Back when I was a young whippersnapper, I frequently got enlisted to help my dad repair one or the other of our family cars. He had an old set of Craftsman tools and a lot of enthusiasm, and he was fearless about tearing pretty much anything apart. We usually ended up getting at least MOST of the parts back on, and I acquired lots of new colorful phrases to go along with my new mechanical skills! When I was a bit older, I lived in Florida for a couple of years, during which time I attended motorcycle mechanic’s school. The Snap-On Tool truck would roll in on a regular basis, and most of us were in perpetual debt to the driver. Those were some sweet (and EXPENSIVE) tools! Fast forward a few decades, and I still love useful, well-made tools. And now it’s possible to own a nice set of sockets and wrenches, WITHOUT owing your soul to the company store, thanks to DEWALT Mechanics tool sets!
The new DEWALT Mechanics Tool Sets offer a good variety of mechanic’s hand tools at a very reasonable price point. There are a couple of ways to go here – stackable sets or larger, more complete tool sets. Here’s a one minute drum-banging clip introducing the sets:
Stack ‘Em Up!
DEWALT currently offers 12 stackable sets, which make it possible to build a collection over time, or to fill in gaps in your tool collection. This series of smaller sets is also designed to be a grab and go solution, allowing you to take only the tools you need with you. The sets come in sturdy plastic tool boxes, which are all the same size, to facilitate the “stackable” portion of the equation. You can stack and connect them for easy portability, or store the removable inner tray in your DEWALT tool chest to help stay organized.
There are currently twelve stackable sets available, ranging from an eight-piece combination wrench set to a 70 piece multi-bit and nut driver set. There are ¼”, 3/8” and ½” standard and deep socket sets, as well as standard and metric combination wrenches. There is also a DEWALT mechanics tool accessory set, containing various ¼” and 3/8” drive extensions and drill adaptors, swivel adaptors, three spark plug sockets, and ¼” to 3/8” adaptors. This type of set is a must-have for anyone who wields a ratchet.
DEWALT sent us a couple of the stackable sets to evaluate, models DWMT73812 (containing 20 3/8”-drive sockets) and DWMT73804 (a 34 piece ¼” and 3/8” drive socket set). Each box has two latches in front, and one on each side. When the boxes are separate, the side latches flip up and help secure the lid. When used in multiples, the side latches still secure the lid, but also latch onto the box above. The latching system works great, and holds the boxes tightly together.
The quality of the tools is excellent. The six-point sockets are great when it’s time to get a grip (something I spend a lot of time trying to do). The 72-tooth ratchet is handy for wrenching in tight spaces, where you have limited room to move the handle. The sockets even have a knurled “Beauty ring” around the bottom, which is intended to improve your grip for hand-tightening applications. Not sure how useful that is, but the beauty is undeniable! Each socket and wrench has its size laser-etched onto it. In normal indoor light, they’re pretty easy to read, but in bright sunlight there’s not much contrast, especially with the smaller sized tools.
Need More? DEWALT Mechanics Tool Sets Also Come In X-Large
Starting from scratch? A bigger set, with a good variety of the most commonly used tools, is a good way to start building a collection. DEWALT offers more complete sets, containing anywhere from 108 – 204 pieces. We took a look at the 168-piece DEWALT Mechanics Tool set. It has a nice assortment of both SAE and metric standard depth and deep sockets, from a baby 5/32″ ¼” drive to the big daddy 15/16” ½” drive socket. The set contains three 72-tooth, quick-release ratchets: ¼”, 3/8” and ½” drive versions.
The ratchets in all the sets, as well as the sockets and accessories, have a really nice, shiny chromed finish. They have a good heavy, solid heft to them, and have the look and feel of a solid, well-made tool. The ratchets hold onto the sockets like a spandex turtleneck on Chris Christie. Hit the quick release button, though, and they pop right off.
The set also contains six SAE and six metric combination wrenches, made from the same high-quality chromed steel. There are also 14 SAE and 14 metric hex key wrenches, and a vinyl grip bit driver, along with 15 assorted nut driver bits. All that steel and chrome is heavy; the 168-piece set weighs in at just over 27 pounds. Luckily, it lives in a sturdy plastic case, with four metal clasps to hold it all together.
A nice touch is the rubber work mat DEWALT included in the case. It helps eliminate rattling, and makes a handy place to corral tools and small parts while you’re working. All the components fit snugly into their own little bays in the case, so as long as you put them away when you’re finished, they’ll be right there for your next wrenching adventure.
I used the DEWALT mechanics tool sets to remove and reinstall some 4” lag screws in my barn, which were holding a 2X4 used to secure an upper door. I tried it first with the ratchet, then used the adaptor and a ¼” socket in my Hitachi drill. To further test the ratchets, I then used them to loosen and then re-tighten various nuts and bolts on my workbench and a small utility trailer. I also introduced the set to my 50-year-old BMW project bike. At some point in the future, when I have a bit more leisure time, they’ll be spending a lot of quality time together.
The sockets and wrenches all performed their wrenching duties admirably. They fit snugly on the heads of the nuts and bolts I tried them on; there was no play, foul or otherwise. They were comfortable to hold and use, and the combination wrenches are nice and long. This is great for extra leverage, although it might make it tougher to use them in tight spaces. The ratchets operated very smoothly, and the 5° arc swing made it easy to loosen up a nut in a tight space.
Gold Chrome Standard
When I’m evaluating mechanic’s hand tools, I tend to use Snap-On as my standard for comparison. They make excellent quality, good-looking, very durable tools. Unfortunately, they charge a super-premium price for all that quality. For example, a Snap-On set of ¼” sockets with 10 sockets, a ratchet, a swivel adapter, and a couple of extensions goes for a whopping $284. DEWALT’s 25-piece ¼” drive set can be had for $30. An 11-piece metric combination wrench set sells for $183; an 8-piece set from DEWALT will run you $30.
Most of the automotive tools I’ve accumulated over the past few decades are Craftsman brand. While they’re not quite as pretty as the Snap-Ons, they’re WAY cheaper, and they generally get the job done. My intent here is not to run down Snap-On; they make great stuff, and they stand solidly behind it. The tools I bought almost 40 years ago are still going strong – and they’re all paid off now! When I’m spending my money, though, and I can get comparable quality and performance at a fraction of the cost, with a lifetime guarantee, it’s tough to justify the premium in price.
If you’re looking to start a collection of mechanic’s tools, or add to one, DEWALT offers a good assortment of options, ranging from a couple of adjustable wrenches to sets with over 200 pieces. Since the DEWALT mechanics tool sets have the quality look and feel of much more expensive tools, and they have a no-hassle, lifetime guarantee, I’m afraid it’s time to say a wrenching goodbye to the man in the tool truck.
No one seems to carry the full line of DEWALT Mechanics tool sets. Various sets are available at Home Depot, Sears, Pep Boys and Amazon, among many others. Your best bet might be to check out the DEWALT web site to see the various DEWALT stackable sets and larger sets and then do an online search for the set you want. Below are the sets we tested, including the DEWALT DWMT73812 20-piece set, DWMT73804 34-piece stackable set, and the DWMT73803 168-piece set (same order below):