Whether you’re a new tractor-trailer driver or a seasoned diesel mechanic, you know a good tool at the right time can save hours of frustration. You also know that a bad tool at the wrong time can make you want to scream.
Taps and dies are tools you might not often consider an “essential” until you’ve been searching for hours for what you need.
We’re here to tell you: A tap and die set are one of the essentials.
So what are they used for, and why do you need them?
In this list of top tap and die sets, we’re going to pull that thread and chase down some answers, as well as give you our picks for the best sets.
Make sure you’ve got your hundred-mile coffee ready and enough go-go juice to get you to the end!
What Does a Quality Tap and Die Set Do?
What do taps and dies do that is so amazing?
Taps and dies are cutting tools that either create new threads or can be used as “chasers” to repair damaged ones.
You can use dies on steel rods or dowels to make threads for a matching nut, or you can use taps to add threads to a pre-drilled hole for a bolt or screw.
This Is Why You Need Them
If you can just buy nuts and bolts at the store, why would you need taps and dies anyway?
Let’s say you already have something with threads but it’s been damaged by cross-threading or using the wrong system. You might be able to bore out the existing threads in a hole or grind them down on a male end and make new threads.
Of course, in repair, there are always risks to modifying things from their specified design. However, you might have a 5-cent solution instead of a $20,000+ new engine cost if you use taps and dies correctly.
Read on for our top tap and die kits picks!
CTA Tools 53 Piece Universal Rethreading Set
Here, we have the CTA Tools CTA8240 53 Piece Universal Rethreading Set. Compact enough to easily take from site to site for mobile work or in your truck, it’s got a tough case to take the abuse.
This pack includes color-coded taps and dies, 2 thread files, 11 common Metric, 6 common NC-USS Taps and Dies, 6 common NF-SAE Taps and Dies. Also included are metric dies M6 and M8, NC-USS 5/8”–11, NF-SAE 5/8”–18, and a heavy-duty blow-mold case to top it off.
Irwin Hanson 66 PC. Fractional Tap and Hex Die Set
Irwin Hanson is one of the best names in taps and dies, and the value of the HAN97606 66 Pc. set is real. While there is nothing metric in this set, it thoroughly covers fractional threads in fine and coarse.
The added 18 leaf thread pitch gauge is a fantastic addition for helping chase a thread. Expensive, but worth it if you deal mostly with fractional threads and diameters.
- Machine Screw Plug Tap and 5/8″ Hexagon Dies in 6 common sizes
- Fractional Thread Plug Tap and 1″ Hexagon Dies in 10 common sizes
- Fractional Thread Plug Tap and 1-7/16″ Hexagon Dies in 6 common sizes
- Fractional Thread Plug Tap and 1-13/16″ Hexagon Dies in 4 common sizes
- Pipe Thread Plug Tap and 1″ Hexagon Dies in sizes: 1/8″ – 27 NPT, 1/4″ – 18 NPT
Also Included: Three Adjustable Hexagon Die Stocks over 1″, Plain Die Stock – 5/8″, Two Adjustable Handle Tap Wrenches – Taps No. 0 to 1″, Two-in-One Tap Wrench – Taps 1/4″ to 1/2″, T-Handle Wrench – Taps No. 0 to 1/4″, 18 Leaf Standard Thread Pitch Gauge.
Astro 7581 Automotive Drill & Tap Set
Small and tough, this set from Astro will cover more than 90% of all your automotive tapping needs but doesn’t include dies. HSS taps will hold up longer and stronger than High Carbon Steel or TiN coated taps alone can handle, without shattering.
It is fairly unique in that it is a ratcheting set. The included SAE pitch gauge is a life-saver. Taps from M12 down to M2 machine screw size.
If you’re looking for dies as well, we recommend the Astro 7582 Automotive Tap & Die Set, but be aware of the extra weight and size.
Gearwrench Ratcheting Tap and Die SAE and Metric 75PCS
The Gearwrench KDT3887 75 piece set is compact and light for having so many pieces, and the price is pretty good too. Gearwrench falls behind the Irwin Hanson for quality, but more than makes it up in value and convenience.
This set features taps and dies from #4 to 1/2″ and 3 to 12mm and a ratcheting T-Wrench, which is Gearwrench’s signature. It’s quick-to-use and a reversible lever lets you change from forward to reverse with a click.
Also included are index holders for taps, and all pieces lock into the case.
If you need more taps and dies than even this bad-boy covers, there’s the Gearwrench KDT82812 Ratcheting Tap And Die 114pc set
Irwin Hanson Tap and Die 54PC Metric
Irwin Hanson comes in twice on this list with the HAN26394 Tap and Die 54PC Metric set. While both the metric and fractional sets are pricey and not combined in one case, if you had both, they would be the ultimate set.
The set includes taps and dies from M3 all the way to M18! Also included are BSP pipe taps, t-handle taps from No.0 to 1/2″, adjustable tap wrench from 1/4″ to 1″, and a 16 leaf metric thread gauge.
If you did want it all-in-one but a little less size-range, you could also go for the HAN26377 metric and fractional set. It’s lighter than carrying two cases and takes less room.
Tapping Out On Tap and Die Sets
Tap and die sets being essential tools, it isn’t a good idea to skimp and go cheap. We hope we’ve helped you know what these tools are, why they’re essential, and how to pick a good one.
So before you find yourself with stripped out threads and feel like melting your parts to slag, make sure to save this list!
Taps and dies aren’t the only essential tools you’ll need, so make sure to check out our cutting tools section to complete your collection!