Select the Right Tools & Stretch Your Budget Further

I heard long ago that ‘Good tools are not cheap, and cheap tools are no good’ to which there is a lot of truth. Fortunately, there is some middle ground and you can have a dependable set of tools without spending tens of thousands. I select tools in 3 different categories; critical, everyday use and once a year use. By breaking your tools into these three categories you can easily choose the brand or grade you’ll need and stretch your budget further without finding yourself stuck with a box full of broken tools when you need it most. In any case ensure any tool you’re buying comes with a lifetime warranty as almost every tool will eventually break or fail on some way. There is perhaps nothing that makes you look more unprepared than constantly having to borrow tools.

  1. Critical
    You’re sailing across the Atlantic and you need a set of dependable wrenches you can count on for regular maintenance and emergency repairs. ‘Failure is not an option’, however cliché, couldn’t be more true as everything, including your safety, depends on it. Look for professional brands such as Snap-On, Gray, Proto and MAC (or others based on your area). They don’t come cheap but they’re dependable and will work when you need them most. Consider tools that break often but you wouldn’t be able to get by (easily) without such as ratchets.
  2. Everyday Use
    You use it every day, or atleast every weekend. Something that you use frequently but if it broke occasionally it wouldn’t leave you in a bind. For example; ratcheting combination wrenches – they’re great, I use them whenever I’m working on something, but if the ratcheting mechanism fails, no big deal, just use the other end, or plain box wrench, or a ratchet. The point is, when it’s not critical you usually don’t need professional quality tools. Craftsmen, Mastercraft, Kobalt and Husky are all good choices and since they’re all sold at big box stores around they’re the easiest to replace or warranty.
  3. Once a Year Use
    Take a look in your tool box or think of the projects you’ve completed in the last year. Chances are there are some tools that you only use once or twice a year and if they were to fail it wouldn’t be a big deal – you’d simply bring them back for a warranty exchange. Take for example an oil filter wrench; you could spend $76 on something from Snap-On or, go to Harbour Freight or Princess Auto and spent $9. Keep your $68 and spend it on a nice ratchet, or put it towards your travels.

One more important consideration is rebuild kits. These little bags of joy are your best friend when dealing with a broken tool. Great for remote locations or after-hours work, rebuild kits provide all the rebuild-able, commonly-failing components in a compact and inexpensive bag that can be thrown in your toolbox and forgotten about until needed.

Ratchet Internals & Rebuild KitImage Courtesy of Garage Journal

Ratchets, for example, are notorious for stripped teeth when you need them most but with a rebuild kit you can easily change the internals of the ratchet – essentially providing a backup ratchet in a package the size of a kinder-surprise and usually less than $10. Just make sure you have the tools required to do the rebuild – it’s not much use to have a rebuild kit for a snap-ring-style ratchet without also carrying snap-ring pliers!

I’d love to hear your opinions or strategies! There’s no doubt I have a love for tools and I’d be interested to hear your opinion or strategy.

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