How to make your power tools last

Today's electric drills, circular saws, sanders and other power tools have more features and power than the ones your dad had — but if you want them to last as long as his, pay attention to proper use and maintenance.

How to make your power tools last

Basic power-tool upkeep

  • If you don't want to find yourself replacing power tools, do regular maintenance such as dusting tools off with a paintbrush after each use, and occasionally running a shop vacuum over the vents.
  • Most importantly, keep the owner's manual.
  • When something breaks, you can order the part and fix it. It's simple to install new brushes or a new trigger, and cheaper than replacing the whole thing.

Know your tool's limits

Do not use a rechargeable drill or saw to perform tasks that require high torque (turning power) — you'll shorten the life of the tool. Corded tools are better suited to such tasks. Other tips:

  • Avoid extremely cold or hot storage conditions
  • Recharge an unused battery every two months
  • Let the battery cool before recharging
  • Never use a cordless tool near an open flame or pilot light or even sparks. Batteries produce highly explosive hydrogen gas.

Keep that edge

  • Keep cutting edges on drill bits and saw blades sharp.
  • This will keep them from binding, avoid motor strain and lengthen the life of your tools. It will also make the tools safer to use, and they'll produce better results.

Avoid solvents for cleaning

  • Don't use solvents on power tools; they can damage the plastic housings used on most tools today. Similarly, keep tools from contact with brake fluid, gasoline and penetrating oils.
  • They can damage and weaken plastic parts, too.
  • Use a mild detergent to remove grease; otherwise, wipe them clean with a dampened rag.

Watch for motor sparks

  • Many good-quality electric power tools have replaceable carbon motor brushes.
  • Excessive sparking may mean the brushes are worn out and need replacement.
  • Check brush thickness periodically, and replace brushes when they get down to six millimetres (1/4 inch) or the thickness recommended in your manual.
  • The brushes are spring-loaded, so take care when removing them.

Maintain compressors

  • If your unit is oil-lubricated, change the oil at the intervals recommended in your manual.
  • Although the oil will not look dirty, as it does in your car, it still should be changed. Change oil filters and air filters as recommended.
  • Drain condensation from the air storage tank after each use.
  • There is usually a petcock located at the lowest part of the tank that releases the air in the tank, along with moisture contained in the air.
  • If you don't drain the tank, it will rust from the inside and eventually begin to leak air.

Protect circular blades

  • The best way to keep those expensive circular saw blades sharp is to store them carefully.
  • Sandwich them with cardboard, and put them in a drawer.
  • Resins from wood will build up on your saw blades, causing them to perform poorly and overheat.
  • Extend the life of circular saw blades and table saw blades by removing gum and resins with pitch-and-gum remover.
  • Soaking blades in turpentine and then rubbing them with steel wool once the gum has softened will work, too.

Check for recalls

  • Check the Canadian Standards Association regularly for recalls.
  • Most recalls happen while the tool is relatively new, when you're more likely to take up the offending company on its cost-free offer to repair or replace the tool.
  • You can also check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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