Proper Care: It's More Than Hot Air

Proper maintenance of any air tool is essential to ensure its efficiency, provide the safest working environment for the operator and keep repair costs to a minimum. The best program usually begins with a detailed initial inspection.

The operator should inspect the tool for any loose nuts, bolts or screws. If any are loose, they should be tightened before using the tool. Tool parts should also fit snugly with no cracks or broken pieces. If the tool has a whip hose, all bands and fittings should be free of cracks or excessive wear. There should be no air leaks in the tool, fittings or whip hose.

Developing an air tool maintenance program is also critical and can be done from a rental fleet perspective or from a contractor's standpoint.

If you rent tools out on a daily basis, your maintenance plan is heavily influenced by time. When a tool comes back off rent, you want to turn it around in the shortest time possible so that it's ready to be rented out again.

A few things to consider:

* Inspection - Inspect each tool closely after every rental for anything loose, cracked or damaged.

* Operations - If possible, run the tool for about 10 seconds. Ask the customer about the tool's performance.

* Flushing - Flushing will help remove accumulated dirt and buildup. While testing the tool, you should flush it out with a solvent by pouring about a capful into the inlet before running it. Be careful to direct the exhaust away from you, so the solvent will be blown through the tool without damaging anything in its way.

* Lubrication - Proper air tool lubrication is necessary to ensure the tool's long life. We often come across situations in the field where the wrong amount or type of oil is being used, or where no lubricator is in use at all, either in the "built-in" reservoir or line oiler. Even when a line oiler is in use, it can have the wrong setting or too much hose between it.

A "built-in oiler system" means the tool has a reservoir built inside it. These systems typically hold about 1 1/2 ounces, which gives the user about two to four hours of operating time before refilling. When operating this type of system, the user must check the reservoir about every two hours. In addition, you don't need to make adjustments as to how much oil is emitted into the tool when using this built-in system.

When you use a line oiler, the reservoirs are available in larger capacities, usually from 3 ounces to 1 fluid pint. The larger the capacity, the longer the operation time before refilling. Line oilers also come equipped with a metering screw inside the reservoir. This allows the user to adjust the oil flow from light to heavy mists.

When using a line oiler with a tool, install the oiler about 8 feet away from the tool. You can use a whip hose, normally sold in 8-foot lengths. Attach the oiler end to the air supply hose and the other end to the tool using standard hose fittings. Make sure you install the lubricator in the right direction for proper flow by checking the indicator arrow in the side of the lubricator.

It is also important to maintain a clear and dry air system that is regulated for proper pressure at the onset. This means proper pressure as it relates to the pressure at the tool while it is running. The best way to check for proper air pressure is by using a needle pressure gauge.

Oil types For percussion-type tools, such as chippers, rivet busters, clay diggers and tampers, I recommend fairly light oil such as a 10W or equivalent. When I say equivalent, you can also substitute a good grade of ATF fluid, or a 10W automotive-type oil that is light enough or has a low viscosity to make it easier to flow through a line oiler.

Some good air tool oil on the market generally have rust and oxidation inhibitors in their formulas to reduce the negative effects of moisture in the air line reaching the tool. This oil has a soluble property, which allows it to mix with water well while retaining its lubricity.

For smaller rocks drills in the 9- to 15-pound class, use regular 10W oil.

Rock drill oil, a thick oil with high lubricating properties, should be used only on heavier models. This type of oil mixes well in wet situations. If water is introduced, either through the air line or from the environment, the oil keeps its lubricating capability. It is designed to stick to the surface of the parts, as well as to be a rust and oxidation inhibitor.

If a tool does not perform well during this process, you should tear the tool down and inspect all internal parts for damage after going through a cleaning tank. You should replace any damaged parts and then oil all moving parts. Only then can you reassemble and test before putting the tool back on the rental line.

Following these steps will help maintain your rental fleet and assure the minimum turn-around time and maximum rental time during your busiest periods.o

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