The toolbox. Is there a more centric piece to any garage, shop, or shed? I think not. Of course, just mentioning a toolbox can be a very subjective topic. This one term can be defined by many things. It might be the small sheet-metal box that your grandfather gave you containing a hammer, pliers, and three wrenches. It may be the wall of drawers and cabinets full of every tool known to man that line the walls of the finest car dealership. Honestly, it could be anything in between. No matter where yours may fall in that spectrum, there is a certain amount of pride that connects you to your toolbox. We got a chance to use the Sonic Tools S10 toolbox for ourselves and see how they stacked up against the competition.
We got our first up-close glimpse of the Sonic Tools USA line of products at the Rolex 24 race in Daytona. Shortly after, we got our own Sonic Tools S10 Toolbox—and it wasn’t dropped off empty. It came filled with several hundred pieces of great quality mechanics tools. We typically try to get our tool reviews rolled out within a few weeks, but not in this case. We’ve had the Sonic Tools S10 toolbox for several months now and have definitely put it to the test.
Sonic Tools USA has busted into an industry that most companies would run from. Even the least handy man you know can rattle-off ten or more tool manufacturers from memory. Whittle that list down to the “best” tools, and you’ll still have a long list. If you’re going to make a bold move like this, then you better differentiate yourself and your products from the competition—and quick. Sonic Tools has done just that. They’re hardly new to the market. Sonic Equipment is a Dutch company with over 50 years of history and facilities in the Netherlands and Germany. The Alabama-based Sonic Tools is a subsidiary of Sonic Equipment. They serve various automotive enterprises, service centers, race shops, aftermarket businesses, and personal garages.
While Sonic Tools definitely provides quality tools and toolboxes, it’s the actual organization approach that sets it apart from all the others. They’ve taken the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach to the tool world. When you order and receive tools from Sonic, they arrive shinkwrapped and in a laser cut foam drawer insert. You just remove the plastic wrap and lay the foam insert into your pre-determined drawer. No thinking is needed. Each space in the laser cut foam is marked for the correct tool, and the exact size and shape makes for a snug fit for each piece.
Assembling the toolbox was very quick and easy. Within 10 minutes, our complete Sonic S10 toolbox was filled with all the tools, and there was no other assembly or organization required.
While I don’t hold the certifications of an ASE mechanic, I do have over 30 years of diving under the hood. I grew up with a Dad who drag raced, collected ’55-’57 Chevys, and had to keep the company trucks road-worthy. When I was 15, I got my first car: a 1966 Chevy II Super Sport. My Dad and I did everything from body work and replacing panels to a motor rebuild and transmission replacement. Into my 20’s, my Dad and I started collecting and restoring ’68-’72 Olds 442s (a Cutlass on steroids). I quickly became the go-to for any friends and family that had auto repair and maintenance needs.
Losing tools is now very difficult. Typically, after a big job like a cylinder head rebuild, you have tools laying all over the place. This is still the case; however, the next step is much easier now. After a job like this, the owner of the box would have to replace all the tools back in the box. That’s because the owner (you) were the only one that knew where the quarter-inch sockets and 8mm torx bit were supposed to go. With Sonic, anyone can open the drawer and find the empty spot where the 8mm torx bit is marked.
Another plus is that after everything is replaced, if you have open spaces, then you know exactly what is missing. Now, you can either search for that missing tool, or you call Sonic and tell them which piece you need. There is no question as to whether every tool is accounted for, or not.
To give you a specific example—after completing a cylinder head job, we were missing a 10mm socket. Knowing it was missing, we went on the hunt and found it in the frame rail of the Trailblazer we were working on. That wouldn’t be the case when all the tools are just bunched or piled into a drawer.
Not only were the sockets strong enough to get the job done, the Sonic Tools system kept us from losing one of the most commonly-used sockets in our kit.
Since January, we’ve been beating on these tools to see how tough they really are. After everything from cylinder head rebuilds to starters, A/C compressors, clutches, drive shafts, ATVs, and hydraulic booms, we haven’t had one tool break or fail to perform.
The Sonic Tools S10 toolbox comes in Grey, Red, Blue, and Black (the color ours showed up in). The finish is glossy and very easy to clean even after months of greasy hands grabbing for drawers. The casters on the box can be easily locked with touch of the toe, and the box doesn’t budge when they’re locked. To release the locks, another tap of the toe does the job. With the locks released, the S10 can be easily maneuvered anywhere you want.
The drawers glide with ease and automatically lock into place when closed. Safety first is the mindset, as only one drawer can be opened at a time. With five kids running around, it’s nice not to have to worry about one of them opening multiple drawers and the toolbox toppling over on them. Once one drawer is open, the others are automatically locked from opening. When that drawer is returned to fully closed, you can open another drawer.
Shelves are built into one side of the Sonic Tools S10. With those you can keep your favorite aerosol cans (paint, lube, blaster, glass cleaner, etc.) and spray bottles handy. On the opposite side is a place for an extra-large roll of paper towels. The top of box makes for a great mobile workstation, including an easy to clean hard-rubber insert covering the top.
If you are anything close to a mechanic, shade-tree mechanic, or just a plain gearhead, then I know what you’ve been thinking since you read the first word in this article. How do the Sonic tools compare to the big box trucks: Snap-On, Mac, Matco, and the like? To answer that in a one sentence or even paragraph would be impossible. Quality-wise, I would put these tools on par with the others, but Sonic Tools outshine them by far when you factor in the organization of the laser-cut foam.
The key difference is going to be financing and paying for the tools. Sonic Tools uses a business model with no franchisees or trucks. The upside is that service technicians don’t have to wait on a tool truck to visit the dealership/shop in order to get new or replacement tools. They also offer an alternative to financing the tools for months on end. Instead, Sonic Tools hopes to alter the landscape through online ordering direct to technicians and Next Day Air options for replacing guaranteed hand tools. In the Amazon age of buying products, purchasing tools or toolboxes shouldn’t be any different.
While the Sonic Tools S10 toolbox is impressive, the tools within deserve some commentary as well. I’ve now used a large majority of the tools in this kit (close to 100% if we’re talking about the various tool types) and there’s a lot to say.
The handles of these Sonic screwdrivers are very comfortable, with a triangular soft rubber grip that forms well to the hand. The tips of the Phillips and slotted (flat-head) are hardened, providing excellent grip to the screw head. The shafts are polished chrome that can be easily cleaned and wiped down after a dirty job. As always with Sonic Tools, each driver has its own corresponding place in the laser cut foam, to the exact size of each.
As you can imagine, the ratchets and sockets were used more than the other tools in the S10 tool box. The ratchets have a good finish, and the handles have nice smooth grip. I put a lot of torque on the 3/8″ and 1/2″ drives, even with pipes, and breaker bars, with not one breakage. The thumb rocker switch was easy to change gears from righty-tighty to lefty-loosey. Sockets and extensions have a satin finish with additional knurling to give your fingers a slip-free grip. I liked that the top of each extension has a hex, giving you the option to use the ratchet or use a wrench (for either tight situations or additional leverage).
We chose to add the impact sockets to our Sonic S10 box, and I’m so glad we did. These sockets are beasts, in both usability and feel—and I say that as a compliment. The black matte finish is exactly what you’re looking for when it’s time to bring out the Makita cordless impact wrench or a breaker bar. These sockets more than passed the test to what we could throw at it, and I suspect you’ll hear more from us on these in the future as we test them with newer and higher torque cordless impact wrenches.
This kit has been more than impressive overall. If there is an area where I would consider not superior, it would be the wrenches. Don’t get me wrong, these wrenches have no issues with respect to grip and performance. It has more to do with the feel in your hand that I take issue with. The finish is a rougher texture and is just not as comfortable as some of the other brands available. At the same time, our filled S10 toolbox offered many different variations of wrenches that really expand the capabilities for successful wrenching.
Additional tools that were part of the Sonic Tools S10 toolbox included pliers, needle-nose, hammers, chisels, files, etc. All these have passed the test with flying colors in the PTR garage.
When we heard that we were receiving a tool box with tools here at the PTR shop, it just seemed like a normal day in reviews. Once the Sonic Tools S10 toolbox arrived with the tools already assembled in their respective laser-cut foam inserts, that mundane feeling drastically changed. When you walk by the S10 tool box, it just makes you want to open one of the drawers to see what’s inside. After 5 months of use and abuse, every single tool is still accounted for and in their correct location. I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered this in my many tools and toolbox variations over the years.
If you look at the overall value of the Sonic Tools S10, then there is nothing comparable that can touch it. The S10 toolbox filled with our variety of tools runs about $6,000. That includes the Sonic Tools toolbox, tools, laser-cut foam—everything. To purchase the same in a Snap-On theme would be about three times this much. Of course, you still wouldn’t have the organization out of the box that you receive with the Sonic Tools set.
With a lifetime replacement warranty on their tools, this keeps Sonic on par with the other popular brands. However, I believe Sonic Tools edges them out with the ease with which you can get a replacement. With most other brands you have to wait for the tool truck to come around (once a week/month). With Sonic Tools, just email a photo of the broken tool, and the replacement is headed your way. How easy is that?!
I’m sure that you can sense my giddiness with this S10 toolbox and tools. I just can’t get over how simple and put together everything is. I’ve lived with the alternatives for years. The Sonic Tools system just makes sense, and why no one else has taken this approach yet is beyond me. If you’re an up and coming mechanic or just looking for a toolbox to purchase, then I strongly recommend purchasing the S10. That will give you a ready to rock-and-roll toolbox filled with everything you need. You may even want to step up to the Sonic Tools S12 or S14 if you want even more at your disposal.
Within the first few minutes we had formed some pretty positive opinions about the Sonic Tool S10 toolbox—those got even better with time.