Mechanics Creeper – What should you look for?
Things to consider
In a hurry? Jump to “Our Recommendations”.
When I bought my first mechanics creeper, which was mostly an impulse buy at the local farm supply store 20 years ago, I didn’t stop to consider that there might be things about it that would end up driving me nuts for nearly two decades before I finally did something about it. Thankfully you’ve found this page so maybe I can help save you the same frustration.
The most important thing your mechanics creeper needs to do is to comfortably and easily get you under your vehicle. That seems like a simple task but it quickly breaks down in the real world. Over the last two decades I’ve put together all of the things that really got in the way the most. Here they are:
Does it actually roll?
It may seem silly to ask this of a tool that is literally designed around a set of wheels but the wrong creeper for your space will not perform well. There are 3 types of wheels used in creeper designs today. The older creepers used steel wheels. Literally steel disks bolted onto the frame of the creeper with a small axle. While very durable they get stuck in every little crack or on every pebble. More recently creeper designs have moved to small urethane wheels with ball bearings. Almost as durable as steel and much more functional. However they still have issues with rougher surfaces like asphalt or larger pebbles. The top of the line these days are the large 4-5″ wheels. They easily roll over any obstructions your garage or shop is likely to have.
Will it break?
The really cheap creepers use a pressed cardboard backing. Leave it out in the rain once and its toast. Moving up the chain a little bit gets into plywood backings. While much more solid than cardboard they are still pretty easy to break with an accidental knee to an unsupported area. Hard plastic or 1/2″ plywood backs will hold up very well over the long term.
Is it gonna get janky?
Sure, janky is subjective, but a shop or active garage is not known for its lack of substances that stain, etch, and generally jankify just about anything known to man. A creeper is going to take some wear.. its rolling around on the ground under a vehicle. I love the look of those old antique wood creepers but there is a reason they aren’t in active use. Wood absorbs oils, stains, and even the occassional burn (what? don’t judge me). I have a buddy that loves that though, says it adds character. Fair enough, can’t argue with that, if that is what you are going for. If you aren’t out to create a modern hipster masterpiece, then a hard plastic or at least a heavy duty vinyl sheeting works great.
Is it gonna eat my shirt?
Seems like a funny question. It isn’t. I have had creepers literally eat my shirts. When you lay down on the creeper sometimes your shirt will touch a wheel. As you begin to slide under the vehicle that wheel will wrap your shirt around and around binding it tightly, to the point I’ve had to cut shirts out of the creeper wheel. Then you have to walk around the shop all day with a hole in your shirt like a real winner. Creepers that have enclosed wheels save you from this pain.
Some mechanic creepers have a lot of bells and whistles. Things like adjustable headrests, wheel locks, and tool holders. Others are bare bones. We all love to have all the cool toys but I’ve found that having too many just gets in the way. For example, personally I’ve never adjusted the headrest on a creeper. If I’m under a vehicle I don’t generally have the clearance to be getting all cozy.
Last but not least is comfort. As I said, I’m not generally getting cozy on my creepers but that doesn’t mean I need to be in pain either. The old wooden creepers didn’t have much going for them in this regard. A flat rigid back, but oh look, a super comfortable 1/4″ strip of foam for your head. You can just hear the old timers looking back fondly. Today we have a lot more options, and even a few brands throwing around the word “ergonomic”. Fancy. Anyway, back on topic. Comfort. You can go with either a hard plastic shell with no padding at all, which due to being ergonomically formed actually feels pretty good. The other option is to go with a foam padded creeper that is then covered with a vinyl sheeting. I’m a big fan of the durability of the hard plastics. The vinyl covered foam creepers tend to rip or get damaged more easily. Then again, maybe that’s just my shop.
Ok, now that you know what to look for, on to what you came here for: My world sought after opinion on mechanics creepers. (History Channel: If you read this and need one of your crazy ‘experts’, I volunteer to be “Creeper Expert”. Come on, my mother in law would LOVE that!)
If you just want my top review, here it is: The Bone Rough Rider, by Dale Adams. No, this isn’t a movie your uncle had in the 80s, its actually a pretty great bit of tool design. It’s almost like they listened to me and went and made this from scratch. Biggest wins over all other creepers:
• First: big wheels. It has 5″ enclosed wheels! Just look at those things. Now think about your old creeper. Now look at the picture again. Are you getting all tingly now? No? Just me? Ok then. And they are enclosed. Come on now. No my shirt eating, no more frustration and yelling at the gall durned creeper (that is totally not a censored version.. uh huh).
• Second: hard plastic, well made. No jankiness to be seen. I’m pretty sure this thing is going to outlast me.
• Third: size and comfort. I’m a tall guy, pushing 6’5 230 lbs. Granted I know most guys aren’t direct decendents of Goliath like I apparently am, but for us tall guys finding things that fit are sometimes difficult. This one fits the bill perfectly. Also, who doesn’t like a picture of a cute girl on a creeper? Man, I’m getting all tingly again.
• Fourth: The larger wheels are user-replacable and are sold on Amazon for about $20. While I’ve never had a wheel break it is great to know that I can just buy the replacement part and be back to 100%.
Dale Adams also makes two other versions. The original, made for concrete/asphalt use, is called The Bone. It is a few bucks cheaper so you can save some cash if you know you won’t be working off-road at all. It features the same overall design including the 5″ enclosed wheels. A smaller version called The Bone-ster has 3″ wheels and is a bit shorter. Great for spaces (and people) who don’t need large sizes.
Here is the big list of creepers and our overall take. We realize that not everyone can or wants to drop $200 on a lifetime quality creeper and might just need something temporary. That doesn’t mean you need to waste money. Check the table below to find some other great options.
Standard CreepersStandard creepers comparison
Seat creepers really save the knees and back when working on brakes, tires, and anything else at knee-height. Like the standard creepers above, they also come in all shapes and sizes.
|No||Yes||400 lbs||19 lbs||$$$$ - $130|
|No||Sorta||250 lbs||15 lbs||$$$ - $65|
|No||No||300 lbs||9 lbs||$ - $28|
|Yes||No||450 lbs||30 lbs||$$$$ - $90|
|Yes||No||400 lbs||31 lbs||$$$$ - $95|
|No||No||480 lbs||26 lbs||$$$$ - $150|
Topside creepers, also called truck creepers, are a must for truck owners. They make it easy to get up into the engine compartment of any standard pick-up even those with lifts.
I also wrote up the differences in butyle gloves vs safety gloves. Make sure you check that out if you use gloves in your shop. The right ones make a big difference.