Tool Maintenance Tips: Protect Your Equipment

Whether you’re a do it yourselfer or professional contractor and whether you have an arsenal of cordless power tools or prefer electric or gas, there are several things you can do to get the most out of your hard-earned investments and make them last as long as possible.

The biggest mistake you can make that will shorten the life of your tools is to neglect them. Maintaining them properly is essential to a good long life.

While most do come with a warranty, it usually becomes void if the manufacturer thinks any problems are due to neglect. A little maintenance doesn’t take long, and it goes a long way.

Keep Tools Clean

This seems like obvious advice, but many of us still don’t follow it, and it’s especially easy to overlook if you’re in a rush to move on the next job or next part of any job. Debris and dust collecting around small parts can shorten their lifespan.

Make sure to pay special attention to air vents and casings, as any dirt or dust around these parts can easily make their way inside and gum up the mechanical and electrical parts.

The heat from the tool can cause this debris to harden, which can cause deterioration and unnecessary wear.

The easiest way to keep your tools clean on a regular basis is to wipe them down with a microfiber cloth after each use. Occasionally (depending on how often they’re used and how dirty they are), you can use a small brush to clean out the air vents as well.

You can use a damp cloth for the housing, but make sure you don’t get any moisture inside. If there are stains accumulated, you can also use rubbing alcohol to rub them away.

If you’re cleaning something with moving parts like a drill press, make sure to lubricate them after cleaning. Chucks should be greased as well to keep them opening and closing properly.

Most user manuals will let you know what type of lubricant works best and is recommended by the manufacturer.

Look for Signs of Wear

When cleaning your tools, check closely that there are no exposed or frayed wires, as these can cause an electrical hazard. If you do see any worn wires, make sure to have them repaired prior to using the tools again.

If you’re having trouble starting your power tools, there are some things to look for to solve the problem. If you need to give the cord a few extra pulls or it takes a little push to get the blade to spin, don’t keep trying.

Instead, take the time to do some cleaning and lubrication. Check to see that a belt doesn’t need to be replaced, and check that all the fittings are sound. If you can’t figure it out, it’s best to have a professional look at it before the problem gets worse.

Sometimes power tools will get a crack in their housing, and this is important to address. If it’s more than a hairline crack, get it repaired before it develops into a safety hazard.

Check for Signs of Rust or Corrosion

If there’s a lot of it evident, it’s probably not safe to use the tool. Usually, you can remove any rust yourself using an over the counter product meant for that purpose, but if it’s really bad you may need to replace parts or replace the tool altogether.

If you use wedges or chisels, over time striking them repeatedly can cause the head to mushroom out. If these tools become malformed, their heads can shatter upon impact from a hammer.

To keep this from happening, keep those tools sharp. Sharpening them up whenever you notice the metal start to get misshapen can prevent a dangerous accident.

If they already have the mushroom effect, remove that with a grinder, being sure to use safety glasses while doing so.

If you’re using hand tools, check that the handles aren’t splintered and that there are no cracks and they are not loose. If a tool has a cracked wooden handle, it can easily break apart in your hands the next time you use it.

If it’s a minor splinter or crack, you may be able to fix it. For splinters, just sand the wood in one direction, and then go over it again in the opposite direction. Finish it off with a coating of oil. If the crack is bad, it’s better to get it replaced.

Care of Batteries

How you handle the batteries of cordless tools can certainly have an impact on their lifespan. The first thing to remember is to always keep the batteries charged.

Older batteries used to last longer if you let them run all the way down first, but newer technology makes that practice obsolete.
After the battery is charged, take it off the charger, and try not to let it sit too long before using it again. Batteries last longer when they have regular use.

Never run the battery down all the way. Today’s cordless batteries perform best and last longer if you don’t run them below 50% of their charge.

One more thing to be aware of is how hot the battery is getting. It’s important that it doesn’t overheat. If you’re working and you feel it getting hot, stop for a while and give it some time to cool down before starting up again.

Speaking of heat, don’t leave your batteries in your vehicle if it’s particularly hot or cold outside. Subzero temperatures and heat above 140 degrees Fahrenheit can reduce battery life dramatically.

Keep in mind a battery sitting in the sun can also get very hot, so keep them in a shaded area if you’re working outside.

Lastly, make sure to keep the battery dry as moisture can make them have a much shorter life.

Storing Your Power Tools

How you store your tools is just as important as keeping them clean. Make sure you keep them in a place where there isn’t dirt collecting so you can keep them clean. It’s best to store them above ground level to avoid dust accumulation.

Storing them in a cool dry place is also important, as moisture can be a killer in this instance. Dampness causes tools to rust, which means you’ll have to replace them much more often.

Moisture can also cause a short circuit, meaning the tools will no longer be usable.

While keeping them cool rather than hot is important, never keep them in a place that gets below freezing. If you live in a colder climate, make sure you store them in a heated garage or shed or inside the house or basement.

Following these few simple tips will save you a lot of hassle and money in the long run. High-quality tools are an investment, and ones you want to protect.

With a little care, your tools will last a long time. By keeping them dry, maintained and clean, your hand tools, gardening tools, and power tools will last for years to come.