Pulling the Plug

Dec. 1, 2002
After 27 years in the rental business, Ron Cecere can often sniff out trouble before returning his electric power tools to the storage racks. It's distinctive,

After 27 years in the rental business, Ron Cecere can often sniff out trouble before returning his electric power tools to the storage racks.

“It's distinctive, that burnt electrical smell when motor brushes are shot,” he says. “Many problems aren't obvious, but over time you learn what to check. And if I'm not comfortable using a tool myself, I'm not going to rent it out.”

At Seaman's Hardware in East Pembroke, N.Y., established 1875, Cecere manages a full range of rental equipment. No power tool is too small to stock — even the 3/8-inch electric drills often sought by retirees from Florida.

Like rental managers everywhere, he routinely gauges a customer's expertise with power tools. When asked, he supplies expert advice. Even unprompted, he provides safety warnings to protect the renter and tips on proper use to protect his inventory.

Sometimes preventive maintenance takes place just before the customer walks out the door. The simple question, “What are you plugging this thing into?” can help a shop manager avoid a motor repair later by determining upfront if the customer's power source is capable of running the tool.

Many times, customers don't heed advice or don't take proper care or think they're helping when they “wash the tool” before returning it, fouling up the inside with water. That's when rental managers must decide whether to make repairs themselves or seek other options.

Fortunately, basic repairs on most small electric power tools are relatively simple. “Most problems involve either brushes or switches,” reports Dave Bresin, central operations manager for DeWalt Factory Service. “Unfortunately, by the time you smell brush problems it's too late — the problem has likely gone beyond just replacing the brushes.”

That's why routine maintenance is important. Gaining access to motors once was difficult, usually requiring disassembling the tool housing. Recent designs, though, have provided access panels that simplify replacement, making maintenance checks a literal snap.

No matter how simple, however, any repair costs precious time. To save money and keep customers happy, savvy rental managers can take advantage of repair and maintenance specials offered by manufacturers. Some deals are timed to the season. For instance, mid-winter tune-ups on hardworking hammer drills occur most often just before the spring swarm of pest-control calls. Other offers are ongoing, with some manufacturers providing maintenance programs or guaranteed price caps to make regular repairs more affordable and more predictable than tool replacements.

Routine overhauls, says Bresin, often involve tasks within the scope of any competent repair shop, such as O-ring replacements and lubrication. But he offers caution on larger repairs.

“A lot of rental dealers can and do fix their own equipment,” he says. “But when it involves more complex tools, like rotary hammers, it may be better to send them out. I've seen people screw up a $500 tool faster than they can repair it.” Factory-owned repair outlets, he adds, also offer additional services such as sophisticated safety checks for electric current leakage and proper grounding. Conventional Ohm meters are far less accurate than factory-center instruments able to deliver test loads as high as 2,500 volts, he warns.

For rental dealers who do handle repairs themselves, one tool that can be useful in itself is the Internet, which offers access to streamlined parts ordering and tracking. Some manufacturers not only offer on-line ordering but also technical advice. One example, in designing the DeWalt Web site, dewaltservicenet.com, Bresin says the product support team developed wiring schematics, artwork diagrams, and streaming video clips, outlining step-by-step repair procedures.

Keeping rental tools in excellent condition will help keep customers pleased with reliable equipment. Repairing a power tool that's seen better days may not be the best option, however. Many rental shops say small electrical tools are now so affordable that it may cost more for the parts and labor to fix them compared to buying a replacement — except if the repair comes back from a service center fully reconditioned with a warranty, which could make it worth holding onto a while longer.

Information for this story provided by DeWalt, Baltimore.

Maintenance Tips

  1. Blow out dust and dirt with an air hose.
  2. Check the cord for nicks and cuts.
  3. Check for double-insulated tools that are returned from customers with three-wire connectors or for a missing grounding prong if a tool does require a three-wire plug.
  4. Consider using traditional slowdown periods for routine maintenance overhauls.
  5. Check for electrical shorts inside the tool.
  6. Check for leakage of electric current.
  7. Check amperage output to ensure tool is performing up to specification.
  8. Check and replace worn brushes.
  9. Check that proper guards are in place if needed to protect from saw blades or grinding wheels.
  10. Make sure bits fit properly on tools such as rotary hammers.
  11. Make sure blades fit securely in blade holder on tools such as jig saws and reciprocating saws.

Ridge Tool

Ridge Tool has introduced its new generation of the Model 535 threading machine. It has a 75 percent larger oil reservoir and a 100 percent larger chip tray to allow longer, uninterrupted threading. Other upgrades include a high-clearance carriage for increased workpiece maneuverability and a larger top cover that provides extra room to keep tools and materials handy. The product threads carbon, galvanized and stainless steel pipe, PVC, conduit, rod and bolt.
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The AD626 angle drill provides several advanced features including Metabo's exclusive S-automatic safety clutch to protect against dangerous kickback in the event of a bit jam and auto-stop carbon brushes. It also offers double insulation, eliminating the risk of electric shock by creating a barrier between the operator and drill as well as a winding protection grid to deflect harmful debris away from armature windings, increasing motor life up to 5 times. With Metabo's variospeed full-wave electronic speed control, the user can vary the AD626's speed infinitely from the lowest speed value to the maximum. Speed also reduces as the load increases and the lower the selected speed, the quicker the drill will come to a stop.
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The model 6337DWDE cordless driver-drill from Makita features a two-piece D-31 motor for serviceability. It has an all-metal gear transmission. The shift lock drive instantly changes from drill to driver.
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The Brute breaker hammer has a 15-amp motor and shock mounted handles that absorb vibration to reduce operator fatigue. The two-way insert retainer accepts standard 1 1/8-inch hex, air tool steel with retaining collar or Bosch internal locking combo steel. The ribbed barrel provides added strength. The grease-packed gearbox and hammer mechanism eliminates uncertainty of jobsite lubrication.
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The FDV16VB hammer drill from Hitachi has a low noise cooling airflow design that ensures it won't overheat even on the most vigorous of jobs. It contains ball and needle bearings for ultimate durability. The tool is double insulated for safety and endurance meaning two physically separated insulation systems have been used to insulate the electrically conductive materials connected to the power supply from the outer frame handled by the operator. Bit changes are made quick and easy with a keyless chuck.
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The DD 130 diamond coring system from Hilti can handle an extensive range of wet and dry applications. The DD 130 cores holes up to 6 inches in masonry and reinforced concrete quickly and neatly. With its flexible design, innovative quick-switch technology and reliable power, the tool aids construction professionals, renovation teams or residential contractors.
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DeWalt's new DW827 high-powered 6-inch grinder has a dual rated 10-amp AC, 8-amp DC motor that runs at 9,000 rpm and produces 1,300 maximum-watts-out for tough metal cutting and grinding applications. The tool's metal gear case dissipates heat for longer bearing, gear and motor life. The motor's ball and roller bearings add durability, while a sealed switch prevents dust penetration. The slide switch makes the grinder more comfortable to use during extended use applications.
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Milwaukee Electric

Milwaukee Electric Tool introduces the new 5-pack 18-volt cordless combination kit, featuring the new cordless sawzall, the Hatchet and the job site radio. The kit also includes the 6 1/2-inch circular saw (model 6310-20), 1/2-inch T-handle driver/drill (model 0522-20) and professional work light. It comes standard with a soft-sided contractor bag featuring a sawzall blade pouch, a circular saw blade pouch for convenient blade storage, area for the Hatchet, circular saw, driver/drill, work light, charger and extra battery and pockets for other jobsite accessories. The Hatchet is the only cordless reciprocating saw with orbital action, which lets it cut through wood.
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Lincoln Electric

Lincoln Electric has added two new push-pull wire-feeding guns to its extensive product line — the CobraMax, a gooseneck torch with ergonomic design and the Python, a gooseneck torch for new and experienced operators. These guns offer feeding to virtually eliminate friction in the line for smooth feeding and minimized damage to the wire. Each gun can handle both steel and aluminum wire from .030 to 1/16 of an inch.
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