8 Features to Avoid in Appliance Repair Hand Tools

Fred's Appliance Academy
August 24, 2020

Appliance repair is a task that requires many different tools. You’ll need at least three different types of drivers for cross, slot, and nut screws. You’ll need a variety of wrenches, both specialty wrenches, and standard sets. You will need both stubby tools and extenders for tight spaces. Not to mention your circuit tester and spare leads.

When choosing hand tools and power tools for the job, it’s important to know the right qualities to look for in a tool. We’ve talked about the importance of rubberized grips and magnetic tipped tools in the past. Today, let’s focus on the things you don’t want in your appliance repair toolkit. We’re not talking specific tools, but qualities that make a tool perform poorly in your hands, no matter what its other qualities may be. Here’s what to avoid in appliance repair hand tools: 

Loose Handle Connection

Before you put a tool in your kit, feel the handle. If it’s a screwdriver, sink the tip into a secured screw and twist. If the handle moves before the screw, that tool is bad news.  This means that when you really need it to loose a screw rusted in over a decade, the screwdriver will give before that screw. A loose handle takes away your precision and your force, wasting effort and putting your repair at risk of other failures.

Any tool in your kit with a loose handle should be removed and replaced. If you don’t want to toss the tool, consider having it repaired or recycled to turn the metal into something more useful. 

Soft or Poorly Coated Tool-Tips

There is nothing more frustrating than a driver with a soft tip. Sometimes you have to deal with old or soft screws stripping out from the force it takes to loosen them. But no technician should have to deal with their screwdriver stripping out first. If the tip of your screwdriver flakes and dulls when you try to use it, this tool is not strong enough for appliance repair work. Sometimes, softer screwdrivers can pass muster for carpentry, where the screws are sunk into softwood, but not for the screws that are machine-tightened into metal and plastic panels of appliances.

If you notice one of your tools stripping or flaking in use, discard it. The metal is too soft for work and would be better off recycled. 

Loose or Worn Chucks

In power tools like drills and drivers, the chuck is the pronged ring that tightens to hold a bit in place. That chuck needs to be absolutely tight in order to apply the torque from the tool’s motor. It doesn’t matter how powerful the motor is if the chuck is loose, because the bit won’t be gripped hard enough to force the spin.

Even worse is that a loose or worn chuck that has been tightened will continue to strip itself and become looser if tested. This tends to happen with older power tools and those of poor quality. Fortunately, a worn chuck can be replaced, and often, a loose chuck can be fixed or locked. However, if you have an ongoing problem with multiple chucks being loose, the fault may be in the power tool’s design.  This rule can also be applied to certain socket devices if the socket is too loose or unsteady to perform when the job is difficult or the bolt is tight. 

Poor Charge Duration

Another power tool tip; don’t truck with tools that have short charge durations. If you have to recharge your power-driver every half-hour, then it’s going to go dead in the middle of a job. If it shakes loose from its charger in the truck, it’ll be dead before you start. Some tools have a naturally short charge time, and all batteries shorten in charge duration as they get older.

Fortunately, most modern power tools have battery packs that will last a month with light use and days with constant use. So you shouldn’t have to compromise quality for the duration. 

Underpowered or Overpowered Tools

Watch out for powered tools that are not properly calibrated for the work you’ll be doing. Some tools can be recalibrated, some cannot. Underpowered tools that don’t have the torque you require will never be useful because they usually can’t be tuned up. If you discover a tool is underpowered at its highest or only setting, it will need to be removed from your kit.

Overpowered tools can be even worse, as they will strip out a screw in a single second if used incorrectly. An overpowered tool might have a lower setting that you can try but are dangerous to work with if the lowest setting involves too much speed or torque. 

Loose Ratchet

Ratcheting tools are essential for appliance repair, especially when you are working in tight spaces at awkward angles. But you need a strong ratchet. A loose ratchet is as bad as a soft-tipped screwdriver, sometimes worse. If you twist opposite your ratchet and feel the mechanism give way, you have no torque. No work can be done and your ratcheting tool becomes useless.

Test each ratcheting tool you plan to use on the job to make sure it has a secure ratchet in one direction and strong torque in the opposite direction. Also, check that the directional switch clicks firmly from one side to the other and does not shake loose. 

Uncentered Magnetic Tip

There are few things more frustrating than an uncentered magnetic tip on a tool. Magnetic tips are essential for lining up screws in recesses and at a reach. Anywhere that is not simple to place and twist, the magnet helps. However, what do you do if your screwdriver holds screws off to the side, not lined up in the slot?

An off-center magnetic tip will cause more dropped screws and curses under your breath than most other tool malfunctions because we tend to try and keep using them. Take our expert advice: remagnetize your screwdriver or toss it if that doesn’t work. A non-magnetic tip is better than an off-center magnetic tip any day. 

Poorly Wrapped Handles

Finally, we come to the most common problem in otherwise good appliance repair tools; poorly wrapped handles. Handles wrapped in loose vinyl sleeves handles where the varnish comes off on your gloves, and plastic handles that are chewed by dogs or shaken loose on the post are all problematic. Fortunately, this problem is easy to solve. If you otherwise love the tool, repair, replace, or re-wrap the handles to make them both grippy and secure.

—Having the right tools on an appliance repair job matters a great deal. A good toolkit can save you hours over the course of a day and the right tools can make every repair easier to perform. Contact us today to learn more about selecting the best tools for the job when getting started in your appliance repair career.

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