Years ago when I first started out in the automotive industry, one thing that both intrigued me as well as terrified me was the thought of buying tools. When I first started out all I had was a 450 piece mechanics tool set from Craftsmen and the $300 craftsmen tool box special. Within weeks my co-workers with many years of experience started getting annoyed with me always asking to borrow tools and pretty soon they started to deny me. Did they do this because they were being rude? No, it was for my own good.
I was a 20 year old “lube tech” working at an old, slow, failing Chrysler dealership. The service sector was the only thing keeping the business alive. Well, one day the shop foremen told me that in this business you have two thing; your tools and your reputation, and you should always have the best of both. As I looked around the shop there was a common theme with most of the techs I worked with. And that common theme was professional tools and it was time for me to take that plunge.
The nice aspect of being a mechanic, as far as tools go, is that even though they are expensive, the majority of them come with a lifetime warranty, AND the tool companies come to you, not the other way around! But lets be honest, when you’re just starting out in the business and you see guys who have invested tens of thousands of dollars on tools you start to wonder how they afford it. Which brings me to my next point. The “tool guys” as you will hear them being called with allow you to open a tab with them for no additional charge. So you can purchase a few hundred dollars worth of tools at a time and pay the sales rep a chunk of it each week when they come to visit the shop.
So what are the best tools to buy? Honestly, that is a matter of preference for most. But before you invest in a certain tool, like a set of screwdrivers or a ratchet, be sure to see what each tool distributor has to offer. Ask to try it as a demo, hold it in your hand, does it feel comfortable? Remember this tool is going to help you make money and you will be using it everyday. Find one that feels good in your hands. Would you wear uncomfortable shoes everyday? Obviously not.
Just about anyone who works on cars for a living will tell you that Snap On makes the best tools around, and there is much truth to that. But don’t discount the other manufacturers out there like Mac Tools, Matco and Cornwall. They also make good quality tools, but as stated above find what fits the hand best.
While you will be spending a considerable amount of money on tools, and you should most certainly buy the highest quality tools money can buy, it is also recommended to buy some cheaper hand tools to keep in your tool box. Why you ask? Well, say you’re working on a vehicle and that wrench you’re using is too thick to fit in a spot, or you could get a better swing with the wrench if you cut out a notch on the handle. Having a cheaper set of backup sockets and/or wrenches will allow you to modify tools without the possibility of voiding the warranty or having to ruin an expensive tool. Use the good tools for their normal purpose and pull the cheaper tools out, as needed to modify so you can get certain jobs done.
Always remember that the tools you use are an extension of your hands and arms, make sure you know how to use them to their fullest and they are comfortable because you may be holding on to them for an extended period of time.