Every once in a while when wrenching on your car, you’ll encounter a stubborn bolt. A stubborn bolt is one that offers significant resistance when you try to tighten it, even though you are 100% confident that you do not have it cross-threaded. The reason this usually occurs is due to buildup of corrosion on both the bolt and the threads of the hole that you are trying to screw into. From here, you can either try to force the bolt in (at the risk of damage) or you can clean up your threads which will allow the bolt to thread more easily. Similarly, this can happen on a nut and stud as well. The most common places to see this type of problem are places that experience high heat cycling such as your header flange bolts, exhaust bolts, and intake plenum bolts. It is also frequently seen on oil pan bolts, valve cover bolts, and any other bolt that is threaded directly into your engine block or head.
The perfect tool for cleaning up bad threads (or any thread repair in general for that matter) is a tap and die set. A tap and die set usually consists of taps which are designed to create or clean up female threads and dies which are designed to create or clean up male threads. In addition, there is usually a tap handle that you can swap taps in and out of much like you would swap screwdriver bits into a multibit screwdriver as well as a die handle which you can swap dies in and out of. As an added note, you’ll want to make sure you use a little bit of cutting oil any time you are going to chase threads with a tap or die to keep things well lubricated and prevent yourself from damaging your component.
The Best Tap and Die Set
When looking for a tap and die set, you want to find a nice blend between versatility, quality, and value. Versatility is the easiest; just buy a set with a lot of different sized taps and dies. Quality and value take a little more knowledge to find but fear not because we will steer you in the right direction.
In our opinion, the best tap and die set for the money is the Tekton 7559 39 Piece Tap and Die Set. We know that you could spend 3 times as much for a Craftsman or GearWrench set and probably get slightly nicer quality, but the reality is that there is simply no need to spend that much money. First, taps and dies are wear items. They wear out over time from use and need to be replaced. A tap or die from Craftsman or GearWrench is not going to last 3 times as long (the actual difference in lifespan would be extremely small, if not entirely non-existent), and as such you’ll end up spending more money to maintain your kit in the long run if you go with one of the more expensive brands.
As far as the Tekton kit is concerned, it comes with everything you need. The kit can be had in SAE (inch) or metric and comes with a variety of 17 tap and 17 die sizes ranging from small to large. The kit includes taps and dies for course thread, fine thread, and pipe thread (NPT). The taps and dies are tapered which makes for easier alignment when starting by hand and are made from hardened tool steel which means you should have no problem creating threads in aluminum or steel should you have the need. The overall quality is high as is usually the case with tools from Tekton.
Each handle performs well and sports knurled grips. Some competitive tap and die handles have rubber coatings, but chasing threads is a game of finesse and you simply shouldn’t be applying enough force to necessitate the need for rubber grips to protect your hands. As such, we are quite happy with Tekton’s handles. For storage, Tekton includes a molded case that allows you to snap each tool into place. The case comes with a carrying handle built in as well as two latches.
Overall, Tekton’s tap and die set is fantastic and we think you’ll be extremely satisfied should you decide to pick on up. As far as where to buy, we typically recommend Amazon due to the competitive shipped price which seems to be lower than most other places by a few bucks. While we think that Tekton makes the best tap and die set around, we know there are many other great options out there so if Tekton doesn’t quite suit your needs feel free to have a look at other sets by clicking here. Happy wrenching!