As a mechanic, the vast majority of work will be done with your hands. That applies whether you’re working in a professional shop, or you’re doing hobby or restoration work in an at-home garage. Protecting your hands is a vital consideration, as is protecting interior surfaces from things like grease and oil. Gloves provide you with the protection and peace of mind that you need, but there are many different options on the market. They’re far from being created equal, but it is important that you are able to find the right glove for the right job at the right time.
In the scheme of things, you will need a couple of different types of gloves. General protection gloves are used when doing things like changing oil, or replacing a head gasket, and you don’t need to worry much about protecting your hands from heat. Instead, the primary concern here is to keep oil, grease, and dirt off your hands so that you don’t get it all over the car.
You have a couple of glove choices here. Latex gloves are widely available, affordable and come in boxes of hundreds. You can find them just about everywhere, from Walmart to the Snap-On truck that visits your shop every week. Latex is reasonably durable (for thin rubber), and provides good protection against oil, grease, and dirt. You’ll even find thicker options that provide you with good tear resistance – Western Safety Heavy-Duty Gloves are good examples here.
However, it is not breathable, and your hands will sweat. There is also the fact that latex is a natural product, and some people are sensitive to it.
In this instance, you can use nitrile gloves. They work exactly the same as latex gloves, but they are a little bit stiffer. Like latex gloves, there are heavy-duty nitrile options on the market. These are not disposable. Rather, they are meant to be used over and over again. Atlas makes a good nitrile glove, but there are other manufacturers out there.
It should be noted that latex and regular nitrile gloves offer no resistance against heat, and no protection from impacts. Heavy-duty gloves offer a smidge of protection, but not much. Permanent nitrile gloves do offer a bit of protection against heat and impact, though.
You’ve seen these before. They’re made from fabric, and then dipped into a rubberized solution – usually tinted a bright blue. They’re available pretty much everywhere, and they’re not expensive. They can do a decent job of protecting against oil and grease, and they are waterproof at least in the fingers and the palm. However, they do limit sensation in your fingers, meaning they’re not well suited for finer work.
You’ll find a host of brands out there offering mechanic gloves, but Mechanix Wear is probably the most notable. These are the original gloves designed for those who need to protect their hands, but require a bit of tactility in addition to heat protection and impact resistance.
You will find a host of different designs out there, too, from slim, streamlined options to thicker versions that trade dexterity for heat resistance. Many different materials are used in glove construction, too, but a spandex backing is important for both fit and breathability. If impact protection matters a lot to you, look for a pair with rubber reinforcement over the backs of the fingers and the knuckles.
Again, you’ll find many different brands that offer fingerless mechanic gloves, but Mechanix is the most visible (and popular) brand out there. These gloves offer the heat and impact resistance you need for the back of your hand, palm, and fingers, but leave the tips of your fingers free for tactility. The glove stops at the mid-knuckle of each finger. It should be noted that Mechanix offers a model that uses a special material called PORON XRD to reinforce the palm. This is done to help absorb some of the vibrations caused by using high-powered air tools and cordless tools, reducing the chance of injury.
If you’re looking for comfort and protection more than flexibility or tactility, then a tactical glove might be the right choice for you. These are thicker glove that limit finger movement to an extent, but provide a lot of benefits in the way of heat protection (and cold defense, too). 5.11 makes a very popular tactical mechanic glove that offers a reinforced palm and padded knuckles.
Heavy Duty Gloves
Need to grab onto a hot exhaust pipe or catalytic converter without cooking your own flesh? You’ll want a pair of heavy-duty gloves. These are made with super-thick, heat resistant materials and, while they are limited in terms of flexibility, they do a great job of protecting your digits. Youngstown makes a good pair that offers ergonomic padding, as well as being flame resistant.
A Note on Materials
There’s an incredible range of materials used in the creation of mechanic gloves, most of which are proprietary to the company making the glove. This makes it more than a little difficult to compare them. However, some commonly used materials can be discussed.
Latex: A natural rubber that is waterproof and relatively durable, particularly in thick applications, such as with dipped gloves.
Nitrile: A synthetic rubber (hypoallergenic) similar to latex and used in the same ways, including for waterproofing.
Thinsulate: A lining material used in everything from boots to jackets and gloves to help keep you warm and toasty. However, it is not sweat-proof.
Kevlar: Tough, bullet-proof, even, Kevlar offers outstanding resistance to wear and tear.
Leather: Naturally supple and relatively rugged, leather can be a good choice, but it is not waterproof unless treated.
Neoprene: A synthetic rubber, neoprene offers flexibility and good range of movement, and is waterproof.
In the End
Ultimately, there is a glove out there for every use need and every season, whether you’re changing oil in the summer, or replacing an exhaust system in the winter.