I am pissed off right now. Well, not right now, but yesterday. I finally made my way back to Lowes, and went to look for a 16′ version of the Stanley Auto-Lock tape measure.
I really like the 25′ version of this tape measure, and discovered that Lowes had a 16′ version (FMHT33316S) for $17.
This tape is available elsewhere for $20, but the big deal was that I didn’t even know it existed, or I had known and forgotten.
There were 3 on display, and the online inventory checkers says there were more in stock at that Lowes store.
I picked up the first one, and saw that the lock worked in the same way as the 25′ Auto-Lock. Well, of course it did!
But something seems to have gone wrong with the 16′ design or construction.
I found 2 issues that plagued all 3 tapes.
Tapes 1 and 2 had shy hooks, tapes 2 and 3 had stubborn tapes.
Shy Hook: I couldn’t grab the darned hooks! It’s just a little too shallow, and there’s a little too much vertical movement. So every time I tried to grab the hooks of 2 of the 3 tapes, it moved up and in a little, flush with the bottom of the tape body.
Stubborn Tapes: With 2 of the tapes, one of the tapes that had an ungrabbable hook, and the other tape from shelf, there was way too internal resistance when extending the tape. I couldn’t tell what the problem was, but there seemed to be resistance in the retraction system, just beyond the lock mechanism.
These tapes have a switchable lock system, where you can use it as an automatically locking tape that releases with a button press, or as traditional slide switch tape.
Trying the different locking modes didn’t really make things better. The hooks were a little more grabbable in one mode, and the tape resistance perhaps a little better in the other.
But after trying all 3 tapes, none of them were to my liking.
Stanley FatMax Auto-Lock tapes come with a removable super-sized hook, and it would have made the hook more grabbable, but you don’t want that giant hook on your tape all the time. It’s a lot wider than it appears in online product images.
I was disappointed by this, as I had really been looking to buying and using a 16-foot version of what has become one of my favorite 25-foot tapes.
I have a Stanley FatMax 25-foot tape with a defective lock, and I didn’t realize it since it was in the non-testable position of a 2-pack I bought last year.
But I don’t think these 16′ tapes are randomly defective. 3 out of 3 with similar problems? One didn’t have as bad an issue with its it hook, and another didn’t have as bad a problem with its pullout resistance. But they all seemed to be afflicted by the same issues.
What I’m hoping is that these tapes just came from a bad batch – that would be the best case scenario. The worst case scenario would be that the smaller tape measure design was not scaled properly.
If you’re interested in buying this tape, or at least as interested as I was, you’ll probably want to try it out in person, rather than ordering online. Or stick to the 25-foot version.
Buy Now(via Lowes)
If you plan on stopped at Lowes anytime during the holiday season, could you please give this tape a few tugs with the switch set to both modes? That’ll help determine if this is an isolated or widespread issue.
Bummer. My all time favorite tape measure was the Craftsman version of the old style Stanley LeverLock tape. Not sure if it was made by Stanley or was a copy, but either way, it just worked. I wear either an XL or XXL glove, depending on brand, and have heard a couple comments that it was a little ‘big’ for some people, but for me it was just right. I much prefer an auto-lock tape blade, and so far the best substitute would be a Komelon. I’m torn between that, and a FasCap. The FasCap doesn’t auto lock, but it has a better belt clip, a built in pencil sharpener, and a place you can jot notes on the body, or put a mark on the tape itself. Neither one quite takes the place of that old Craftsman one, though. I was hoping one of the new Stanley auto locking tapes might be a decent replacement (the old discontinued version of the LeverLock comes close) but it seems that they keep finding a way to ALMOST make a very good tape measure, but every new version seems to have some sort of flaw in design or execution.
I stopped using Stanley tapes several years ago,they just are not the same nowadays. I prefer the Milwaukee tapes now.
Have a bunch of older Stanley tapes that are all quite good and still in service. Have a 25′ Stanley PowerLock tape I bought some 15 years ago that never got used still in like new pristine condition for comparison. Picked up a couple of newer ones that were very disappointing now re-purposed so as not to be a total waste, using them in a similar manner as shown in the linked vid.
I can’t get any of my Milwaukee tapes to lock. Drives me batty
A lament of old age is that we recall when things were better – or is that recollection just creeping senility? Seriously – one has to wonder about manufacturers not sticking to tried and true solutions. I’m all in favor of innovation – but with something as relatively simple as a tape measure – why can’t Stanley replicate the good performance of a 25 foot tape in a 16 foot version – or why not continue to sell a version of the LeverLock? But I guess that would preclude them having a flashy display proclaiming “NEW AND IMPROVED” .
Maybe some genius in the design shop – heard that the tape hook had a tendency to inadvertently get caught on things – and the 16 foot tape’s shy hook is the “answer”.
To the other point about preferences – I had workers who loved one brand, one style, one size etc. – and those who hated what the others liked. When I was ordering a batch – I’d try to get a consensus – but don’t recall ever getting one.
BTW – maybe someone would like to start a thread over on the ToolGuyd Community Forum to let folks opine about their favorite tape(s)
I had put up a list of some different styles – and my LOL favorite is the Pinocchio.
Opinions are also welcome in the Best Tape Measures post:
I think that’s part of the problem. The blade was larger than anticipated.
It looked to me like the 16′ tape was simply a smaller 25′ tape. Perhaps it wasn’t designed from the ground up, and was simply scaled down from the 25′ construction. That’s definitely the feeling I got.
I bought two 16′ Stanley Auto lock tapes for general use in the wood shop at work and they are THE most annoying thing. They don’t hold when pulled out and the slightest touch releases them and in they go. The 12′ Stanley in my apron -that I don’t think to put on near enough- is the standard lock and boy is that nice to use after the self locking ones.
I still miss my fatmax Xtreme!!!!
My GF lost my good Craftsman tape measure with autolock earlier this year so I went looking for another autolock and Stanley was nearly the only option. A few weeks ago, all of a sudden, I noticed that when it is pulled out, the slightest touch on the tape would cause it to push back in. The next day it wouldn’t even stay out on its own. Luckily, I was able to just swap it at Home Depot, but still, that’s some poor quality. Incidentally, I ended up finding my old Craftsman tape measure and at 20+ years old, its autolock is still rock solid.
I’m not saying not to buy a Stanley, just saying that you get what you pay for.
My sentiments exactly! Seriously, though, I think Sears quit Craftsman tapes because the lifetime warranty was losing them a lot of money from the free replacements. However, if they would bring back the same tape just with a ‘Sears’ branding and no lifetime warranty, I’d buy one. Maybe a few, to have reserves in case they discontinue it again.
They stopped replacing tapes for broken tapes, so people started breaking the housings and springs to get replacements.
If you have a Craftsman tape that breaks now, they’ll likely replace it with a Stanley.
I walked into an Ace Hardware store today, and they had a sale on the Craftsman Heavy Duty Touch Lock Tape (25′) for just $4.99! It comes with a 1-year warranty. So I had to pick one up. This is for Model #: 9-45071. Amazon is currently selling this exact same model for $17.50 online and it has good reviews.
I have this exact tape and have had no problems. I purchased the beginning of this year at Lowes.
I have not used it extensively, but it works as advertised for me.
I am already finding issues with my Milwaukee magnetic 25′ tape measure, which gets used out on construction sites.
So glad you posted this. JUST last week I tested one in-store and wasn’t impressed. Glad it wasn’t just me! Too bad, I was really hoping to add the 16 footer to my daily tool apron
When I wear a shop apron this is my tape:
By no means a do everything tape – but its light – and has both metric and fractional scales. Mine’s over 20 years old – but on Amazon the advertising copy says: High Quality New!!!!!!! – so maybe they changed something.
This is what they say for size:
Size: Glossy Exclusive Paper
Every time I’ve spent the money on a Stanley tape something has gone wrong with it. The greatest tape I’ve ever bought was within the last year. It’s a irwin tape and I got a free 16 ft when I bought the 25. Best tape I’ve ever used and I’ve used a lot. My friend and I did a number of tests between it and a Milwaukee tape and the irwin beat it in everyone every time. Best money I’ve ever spent on a tape. I was disappointed when I saw a tape measure competition on this site and there was not one in it. Now that they’ve been bought out they probably won’t be making them anymore anyway. Sad state of affairs we live in today.
It’s not an isolated issue. Same thing happened to me while at Lowes here in Houston. I tested 3 straight FATMAX autolock tape measures with the exact same problem. Looking into the slot where the tape measure comes out, there is this T shaped structure that acts as the autolock. All 3 tape measures had the T structure out of alignment . I figured out that was what causes the tape to be such a pain to pull out and retract. I ended up buying the Komelon autolock tape measure. It has a a much more basic design that engages the autolock. It basically lives up to concept, “Keep It Simple Stupid.”
P.S. Thanks for putting up such a great tool blog.
For cost and use ability, I really like the Komelon EV2825. The self lock works well enough and it fits in my hand nicely.
I looked at an old inventory and I bought a dozen Komelon SL2912 12 foot self locking tapes for one of our shops in 2010 – paid $64 for the dozen.
I bought 2 from Lowes during my 1st trip to the holiday tool gift center. They’re quite nice, especially for the price.
What I really like about them is the markings on the underside of the tape. I never thought it would be that usefully, but while framing out a new garage, I tended to use the underside quite a bit while measuring above my head.
I believe one of Milwaukees has this feature as well.
Why wouldn’t you have contacted someone at Stanley for comment on this before posting? Maybe there’s an issue they know about, maybe a batch has been recalled or whatever, but posting an upset rant about a defective product without knowing why, or at least trying to find out why, is a disservice to readers. I have the 25′ autolock and like it, and would be interested in a 16 (add to the pile of 16s already) but would want to know what’s up with this one — the other half of the story. And if you did try to contact Stanley and they didn’t get back, you should have said that.
I plan on emailing them as soon as I can, but I don’t expect that they’ll be able to tell me much.
Why wouldn’t I contact someone at Stanley first? Because sometimes that can take days or weeks of back and forth, and by the time a post would be ready, readers might be stuck with tape measures they hate.
I posted elsewhere that I saw the 16′ model on Lowes.com, and that I’d be looking to order one.
I was very excited to get my hands on it, and was incredibly disappointed that not one tape out of the 3 on display were good enough to take home.
If this was a review sample, I would have given them the courtesy or bringing up the flaws and the opportunity for a comment to include in the review.
I’m sorry you feel that it’s my obligation to talk to product brands about products I buy or am interested in buying as a consumer, and that you feel I should check with brands before posting my honest and frank opinions on my website.
I want to know what’s up with this tape too, and plan on finding out. But my obligation is to readers first and foremost. I had an obligation to post a warning based on what I saw, especially because I had previously been positive about the 25′ model and especially eager and optimistic for the 16′.
I just bought a 2-pack of Dewalt tapes at Home Depot. I bought the 25′ 2 weeks ago, and now there’s a 25′ and 16′ combo at the same price, so I bought that too. The 16′ feels almost like a smaller 25′ tape, with the effect not as exaggerated as with these Auto-Lock tapes. It’s not scaled proportionally smaller, or at least that’s how it feels.
After reading all the posts, I think it’s safe to say that most of us understood that you were speaking as a consumer not a reviewer. I appreciate the post, thank you. Btw, I have a couple of the Stanley tapes, love them, no issues.
Thanks Stuart. Appreciate your findings on the 16′. Hope you get a reply.
As an Australian viewer of this site, I am curious as to why no one talks about Lufkin Tapes. Is there a problem with the brand in the US? In Australia, the Lufkin tape is second in sales to the Stanley Fat Max range, most of the Lufkin tapes are made in Australia, in fact, Lufkin is the only brand that is still made here. Only one of their tapes has a wide blade, the rest are mostly25mm/1′ wide.
Curious as to the responses I will get re this.
I do like Lufkin tapes, and recently bought some during my holiday tool gift center browsing. I picked up the Lufkin from the tape measure aisle, where they were gathering dust on a floor-level shelf.
Lufkin doesn’t seem to market very aggressively here. The only time I really see them in stores is during the holidays when they have a couple of cheap models out as stocking stuffers.
Out of sight, out of mind.
From what i can see in the US Apex Tool Group act as an Industrial supply manufacturer, whereas here in Australia they act as a retail and industrial supplier. As a retail supplier they have a fairly high profile with the Lufkin name.
Respectfully, that is not a fair assessment.
Apex Tool Group manufactures Crescent tools, both for industry and consumer markets, and many tools for Craftsman and other private labels that are largely consumer and homeowner focused.
Their Gearwrench brand is aimed at a wide spread of customers.
Yes, Apex Tool Group has many industrial-focused brands, but they’re not any less a retail supplier in the USA.
I really don’t know why Lufkin isn’t bigger here, but it probably has to do with retail contracts. Home Depot has such a strong relationship with Stanley Black & Decker and Milwaukee that there’s not much shelf space left for other brands.
Lufkin also doesn’t seem to compete at the premium tape level. Nor do they release new designs anywhere near the frequency of Stanley, Dewalt, or Milwaukee.
I looked at the 25′ and 16′ FatMax Autolock tapes at the store today. I did not notice any unusual tension or problems with extending or retracting any of them, but on all I did see the problem with the hook pushing up out of easy reach. It’s that huge opening in the steel wear plate that is the problem. It has to be large to let in the optional oversized hook, but then the only thing keeping the hook pushed down is the tension of the tape itself. If the tape doesn’t decide to curl downward the hook becomes unreachable. There was a regular FatMax with this hook arrangement (Are these new? Never seen them before.) and it suffered the same problem.
I looked over some regular FatMax 25′ tapes in anticipation of the yearly 2/$20 sale and was not at all impressed with the ‘improvements’ in newer made tapes but I’ll save that rant for another time.
Was just googling if there was a way to fix the Stanley fatmax I got a week ago at Lowes. I’ll probably just return it instead. Like you said, the hook is hard to grab. And the lock is almost never reliable. Whether auto or manual lock, the tape likes to slowly retract.
I’m having the same horrible experience of finding a decent Stanley FatMax (the new ones, with smaller rounder body’s, and their Max Armor). I ordered 2 – 25 footers first from Home Depot (my local stores don’t carry these), both had issues. 1st Had a rusty hook, and the tape had gashes/scratches in its nylon coating. 2nd had horrible ink application for the lines/lettering, where it was faded and smudged in a lot of places; 2nd also had huge bubbles in the nylon coating in about 1”-2” sections down the entire tape. So I ordered 4 more from Home Depot hoping I’ll get at least one that’s in good condition. ALL 4 had issues, either large gashes/scratches through the nylon coating down to bare metal, or horrible application of nylon coating that had bubbles down the entire tape, as well as large bubbles in the first 6” of the added rubber/nylon coating – the ink application was also drastically different from tape to tape, some had extra thick lines that actually were getting blown out (like a blown out tattoo line), while others where so faded, you can see the spots of metal through the ink. I don’t know what’s going on, maybe it was a bad batch. But out of 6 tapes I couldn’t get 1 in new condition, or without major defects.