OK, not every fastener, but close. If the thought of coming across a screw or bolt that you don’t have a proper tool for wakes you up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, Lowes has just the thing for you; the Kobalt 227 Piece Standard/Metric Mechanics tool set. That’s right, 227 pieces baby! We first saw this set at a Lowes media event last year and Lowes recently hooked us up with a set for this review. We’ve been pulling tools out of this thing since, and they just keep coming. If the most rigorous tool use you encounter is assembling Ikea furniture, then buying this kit is a bit like taking a limo to the grocery store. However, if you’re a mechanic or a serious wrencher around the home or shop, this kit promises to handle almost every fastener-related task you can throw at it.
The Tool Case
227 tools aren’t going to do you much good if they’re piled into a canvas bag. Storage and organization with this many tools and sockets is a must. To that end, Kobalt thoughtfully included a case to store everything in the kit. The case features fitted storage in the lid, a drop-in tray, and three drawers below, one of which is empty and without any molded dividers. Actually, technically they’re all empty when you get the kit. Count on spending a little chunk of time finding homes for all the various tools and sockets. While some fit snugly, others are cradled loosely. As a result, you probably don’t want to flip the box upside down or take any speed bumps very fast if it’s in the back of your truck.
While the case dose a good job of organizing and protecting an amazing amount of tools, it does have a few shortcomings. When we first pulled our set out of the box, on of the corners of the box had come loose. A gentle but firm kick nudged it back into place, but it left us wondering a bit about structural integrity. The hinge mechanism on the box seemed a bit light-duty. It’s made from a relatively thin steel pin with plastic surrounding it. Last on our list of box nitpicks are the side handles. While these are a great idea, the handles basically stick out flat, with no recess for your fingers to curl into. They still beat carrying the box from the bottom, but more robust recesses for your hands would be something we’d like to see. Of course, there’s also a recessed top handle for carrying one-handed. For someone like me who uses the set out of the garage and not bouncing around in the back of a truck, the box design isn’t a major concern. However, if you are highly mobile with your tools and tend to abuse your tool boxes, you might find yourself with some storage issues.
On a more positive note, we were very happy to see that Kobalt included the socket sizes on the drawers that store the various sockets. Although the sizes are etched on the sockets themselves, they’re not always visible if the socket is turned. The label for each socket makes retrieving and replacing sockets a breeze. The drawers can also be pulled all the way out, enabling you to take what you need to your work, rather than hauling the whole set over. You can also change the order of the drawers to your liking.
The Sockets & Socket Wrenches
At the heart and soul of any mechanics tool set like this are the sockets. This kit includes a 1/2″, 3/8″ and 1/4″ drive ratchets, all of which feature 72 tooth ratcheting mechanism which yields 5° of arc swing. An old kit of mine must have had about 6 teeth and I was constantly frustrated with situations where there was limited clearance to swing the ratchet. The 72 tooth design on these provides a nice smooth action, and helps you make progress even with limited distance to swing the ratchet handle. Overall, the ratchets have a very solid feel and both the quick release button and direction switch function well. The set also includes several socket extensions, essential for hard to reach nuts and bolts.
Like everything else in the set, the sockets are cleverly color coded to distinguish between standard and metric sizes. A red band on the socket means standard and a blue band means metric. Kobalt wisely recessed the painted band which should keep the paint from being rubbed or scraped off during the first week of usage. I hate cheap kits that paint on vital info which is then lost forever as the tool ages and the paint wears off. Kobalt also laser etched the sizing for the same reason. Sizing goes all the way up to 1″ and 21mm. Naturally, the first project I used the set on required a 1 1/8″ socket. Luckily, Lowes sells socket singles and I was able to pick one up at the store and was back in action in no time. The sockets come in both six and the slightly less revered twelve point varieties, in both shallow, deep socket and two spark plug variations. Bottom line; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a wrenching situation this socket set can’t handle.
Sockets for Life
Speaking of sockets, don’t you hate it when you lose one? That empty space staring back at you, mocking you every time you open your socket set. Lowes feels your pain and actually did something about it. Register for the Sockets for Life program and Lowes will hook you up anytime you lose a socket. Once you register, you just hop back on the website or call the Sockets For Life number, and you can request whatever sockets you’ve lost. A shipping charge of around five bucks does apply, presumably so Lowes isn’t bankrupted by the millions of us that lose sockets periodically.
With this mechanics tool set, it’s not all about sockets. Kobalt also threw in more than two dozen wrenches (again, color-coded for standard and metric sizing). Aside from the usual suspects, they included a bag of downright tiny wrenches too. Have I used those? No, I have not. I did put one in my hand just to make my digits look massive in this photo though! Like their ratcheting counterparts in this set, the wrenches have a nice solid feel.
But Wait, There’s More! Drivers, Bits and Hex Keys
Like an informercial that keeps on throwing in enticing extras, this mechanics tool set just keeps delivering more and more tools. A magnetic bit driver, 1/4″ driver, two 20 piece hex sets in pouches (standard and metric), 19 piece hex screwdriver bit set and 12 nut driver bits round out the set. The bit assortment is conveniently labeled and is stowed in two “magazines” that clip into the tool box lid. Whether you need a boring flat head to the more exotic square and hex bits, you’ll be able tackle most fastener jobs in a heartbeat.
Let’s face it, hunting for the right size tool, or, worse yet, not having the right size to begin with often leads to bad results around the home and in the shop. Things like making a slightly too-large socket “work” on a bolt that will soon be rounded off. Or, using a rickety pair of pliers when a socket is really called for. Not only do situations like this wreak havoc on your fasteners, they’re also very inefficient. With a mechanics tool set like this 227 piece model from Kobalt, improvising tools and the ugly consequences that follow can be a thing of the past. Unless you’re tightening bolts on suspension bridges (or, in my case, the axle bolt on a vintage golf cart), this set will cover just about every task involving tightening or loosening that you can throw at it. While there’s a suspiciously similar Craftsman mechanics tool set on the market (260 piece), it tends to run around $60 more than this Kobalt set. This is a comprehensive set of solid, everyday tools without the sticker shock that accompanies some other mechanics tool sets on the market.
Shop Lowes.com for the Kobalt 227 Piece Mechanics Tool Set which sells for around $200, although we’ve heard rumors of sale deals as low as $100. Even at $200, we consider this a great value that’s really stretching your tool-buying dollars. Like the tool box itself, shipping can be hefty. We recommend requesting an in-store pickup online if possible. And remember, lift with your legs, not your back!