(For a more recent update on Kobalt Tools Go Here)The questions started a few months ago when my tool buddy at my local Lowe’s asked me what was up with his Kobalt line, everything was marked for clearance. Some of his customers were asking if Lowes was dropping its line of tools. Well rest assured that is not the case. It wasn’t long before an invite to come to Charlotte for an important Kobalt announcement was in my my inbox, but until last week’s media event I didn’t have an answer.
The invitation said we would be meeting at Hendricks Motorsports Facility and for any race fan that is the equivalent of being asked to have a sit down with the Dalai Lama for those of the Buddhist persuasion, so off I went. I credit the Kobalt Team with allowing us to see the assessment of its tools by the Hendricks team members. To say the team members were brutally honest would be an understatement. But instead of trying to put a spin on the situation, the Kobalt team took the criticism to heart and went to work redesigning the tools and improving the quality and finish of the hand tools. With the new Kobalt tools in hand, the editors in attendance were given unopened packages of Kobalt’s competition, and asked for our thoughts when comparing its product to its competitors. Needless to say, Kobalt kicked butt. From the mirror finish to the increased tooth count in its ratchets, the Kobalt tools functioned smoother and the new finish made for easier clean-up. Now what would be a memorable way to christen a new line of hand tools. Well if you are Kobalt Tools and sponsor the five time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, you can let a few media people race against each other assembling Sprint Cup Engines and then firing them up, and oh I forgot to mention, you have only 20 minutes to get them built and Chad Knaus, Crew Chief for Car #48 and Ron Malec, Car Chief for #48 will be standing over you as you assemble a race motor for the first time in 25 years. But when we finished, and that puppy fired up her pipes with 850 horses screaming, it was pure ecstasy. Walter Mitty never had it this good. The Kobalt tools really performed nicely
Also the Sockets for Life program will be a program that Kobalt users will appreciate. If even your current Kobalt socket fails, bring it in and exchange it for one of the new and improved Kobalt sockets. One of the pitfalls of my job is that I have to run hand tools through extraordinary tests that are outside of manufacturers recommendations, in essence I abuse them to see how they hold up. Several weeks ago I was sent a pre-release sample of the new Kobalt Sockets and immediately began putting them through over-torqueing and exposure test. For the money, you would be hard pressed to find sockets of this quality and finish. Also Lowes will be stocking individual socket sizes, not just sets. My advice to purchasing managers, stock up on 7/16ths, 3/8ths, 10mm and 14 mm sizes, we use them and we lose them. It’s just part of the equation. The other cool thing about the individual socket availability is for those of us who have older sets of high quality sockets, in my case my SK Wayne 3/8,1/2 and 3/4 sets, I can buy just the sockets I need to fill out those sets and know that if I put my t-bar in the new Kobalt replacement socket, it will fit the cap screw just like the old school sockets did and not split or round off the bolt edges when I crank on it.
Too many sockets found in automotive chain stores and other outlets are sloppy in their fit and finish. I have the scars on my knuckles to show for sockets slipping off when I apply high load to the ratchet. Kobalt chamfers the edges on its socket to allow the user to fit a tight tolerance socket onto a bolt head. You want find this feature on stamped sockets and to knowledgeable tool users know it. With its Kobalt sponsored race team, Greg Palese, Kobalt Brand Manager, went to the 48 car’s mechanics and wanted to know, what it would take for them to use Kobalt tools as their everyday tools in the race shop? Race mechanics provide their own tools out of their own pockets. Frankly a mechanic’s tools says a lot about the mechanic. The major players in race boxes, Snap-On and Mac are quality tools, but their price point is above the reach of many people. So Kobalt went after the high quality without the high price. So far it looks like the new Kobalt line will accomplish that.
— Hal Jones