Before the introduction of powerful long-life batteries, cordless tools did not hold much appeal for technicians in the automotive repair shop environment. Being heavy, they caused user fatigue, and often ran out of “juice” before technicians could complete their task.
Working with electric corded tools, however, can leave you open to many risks. Being linked to the power source, you not only run the risk of tripping over the cord, it is highly likely that it might get caught on the many things around the shop or, you accidentally cut the cord when your focus is on the job rather than the tool you are using. Worst of all, there is the likelihood of getting an electric shock if the tool is still plugged in and switched on.
Today, thanks to advancements in technology, manufacturers have developed a wide variety of ergonomically designed cordless tools such as impact wrenches, drills with right angle attachments for tight spots, impact guns, drill drivers and torque multipliers that are useful for tackling most needs.
These cordless tools are popular with automotive technicians because they offer power, autonomy and flexibility. They come with ergonomic handles and strategically placed switches that make them comfortable and easy to use.
Cordless impacts come in several variations for various needs, speeds and torque valves for maximum user control. Ergonomic ratchets for the automotive service industry give the user maximum power, speed and durability. Their forward-located centers of gravity are designed for better balance and user comfort.
Some manufacturers make their tool casings and components from glass-filled nylon, which keeps them lightweight, strong and resistant to corrosion when exposed to automotive fluids. They feature one-hand levers for easy transition between jobs; have built-in LED work lights that make for better visibility when working under the hood and feature anti-mar bumpers to protect tools and vehicles.
When powered by lithium-ion rechargeable or interchangeable batteries, modern cordless tools are lightweight and powerful. These batteries offer the best energy densities and slow loss of charge. Some batteries feature an integrated fuel gauge that makes checking charge status quick and easy.
The battery’s charger is also an aspect of your purchase. Look for a smart-charging system that communicates with the battery during the charging process. These chargers monitor current, voltage and temperature, helping optimize battery life and deliver a faster charge.
Don’t forget to safeguard your tools and batteries with protective boots. These inexpensive accessories can guard against damage from chemicals and accidental drops.
“For jobs that require speed and access to tight areas, a technician usually turns to his cordless tools,” said Mike Bailey, owner of Car Doctor, Oklahoma City, OK. For example, when it comes to removing screws in door panels, loosening and tightening fasteners, lug nuts and bolts, drilling out broken studs and bolts or mounting new ones, light, ergonomically designed cordless tools help technicians do their job easily and quickly.
Brian Bowersock, owner of West Automotive Group, an umbrella group of three shops in San Diego, CA, agrees with Bailey. “Modern cordless tools have helped technicians become more mobile and, in turn, more efficient and able to complete jobs in a timely manner,” he said.
Bailey and Bowersock both said their technicians have access to cordless 3/8” and 1/4” drive ratchets. In addition, at West Automotive Group each technician also owns a 3/8” drive impact gun as well as a 1/2” drive.
Bailey said he chooses cordless tools because “they are quieter, lightweight and relatively small.” He said he enjoys the “options for tool speeds and better power control.”
While Bowersock emphasizes the value of performance and durability, Bailey suggests taking note of important features such as the weight of the tool, extra battery and charger cost, warranty support and the offer of loaner tools when needed. Talk to your mobile tool distributor about these options.
In the cordless tool category, as in many other tool categories, competition drives innovation. Tool manufacturers are now touting the fact their new cordless power tools combine the power and performance of air tools with the mobility of cordless tools. As a result, they say these new tools offer more power and torque together with mobility, durability, ruggedness and resistance to automotive chemicals. Over and above, they are comfortable and easy to use.
Bowersock’s technicians unanimously agreed that techs should purchase their own cordless tools and be responsible for keeping them in working order with batteries charged.
In whatever manner a shop’s owner or technicians choose to handle the ownership of their tools, it is no doubt that cordless tools are extremely useful around the shop. You may want to shop around to locate ones that have the features you prize the most — be it comfort, mobility, warranty, weight or price.