Don’t leave home without them
By Sam Brown, Master Samurai Tech/Appliantology.org
If you’re getting into appliance repair, or even just looking to downsize an overstuffed tool bag, you might be wondering: What are the absolute essentials that you should bring with you on any service call?
Well, having my fair share of experience in the field, I’ll put forward my list of must-have appliance repair tools. Note that this isn’t supposed to be a totally comprehensive list, just the bare essentials.
Multimeter with a Loading/LoZ Function
If there’s a tool that defines our job as techs, it’s the digital multimeter. Can’t do much real troubleshooting without it!
There are lots of meters out there, but the kind you want to get is a multimeter that has at least VAC, DC, Ohms and most importantly, LoZ settings. The LoZ (low impedance) setting puts a load on the circuit while doing a voltage measurement, preventing you from getting faked out by ghost voltage or open neutrals.
I’ve always had good experiences with Fluke meters, so that’s what I would recommend. Specifically, I have the Fluke 116, which also has a handy temperature measurement setting using a thermocouple.
Amp measurements are one of the most powerful troubleshooting tools you have, and a clamp-on ammeter is the way to go for these. For those who are unfamiliar, the clamp goes around (not on!) the wire where you want to measure the current. The meter then measures the electromagnetic field surrounding that wire and reports the amperage.
For this one, I have the most experience with a Fluke 323 ammeter, and it’s served me very well.
Illumination is critical in appliance repair – you can’t fix what you can’t see. I opt for one of these powerful, rechargeable Princeton Tec headlamps. I’ll admit they’re not the most fashionable, unless you’re going for coal miner chic, so I won’t blame you if you opt for a more understated design. Regardless, you want something reliable, rechargeable and bright.
Driver and Bit Set
A trusty ratcheting driver will already save you lots of time and hand-cramping. But if you’re really looking to really save your hands (and lots of time), a battery-powered driver is the way to go. I’ve had a great experience with this one from Bosch.
You’ll want to have a good selection of bits on hand, too: Phillips, flatheads, square drive and Torx, all in various sizes. If you need even more bits, lots of tool manufacturers put out boxes full of all varieties.
You might not expect a stiff putty knife like this one to be an essential tool for appliance repair, but it has multiple uses. Many disassemblies require the release of hidden clips that are only accessible through a narrow crack, so without a stiff putty knife you’d be stuck.
Disassembling and performing repairs on appliances is all about maneuvering cramped spaces, and needle-noses are perfect for that. When you need to disconnect a wire through a narrow hole, you’ll be glad to have a pair of these.
You can’t use any of these tools very well without your hands, can you? That’s why you should always keep a pair of gloves around. I prefer thin, nitrile-coated gloves; they strike the balance between providing some protection from sharp edges while still allowing you to “see” with your hands when feeling around blindly.
Magnetic Fastener Tray
One of the biggest barriers to reassembly after a repair is keeping track of all the fasteners you had to undo. A magnetic tray like this is perfect for keeping track of your screws and organizing them into groups so it’s easier to remember what goes where. And they’re cheap, so there’s no reason not to get one!
I’m cheating a bit here by lumping a set of tools together, but they’re all important. Splicing or re-terminating wires is frequently required, such as when replacing oven ignitors. The tools you need for this are:
- Wire strippers
- Terminal crimpers
- Wire terminals set
- Wire nuts set
Our last tool is one most folks already have. Your phone’s camera is your best friend when replacing control boards. Worried about plugging all the connectors into the right place when you put the new board in? Just take a picture of the old board before you disconnect anything and reference it afterward.
Your smartphone can also be your service manual/tech sheet reader in a pinch. A tablet is better, but if a phone is all you have, then make sure to load all your docs onto it so you can use them for troubleshooting and referencing on the job.
As you can see, you don’t need to break the bank to get the essentials for appliance repair. The multimeter is going to be your biggest investment, and it’s certainly worth dropping the cash to get a reliable one.
Hope this quick breakdown of the essential tools for appliance repair was helpful!
Sam Brown is “Professor of Appliance Repair Mastery” at BrandSource partner MasterSamuraiTech.com (MST), an online training academy for appliance repair personnel, and is the administrator of its sister tech support site, www.Appliantology.org. For more information, email Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (603) 290-5516.