Clarification: Craftsman Lifetime Warranty Doesn't Apply To Rusty Tools

We asked Sears about their warranty policy on rusty Craftsman tools, and they said the life-time warranty doesn’t apply when the rust is cosmetic.

This is not about “screwing” Katrina victims, or even “torque wrenching” them. It’s that Sears can’t be responsible if you left your tools in a bucket of water, whether that water is from a hurricane or a leak in your roof. Try a little less whining and a little more steel wool and elbow grease.

If Rufus’ tools were rusted so thoroughly they couldn’t be used, then he could dump them on the returns desk and get shiny new ones. Because then that would be a defect in the product, that it can’t stand up a little oxidation.

At the same time, it’s just not right to go around saying “We’ve got a FULL and UNLIMITED LIFETIME warranty! (some restrictions apply).”

Response from Sears, inside…

Please include the following line in all replies. Tracking number: UT20070318_0000000986

Dear Ben Popken,

Thank you for contacting Sears regarding the policy on Craftsman hand tools.

We appreciate that you have chosen Sears for your tool needs. Craftsman hand tools come with a life-time warranty against product defects. If a Craftsman hand tool ever fail due to a defect in the product, simply return the item to the nearest Sears store. Some exclusions does apply which would void or do not apply to the life-time warranty , which include but is not limited to:

The item being altered in any way.
Lost, stolen or damaged by an act of God (such as fire, flood, etc.)
If the item is used for any other reason than its intended purpose, including neglect.
Rust that does not prohibits the performance of the item (most rust is strictly cosmetic and does not justify being classified as broken)
Precision hand tools that includes a mechanism (such as calipers, micrometers, most torque wrenches, etc).

Please contact your nearest store for help resolving your merchandise question. If you would like help in finding the nearest stores, use our store locator at The store locator button is located along the left side of the homepage.

If the hand tool is no longer available, Sears will replace the tool with a comparable item. If no comparable item is available, Sears will provide the customer with their money back.

Look for Great Ideas throughout the store and find Sears exclusive innovations from great brands like Sony, Kenmore, NordicTrack, Craftsman and Reebok.

Shop now to pick up great products for the season.

Rod N.
Sears Customer Care

Consider our outrage retracted. — BEN POPKEN

PREVIOUSLY: The Softer Side Of Sears: Craftsman Lifetime Warranty Doesn’t Apply To Katrina Victims


Edit Your Comment

  1. zibby says:

    They’re right. If you can use the thing, you can use it. What’s amusing is that somebody actually tried to return tools because they weren’t pretty enough anymore.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    that’s not a warranty issue… his tools were not broken.

  3. vanilla-fro says:

    I have a feeling, from actually using rusty tools, that a rusty tool will still work. No need to replace it. Hell, I have tools from my grandfather, when he was 18 that still work. Rusty as hell, and oddly a lot heavier than most new tools.

    Are the tools labeled rust proof? if so then return them. If not, they still work and the lifetime guarantee still stands. They just aren’t pretty anymore. lord knows you can’t exchange things just because they aren’t pretty anymore, ask any married person over 60.

  4. Starfury says:

    One time I broke a Craftsman socket wrench. Took it to my local Sears and asked the teenage worker for a replacement. He gave me a deer in headlights look and said he couldn’t do that. One of the area managers was there and asked me what was happening. I showed him the broken wrench, he walked me to a bin, took out a replacement and thanked me for shopping Sears.

  5. yzerman says:

    I think the rule of all warrenties is act of god, and flooding = act of god.

    Also rusting only happens if you don’t take care of your tools, as it was already stated its just cosmetic and doesn’t effect the tools ability to do the job. Now if the rust does effect that then I would think it would fall under warrenty.

    Besides isn’t this what homeowners insurance or flood insurance is for?

  6. yzerman says:

    Rust doesn’t = broken. It’s just cosmetic unless you can prove the rust is making it so the tool is broken, like a socket wrench that jams because of it.

    Doesn’t something like flood insurance or homeowners insurance cover something like this anyways?

  7. Kornkob says:

    yeah– time to buy a wire brush and a little wet sander if you don’t like cosmentic rust.

    Now, to be fair, Craftsman isn’t what it used to be and fewer tools with the craftsman name on them are covered by the lifetime guarantee than there used to be (and by fewer I mean: look at the wall of hand tools— once upon a time the label Craftsman on a hand tool meant it had a lifetime guarantee, now that isn’t always true).

    Also, it seems like the ‘standard’ Craftman tools are lightweight tools build pretty shoddily, whereas their “Professional” line seems to be the ‘old school’ quality.

  8. philbert says:

    The tools can still be used. Steel wool and a little elbow grease can remove the rust. It’s not like they are broken or unusable.
    This has nothing to do with Katrina. This has everything to do with trying to get something for nothing, just like the guy who buys stuff from garage sales and the takes them back for a new one. Who’s screwing who here?
    Stores can be real pricks – but apparently customers can be just as big pricks too. Amazing how people so easily read the “Unlimited Lifetime Warranty” but go blind just as they get to the “Some Restrictions Apply”. Would they expect to get a free sofa if they took one that sat in a water filled house for a month back to a furniture store?

  9. Gopher bond says:

    My wrenches are greasy. I want new ones. And my hammer has scratches. And my chisel went dull.

  10. Red_Eye says:

    While I am happy to see Sears clarify this and that the policy justly replaces any tool that ceases to function (except vicegrips used to clamp a lightning rod to a roof that are struck and then fused) they do need to disclose all the terms the person listed above in their warranty. In the previous thread I pasted the warranty section from one of their own PDF’s and it included none of those terms.

    If Sears expects not to get screwed or sued they do need to include full disclosure.

  11. Red_Eye says:

    @philbert thats the problem a lot of their printed warranties do not have any sort of disclaimer or asterisk or limitations.

    If they want to limit then they must disclose those limits (personally I like rusty tools they look used).

  12. latemodel says:

    Where can I buy me one of them sofas with an Unconditional Lifetime Warranty? The real story is that Sears has added terms to the warranty since its inception, which makes any tools purchased prior to said change suitable for a refund of the purchase price.

  13. mopar_man says:

    I e-mailed Sears for a link to where their warranty might be and what is covered under it. This is what I got for a reply (note the sales pitch at the end):

    Dear Customer,

    Thank you for contacting Sears regarding our Craftsman lifetime handtool
    warranty. We appreciate you choosing Sears Craftsman.

    Unfortunately, we do not have a document that lists the specific
    warranties of all Craftsman tools. However, we do have databases that do
    list the specific warranties of the tools on an individual basis.

    A general list of Craftsman tools that are covered by the lifetime
    warranty would include: ratchets, sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers and
    hammers. Some tools that are not covered by the lifetime warranty (even
    though they are Craftsman branded) are: taps, dies, saw blades, drill bits
    and torque wrenches.

    Our stores can be contacted for all warranty issues. The lifetime warranty
    is applicable in the event that a tool is defective or breaks under normal
    use. It is not meant to cover tools that are damaged/destroyed/lost due
    to fire, water, theft or other natural causes.

    Look for Great Ideas throughout the store and find Sears exclusive
    innovations from great brands like Sony, Kenmore, NordicTrack, Craftsman
    and Reebok.

    Shop now to pick up great products for the season.

  14. Rajio says:

    The waranty is on the usability of the tool. The usability is still in tact so the tool doesn’t need to be replaced. how is this misleading? Saying the waranty is unrestricted doesn’t make it a universal warranty on anything and everything related to the tools. If there is a defect in the tool or it becomes no longer usable then they will replace it. This is perfectly reasonable. Dont be so quick to paint them as evil.

    the FULL part of the waranty means that they will FULLY replace/repair the tool in question (at no cost to you), the UNLIMITED part refers to the wrranty being applicable to the whole tool so that if the handle on your hammer cracks, its covered and not just the hammer head. Any problem with the tool’s usability is overed without limitations. The LIFETIME part refers to…..well….I’d assume the company’s lifetime or the purchaser’s lifetime (whichever ends first).

    “oh no, the bristles on my wire brush are no longer perpendicular to the handle, i want it replaced!” ….. no, its still perfectly usable. same with a little rust on a wrench.

  15. Tools are chromed not just for an attractive look, but because the chrome plating is a sacrificial layer that will oxidize before the steel underneath, preserving the integrity of the steel. Just as zinc galvanizing creates a whitish, powdery layer that protects the steel underneath, chrome plating preserves the steel while sacrificing itself to the elements.

    While not as attractive, even heavily-rusted chromed tools can be cleaned and will maintain their original strength; an unchromed socket that rusts lightly will quickly round off when used with steel bolts; a chromed one will continue to keep it’s sharp steel edges.

    The dividing line; if you clean the rust off of your tools with a wire brush and/or Naval Jelly and see deep pits or gouges, then the tool probably isn’t as strong as it used to be. If the surface rust cleans off but leaves a rough surface, you’re good ot go – it may be ugly, but it’ll still perform like new.

    As a resident of south Louisiana (at least for a few more weeks) and of New Orleans for five years, I truly understand the near-panic of preparation and prioritization that is the week prior to landfall; life and limb are most important, and most of us don’t keep a drum of cosmoline around for the occasional flood that comes around. All the same, the tools as described probably aren’t ruined, just ugly, and Sears has a point.

  16. Mike Panic says:

    Lost, stolen or damaged by an act of God (such as fire, flood, etc.)

    What if I don’t belive in God?

  17. Terminixsux says:

    What if he doesn’t believe in you?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I am not a fundie or anything.

  18. My dad recently gave me all of his tools and tool chest. Of all the stuff 90% is Craftsman and 10% is not. Nothing branded Craftsman shows any type of rust or damage after 30 years of use. The other stuff such as wrenches and screw drivers had rust all over them. I took the time to soak them in WD-40 and put a wire wheel on my bench grinder (also from dad and Craftsman)and after a few passes everything was cosmetically good as new.

  19. Antediluvian says:

    @Mike Panic:
    Lost, stolen or damaged by an act of God (such as fire, flood, etc.)

    For the life of me I cannot figure out why God would steal or lose my tools.

    Stealing, well I recall a commandment about that, and omniscience should prevent losing stuff.

    Now, if God damages them, that I can understand — that’s also why I don’t lend my tools to people who don’t know the business end of a hammer.

  20. @testsicles: There’s mud on my shovel! Replace it!

  21. capitalass says:

    I remember, way back, when fundies used to be yuppie children, or basically, those bestowed with the good fortune to have a trust fund financing their drug habits. I always wanted to be a fundie myself, but with this new definition, I totally want to be a fundie.

    Mike, God doesn’t believe in you. You’re going to hell, but what is most important is that Sears believes in God, and God certainly would not allow people trying to take advantage of a company that misrepresents unpublished warrantys.

    Besides if God could screw the Katrina victims, then Sears, the God-fearing corporation that it is, can certainly follow suit.

    Hey Rod N., did you know your response would be posted on this website? Check this out:

  22. spanky says:

    Sears is lying. The warranty reads:

    If any CRAFTSMAN Hand Tool ever fails to give complete satisfaction, RETURN IT TO THE NEAREST SEARS STORE IN THE UNITED STATES and Sears will replace it, free of charge.

    “Complete satisfaction” is pretty squishy, but thus far, nobody has been able to cite any actual exemptions from the warranty itself. While it’s tempting, probably, to apply some reasonable exemptions to the policy, “complete satisfaction” is subjective on the part of the consumer, and it’s very, very broad.

    So if someone is not fully satisfied for whatever reason, the warranty gives them the option of exchanging it for a new one. Whether it’s broken, rusty, haunted, smells like their ex, or if they’re worried it might be stealing their thoughts and putting them on the internet.

    People both here and at Sears keep claiming that there are exceptions to the exchange policy, but still, nobody has actually been able to show us where they are outlined in the warranty.

    It would have absolutely been perfectly reasonable to word the warranty so it only covered functional defects. It would be trivial to change the wording or to exclude certain things. Sears did not do that. They intentionally wrote an unreasonable warranty, agreeing to replace their tools if the customer wasn’t fully satisfied, no exceptions.

    They had to have realized that some people would take advantage of the policy. They no doubt took that into consideration, and determined that the benefits of consumer trust outweighed the costs of excess and unreasonable exchanges.

    A lot of people chose Craftsman over other brands specifically because of the warranty. Specifically because they would replace your tools, no questions asked. So while many people have taken advantage of it, Craftsman has very likely benefited from it overall. And either way, they made the conscious decision to take that risk. They need to accept responsibility.

  23. philbert says:

    @Mike Panic:

    If you don’t believe in God then perhaps you should go fuck yourself. Get a life for Christ’s sake. If there is a god do belieive his priorities include wrenches that developed rust? Jezzz – do you right wing evanelicals think of anything besides finger fucking your selves at every given opportunity?

  24. supedve says:

    I had the same question as Mike Panic. Could I claim discrimination of warranty because I don’t believe in god? How can they (Craftsman)prove that a god caused the weather pattern? Did this spirit send an email or video saying “I was responsible for the act of nature that ruined Craftsmans’ products” and therefore you are not entitled to the lifetime warranty.

  25. vanilla-fro says:

    I think we all know what “act of God” means. Or at least we all would if it would serve to help us at that time. Like if your tree fell onto somebody’s car during a hurricane, most people would quickly jump into “act of God” mode, but I’m sure some people here wouldn’t like it if it was the other way around.

    Besides, if it is unreasonable for a person to be responsible for a storm damaging their tools…how is it reasonable for sears to be responsible for it?

    Who cares what the damn thing says, let’s try and be responsible for ourselves occasionally and not try to have everyone else take care of us.

    And homeowner’s insurance does cover this, flood should too. if that isn’t happening take it up with your adjuster and/or agent.

  26. Stepehn Colbert says:

    so, if they get too rusty, but still work, just tell him to smash’em with a sedge hammer, then return them.

  27. @spanky:

    Dude, I’m sorry, but how you read “complete satisfaction” as anything but “complete satisfaction for the tool’s intended use” is beyond me.

    Rust on a tool does not, in the vast majority of cases, affect the tool’s performance, for the reaons I cited above and others have pointed out.

    A Craftsman tool that “smells like your ex” will still work as intended and Sears is right not to exchange it – unless it is broken, defective, or poorly designed. And in any of those cases, Sears will exchange it.

  28. Gopher bond says:

    I agree that a point can be made that the warranty as written (if it is actually written anywhere) means “repair or replace no questions asked.” Period.

    However, I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong to tell people to suck it up and clean your rusty tools. If we don’t we’re going to end up with a re-written Sears policy, just like everyone’s asking for.

    It’ll have all the terms and conditions found in all other 3-4 page warranties and you’ll need the receipt and UPC code and video-tape of you and your grandmfather holding each. Now suddenly, I’m a little more hesitant about using a breaker bar because some lazy bastards refuse to clean the rust off their tools.

  29. AcidReign says:

    @vanilla-fro: My wife’s still beautiful! I wouldn’t trade her in for every Craftsman tool in the catalogue!

  30. OfficeDespot says:

    “My tools got rusty, so they’re not pretty anymore” =! “fail due to a defect in the product”.

    I’ve had sockets get rounded out on the inside, drivers seize up or break loose, and sockets crack nearly in two. In each case, Sears replaced the product(s). Never would I try and return a tool just because it got ‘rusty’. WD40, Elbow grease, and steel wool are what’s needed if I’m a dumbass and leave my tools out in the elements.

    Yeah, I understand the guy was hit by Katrina. If the tools were hosed beyond repair or usability, then he should be eyeing his homeowner’s policy, not the good-faith warranty of Sears to be his umbrella policy.

  31. Blue says:

    Apply WD-40

    Scrub with a Scotch-Britte pad.

    Wipe clean with a lintfree rag………..And you got yourself a tool which looks seasoned and sexy.

  32. spanky says:


    I’m not arguing that all these are good, valid reasons for returns, and I don’t endorse people taking advantage of it. In fact, I have assloads of Craftsman tools, some of which are variously damaged. I personally haven’t exchanged any for any reason, and I wouldn’t if the damage was my fault. That’s my choice, though.

    It’s not a moral issue, though, and it shouldn’t be a matter of what seems reasonable or logical. That unusually liberal exchange policy has been a huge selling point for them. They knew the risk they were taking when they worded it so broadly, and it paid off in terms of customer loyalty.

    If that policy is not working for them, they should change it. (For example, they could add, “for the tool’s intended use,” as you extrapolate.)

    But as it stands, the warranty seems pretty clear that it covers anything that causes dissatisfaction, for any reason. And they should honor the warranty as it stands.

  33. Gopher bond says:

    But in defining this very open and vague policy, we end up with a less valuable option, namely, more restrictive.

    Yes, Sears benefits from the warranty so do the customers. You can but cheaper than Craftsman or more expensive.

    I just see the situation as a “win the battle but lose the war” outcome.

    I’m not going to say my way is the only correct one but I know I’d be embarassed to return tool because they’re too rusty.

  34. spanky says:

    I wouldn’t consider it a loss if Craftsman were to change the wording so it’s clear what they do and do not issue exchanges for. It’d take maybe four extra words.

    It does suck that people take advantage of generous policies and all, but that is and always has been a fact of life. As long as the policy is fair and applied consistently, a lifetime warranty against functional defects would still be remarkable, and would make me feel a lot more confident buying their tools in the future. It’s the fact that they’re lying and trying to spin things that makes me nervous.

    If they can rattle off all those exceptions now and claim they’re implied or something, I don’t trust them not to make up more exceptions later.

  35. zolielo says:

    Total 360 from the previous Craftsman tool thread in terms of commentator views.

  36. bhall03 says:

    @ latemodel…of course if you want to return a tool purchased 30, 40 or 50+ years ago, the price you will get for the return probably would not be what you would pay for it today.

    @Zolielo…I think you mean 180 degrees and I agree.

  37. Jason-Ryan-Isaksen says:

    Yeah they are right here. It’s called steel wool and WD40 and you can remove rust from just about any tool using those. The warranty is if you strip a ratchet and it wasn’t hard enough to turn a bolt, or something normal. They don’t warrant a metal tool from rusting. It’s so easy to fix too, I don’t see why people bother.

    Spray steel wool with WD40.

    Rub steel wool on tool.

    Repeat until rust is gone.

    Then wipe all oil off it, clean with alcohol and a tack rag and then spray it with automotive clearcoat paint from a spraycan. The protective finish will seal the deal and be really tough.

    Auto paint grade clearcoat is tough stuff. You can do a whole toolbox with one can easy. If someone can get rusty tools cheap you can make them into new that way, no sense in playing the return policy dance with Sears.

    Rust isn’t going to make your wrench stop wrenching. Only making a tool out of pure stainless could prevent this, and I doubt people would like paying 4 times as much for a tool with rust warranty protection.

    Jason Isaksen

  38. MommaJ says:

    No matter how broadly you’d like to interpret the term “complete satisfaction”, the language applies to the company’s PRODUCT WARRANTY, not its promise that Sears will keep you happy for the rest of your life or satisfy your whims. “Satisfaction” regarding a tool relates to its functionality and durability. By your reasoning, I could return a hammer every day for a new one because they keep failing to cook my eggs properly. Any court in the land would reject such a claim out of hand because they all know what a product warranty is.

    BTW, the warranty, however it is interpreted, is extended to the original purchaser of the tool (the concept is privity of contract), so the yokel who buys rusty tools at tag sales and brings them into stores to exchange them for new ones IS a tool, as well as a scam artist, and should be shown the door.

  39. mconfoy says:

    WD40 people. Soak in a buck for a day or two or more. Take out, clean, steel wool may be necessary or wire brush if it bad, oil, wipe off, nice tools again.

  40. crankymediaguy says:

    Here’s what Sears SAYS:

    “If any CRAFTSMAN Hand Tool ever fails to give complete satisfaction, RETURN IT TO THE NEAREST SEARS STORE IN THE UNITED STATES and Sears will replace it, free of charge.”

    Here’s what Sears MEANS:

    “We will interpret ‘complete satisfaction’ however we want, at any given moment. Despite the clear meaning of the phrase, we will NOT exchange your tool for any reason we feel like employing.”

    Sorry folks, but your personal opinions on whether Americans are sue-happy or whether rust is or isn’t damaging to a tool are NOT relevant here.

    Sears made a promise, which no one forced them to make, because it was an inducement to purchase tools from them rather than a competitor, which it has now decided to break.

    What part of “unconditional” do you not understand?

  41. Gopher bond says:

    spanky says “@testsicles:
    I wouldn’t consider it a loss if Craftsman were to change the wording so it’s clear what they do and do not issue exchanges for. It’d take maybe four extra words. “

    I would because I believe I could return a single item if it rusted prematurely. Say it rusted up three weeks after I bought it just because of my damp basement when no other tools got rusty.

    I think if we define it further, we prevent good managers and employees from using their judgement in the matter.

    And to crankymediaguy, Everyone understands “unconditional”. Personally, I believe that a warranty is by definition, a guarantee of fitness for a particular use. To me that means that if a wrench doesn’t perform as a wrench, for any reason, we will replace it.

    But sure, you can argue that unconditional means even those reasons which do not apply to the fitness of use. I would even agree that it’s a good argument. It doesn’t mean I can’t think that those guys returning a bucket of old wrenches are assholes.

  42. sam-i-am says:

    Used to work for Sears National Customer Relations (we called it “SNCRS” like the candybar).

    I never heard of anyone getting refused a return on craftsman tools. I had a guy call in who had bought an old rusty set of tools at a garage sale for $1 and returned them to the store for a new set.

    I’m sure if you got denied, you could just wait and talk to someone else or go to another store. At the time I worked there about 5 years ago it was widely believed that rusty tools could be returned, and rust was even used as the most common example of when you could return tools.

    By the way, if anyone is interested, whenever we called the store we would say “This is xxx from sears national customer relations calling with a golden opportunity, can I please speak with the manager of the xxx department?” Then the customer and the manager would argue about whatever while we listened and mediated if necessary. That’s how it works. Use the knowledge only for good!