A mechanic’s crawler is the little board on wheels that enable auto mechanics and others to slide under cars, trucks, and other equipment.
They are sometimes called mechanic’s creepers as well as crawlers — which is pretty creepy by itself — but there is nothing scary about using one of these convenient devices. They can be used for both heavy industry as well as the occasional homeowner who wants to change their own motor oil or make simple car repairs.
Mechanic’s crawlers come in all shapes and sizes and with a variety of different features. There are inexpensive bare bones crawlers that are essentially a piece of plywood with four casters all the way up to deluxe models with special padding, high-durability wheels, and other perks.
Prices for mechanic’s crawlers range from around $20 for the most basic models to more than $200 for top of the line creepers.
So how can you tell what type is right for you? And what sort of things should you look for when choosing a mechanic’s crawler? We’re glad you asked!
Sturdy Backboards Are Essential
Arguably, the most important feature on a crawler is the backboard. This is where your upper and lower back are supported.
It’s also where the least expensive models tend to cut corners. Look for crawlers that have reinforced backboard that are going to provide adequate support. This will help eliminate backaches and other injuries later.
Avoid Steel Wheels
Steel wheels, like the kind found on the cheap pair of roller skates you had as a kid, probably aren’t going to give you the smooth ride you want. Having to roll off your crawler to free up a stuck wheel is inconvenient and time-consuming — not to mention uncomfortable if you are under a car.
Instead, look for crawlers with urethane wheels that have ball bearings inside.
No matter how busy your shop is, you probably aren’t going to use your mechanic’s crawler all the time — or even very often. So it’s often useful to choose one that has a low-profile design for easy and convenient storage.
Crawlers that can be slipped into a vertical space are a space saver, as well as help avoid slip and fall accidents.
Another handy feature to look for are recessed wheels. These allow you to get closer to the ground so you have more room to work with when you are under vehicles or machinery.
A lot of workers complain about wood crawlers because they tend to absorb motor oil, coolant, and other fluids that can easily leak onto their surfaces. With wood crawlers, a single spill can last a lifetime.
Instead, consider crawlers made with heavy-duty fabric that is oil- and chemical-resistant, as well as firm padding for added comfort.