Tool Show Season

Eight days on the road is not easy when you’re out with clients every night but still need a fresh face every morning. Somebody’s gotta do it though, because most new tools are released at trade shows first. So off I went, first to the Mac Tool Fair, then the Matco Tool Expo and finally the Cornwell Rally. It was definitely worth the journey.

I divide things I see at these shows into four categories: toolboxes, electronics, hand tools and miscellaneous. The trend in toolboxes this year is ‘choices.’ There’s a size and configuration for every need, and there’s a huge variety of accessories, color/trim options and special paint jobs. Tool companies recognize that a toolbox is more than just a place to secure some of your most important worldly possessions; it’s a personal space, and for many people it’s a symbol of pride in their profession. That’s why they sell toolbox wax too.

Automotive control networks are entering a new generation, and unlike the old days, the scan tools we can buy now are pretty much up-to-date the day they’re released, particularly the ‘legacy’ tools that have been around for awhile. Newly designed scan tools and code readers are smaller and easier to use because they gather vehicle information as soon as communication is established. They are also amazingly capable, especially for the price.

Many hand tools that we’re all familiar with were invented by people working in the service bay. One tool company told me they’ve been buying these inventions for years, and even though they write dozens of monthly royalty checks, they’re always looking for more ideas. Among this year’s crop are a new brake caliper spreader, a fuel tank locking ring tool and tools for removing/installing drum brake springs.

The smaller trade show booths often contain little gems that can make a job faster, easier, more accurate, or maybe even just more fun. I found a little gun-shaped device with a probe that can reach hidden coils on a COP ignition system. All it tells you is whether or not the coil is firing, but the convenience factor alone makes it worth the lower price. There’s a similar tool for testing fuel injectors and another for voltage tests.

I also saw a few prototypes that won’t be ready until later this year. When it’s time, you’ll see them first in these pages and on our website, Keep in touch.