Being a mechanic means getting dirty, whether you’re working on a motorcycle, a car, a semi or a piece of farm equipment. This makes coveralls an excellent alternative to standard work clothes.
Coveralls offer nearly complete coverage, and they’re available in versions to cope with all types of weather. Do you need work clothing with high visibility or fire resistance? There are coveralls out there that fit your needs. How can you find the right pair for you? Here’s what you should look for when buying your next pair of mechanic coveralls.
What Type of Coverall Fabric is Best for Mechanics?
While synthetic materials are common for general purpose coveralls, most mechanic’s coveralls are made from cotton. Polyester and other oil-based fabrics have a chemical structure similar to petroleum, which means they bond easily to petroleum products.
If you get oil or grease on these fabrics, the stains are usually permanent. Flammability is also a risk: brush against a catalytic converter or get to close to a torch, and polyester will melt. That said, there are some blends of polyester and nylon that are formulated to be fire resistant.
Thick material lasts longer, but thin coveralls are more comfortable on hot days. There are many types of lightweight coveralls designed to let your body breathe a little bit in a hot garage (breathable long sleeve coveralls). If you work outside, look for coveralls with a waterproof shell to keep your liner from being soaked in rain and snow.
For outdoor winter work, insulated duck coveralls that use a heavyweight cotton canvas fabric might be your best option to provide the warmth and toughness you need. Some types of coveralls will also come with a built in hood – to read more visit our article about the best hooded insulated coveralls.
Here’s a look at the insulated Dickies coveralls that I use:
Just beware, these insulated coveralls can be heavy. My size large weighs over 5 pounds:
If you prefer a stretch fabric, look for fabric blends that include spandex, Lycra or elastane. Blending this material into cotton or wool helps the textile stretch, improving maneuverability and comfort. Please understand that these types of fabrics are often not flame resistant.
Do You Need Fire Resistant Coveralls?
***Disclaimer – I do not know the demands of your job. Always check with workplace management and let them advise what type of safety clothing is best for your job. Some mechanic jobs will require extra protection.
Flame-Resistant (FR) clothing meets OSHA requirements for working in flammable environments. These regulations mainly focus on electric arcs and environments with ignitable vapors or particles.
Two common situations where you need FR clothing are welding and working with high voltage electricity. In environments that require FR clothing, usually only the outer layer needs FR-rated (there can be exceptions). Bulwark is a good brand to consider if you need safety coveralls.
It is important to understand that flame-resistant coveralls are not a shield. They won’t protect you from everything, but they help reduce risk in hazardous environments. If you need an FR outer layer, the clothing you wear underneath them should also be non-flammable to reduce the risk of burns.
Do You need High Visibility Coveralls?
If you work outside, or in a large facility filled with moving vehicles, high visibility coveralls are a must-have. ANSI recently released a new standard, ANSI/ISEA 107-2020, for high visibility clothing. The requirements of your job may be unique, so always allow management to advise you what type of hi-vis clothing is best.
Most high visibility coveralls are either Type O (off-road) for visibility in environments with moving vehicles, or Type R (roadway) for working on the sides of roads. Performance classes range from Class 1, which meets minimal visibility requirements, up to Class 3, which offers maximum visibility in all environments.
These classes are based on the total area covered by high visibility material. Since coveralls cover most of the body, high visibility versions are usually Class 2 or 3.
What Kinds of Closures Work Best for Coveralls?
Metal reinforcements and closures are good for durability, but they’re bad for paint jobs. A good set of coveralls should have covered buttons and closures, so you won’t scratch cars when you’re leaning over them. I personally like Red Kap coveralls because they prioritize scratch proof designs.
Beware of hook and loop fasteners. Although they are great for sealing pockets, they get dirty quickly when used on cuffs. Make sure zipper pulls are large enough to be used with work gloves. Snap closures don’t seal as well, but they’re easy to use, even if you’re wearing your gloves.
What Fit is Best for Mechanic Coveralls?
No one looks stylish in a pair of coveralls, but a good fit makes them easier to work in. If you get a pair of coveralls that are too baggy, you’ll constantly be catching the fabric on things while you’re working. Get a pair that are too tight, and they will compromise your mobility.
Mine have a loose fit, but not too baggy.
Quality coveralls have extra room around the chest, shoulders and thighs for improved mobility. The cut should be slimmer around the waist, ankles and wrists to reduce excess fabric.
Elastic waistbands and stretchy fabric allow movement without letting fabric get in the way. Back vents and gussets in the arm pits and crotch improve maneuverability.
If you struggle to find a good fit with coveralls, you also have the choice of just wearing mechanic shirts and mechanic pants and ditching the coveralls altogether. To read more, visit our article about coveralls vs work clothes.
Other Features To Consider in Mechanic Coveralls
Large pockets make it easy to carry around commonly used tools and flashlights. These should be sealable to prevent these items from falling out when you crawl under or lean over vehicles.
It’s easy to clip flashlights and pocket screwdrivers onto button flap chest pockets. Although zipper pockets give you a place to safely secure essentials, remember those zippers can scratch paint jobs.
Pass-through pockets let you reach through the coveralls to reach the pockets in your pants. That way, you don’t need to unzip the front of your coveralls to reach your keys and wallet. Coveralls with zipper legs make it easier to slide them on and off over boots.
Some coveralls have pockets for knee pads, which are a love-it-or-hate-it design feature. If they fit right, they make it easy to kneel comfortably. However, they can get in the way when you’re standing or lying down, and just like work pants with knee pad pockets, sometimes the pockets won’t line up with your knees.
Unfortunately, most workwear today is imported. If you prefer coveralls made in America, visit our article about the best coveralls made in the USA.
How Can You Make Sure Coveralls Last?
While it’s easy to blame poor quality on tearing and other failures, premature wear is often caused by poor garment care. Your clothing’s care label will have detailed care instructions, but there are two things that apply to all coveralls:
– Chlorine bleach and fabric softeners can cause problems with fire retardant chemicals.
– Cotton shrinks over time, which can be a problem on a piece of clothing that covers most of your body. Line drying your coveralls shrinks them less than putting them in the dryer.
To read more about mechanic work attire, visit our article What Mechanics Wear on the Job. For jackets, visit our article about the best jackets for mechanics. For work shirts, visit our article about the best mechanic shirts.