Taking Stock in Your Toolbox

| December 03, 2001

Graduating to measuring tools
The heavy duty account managers at SPX go on to recommend a handful of more exotic tools you can use to avoid trouble even when on the road.

A multimeter for finding electrical trouble can be a lifesaver. An offering from SPX Service Solutions is the J-39200 Fluke 87. This meter, like many, will detect shorts in the wiring by reading voltage and current flow in the harnesses or individual wires. It can even be used to do more exotic checks like testing engine and ABS sensors or measuring frequency, as would apply when checking for proper performance of a DC-to-AC converter. Its gauge can retain minimum and maximum readings.

For the less electrically sophisticated, a simple test light like the SPX J-34142-B can immediately tell the user whether or not there is voltage at a connection. This particular model features a 48-inch lead. Make sure the lead on the lamp you buy is long enough.

An engine coolant/battery tester can be helpful in making sure coolant is adequately protected against freezing/boiling, and in making sure individual battery cells are functional. It measures the specific gravity, or density, of the liquids being tested. The SPX offering is the J-23688 F (Fahrenheit) scale.

The company also offers an electronic pH (acidity) tester. This will immediately tell the user whether or not the SCAs are protecting the cooling system, and whether or not further testing for SCA level and addition of SCAs are required. This tool is designated the J-41660 electronic pH tester.

SPX also offers a diesel fuel quality tester, great for finding whether or not an obvious engine problem (like smoking or poor fuel economy) may actually be the result of bad diesel fuel. The unit tests for the API (American Petroleum Institute) index and could end up helping you pick the best places to stop for fuel, or proving you have purchased a contaminated or defectively refined batch of fuel.

SPX also touts its PT-7147 infrared thermometer. The unit gives a digital reading of the temperature of any part when you simply point it at the part and pull its trigger. It has an LCD readout, and is even equipped with a small laser sighting light to help you point it at the correct part in limited light.

Such a unit could help you find a weak engine cylinder: You’d simply idle the engine and point it at each of the exhaust manifold runners. A misfiring or under-fueled cylinder will have a cooler exhaust runner. Pointing it at each wheel and tire after a long drive could help you uncover low tires or unequal braking. All the brake drums should be at about the same temperature. The cooler brakes aren’t doing their job. Tires, too, should be at similar temperatures. The warmer tires are underinflated or, perhaps, combined with an underinflated or mismatched dual.

An engine coolant/battery tester can measure coolant effectiveness and test individual battery cells.

Choosing quality, cost-effective tools
Buying tools is one of the cases where you “get what you pay for,” at least when you get truly inferior-quality merchandise. O’Hara provides a few thoughts on spending enough to get a good return on your investment.

First, make sure what you buy offers a lifetime warranty. This, says O’Hara, “is a must in eliminating at least the very worst products the market has to offer. It’s not a panacea, though, as many lower-quality products do offer a lifetime warranty. The tool user must look again at the cost of choosing that tool, and constantly going to your dealer for warranty replacement of an inferior, but lifetime-guaranteed product. This does add to the total cost of the tool over its life.” Especially if the tool were to break while you were stranded on the road and you needed a road call only because of a busted socket wrench!

It’s also wise to remember that tools that do not fit snugly and are not sufficiently hardened are much more likely to round off fasteners, thus sometimes failing at the difficult task of getting a rusted fastener to move. Once a bolt’s head is rounded off, removal becomes many times more difficult.

O’Hara says you should also look for a non-sharp-corner hex design on sockets and box wrenches. This sort of “wrenching configuration eliminates the sharp corners of the hex,” according to O’Hara, and actually “increases the turning strength of the tool, and reduces the chances of damaging the fastener.” In cases where the fastener has been partly rounded off, he believes the feature is particularly effective.

Taking Stock in Your Toolbox

| December 03, 2001

Graduating to measuring tools
The heavy duty account managers at SPX go on to recommend a handful of more exotic tools you can use to avoid trouble even when on the road.

A multimeter for finding electrical trouble can be a lifesaver. An offering from SPX Service Solutions is the J-39200 Fluke 87. This meter, like many, will detect shorts in the wiring by reading voltage and current flow in the harnesses or individual wires. It can even be used to do more exotic checks like testing engine and ABS sensors or measuring frequency, as would apply when checking for proper performance of a DC-to-AC converter. Its gauge can retain minimum and maximum readings.

For the less electrically sophisticated, a simple test light like the SPX J-34142-B can immediately tell the user whether or not there is voltage at a connection. This particular model features a 48-inch lead. Make sure the lead on the lamp you buy is long enough.

An engine coolant/battery tester can be helpful in making sure coolant is adequately protected against freezing/boiling, and in making sure individual battery cells are functional. It measures the specific gravity, or density, of the liquids being tested. The SPX offering is the J-23688 F (Fahrenheit) scale.

The company also offers an electronic pH (acidity) tester. This will immediately tell the user whether or not the SCAs are protecting the cooling system, and whether or not further testing for SCA level and addition of SCAs are required. This tool is designated the J-41660 electronic pH tester.

SPX also offers a diesel fuel quality tester, great for finding whether or not an obvious engine problem (like smoking or poor fuel economy) may actually be the result of bad diesel fuel. The unit tests for the API (American Petroleum Institute) index and could end up helping you pick the best places to stop for fuel, or proving you have purchased a contaminated or defectively refined batch of fuel.

SPX also touts its PT-7147 infrared thermometer. The unit gives a digital reading of the temperature of any part when you simply point it at the part and pull its trigger. It has an LCD readout, and is even equipped with a small laser sighting light to help you point it at the correct part in limited light.

Such a unit could help you find a weak engine cylinder: You’d simply idle the engine and point it at each of the exhaust manifold runners. A misfiring or under-fueled cylinder will have a cooler exhaust runner. Pointing it at each wheel and tire after a long drive could help you uncover low tires or unequal braking. All the brake drums should be at about the same temperature. The cooler brakes aren’t doing their job. Tires, too, should be at similar temperatures. The warmer tires are underinflated or, perhaps, combined with an underinflated or mismatched dual.

An engine coolant/battery tester can measure coolant effectiveness and test individual battery cells.

Choosing quality, cost-effective tools
Buying tools is one of the cases where you “get what you pay for,” at least when you get truly inferior-quality merchandise. O’Hara provides a few thoughts on spending enough to get a good return on your investment.

First, make sure what you buy offers a lifetime warranty. This, says O’Hara, “is a must in eliminating at least the very worst products the market has to offer. It’s not a panacea, though, as many lower-quality products do offer a lifetime warranty. The tool user must look again at the cost of choosing that tool, and constantly going to your dealer for warranty replacement of an inferior, but lifetime-guaranteed product. This does add to the total cost of the tool over its life.” Especially if the tool were to break while you were stranded on the road and you needed a road call only because of a busted socket wrench!

It’s also wise to remember that tools that do not fit snugly and are not sufficiently hardened are much more likely to round off fasteners, thus sometimes failing at the difficult task of getting a rusted fastener to move. Once a bolt’s head is rounded off, removal becomes many times more difficult.

O’Hara says you should also look for a non-sharp-corner hex design on sockets and box wrenches. This sort of “wrenching configuration eliminates the sharp corners of the hex,” according to O’Hara, and actually “increases the turning strength of the tool, and reduces the chances of damaging the fastener.” In cases where the fastener has been partly rounded off, he believes the feature is particularly effective.

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