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It's an age-old question: What do you buy as a beginner technician? Those big fancy tool trucks are chock full of goodies, but your wallet might not want to handle them. Another more budget-friendly option is Harbor Freight, but quality there can be lackluster, and you want to invest in your future as a professional mechanic.
Well, we've found a solid middle-ground option: Craftsman's new V-Series tool line. Targeted toward a more professional application, the tools are designed to endure more demanding workspaces than the brand's DIY-focused base items. Conveniently, Lowe's carries these new tools, so scooping them up is simple.
"From classic car restorations to heavy-duty industrial applications, Craftsman V-Series tools are made to handle the demands of professional level users," says Jillian Shute, vice president of automotive solutions for the brand's parent company.
Intrigued, we tried some V-Series tools ourselves. We weren't disappointed.
First up, the V-Series 3/8-inch drive ratchet, cloaked in an ergonomic "comfort grip." Inside, the tool features 96 teeth that engage with just a 3 3/4–degree turn. The build is very solid, and that short rotation threshold is great for tight spaces. Our one complaint: the short build, measuring at roughly seven and a half inches from end to end, which won't help in the torque department. But for speed and accessibility, this ratchet is a solid choice.
Next up, we needed some sockets to test with our ratchet. We tried the V-Series 12-piece metric shallow socket set and were impressed. The sockets ranged from 8 to 19 millimeters and sat nicely on the included magnetic socket rail. During our testing, the sockets grabbed bolts with very little play, and even a particularly rusty fastener was removed without issues. Every mechanic should have a good set of shallow sockets, and we were very pleased with these.
We requested a set of ratcheting wrenches because, well, they're awesome. And the V-Series 8-piece metric set is a great option. The set includes eight wrenches ranging in size from 8 to 19 millimeters. The box end features a 72-tooth ratcheting mechanism to easily remove bolts without needing to reengage the wrench on the head. If you've never used one before, you'll wish you had—they're massive timesavers. You can buy longer ratcheting wrenches for more torque, but these will do the job for a starter kit.
Finally, we tried the V-Series screwdriver set. Right off the bat we enjoyed the handles, which blended comfort and oomph, allowing us to really dig into some sketchy-looking screws. The set comes with eight screwdrivers in a multitude of sizes, and the tools are constructed with premium alloy steel and precision machined tips that didn't slip out of any of our test screws. The big ones are beefy and the small ones are streamlined—exactly what you want in a screwdriver set.
All in all, the V-Series is a competitive choice for budding technicians. The tools toe the line between high quality and low cost, two big bonuses in our book. Sure, there's room for upgrades down the road, for longer ratchets and bigger socket sets. But when you just gotta get started with some solid tools, that's where the V-Series comes into play.