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Five Essential Hand and Power Tools

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For Frank Romano, it’s simple: If it allows you to do a job faster—while still maintaining that premium quality you’ve promised your customers—then you need it in your shop.

“Time is money, and everybody in this shop is flat-rate, so it makes a huge impact on that,” says Romano, a technician at Overkill Custom Inc. in Sparta, Ill.

And when it comes to the plethora of hand and power tools on the market, the possibilities are seemingly endless. The amount of ratchets, polishers, belt sanders and spray guns that are readily available in the marketplace is both daunting and—at least for the three shops featured in this story—a welcome opportunity to find that one tool that could end up making a gigantic difference at your shop.

FenderBender spoke with three industry professionals that work at shops that have made tool investments an imperative part of growth—crafting a tool-and-training budget each year and receiving feedback from technicians for all tool-purchasing decisions—and asked them one question: What hand and power tools have made the biggest differences in your shops over the past 12 months?

Here are the results:


Milwaukee M12 Cordless Ratchet

MILWAUKEE M12 CORDLESS RATCHET

COST: Starting at $160

USES: Fastening and unfastening in tight spaces and engine bays.

TRAINING: No training required

HOW IT WORKS: Romano says nobody on the repair floor is without the cordless quarter-inch ratchet from Milwaukee.
The ratchet is equipped with a 12-volt motor to produce 30 pounds of torque and 250 rotations per minute. It comes with a variable speed metal trigger and reinforced steel housing, which provides Guerra and his co-workers control and durability during application.

ROI: Efficiency has been the biggest gain, Romano says. Technicians can now take care of hard-to-reach areas quickly and with ease. Being cordless and small, it is also very easy to transport.
"Dollar-for-dollar, availability, reliability-the tool is just top-notch in my book," he says.


Ingersoll Rand Hammerhead

INGERSOLL RAND HAMMERHEAD

COST: Starting at $250.

USES: A cordless wrench that doubles as an air gun and an air ratchet.

TRAINING: No training required.

HOW IT WORKS: Romano recommends the Hammerhead, which allows Overkill’s techs to remove exhaust manifold bolts and transmission bell housing bolts, and tighten the covers on a front axle differential

ROI: Romano says, compared to other tools like it on the market, the Hammerhead is a bargain for the improved efficiency it’s provided for the shop. Plus, it’s small and easy to transport.
“We’re taking off bumpers and suspensions pretty quickly. You only need to use [the Hammerhead] for a few seconds at a time,” he says.


3M File Belt Sander

3M FILE BELT SANDER

COST: Starting at $450

USES: Performs a variety of metalworking applications, such as cleaning up around welds, removing seam sealer, and grinding out rivets.

TRAINING: No training required.

HOW IT WORKS: The handheld sander comes as a kit with several belts. It also comes with an arm extension that protrudes from the handle, enabling technicians like Ro Guerra of Johnson’s Car Sales and Body Shop in Grand Rapids, Mich., to turn and rotate the abrasive belt up to 360 degrees to “blend hard-to-reach areas.”

ROI: Guerra says the belt sander has been a serious timesaver in the shop and has improved efficiency. Whereas several spot welds would have taken a couple hours before, it now takes one technician an average of 30–45 minutes. Performing spot welds versus the “old style drilling method,” as Guerra puts it, has allowed techs to get through jobs quickly without sacrificing quality.
“It easily paid for itself within the first couple jobs,” he says. “It’s around $450 for the tool, versus the old spot weld drill that we had to buy for $60 a piece.”
“You can rotate the angle of it, too,” Guerra adds. “So if you need it at more of an angle or a little straighter, it takes about two seconds to grab an Allen wrench and fix the whole head.”


3M Electric Variable Speed Polisher

3M ELECTRIC VARIABLE SPEED POLISHER

COST: Starting at $275.

USES: Buffing and polishing.

TRAINING: “It’s just getting used to using the system,” Guerra says. “You just follow the procedure on the back of the bottle. It’s like grabbing a box of Hamburger Helper—read the directions and you can’t fail.”

HOW IT WORKS: The three-step buffing “system” Guerra is referring to consists of three bottles—rubbing compound, machine polish and ultrafine machine polish—that pair with foam and wool pads for the polishing process.

ROI: The shop’s new buffer has helped improve productivity and, while more time consuming, is much easier to use than the shop’s old system and produces a better finish, Guerra says.
“We have added an extra step in to what we used to do, but the job quality is amazing,” he says. “So even if it has cost us a little extra, it’s been well worth it.”


DeWalt DW292 13MM Heavy Duty Impact Wrench

DEWALT DW292 13MM HEAVY DUTY IMPACT WRENCH

COST: Starting at $200.

USES: Fastening and unfastening bolts and nuts.

TRAINING: No training required.

HOW IT WORKS: The DeWalt impact wrench, operated by an AC/DC rocker switch, delivers enough torque to make the technicians more efficient at Oka’s Auto Body in Waipahu, Hawaii, when fastening and unfastening on vehicles. The tool is battery powered and does not require cords.

ROI: As soon as one technician started using the tool, everybody in the shop had one for disassembling vehicles, says Kyle Okahara, vice president of Oka’s.
“We’ve moved towards using electric over the past few years, and this has made the biggest difference,” Okahara says of the tool. “It’s a little less clumsy and a little more compact.”
With no air hoses in their way, technicians don’t have to hook up and disconnect and then move to the other side of the car.
“[The technicians] are just more efficient, and their work has been neater,” Okahara says. “It makes their work a little easier, more organized—rather than having multiple air tools with an air hose running to the car, now they have one tool with different attachments.”

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