Frequently when wrenching on your car, you’ll find the need to pull a part out and work on it outside of your engine bay. Often times this may entail cleaning parts or doing precision assembly. In these instances, a third hand can come in handy. While you don’t always have a helper who can lend their time and expertise, you can always have access to a good bench vise, which can serve the same function.
So what is a bench vise? A bench vise is a tool that consists of jaws that can be opened and closed by turning a jack screw. These jaws can be closed very tightly due to the mechanical advantage the jack screw gives you. This gives you the ability to firmly hold parts steady while you work on them while leaving both hands free. Typically a bench vise is attached to your work surface to secure it in place. This is usually accomplished with a few bolts or a clamp. Most bench vises that are large enough for automotive use typically require that you drill through your work surface and secure the vise with bolts.
Another nice feature that many bench vises possess is an anvil. This is essentially a small, flat, and extremely robust work surface (typically steel or cast iron) which can withstand some serious abuse. For instance, you may decide you want to tap a press fit pin out of a component. For this operation, using a hammer and punch on a wooden workbench top would likely damage the surface. However, when using it on the steel or iron anvil on your bench vise, you can wail away with the hammer all you want and you’ll never know anything happened when looking at your vise afterwards.
The Best Bench Vise
When it comes to the best bench vise, our favorite and the one we use in our own garage is the Yost 445 Apprentice Series Vise. It tends to top the charts for bench vise buyer’s guides and top lists alike. Yost makes their Apprentice Series vise in several sizes, however we have always found the 4.5-inch jaws or the 445 to be plenty for most automotive related tasks. If you have a machine shop or are otherwise planning to use a vise for larger projects, it may be worthwhile to step up to the 460 with 6-inch jaws or the 480 with 8-inch jaws.
As far as other features, the vise swivels 360 degrees which means that you can adjust the vise to match up neatly with oddly shaped parts while comfortably standing in the same place in front of your work bench (as opposed to having to move around like you would with a fixed vise). The vise features a cast iron body and a steel slide which nicely balances cost by putting the toughest materials only where you need them.
The flat jaws on the Yost 445 are replaceable, which means that you don’t have to worry too much about wear. Over time vise jaws can get nicked or tweaked, especially if you are a rather heavy handed user. As such, this is a nice feature that saves you from having to buy a whole new vise if your jaws get chewed up. We should mention that the vise also sports pipe jaws that fit up to a 2-inch pipe, but do note that these are not replaceable. The handles on the vise are finished in polished chrome which makes them easily to clean and nicely compliments the look of the painted blue corrosion-resistant body.
When it comes to value, the Yost is unrivaled. Sure, you can get a nicer Wilton but the functionality differences are minimal and the Wilton is going to cost you quite a bit more. You can also spend a little less on a Tekton or Grizzly, and while these are good vises in their own right, they may be lacking a few features. In our opinion, there is no better deal than the 445 and in the end, you simply can’t go wrong. That said, there are many options out there on the market so if you find that you have special bench vise needs that the Yost 445 can’t meet, feel free to have a look at other vises on the market by clicking here! Happy wrenching!