If you're like us, you have a toolbox drawer full of loose hex keys that have no rhyme or reason. Over the years, you've collected hex keys from random tool kits at Christmas and just thrown them into the mix. The problem is the size you need is either too hard to find or it simply isn't there at all. Hex bolts and screws are found on automotive fitments, home furniture, and even toys for your kids. A T-handle hex wrench set serves three purposes: you can get more leverage, they are more comfortable in your hand, and in a set, you have instant tool inventory. This month, we set out to find the best T-handle hex wrench set and proceeded to run each brand through a variety of tests to determine the winner.
Our testing consisted of torquing four different hex fasteners ranging from 9 lb-ft for the 3/32-inch fastener all the way to 60 lb-ft for the 5/16-inch size hex bolts. We then used the corresponding T-handle hex wrench to loosen and retorque the fastener. In addition, we checked ball head angle where applicable, evaluated head and metal shank strength, and ensured true-to-size fastener fitment. With the objective data handled, we then examined ergonomics, holder/organization, size identification, warranty and value. Once our testing was done, we had a clear winner that was certified Truckin Tough.
1. Bondhus 10-piece SAE and 8-piece Metric Ball/Hex set with stand (sold separately)
13190 and 13189 $31.03 for SAE and $27.48 for a total of $58.51 (at www.amazon.com) www.bondhus.com
We're happy to announce the winner of our T-handle hex test is manufactured in Monticello, Minnesota, USA. Bondhus is a tool company that specializes in ball head, hex, and Star wrenches, so it was with little surprise that their SAE and Metric hex wrenches placed at the top of each performance test. The only areas where we found concerns were the size markings on the handle. If you use the included stand, the size is clearly marked, but we wish the size was also stamped on the wrench's shank. Overall, the handles were extremely comfortable, the Protanium high-torque steel was extremely strong, and we appreciated the smaller size wrenches not being ball ends for longevity. These tools aren't cheap, but we'll pay more for well-engineered American quality any day.
2. Pittsburgh 18-piece Offset Handle Ball Point and Hex Key Wrench Set
96645 $16.99 www.harborfreight.com
Continuing to impress and surprise us, the Pittsburgh 18-piece set proved to be strong, comfortable, and an impressive value. We were thankful for the steel stand for simple organization and size identification. What confused us was the absence of a 1/4-inch SAE size wrench. The handles weren't the most comfortable or strongest of the group, but they did hold up to the 60 lb-ft torque torture test. Our only disappointment came by way of the smaller size ball end materials that were a little too thin for our tastes. For under $20, 18 pieces is a great value and with a lifetime warranty, it's hard to go wrong.
3. Husky 10-piece SAE and Metric T-Handle Wrenches
849456 $9.88 www.homedepot.com
Rounding out our top 3, the 10-piece Husky T-handle wrench set is an absolute steal for $9.88. We ordered the kit online and easily picked it up at our local store. With five Metric and five SAE commonly used sizes, the kit will fit the needs of many enthusiasts, but is missing 3/8-inch and 10mm sizes. The end handle stubby wrench is ideal for high-torque needs and the handles are comfortable. We liked the large size indicator on both sides of the handle, and the set includes a Home Depot lifetime warranty.
4. Grip-On 24-piece Hex Driver Set
92160 $19.99 www.northerntool.com
Purchased online from Northern Tool, we couldn't believe all of the tools this set came with for less than $20. Ten SAE T-handles, ten Metric T-handles, and four folding miscellaneous drivers with flat screwdrivers, Phillips, star bits, and a scratch awl are all included. Chrome vanadium steel was strong during testing and each of us liked the finger-contoured handles. Made in China with only a 90-day warranty, we have our reservations about the longevity, but with such a small investment and good performance, the Grip-On set was more than adequate.
5. Craftsman 7-piece SAE and Metric T-Through Handle Hex Key Set (sold separately)
46383 and 46384 $34.99 each for a total of $69.98 www.craftsman.com
The Craftsman 7-piece sets were strong, comfortable, and both had a lifetime warranty. So how did they slip to mid pack? Easy, the Craftsman sets didn't include the larger SAE sizes that the competition had, for nearly $70 for the set, it was the most expensive, and we weren't big fans of the storage tray. Despite the Craftsman name, the wrenches were made in China. All in all, the Craftsman set performed admirably for the sizes we could test, but there were much better T-handle sets to be had.
6. Allen 14-piece SAE/Metric T-Handle Set
56654G $24.99 (purchased at Sears) www.allenhex.com
The original hex tool company dating back to 1910, Allen Tool is no stranger to installing and removing hex fasteners. Wide and long, the Allen handles were comfortable in the hand, featured a lifetime warranty, and were a solid value at $25. Unfortunately, the set we picked up at Sears had limited sizes, didn't have ball heads, and didn't have the hex wrench on the side of the handle for added torque. We appreciated the dual markings on the handle and shank but weren't impressed with the convoluted storage trays that did not connect to each other.
7. Kobalt 14-piece SAE/Metric T-Handle Hex Wrench Set
239366 $24.98 www.lowes.com
Organized in one large plastic case, the Kobalt 14-piece set seemed like a frontrunner thanks to a good price point, lifetime warranty, and good variety of sizes. Once our testing was done, we weren't big fans of the plastic/rubber handles, lack of a wrench on the side of the handles, and size of those handles found on the smaller wrenches. On top of that, the Kobalt 5/16-inch wrench was the only one to fail the 60 lb-ft torque test. Despite our best efforts, the fastener could not be broken loose. In the end, the shortcomings could not be overlooked and we were forced to drop the Kobalt set to the bottom.