Making your power tools last: maintaining cords, chargers and batteries

Buying the right power tools isn't all you need. You also have to take care of plugs, cords, chargers and batteries — and use them properly — to give your tools a longer life.

Making your power tools last: maintaining cords, chargers and batteries

Use the right extension cord

  • Use the appropriate gauge of extension cord when you need to use one with an electric power tool.
  • An undersized cord can cause loss of power, overheating and premature motor failure.
  • Owner's manuals specify the cord gauge to use with the tool in question according to its length.
  • Table saws rated for between 12 and 16 amperes, for example, require a 14-gauge extension cord at eight metres (25 feet) and a 12-gauge extension at 15 metres (50 feet).
  • When in doubt, use the next heavier gauge. But don't get confused: The smaller the gauge number, the heavier the cord.

Attach the chuck key to the power cord

  • Many of today's drills are keyless, but heavy-duty corded drills still require keys for opening and tightening the drill chuck.
  • Such tools are rendered useless if you can't find the key.
  • Upon purchasing such a drill, use the rubber key tie to attach the key to the cord.
  • If your model doesn't come with a tie, use cloth-type electrical tape to attach the key to the tool's cord.
  • Tape it close to the plug for ease of use and so it doesn't get in the way when you're operating the drill.
  • This also ensures that the cord is unplugged when you are changing bits.

Avoid using an extension cord with a charger

  • Plug a charger directly into a wall outlet instead of into an extension cord.
  • Not only will this help preserve the charger, it will reduce the risk of fire and personal injury.
  • If you must use an extension cord, it should be 16 gauge or large enough for the AC ampere rating of the charger.
  • Make sure the extension cord has the same number of pins as the plug on the charger and that the pins are the same size and shape.

Be careful where you place batteries

  • Do not place a rechargeable tool or its battery near heat or fire.
  • The battery could explode. Do not place a rechargeable battery near metal objects, such as coins or nails, which could cause the terminals to connect.
  • A shorted battery will be ruined at the very least; it can cause a fire at worst.

Give your batteries a cool-down

  • Batteries in cordless tools will become hot when the tool has been used continuously.
  • In such situations, prevent damage to your battery pack by letting it cool for at least 30 minutes before recharging it.

Pamper your cordless tool batteries

  • Prolong the life of your rechargeable batteries by storing and charging them at room temperature.
  • High or low temperatures will shorten battery life. Don't store batteries in a discharged state.
  • Always recharge them immediately. If tools are stored unused for long periods, recharge the batteries every month or two to prolong battery life.

Pull the plug properly

  • Unplug tools and chargers by pulling on the plug, not by yanking on the cord.
  • Doing this will lengthen the life of any electric tool or appliance.
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