With the recent reintroduction of the Kobalt mechanics tools, we have been eager to put our hands on a set to see what they are all about. The Kobalt 63 Piece Mechanics Tool Set (0338513) that we got in includes some of the most common 1/4″ and 3/8″ drive Metric and SAE sizes sockets that you will need. Things like a 72 tooth ratchet and fully polished chrome plating on all the tools comes standard along with laser etching and red/blue colored markings for easy identification of SAE (standard) and MM (metric) sizes. With an ever-growing line of mechanics tools, it looks like Kobalt Tools is not just about quality, but also variety.
We knew something was up a while back when we went into our local Lowe’s store and noticed the yellow discount tags on all the current Kobalt mechanics tool sets. There was all kinds of speculation going around as to what was going on, but we got an insider’s view of the scenario when we were flown up to Charlotte to take part in a media event in Charlotte, NC announcing and demoing the new Kobalt mechanics tools. About a year ago, Lowe’s solicited the help of the guys at Hendrick Motorsports to assist them in diagnosing some of the deficiencies with their current (outgoing) mechanics tool line. The feedback from the guys at Hendrick was overwhelming in the sense that, not only did they give pointers on the problem areas, but they also conveyed what they expect out of their tools as they work on some of the best NASCAR vehicles in the business. Using the valuable criticism and insight from Hendrick, combined with the market research that Lowe’s did, they basically surmised that they needed to come out with “Mac-quality” tools at a Lowe’s price point. They also recognized the need for offering more variety on their packaged and individual item SKUs. That’s a pretty tall order, but Lowe’s spent about a year in development just to make sure they got it right.
Kobalt 63 Piece Mechanics Tool Set Features
To start with, all the new tools come with full-polished chrome, and all sharp edges has been removed. Each socket has its size laser-etched on the side in large print and there is a colored strip around the base of each. Red indicates that it is an SAE (standard) size and Blue means MM (metric). Finally, with just a glance, you can tell if you grabbed the right socket. The new ratchets have been upgraded to a 72 tooth count which in the real world equates to only having to turn the ratchet five degrees to get it to click. The ratchets continue to include Kobalt’s quick release function that makes swapping out sockets and accessories faster (it’s even been improved somewhat). As if this was not enough, the new tools are actually specified at 150% of the minimum requirements of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) specifications.
Another thing that jumped out to us was the huge increase in the quality of the storage case. Each item is securely held in place and won’t budge until you actually go to take it out. We gave an open case a good shake and nothing came loose. Two small things that were done to the case that make a big difference was the hinge has an actual metal pin and the latches are more sturdy and secure. On top of that, the tools all come pre-loaded in the case, so it’s ready to use right out of the gate. No longer will you need to come home and open up several plastic baggies of sockets before you can organize and locate what you need for your job. It’s a subtle, but very welcome, feature.
To ensure a more enjoyable shopping experience, and also to help solidify the Kobalt brand, Lowe’s is not only expanding the entire line of mechanic tool sets, but they are now going to offer nearly all the tools as individual items. What this means is that, with the full No Questions Asked, hand tool warranty, you can walk into a Lowe’s store with your broken socket or wrench, go find the replacement item, and be on your way. With a larger assortment of individual tools now, you don’t have to purchase a whole set to get that one replacement item you need. But wait, there’s more… In addition to the lifetime tool warranty, Lowe’s is also launching a brand new service called “Sockets For Life” which should prove to be a real success if you ask us. The premise is that after you register your tool set, if you have a socket that gets lost or stolen, simply call them up and they will mail you the replacement for a nominal shipping fee (they estimated $4 or $5).
Testing and Use
Given that the new line of Lowe’s mechanics tools have received the blessing of the guys at Hendrick Motorsports, anything that I will ever do with them will pale in comparison. But in any case, I have kept the kit on the bench in the shop and have had ample time in the last few weeks to do everything from assemble a tool stand to change a headlight in one of our company vehicles. In all honesty, I could not find any faults in the set – especially given the price. Everything works just as I expected it would and everything had a high quality feel to it. Now I know that many mechanics friends will instantly hone in on the small engraving on the side of each socket where it says “Taiwan” and call that a negative. The reality, however, is that in today’s global manufacturing market, the world has become smaller and the distance from “bad” to “good” quality has less to do with geographic locations and more to do with being an active participant in the design and quality control process. While I won’t mention names here, I have used some of the best names in the mechanics tool business, but the trick with these guys is that they cost anywhere from 3 to 6 times as much, they don’t work on the weekends, and they definitely won’t show up at my house when something breaks. There is a lot to be said for a company that, no matter where their products are made, will stand behind them and offer free replacement if something goes wrong. The idea that I can show up at my local Lowe’s store on a Friday night at 9pm and get a replacement, makes me think that these are a pretty good deal.
The Kobalt 63 Piece Mechanics Tool Set is just one of the many new tool sets that Lowe’s will be rolling out over the next quarter, along with more varieties of individual tools. To us, the new line of Kobalt mechanics tools seems like a good way to go if you are a mechanic just starting out, or even if you are just looking for some really high quality tools at a great Lowe’s price. For our Value rating, we gave this tool set a well deserved 9/10 because, dollar for dollar, you won’t find a better deal that offers the quality, quantity or warranty out there. For our Performance rating we gave this tool set an 8/10 thanks to the nice quality storage case, the broad assortment of both SAE and Metric sockets, and the new 72 tooth ratchet design. This is a very much reborn set of tools from Kobalt Tools.
About Kobalt Tools
Kobalt launched in 1998 as a line of mechanics tools. The brand has since extended to other types of tools and now boast more then 1700 quality products offered at affordable prices. Kobalt is one of the fastest-growing tool brands in the United States and can be found exclusively at Lowe’s. Every tool is designed and engineered to combine toughness and durability with the latest developments in comfort, balance and practical innovations.