Festool Systainer T-Loc storage review

I now have five Festool Systainer T-Loc containers, and plans to buy more.

A friend said, “It’s like a tool cabinet you can take apart and reconfigure!”. Personally, I beg to differ. To me, a tool cabinet has drawers for very easy in/out of a lot of tools. You can’t do that with Systainers; they’re boxes with hinged lids. You MUST take them apart to use them if they’ve got heavy items in them. Yes, you can spin the T-Loc to the position that allows hinging the lid open with other Systainers stacked on top, but if you’ve got 100 pounds of tools in Systainers above the one you want to open, good luck.

This is not to say I don’t love Systainers; I do. My point is that they’re best used differently than the manner in which a mechanic uses a tool cabinet. In fact a professional mechanic would find little use for a Systainer day-to-day, other than using them to store tools whose cases have been lost but which are best kept in cases (OBD tools, calipers, dial gauges, DMM, handheld oscilloscope, etc.).

Where Systainers excel… portability and efficiency of storage (if you choose sizes wisely). They’re great for replacing a variety of mistmatched and hard-to-manage blowmolded tool cases such as those that are included with the typical circular saws, drills, impact drivers, etc. from your local big-box store. There are some tools which will not fit into a Systainer, but when you can get 5 tools into Systainers that latch together, it’s a big win in my book.

When I buy Systainers, I try to buy the minimum size I need. It can easily be argued that for the price, it’s smarter to buy the larger units. However, doing so ignores the cost of wasted storage space. If I’m using a Systainer 5 to hold what would fit in a Systainer 1, I’m wasting a lot of storage space and presumably now have contents bouncing around inside the Systainer.

There are exceptions, of course. For me, the main exception is storage of consumables. It is often cheaper to buy consumables in bulk, and for some consumables, “too many” is a big number, more than what you’ll fit in a Systainer. My latest example would be using a Systainer 5 to hold my day-to-day microfiber detailing towels. Could I have used a Systainer 4? Yes, but there’s almost no such thing as “too many quality microfiber towels” if you like to keep your cars spiffy.

My latest Systainers comprise two stacks on mobile bases.

The first is comprised of a pair of Systainer 5 T-Locs on a mobile base for day-to-day detailing supplies. The lower Systainer 5 T-Loc holds all of my day-to-day chemicals (and then some), most of which are in 32 ounce spray bottles. The top container holds 4 stacks of microfiber towels: one stack for spray-on car wash, once stack for detailing spray, one stack for glass cleaning, and one stack for spritz sealant buffing. Since I only have towels in the upper container, I can easily move the T-Loc to the upward position and hinge the lower chemical container open without removing the upper towel container. Combined with my Luxor STC211 cart, this is great for day-to-day car cleaning.

The second mobile stack is for oil and filter changes on my cars. One Systainer 4 T-Loc holds 10W60 for the BMW, another Systainer 4 T-Loc holds 0W40 and 5W30 for the MINI, and a Systainer 5 holds oil and air filters for both cars. It’s probably worth noting that I probably wouldn’t have this stack if the 10W60 for the BMW was available at my local auto parts store. Unfortunately, the Castrol TWS 10W60 that it wants is only available at the BMW dealer, so I tend to keep at least one change (5.5 liters) on hand, plus some. I can fit 12 bottles of it in the Systainer 4 T-Loc, with a bottle or two of Techron fuel injector cleaner thrown in. The same is true of the Systainer 4 T-Loc for the MINI, the only difference is that it’s holding Mobil 1 instead of Castrol TWS, which is available locally. But even with local availability, it still turns out to be cheaper to buy oil by the case, and I change the oil in the MINI much more than the BMW since the MINI is my daily commuter (fuel efficient).

I really like the Systainer containers for these kinds of uses. They’re strong, they’re easy to label, and with the mobile base, they’re easy to move around many at a time even if they’ve got somewhat heavy contents. And of course I can separate them to load them into a vehicle or place them on shelves. For uses like storage of motor oil and filters which are used once every few months at most, I don’t really need a mobile base all of the time. I can keep the Systainers on shelves and a spare mobile base that can be used as needed.

Systainers are expensive. However, I have found them worth the price in several situations. I have plans for another stack for detailing tools and supplies, as well as some other items. I’ve had some of the original Systainers (before T-Loc) for many years, as well as some Sortainers. They all get a thumbs up from me. I’ll post some pictures of the new ones in the not-too-distant future.

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