Wrenches, screwdrivers or pullers — school bus mechanics need to feel comfortable with the tools of their trade. We asked garage professionals about how to choose the best tools for the job, and here’s what they had to say. “Brand” influence is big
Personal taste is a huge factor in tool purchases. Just like buses, brand recognition is high. Some guys swear by one brand, some swear at them. For my money, Snap-On produces the best tools available, but you’ll pay through the nose. Home Depot carries the Husky line of tools. Especially for entry-level mechanics, these are some of the best deals going.
RICHARD SKIBITSKI, FLEET MANAGER
Wayne (N.J.) Board of Education
Good tools are everywhere
After 30 years in the field, I have seen a lot of tools in use. Yeah, Snap-On is good, but you gotta work ‘em hard to justify the exorbitant prices. I’ve got some Snap-On tools I bought 30 years ago that still look good and work fine. I’ve also got some Craftsman tools and other kinds that are just fine, too. Since almost all the manufacturers are offering lifetime warranties, you can buy just about anybody’s tools and get good use out of them.
STEPHEN BABB, LEAD MECHANIC
Central Bucks School District, Doylestown, Pa.
Profits ahead of quality?
Tools have changed a lot during the past 20 years. It used to be that any name-brand tool would last and perform OK. But during the past five to 10 years, some manufacturers have placed profits over quality, so you must be careful.
From what I have seen, there is no single source for all your tool needs. You will end up with tools from various vendors. But you can’t go wrong with Snap-On. Craftsman tools are common as well. Most of the people I know with Craftsman tools are very budget conscious, but they also make a trip to Sears every so often for warranty.
JOHN GISLASON, JOURNEYMAN MECHANIC
Commercial Truck & Trailer Repair, St. Paul, Minn.
Tool envy is a problem
I have learned that most mechanics end up being tool collectors. If they work in a large shop, it’s like a competition exists among mechanics to out-do the next guy. I was like that, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I shouldn’t buy a tool if I didn’t need it.
The easiest places for me to buy tools are local tool distributors and industrial supply warehouses. Occasionally, you will have a specialty tool that you can only obtain from a certain manufacturer, but I have found that Craftsman, Williams, Blackhawk, Proto, etc., all offer very good tools that will perform perfectly well for most school bus applications. Although I do own many Snap-On and Mac tools, I have found that some of these tools wear out just as fast as the other brands.
BRAD BARKER, SHOP SUPERVISOR
Park City (Utah) School District
Quality is worth the investment
Some of the reasons for buying high-quality tools in a bus shop include reducing mechanic fatigue, reducing the injury rate and not damaging fasteners and parts. It’s the same as buying high-quality lubricants, tires and vehicles, despite the higher up-front expense.
THOMAS SPELLMAN, SHOP SUPERVISOR
Lake Washington School District, Redmond, Wash.
Craftsman, at a discount, is best
Since my wife works for Sears, I get a tremendous discount for Craftsman tools. Although not everyone can get that discount, I would still recommend Craftsman tools because they have a lifetime warranty and are half the price of Snap-On and Mac.
DAVE HOTTENSTEIN, TRANSPORTATION SUPERVISOR
Iowa Grant School District, Livingston, Wis.
District supplies the tools
We supply mechanics with tools. We insist that they do not bring any personal ones to work. I purchase from many sources, mostly Snap-On. Larger tools stay in the tool room. I don’t purchase Craftsman for my shop. The wrenches are OK, but the sockets do not stand up.
BILL JOHNSTON, VEHICLE MAINTENANCE SUPERVISOR
Placentia-Yorba Linda (Calif.) Unified School District