Proto Surprise & Disappointment

My father is a very hands on person and he loves cars. Ever since I was a boy, I have been tasked/asked to help my dad when he messed around with his cars. He was also once a plumbing contractor, so our home has always been surrounded by tools. There was a time when dad had at least 3 boxes of tools for working on his cars. In addition, there were his heavy duty plumbing tools that he used in his plumbing business.

After I started owning motorcycles, I sometimes had to work on them. For these tasks, I naturally started using dad’s tools. At that time, I did not know it and thought that rounded screw heads and bolts and slipping nuts were part and parcel of motorcycle maintenance. It was after I joined a motorcycle maker’s R&D section that I met a good friend who also happened to be a knowledgeable engineer. He had a workshop to himself and sets of tools to use on his job. When I mentioned to him about my problems with slipping when tightening or loosening bolts and nuts, he told me that the tools that I was using could have been poor quality ones.

Now, everyone has heard of Snap On, so I asked him where I could buy a set of Snap On spanners. He said not to buy Snap On as they were expensive and recommended an alternative, but equally good brand called Proto. Well, $100 for 5 spanners was (still is) a lot of money, but I decided to trust him and bought them. I was not disappointed. They are strong, well made and never slipped. After that, I bought a big adjustable wrench which never slipped either. I was sold. Never am I buying cheap tools again. These tools were expensive, but they were worth the price. Proto has a life time warranty and one to one exchange policy. The set of spanners are always my first reach to spanners when I need to loosen or tighten a bolt.

After buying the GSXR1000, I re-discovered the “pleasure” of removing and putting fairings back on whenever I wanted to work on the bike. These fairings and many other parts of the bike are fastened by light weight aluminum hex fasteners. They require an allen key. I have learned about the consequences of poor quality allen keys long ago and have a set of what I thought were pretty good long handle L allen keys. However, on one of the many visits to the Suzuki agent’s workshop, I witnessed the amazing tool called the T Handle Hex Key.

There were two hex key bolts that fastened the tank to the frame at the rider seat end. They were 6mm size and I needed to loosen them so that I could adjust the tank slightly to match the holes up in the front part of the tank. No matter how I tried with my L hex keys, they would not budge. At the workshop, the mechanic simply used a T handle hex key and loosened it without any effort. I decided that I needed to get a set of those.

I contacted the local Proto dealer (Chee Fatt) and got a quote. After getting the set (bought also a set of screwdrivers and a set of Proto’s short L hex keys), I started using them. They were working fine except for 1 – the 3mm T Handle Hex key. That one sheared off at the T handle at first use. I was surprised, cos the fastener was merely a 3mm screw that holds a brake pad cover in place.

The Proto 3mm failed at first use.
The Proto 3mm failed at first use.
These were the 2 bolts that I was trying to loosen.
These were the 2 bolts that I was trying to loosen.

I returned the tool and it was replaced with another one – which also broke doing the same thing.

The 2nd one failed in exactly the same way.
The 2nd one failed in exactly the same way.

Looks like it was a bad design. I contacted Chee Fatt and they kindly replaced it with Facom’s L shaped “T Handle” Hex key a week later. They even sent it to my office. So nice of them.

The Facom 3mm has no problem loosening the bolts.
The Facom 3mm has no problem loosening the bolts.

I was surprised that a quality tool maker like Proto would have a poorly made item like the 3mm T handle hex key. From closer inspection, it looked as if the shaft sheared off at the handle, so it could be that the joint was poorly designed or perhaps it was a bad manufacturing batch. I am still a Proto fan and also bought a set of 3/8′ metric sockets for my ratchet when I returned the 1st hex key.

As for Chee Fatt, they had very good service. They would be my first stop for quality tools in the future.


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