Is It The Battery, Motor Or Something Else? How To Identify Common Power Tool Problems

Experienced machinists, carpenters, mechanics, and other professionals who regularly work with power tools get to know their equipment as well as their craft. After years on the job, most of them will know when they need to buy a replacement motor from an electric motor manufacturer, invest in a new battery charger, or simply catch up on basic tool maintenance.

But for the rest of us who use power tools for home repairs, DIY projects, and hobbies, the reason for a power tool problem isn’t always clear. Even basic, household power tools are no small expense. Knowing whether to replace a part, seek out a repair, or replace the equipment is essential in avoiding unnecessary costs. The following information can help you identify common causes of power tool disfunction and help you find a simple, economical solution.

Weak Start-Up Or Low Power

You’ve checked to see that the tool is plugged in or that the battery is charged, but the tool is still not operational or operating at its usual power. First, you’ll want to rule out any issues with the power source or battery. Check the tool’s power cord and the outlet or the battery pack and charging station. Look for any signs of heat or water damage, built-up dirt or dust, or other interference.

If the power tool uses a battery and hasn’t been fully recharged since right after its last use, that could be the issue. Ideally, battery-powered tools should be returned to a partial charge after they’ve been used and then changed to full right before they will need to be used again. Also make sure that the tool has not been left in an area where it’s excessively hot, as extreme temperatures can cause permeant damage to a battery.

If there are no obvious problems with the power source and the battery is at a full charge, the low power is likely due to the motor. Depending on the type of motor used in the tool, it may be necessary to replace the motor entirely or the problematic part, such as the carbon brushes, commutator, or bearings. These parts can be acquired from component distributors or an electric motor parts manufacturer. A DC and AC motor manufacturer can also be helpful in the process of troubleshooting an issue that’s specific to a tool motor.

Excess Heat, Vibration, Or Burning Smell

The vast majority of power tools will create some degree of heat and vibration when in use, but if the heat is excessive and accompanied by a burning smell, or if the tool is shaking excessively, this could indicate a malfunctioning motor, worn out bearings or capacitors, broken drive belts, or another part that needs replacement or repair. Excess heat or a burning smell could also mean that the tool’s components are being overworked, either because of a poorly paired power source, such as the wrong battery pack, or that the tool’s simply been in operation for too long.

If a tool is excessively hot, generating a burning smell, or vibrating out of control, always turn it off immediately and disconnect it from its power source. Let it rest for a minimum of 30 minutes before attempting to use it again. If the problem persists, it means that the tool will need to be serviced.

Grinding Or Squealing Noise

In general, power tools tend to be noisy but there is a difference between regular operational noises and high-pitched squealing, squeaking, or grinding that clearly indicates a problem with moving parts.

Sometimes this issue simply indicates a need for proper lubrication or cleaning. The build-up of dust and dirt can cause friction and stifle smooth operation between parts. Simply follow the manufacturer’s specifications for cleaning and lubrication methods that are recommended for the tool.

Squealing or grinding could also point to a damaged or misaligned mechanical part or a problem with the gears. If there is a forward and reverse control on the tool, try switching the direction to see if this resolves the issue. If the problem persists, it means the tool may need a more thorough cleaning, reassembly, or replacement of the damaged part.


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