No matter how careful we are, there will come a time when a stripped bolt or nut has us scratching our heads and our project build coming to a screeching halt. An absolute must around any DIY garage or even a professional shop for that matter, a quality tap and die set can be your saving grace when the odds seem like they’re stacked against you. More than just a last-ditch effort, a good tap and die set can give you peace of mind knowing that when things get tough, you can still get the job done. When we were searching for a multi-piece tap and die set to complement our tool collection, we came across a brand we trust with a new item that fit the bill.
Irwin may be famous for vise grips, however, its tool line is expansive, with quality tools for the construction, carpentry, and yes, auto mechanic service world. A little-known fact is Irwin owns Hanson -- long known for its impressive screw extractor sets and super-tough drill bits. Together, the two tool icons created a 117-piece tap and die set complete with a 36-piece drill bit set and five screw extractors. Built from high-carbon steel, the taps and dies are extremely strong and ideal for cutting new threads into damaged, worn, or flat-out “screwed up” nuts and bolts (all puns intended). Made right here in the U.S.A., the set includes machine screws ranging from 4-40 NC to 12-24 NC and SAE bolts from 1/4-20 NC to 1/2-20 NF. Also included is a legit amount of metric bolts ranging from 3.0mm-0.50mm to 12mm-1.75mm. As if that wasn’t comprehensive enough, the 117-piece tap and die set includes pipe taps 1/8-27 NPT and 1/8-28 BSP. An 18-leaf SAE thread gauge and a 16-leaf metric thread gauge are also included to help you make sure the threads you’re about to cut are in fact the proper thread pitch. For those of us who have been known to strip a bolt head (or a dozen), the set also includes EX1-EX5 screw extractors for a variety of size bolts. As you would expect, all the necessary drive tools for the taps are also included.
We recently used this set when we stripped the bolt head right off another valuable tool in the shop and rendered it unusable. Using the included bolt size/drill bit size guide, we were able to quickly select the proper drill bit for the job, and thanks to the strength of the high-carbon steel bits, the bolt was drilled and the screw extractor was used to back out the broken bolt. It wasn’t difficult, but a steady hand sure helped. With the bolt out, a new, hardened bolt replaced the damaged piece and our tool was back up and running. The tap and die set was also used when a caliper mounting bolt didn’t thread into the caliper properly and instantly gummed up. With the correct die and some WD-40 on the bolt, the threads were chased and easily cleaned up. Just that one fix saved us a trip to the dealer and quickly got the truck back on the road. This set isn’t cheap at $269.40 (on amazon.com), however, we have used it several times, and each time we pull it out of the toolbox, it’s paying for itself little by little. If you’ve ever experienced a stripped bolt or rounded-off bolt head, this set is the perfect remedy.
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