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Pneumatic Air Tools Maintenance and Care

Air tools have made it possible for auto mechanics to finish more projects in a shorter amount of time, with less effort and more power. But with this power, comes a responsibility - maintenance.

By maintaining the air tools you depend on you are ensuring longer life expectancy, safety, and operational quality, all of which are necessary for any business.

So how do you guarantee that you’re maintaining your pneumatic tools properly? Follow the air tool maintenance guide and tips below, and keep your air tools working like new.

What Causes Air Tool Degradation

Water, specifically, condensation. There will almost always be some moisture in the air, and this moisture gets sucked through several different components of your pneumatic air tools. This causes both short-term malfunctions and long-term degradation.

Here are a few issues you may see from water in your air tools:

  • Frozen hose lines on cold days
  • Blocked air flow
  • Rust
  • Damaged seals and O-rings
  • Detrimental damage to various other components


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What else can damage your body shop air tools?

Compressed air may create condensation naturally due to the moisture in the air it sucks in, but it’s not the only thing these systems take in.

In other words, water shouldn’t be the only concern for your quality air tools. Here are a few others to keep in mind:

  • Dirt
  • Grit
  • Sawdust
  • Oil

These materials typically enter the lines, not just through the intake of air, but via the air hose and air hose couplers.

A weak coupler allows these contaminants to enter the hose as it is dragged across the shop floor, through oil, water, dirt, and everything else commonly on the floor in a busy body shop. These contaminants could damage your tools from the inside out, and you should clean them out regularly. Along with this, there are some other bits of consistent maintenance that you need to keep up with.

General Air Tool Maintenance

Ideally, your tools should be cleaned thoroughly after every use, but in a busy shop, where tools are used from one project to another all day, this may not be feasible.

To make sure that all of your tools are maintained properly, create:

  • A list of items that need to be cleaned and maintained
  • A schedule and checklist for daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance
  • Specifics that should be checked on each tool within those time frames

Checklists should include preventative maintenance such as (depending on the tools, always follow manufacturer specifications):

  • Lubrication (internal and external)
  • Oiling
  • Changing of filters
  • Checking for leaks in the airline
  • Checking and replace any damaged or worn out seals, gaskets, O-rings, couplers, etc.
  • Ensuring correct air pressure
  • Tightening fasteners
  • Draining receiver tanks
  • Cleaning the feed system
  • Checking for loose screws

Some pneumatic tools, such as paint spray guns, don’t require oil or any other moisture to continue working properly. While reciprocating tools: an air hammer, wrenches, body saw, etc. would benefit greatly from regular lubrication.

In fact, inadequate lubrication or low oil can lead to a lower output of power, poor performance, and even irreparable damage.

Other items on the list, such as tightening the fasteners, are required simply because of use. The wear of constant use, the vibration, and jerking, can cause vital pieces to loosen or shift. This can potentially be dangerous, but least of all, can cause a reduction in productivity.  

Cleaning Your Air Tools

Because cleaning is so vital to the longevity of your workshop equipment, you should keep a cleaning schedule. Most cordless tools, wrenches, hammers, and other items can simply be wiped done, oiled or lubricated.

Any tool with moving parts will likely need lubrication as well. For most stationary tools, adding an inline oiler at the tool inlet (there’s usually a reservoir there for you to drop oil into), is all you need to keep the tool operating smoothly.

Other power tools should be completely disassembled, and each piece cleaned individually with specified cleaners. There are cleaners designed for air tool maintenance, don’t just use any tool cleaner. The most important item to remember is to follow the manufacturer guidelines on cleaning your tools.

*As a general rule, if you can disassemble and reassemble a tool easily, you should do so for cleaning.

After cleaning, make sure of the following:

  • That your tools are reassembled correctly
  • All parts that need lubrication have received it
  • Maintenance is recorded

Air Compressor Maintenance Tips

An air compressor is a key component for all air tools, which is why proper care and preventative maintenance is so vital.

A breakdown of your air compressor could mean delays in projects, or a full shut down of a project until the repairs to your air compressor are made. If it’s extensive, it could take a while and be costly.

To keep up with air compressor preventive maintenance, create a checklist of all the components that need to be kept cleaned, changed, or lubricated, and a schedule for when each task should be done. You may also want to create a record of each time these pieces are cleaned to make you’re your air compressor doesn’t go too long without proper maintenance.

The following air compressor maintenance checklist includes the basics of upkeep. You should regularly check:

  • Air filters (clean or replace)
  • Oil filters
  • Lubricant (check daily)
  • Separator element (changed with lubricant)
  • Belts (check for tension and wear weekly)
  • Motor bearings
  • Intake vents (check and clean weekly)
  • Couplers
  • Seals

If you are experiencing issues with your air compressor, consult the troubleshooting guide from Auto Body Toolmart for more information on issues that could be occurring.

A Few More General Tips

There are a few things that are standard for all air tools and should be heeded to keep your tools in top condition.


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  • Lubricate your tools - best done at the start of every day, but should be a focus throughout the day if the tool is in continual use.
  • Remove moisture - before you connect any of your tools to a compressor, remove any moisture in the lines. You can do this with air compressor oil separator, refrigerated air dryers or desiccant air dryers.
  • Air pressure - not only do you want to make sure your compressor is putting out the proper pressure, but you also want to ensure that you’re correlating pressure to the tool. Each tool has its own pressure requirements and using improper pressure can be unsafe and damaging.
  • Proper ventilation - air compressors need proper ventilation and cooling, not only to avoid overheating but also to stay clean and free of contaminants.
  • Force - if you’re forcing a tool or pressing on it too hard, you’re causing it to wear much faster. Let the tool do the work.
  • Storage - storing your tools properly is a major part of preventative care. You want them to be stored somewhere dry and clean. You can even use silica packs to absorb extra moisture in the air.

Longevity and Performance for Your Air Tools

Following these tips and making habits of them will help to keep your tools lasting for generations.

For help with all your air compressor and air tool maintenance, stock your shop with lubricants, spare seals, hoses, couplers, cleaners and more contact Auto Body Toolmart.

 

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