones better. I always thought that it was because I bought one of theirs first and got used to how they are laid out, but my brothe refuesed to spend 3x as much on one and has been using other ones and suddenly started buying them after using one of mine and likeing it better.

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