The Editors Mailbox

The Editors Mailbox

Broken power tool: Junk it or fix it?

comments (83) August 11th, 2009 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, special projects editor
thumbs up 80 users recommend

While eating lunch today with several other editors, we began to wonder what people do when a power tool, something like a router or cordless drill, goes bad. When the batteries on my first cordless drill died, I simply bought I new drill (two replacement batteries cost just as much as the new drill). So what would you do? Answer the poll below. If you'd like to say more than simply clicking a button, give a click and then leave a comment. Thanks.

posted in: blogs, tool

Comments (83)

jramador jramador writes: I have an old Skil 4" belt sander Model 400 that needs the drive gears replaced but have been unable to find anyone that carries these parts. Everyone tells me to junk it and buy a new one but I am reluctant to do this. I have used the tool for 25+ years and it is better than the newer tool offered today. Any help or advice?
Posted: 8:53 pm on December 12th

rdomke69 rdomke69 writes: I'm a strong believer in "quality". That goes not only for the work I do but the tools I use. But I recognize that not all tasks require "top-quality" so I accept the prudence of having multiple markets for things. The importance, in my thinking is to keep the issues of integrity, honesty, practicality and common sense in proper perspective and priority. I think that if we could ever arrive at a balanced state of harmony in our social and professional conduct rather than allowing ourselves to be forced into a predatorially "competitive" system of undisciplined (or inadequately disciplined) Capitalism then we would be far better off. Let's take better care of this world (working together) and use its resources wisely.
Posted: 11:10 am on April 14th

brownb14 brownb14 writes: If the tool met expectations and the problem is reasonably repaired, I do so. I’ve found that while the replacement of depleted batteries is costly you can upgrade and get the same tool with better performance and longer life. My last two repairs were to update battery packs to NiMH from NiCad using higher mAh ratings; while they aren’t Lithium, they more than meet needs; both perform and battery life are much better than the originals. Same is true for an old corded 3/8” chuck drill that my grandfather gave me at 17 some 45 years ago; new brushes and it keeps on tick-in. Same for a 1954 vintage Craftsman table saw, a new motor 8 years ago and then a fence upgrade and I have a cast iron honey that is going to last another 50 years. It is kind of like Stanley planes, buy a good tool, use it properly, perform maintenance and you will get great results.
Posted: 1:30 pm on January 4th

suzycarpenter suzycarpenter writes: I just bought a new cordless drill and need to decide what to do with my old ones -- drills are good, batteries are not. What is the place someone wrote about -- "Batteries Pluss"? Or where else should I check into about this? I'd do that and give them to my high school if the price is right.


Posted: 9:44 pm on September 1st

gcole55 gcole55 writes: I think the general conscious is how attached you are to the tool. If you have become accustomed to the tool I think all of would find a way to repair it and keep it....Would you throw your dog out if it became ill? We have become a throw away culture...I do not buy into it..

Just the thoughts of a old man..
Posted: 9:28 pm on August 31st

MKenney MKenney writes: Wow, this is a big response. I'll say that I would love to furnish my shop with older stationary machines that I rehabed. I would even replace the brushes on a hand held power tool. But I don't think I would rebuild batteries. The technology moves so quickly that by the time a battery finally dies, the new version of the tool cheaper and better. I just bought a small 12 volt Litium Ion powered drill and impact driver that run marathons around my other cordless drills (which are bigger and heavier).
Posted: 4:44 pm on August 28th

katrix katrix writes: Many of us make and repair wood furniture because we believe objects, well crafted and well maintained, are inherently more valuable than a thoughtless design built solely for profit, sanded to death and overproduced. We believe these will last, stand the test of time or what have you. At least, I hope they will.

By buying tools that are well built, we as consumers demand tools be well built, and ensure they will continue to be so. But we have to remember that part of the reason we have 20, 30, 40, year old tools still being fixed is that they are EASY to fix: easy to open, easy to get at the parts for repair, and easy to get the replacement parts. Generally, the cheaper the tool, the harder this is-they are made to be one-offs. The idea that anything is indestructible, whether it be a furniture finish, a tool, or a car, is a silly gimmick. Everything breaks down, and wears down, and if this principle is engineered into the object, the simpler and less time consuming it is to fix it.

So I don't just look for tools that are 'quality', I look for tools that aren't a pain in the long term, whether by frustrating to use or to fix. Cause they always, always die at the worst time, and the faster I can get them back up and running, whether by fixing them myself or by supporting a repair shop, the better.
Posted: 1:09 pm on August 26th

Ocotillo_Mike Ocotillo_Mike writes: OK. I admit it :-( I buy cheap tools. If the store offers extended warranties I'll buy that. The warranties have saved my backside several times on the more expensive tools. On the other hand, I don't argue with the idea that sometimes you get what you pay for (durability And performance). BUT, not always. I have read many references to Fein, in these postings, as being worth the investment. And lot's of busting on DeWalt. I also admit that cheap tools often don't perform as well. I agree that many older tool versions were built to last. But some of those comments might be as much nostalgia as reality. I can be a skeptic, I'm told. I definitely repair, when the repair is inside my skill set. I am retired and do cabinet work for a single collector, my wife or for my own satisfaction, and bragging rights with woodworking friends. That niche has something to do with my approach to tool purchasing and repairs. If it's not interesting or fun, whether repairing tools or woodworking, why bother? This has been a fascinating comment thread and I would be interested to hear the names of other manufacturers who build tools for use over 20 years, my likely maximum woodworking horizon.
Posted: 12:37 pm on August 25th

1Goodhand 1Goodhand writes: I have solved much of the problems mentioned above by simply posturing myself with the best tools I can afford thus eliminating a lot of the issues that one might encounter listed in some of postings. I was brought up in a Sears/Craftsman household but left them in my dust when they closed the local parts department and their pipe-clamps started depicting "Made in Taiwan" on the side of the forging. I now shop in pawn shops and have acquired enough PC, Milwaukee, & Makita to last me a lifetime.

I also find the mentality of taking in for repair or simply discarding is much like the relationship many wish to have with our government where they are looking to someone else to solve all of their problems (give them all of your money and they will solve your problems). Good common sense and a little patience will solve most of the problems that one would ever encounter with a well made tool (or life experience). I have found over the years that the majority of the problems that I have encountered with electrical motors have been either bearings or in most cases, the centrifugal force mechanisms on the rear of the motor shaft that engages/disengages the starting capacitor that has simply fouled with shop dust or electrical arcing. I can't begin to count the number of motors that I have picked up off the curb that I brought back to life simply by cleaning the contactors. Bearings are not as much as one might think to replace and if you have a Grainger down the road, your likely to not only find a source but they are likely to have one on the shelf. With parts availability through the internet today, there are very few tools that can't be fixed if they are of the quality that makes them worth fixing. I had a Makita H/S Sander that had roughly 100,000 miles on (if you could measure sander use by the mile) and both paper clips had busted off at the stem. Low-and-behold, a simple search online netted several sites that were able to furnish me with replacement sandpaper clips for under $20.00 for a sander I paid close to $180 15 years ago. What a good sense of satisfaction I derive from repairing an "old friend" thus saving him from the heap! Still hunting for my next PC 693, 1goodhand...
Posted: 7:45 pm on August 24th

Vosnic Vosnic writes: I maintain all the plant in a plant hire company, much of it DIY stuff. It breaks my heart to see the comdition that our tools are returned in.

I think it's dependant on funds, tool quality, sentmentality and one's knowledge of the tool.

Bin cheap tools, repair quality tools and do whatever you can to repair a 20 or 30 year old electric drill that you inherited from your Dad.
Posted: 1:40 am on August 23rd

samarafc samarafc writes: Again depends on the tool. I think it is interesting cordless tools are junked -- so why buy them?
My 12 year old Porter Cable plunge router "died" . A $4.95 motor brush --- good as new. 14 year old 13" Delta planer stopped. $65 for a switch- back as good as new. I would have spent 3 times as much to keep them going. My Powermatic table saw has not even need a belt change and I do production work as a living.
HERE IS A TRUTH; those who use tools everyday have a relationship with them. One repairs them because you "know" them.
Posted: 10:18 pm on August 22nd

rcc3 rcc3 writes: Depends on the tool. Cordless, depends on the age. Most of the newer cordless tools are lighter and have better batteries. I've had poor experience with rebuilt batteries. If corded, again depends on age and tool. Cords, brushes and switches are about it with me.
Posted: 7:06 pm on August 22nd

rekoch rekoch writes: If the tool is cordless I usually send the batteries out to be rebuilt. I have had much better luck with rebuilt batteries than replacements from the OM.
Posted: 3:23 pm on August 22nd

rekoch rekoch writes: If the tool is cordless I usually send the batteries out to be rebuilt. I have had much better luck with rebuilt batteries than replacements from the OM.
Posted: 3:23 pm on August 22nd

rekoch rekoch writes: If the tool is cordless I usually send the batteries out to be rebuilt. I have had much better luck with rebuilt batteries than replacements from the OM.
Posted: 3:23 pm on August 22nd

rekoch rekoch writes: If the tool is cordless I usually send the batteries out to be rebuilt. I have had much better luck with rebuilt batteries than replacements from the OM.
Posted: 3:23 pm on August 22nd

rekoch rekoch writes: If the tool is cordless I usually send the batteries out to be rebuilt. I have had much better luck with rebuilt batteries than replacements from the OM.
Posted: 3:23 pm on August 22nd

woodbum woodbum writes: It would depend on the tool, the brand, the age,the original cost of the item and the degree of repairs needed. If it is a top of the line tool, that you replaced another with,fix it.If you were going to upgrade later and you have the cash, now is a good time. Depends on a lot of factors, especially the current financial staus of the owner.
Posted: 9:00 am on August 21st

carvewright carvewright writes: I am fortunate to have a very good tool repair shop locally, so will go and ask their advice unless it is a simple fix, like a power cord or brushes. Since they also sell tools I had worried about their advice, but they have been very good and usally have beena able to fix with reasonable expense. Also, I have a ton of jigs so am reluctant to change key tools like rounter because then the jigs are scrap. My rule of thumb is if it is a good tool, I'll see about fixing it, if it is a cheap knockoff, I'll replace it.
Posted: 8:58 am on August 20th

MaxToby MaxToby writes: Agree with those who do a cost/benefit analysis. Does the new tool work with old jigs etc. but have new improved features, especially safety related? Time to buy new.

But if its the same features etc. then repair if cost of repair is 60% or less of new cost.
Posted: 12:06 am on August 20th

cowtown cowtown writes: well, fix it or junk all depends. There's an 80/20 rule that 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the problem causers....with power tools it's generally the cord.

OK, simple to test. Brushes are next, easy to replace. Bearings etc, well things get a bit more complex, so my addage is to try and fix it before it gets junked. And if you have to get a few new tools along the way so much the better. And if it's really toasted, well I've got a box of tool parts that might help me when the replacement fails or I need to make a jig for the replacement.

Along the way you find out why tools fail, just how cheaply and poorly some are constructed. In short, if you don't try to fix it, you not only loose the pleasure of ressurecting it, but you also forgo the learning experience of why cheap tools are cheap. It's kinda basic green.

Besides, if you have time and money invested in jigs, accesories,tooling, and appurtenances for a tool, discarding it means you may have have to re-configure them.

Many times the cost of reconfiguration to accommodate another mfgrs tool may well excede the cost of repair.

For example, get another router and you have to relearn where locks and switch are.

How many sanding belt configurations are there? I have at least 7 different sizes of belts, multiply that by the number of grits, and supplies become a cost issue.

Cordless (Battery operated) tools are a whole other issue.
Original (non-battery operated) tools seem to have lasted through many generations without a problem other than the user.

To summarize, I'd generally fix rather than junk.

Just my thoughts...

Eric in Calgary
Posted: 11:17 pm on August 19th

Windwoodtrader Windwoodtrader writes: It's a function of several components,
1st- being replacement cost. If it's over $150 it gets fixed if it's possible.
2nd- Can I fix it. If I am not able to fix it out it goes if it doesn't cost at least $250 in which case it goes to a repair shop as long as the repair will be no more than 1/2 of replacement cost.
3rd- Personal satisfaction. If I enjoy fixing the problem I will do so at an hourly rate of at least $5.00. I do have standards.
4th- If I don't smell burned armature parts or note melted solder having dripped from the case I will consider fixing.
Posted: 10:14 pm on August 19th

blackman blackman writes: If it is a cordless tool battery that has died, or ecen a cheaper cordless tool I have the battery re-built with new cells. Then I can keep using the old tool I know and don`t have to worry about all that extra packaging that comes with a new tool.
Posted: 8:05 pm on August 19th

mecanick mecanick writes: i think it depends on the piece of equiptment that broke. small stuff maybe yes,but atable saw or planer or drill press,etc. i would have to think about it.
Posted: 6:45 pm on August 19th

merksys merksys writes: I rebuild power tools, and I'll go along with everyone who says it depends on what the tool costs new. By the time I disassemble, clean, dress the commutator, replace bearings, brushes, switch and power cord and reassemble, you're looking at about a hundred dollar bill. Normally, I would recommend that you not spend more than half the cost of a new tool rebuilding an old one, so you can do the math. Is it worth rebuilding a $50 palm sander? No way. Is it worth rebuilding a $350 PC 7518 router? You betcha.
Posted: 4:44 pm on August 19th

txjhawk txjhawk writes: Take your old batteries to Batteries Pluss and they can rebuild them at a very fair price and they are better batteries than when they were new.
Posted: 2:40 pm on August 19th

Heron Heron writes: Depends upon the tool: but normally it is cheaper to junk it and buy a new one. You can then canibalise the parts of the old one to make another tool or spares for an existing tool.
Posted: 2:25 pm on August 19th

TiminMintHill TiminMintHill writes: If I've had good use out of a tool, and I 'think' it can be fixed, I've typically gone the following route.

First, if I need that tool to do something...I'll decide whether I need features in a newer or better tool available, and if I can afford buying a new tool vs borrowing till old one can be repaired.

I am not likely to take a tool anywhere to be fixed, but will do work myself. Couple examples,

Craftsman Auto-Scroller Jig Saw (purchased in 1975). I bought this when I was 16 and was first power tool I bought. Began making terrible noises, traced to bad gear on main drive. No replacement parts available. No choice but to buy a nice Bosch Jig Saw. Over next couple months, searched web and found someone with one in rough shape for $15 in Atlanta off C(*^list...I had friend in Atlanta pick it up and waited 3 months to get it. Was able to cob the part I needed and got my old saw running like new. (much better shape overall than the one bought on c#@@list). I still like using this old Craftsman for alot of quick, less precise work.

Fein Multimaster Single Speed: I've had my single speed Fein for about 15 yrs, and finally wore out the bearing in the head during a project. Great opportunity to get a new variable speed tool, and fixed the old one for $30 for new bearing. Will probably give the old one to a relative as a gift or sell.

18V Dewalt Driver/Drill: I've had this saw for about 10 years, and it's been a great drill. I thought I burned it out when I was drilling into some brick, and really working it hard. It finally wouldn't start turning, even with no load. I took it apart, cleaned the brushes on the motor, and put it back together...worked like a charm. A little more hassle on cordless motors to do this, they don't provide the ease of access for the brushes like they do on alot of AC driven devices. But saved me probably $300 for replacement in kind.

Old Poulan Pro Chain Saw: Saw needed alot of parts, including new clutch, drum, starting drum(with string). Also, it didn't have a chain brake. I bought a needed larger saw, and then ordered parts to rebuild old saw including a chain brake kit, and now have a smaller/lighter saw when not needing the larger one.

In general, my feeling is that we've become a 'throw-away' society, and that's wrong. We should extend every opportunity to repair a good working device and not just chuck it out of convenience. If the device is so wore out that fixing is more than cost of new...different story. But I suspect for many tool issues, it's something simple that a little inspection and digging can resolve.
It's too easy these days to fix almost anything for even someone not that comfortable with elec/mech devices. Searches on the web can yield a ton of info on such things as issues with tools and home appliances.
Posted: 2:17 pm on August 19th

blinky114 blinky114 writes: One needs to take into consideration the tool, and its problem. Some tools are worth repairing, and others are tossers.
I have a belt sander where the frame cracked, and I actually replaced the frame, just because I liked the design so much and couldn't find a similar replacement.
However, a jigsaw recently stopped working. I replaced it immediately, even though its probably just brushes. Haven't thrown it out just yet.
Portland OR
Posted: 2:16 pm on August 19th

wolf234 wolf234 writes: Depends on the tool and the repair needed. Replace brushes,power cords,etc are usually diy and fairly inexspensive compared to a new tool. Fix what is fixable and cost effective ,junk the rest or keep for spare parts if you buy new the same brand and model. Good luck to all!!
Posted: 1:57 pm on August 19th

pdxwoodsman pdxwoodsman writes: There are many interesting comments about the pros and cons of tool repair.
For me the question is: How do we as consumers push the tool industry to provide tools that are repairable and worth our time.

With design for manufacture and built in obsolesence, we support the throw away culture that continues to degrade the quality we'd all like to have.
Of course we get what we pay for as the saying goes.

What can we expect to pay for quality?
What are the key elements of a quality tool?
Ergonimics, fit and finish, weight, repairability, durability, I'm sure the list goes on.

When trying to complete a job, economics often provide a guide of how much we can spend if we want to maintain a profit.
I love my Festool drill, but can I afford to have all my tools in this quality range?
We do have a voice and power in numbers.
We can as consumers unite to send a message (or in this case thousands of messages) to tool makers. We want tools that are repairable.
As many previous comments stated, however, are the tools worth the time and cost to repair.
Thanks for the many thought provoking comments!
Mike D.
Portland Oregon
Posted: 1:38 pm on August 19th

Tree City Woodcrafter Tree City Woodcrafter writes: It depends on the repair cost. I just rebuilt a 60-year old cast iron jigsaw instead of getting a new scroll saw. I guess it involved being sentimental rather than using common sense. I do enjoy working on my old tools rather than replacing them if possible. If I have to buy another battery operated drill, I will get a Rigid that guarantees the drill and battery for life.
Posted: 1:11 pm on August 19th

karhu karhu writes: I've found that the quality of power tools (particularly DeWalt) has dropped over the last 10 years. In my shop I have several 12" mitre saws and the best one is still the oldest one. New saws come and go but the old one is still the most accurate. When it comes to repairing tools it has to be a fairly inexpensive repair to be worth the drive and the repair bill to be worth the time and effort. I've found that if the switch is shot chances are there are other problems on the horizon. Alan
Posted: 1:06 pm on August 19th

seatoe seatoe writes: As many have said, I try to repair a tool if it is cost effective to do so. What one respondant wrote was to update to a model with more features; The keyword here is "UPDATE". As manufacturers seek more cost effective manufacturing, they may update the features, but at the same time "downdate" the quality. The trend is more toward "planned obsolence". They really try to discourage tool repair and always have (parts are expensive). My 20 year old Makita cordless drill is still going strong because it was well built. The latest Makita drill may not be as good as my old one, quality-wise, but it will have the latest features. Some features are not worth having, being just another "bell and whistle" (built in flashlight or level for example); a nice little touch, but hardly necessary.
Posted: 12:43 pm on August 19th

Ted in Michigan Ted in Michigan writes: Lots of comments here. Mine mirrors what others have said. If I "like" the tool, I will try to fix or repair. Example - I have a (12v) cordless drill that works well. Not state of the art, but it's a decent drill. When the batteries were going bad, I researched and spent a few bucks (far less than new batts)to have the old cells recycled and new ones installed. The total price to have new, upgraded NiCad's installed was less than 1 new batt and certainly far less than a new drill. Plus no landfill/disposal issues and (surprise!) shipping was included in the price.

One thing of note - the old battery housings won my unit were built to allow them to be disassembled and rebuilt. Some are not. If not, it doesn't matter how much I "like" the tool.

On the other side, if I don't "like" the tool, I'll be hard pressed to find a reason to repair/fix/rebuild it. Example - I currently have a 10" dual bevel chop saw. I'd love to find a good reason to replace it. If something breaks (blade guard, fence, etc) I'll not spend too much time fixing.
Posted: 11:37 am on August 19th

jef_keighley jef_keighley writes: Like so many before depends. It depends on the price of the new tool, and whether the features available on the new tool make it worthwhile despite a higher price. It depends on whether it is a difficult to replace tool, ie. not made any more, hard to find, has features no longer available. It depends on the availability of parts, either new or finding another used one to cannabalize. Jef
Posted: 11:35 am on August 19th

RLWJr RLWJr writes: As others have said, "it depends". But in part it depends on the support from the manufacturer. I had a Milwaukee angle drill I loved. The gear built into the end of the armature shattered. I checked on a replacement part (which had to include the armature, is that good design?) and it cost more than a replacement drill would have just for that one part. Clearly Milkwaukee did not really want me to fix it. On the other hand, and a name many sneer at, Grizzly is great at supplying parts at great prices, has the complete diagrams and order info online. So now I buy from Grizzly but not from Milwaukee. Manufacturers should think about how we react to things like this...
(Not that this is enough to make me buy from someone I otherwise distrust. Sears is pretty good about supplying parts but I will certainly never buy another power tool from them!)

Posted: 11:13 am on August 19th

AZChip AZChip writes: Corded tools break down from a few common faults. Carbon brushes are designed to wear out and are easily replaced. You can even modify brushes from another tool to fit. If allowed to arc for too long before replacement it can damage the armature, which can be renewed with a piece of fine sandpaper on a stick. Touch it while running to clean the copper then clean the grooves with an exact-o knife.

Switches are the next to go. First, try to blow them out with compressed air before you dis-assemble them, (a can of contact cleaner is sometimes helpful). There are a lot of tiny parts inside that are spring loaded and will shoot out into the nearest pile of sawdust. Reversable variable speed drills are the most problematic. Their switches are often designed for that specific model and are expensive. If one speed and forward only is acceptable, see the following paragraph.

Sanders are easier. Hardwire the switch to "on" and plug into a switched box made from a steel electrical box with a steel faceplate. I have several of these, one has a momentary switch as well as a "push-on push-off" switch. I use one with a momentary switch for my drill press which didn't come with a switch. All these parts are at your local hardware store.

Bearings are the next to go. Take them out and the numbers on them are universal. Go to a local bearing store and they will be in stock for around $5. No need to order them from the factory. Replace them all and save them for future use. Sometimes the sealed ones are just gummed up. Try a little WD40 in an emergency but plan to replace them soon.

I once had a table saw that was made from a salvaged Craftsman 10". The thin sheet metal box made the bevel feature unreliable, so I built a new pedestal from 1" MDF and locked the blade at 90 degrees, leaving only the height adjustment feature (I didn't like the right-tilt arbor anyway). A 2hp motor added power but the single belt pulley tensioned by the weight of the motor was inadequate, so a double belt pulley was added and a couple of heavy weight bungee cords added grip to the belts.

I have a 20 year old Porter/Cable #503 belt sander that is waiting on a new worm gear. I will continue to repair it until there are no longer parts available (perhaps I should have ordered a couple extra). The power and balance of this machine is unmatched. I'm looking to buy another. A model 504 will work as well. They look cool too, like little locomotives.

Posted: 10:14 am on August 19th

MrPhil MrPhil writes: I am assuming we're talking about portable tools. Any decent stationary tool I own would have to be seriously torn up for me to junk it. These are expensive would pay more for an automatic mortiser than for an automatic dishwasher, yet you wouldn't junk your dishasher if the main spray arm'd buy a new part. A portable tool, a drill or a router, on the other hand, is like a blender or food processor: by the time the bushings in the motor wear out, the various seals, bearings, and blades have also worn to the point that it's almost as much trouble to use as to work by hand.These tools are junk...not worth repair.Toss it, spring for a new one and re-discover the joy of woodworking. It's also a good way to keep your shop updated
Posted: 9:29 am on August 19th

RonInOttawa RonInOttawa writes: It depends on the tool. I have a Dewalt 14.4V drill that I use all the time. I picked it up as a recon unit (clutch) and I'm now getting near the end of the 2nd set of batteries. A pair of new XRP batteries will set me back ~ $80 and I'll be good for another 3-4 years. By that time lithium ion prices and quality of construction will be more to my liking. I've also junked at least 3 cordless drills that didn't work well enough to even consider getting replacement batteries.

I've junked sanders and repaired sanders. I've also junked routers (usually Craftsman or Ryobi) but I've also repaired a couple. I have 2 old Craftsman routers that developed a tendency for the bits to become "welded" in the collet. I have the space to keep them so I have a dedicated bit in each of them and I'll use them up to the time the bits dull before I make a decision about turfing them.
Posted: 9:11 am on August 19th

chawrun chawrun writes: Would be nice for some enterprising individual to develop an interface that would allow the use of different battery packs to fit and operate the sme drill.

In my case I have 3 18V drills from different manufacturers/suppliers with dead NiCad batteries. I did research the possibility of getting the NiCad cells in the battery pack replaced/repaired but found that by the time one pays for shipping and repair costs, it was not worth it. Now I have three drill bodies and no batteries but too self-conscious of junking the drill bodies. How would one do that without the body going to landfill?

The batteries were returned to large business concerns that offer recycling boxes.
Posted: 9:10 am on August 19th

EdKeating EdKeating writes: I've regularly purchase reconditioned tools (Delta drill press, jointer, planer) which operate the same, but may have a cosmetic defect. The answer is "it depends". When I needed new batteries for a Bosch cordless/hammer drill, I found a pair of Bluecore 14v 2ah batteries for $50 at a woodworking show. I've rebuilt battery packs myself, but again, it depends on the price of the replacement cells. I do obtain service prints for almost all of my tools and am confident in being able to replace/repair most problems. I've also upgraded older tools, such as Bosch 1613evs to the 1613Aevs in order to handle larger router bits (greater than 1 5/8" diameter)
Posted: 8:51 am on August 19th

Pete999 Pete999 writes: It depends on the tool, and the cost of repair. A good example: I had a 9V Craftsman drill/driver. It cost me about $60 on sale, with two battery packs. The packs went dead after 2-3 years, and IIRC, EACH replacement pack would have cost me about $30. At the same time, there was another Craftsman drill/driver - 13V, I think - on sale, again for about $60, with two packs. A simple choice.

However, when THAT drill's batteries died, I found the batteries were only available on special order. That seems to be a pattern: Introduce a new model, and obsolete the batteries for the previous model.

I happened to get a flyer from a national "discount tool" chain, and there was a 14V drill/driver for $19; an extra battery pack was another $9. Not much trouble making that choice, either. That drill, btw, is into its third year, with the original batteries.

You CAN rebuild most battery packs; it's a bit of a job finding the replacement batteries. The replacement cells are comparatively expensive, but it can be done, if you have no other options. The NiCad packs seem to use "Sub-C" or "Half-C" cells, and of course you have to do the spaghetti-like wiring to get them all in series, and inside the case.

Larger tools are another matter. Often they can be repaired for a lot less than the cost of replacement. I'm lucky in that I have a small machine shop at my disposal, and could fabricate some mechanical parts if necessary; not everyone is so fortunate.
Posted: 8:40 am on August 19th

JamesScott JamesScott writes: As I've mentioned in earlier posts about tool guides a gauge or guide as to the lifespan of the tools should be promoted. All too often companies tout their tools as being "job tough" or "dependable" just to have cheap parts put you out of work. I'm sure the people at DeWalt are happy with the amount of money I've spent on their junk to date, but sad to know I won't spend another dime on their products.

Tool guides such as published by Taunton only tell half the story. Sure it can drill 50 screws faster than the next drill, but if you have to repair or replace it 50% more often than the other guys, you're really no further ahead.

As for the quality of tools, give me a real warranty that I can sink my teeth into. Not a warranty that I can purchase an extension at additional cost but a warranty that really highlights the dependability of the tool made and the confidence the manufacturer has in their product.

In my opinion if any of your tools can't be fixed for less than they cost to buy, than the manufacturer has built obsolescence into the tool knowing full well that you will chuck it and buy a new one. Suckers!

I guess another question to ask is do these companies really make tools or do they design and market a product to a specific consumer. A lot of this stuff comes from the same plant, so how can you really tell if one is better than the other?
Posted: 8:40 am on August 19th

MarkDMacLeod MarkDMacLeod writes: Unfortunately the argument often centres on what is the comparative cost of buying a new tool versus repair or replacement of the part(s)/ batteries etc. In the meantime the manufacturers are using more resources, paying substandard wages etc. How many people remember when a tool lasted nearly the working lifetime of the user? It's an unsustainable world when the cost of two batteries is the same as the cost of a replacement tool - that tells you what the manufacturer is actually paying to have the tool itself made - not very much.
It is this essence that makes me think I should move back to hand tools wherever it is reasonably possible. My grandfather's mortising chisels and his box of planes are still working well and will probably outlast me.

Posted: 8:22 am on August 19th

buddyt buddyt writes: I have a lot of old and new tools I am lucky to have a freind that is in the business of repairing tools I ask if it is worth fixing or not a lot of brands only supply parts for five years some you can get parts for that are thirty years old I have a hard time putting a tool in the trash can but the cost dictates I agree most old tools are far better then the new ones.
Posted: 7:55 am on August 19th

Grandpa30548 Grandpa30548 writes: It depends on what general condition this tool is in, and how well it performed for me when it was working as to whether or not to fix an old tool.
I own some old Craftsman woodworking tools that are cast iron and bullet proof, and I go to great lengths to keep them maintained and working. New Craftsman (and stuff sold at home improvement stores) does not come close to the quality of the older tools.
Some of my powered hand tools I do the same with, as a great deal of the "new tools" are, in my humble opinion, of inferior quality to the older tools. Case in point, I own an old corded 3/8" VS reversible drill that I have had for over 30 years. Chuck recently wore out, and I had to replace it with a cheap replacement chuck that is not nearly as good as the original, due to unavailability of equal replacement chuck. (Subsequently found source for quality chuck, which will get purchased soon and trash the cheapie.) Cannot find a new corded drill I feel is equal to old drill, which made this one a "no brainer".
If my cordless drill pooped out, I most likely would replace it with new, as newer cordless drills are better that the old drill I have now. They have more torque, longer life between charges, those key-less chucks (which I detest when using round drill bits) are a little better, which makes this an easy choice too.
There is no hard and fast answer to replace or repair, it should be evaluated closely by the user, and let your heart be your guide. If you do choose to junk it, you always have an option of recycling the old stuff - just put it on Craigs List, E-bay, etc., for someone who may need a part no longer available to make a repair they need, such as a drill that has been dropped and broken the plastic case. They swap out the good condition part with the broken one, throw away (or recycle for you environmentalists out there), and they are back in business! Just a thought.
Posted: 7:43 am on August 19th

SuperChuck SuperChuck writes: Depends on how much I liked the tool and how much I'd like to upgrade ;)
Posted: 7:23 am on August 19th

Dad'nDave Dad'nDave writes: From Canberra Australia. The two batteries for my Metabo 18 v cordless drill (BST 18 IMPULSE) died after about 5 y and really very little usage, it was used mostly around the home and the drill had to be in pretty good condition compared to a tradesman's drill of the same age. One quote for a (discounted) new drill (BSZ 18 IMPULSE) was $AU455 or for two new batteries $AU490. Do you see where this is going so far? Then I had a quote for a third party repacking of the old battery casings with new cells at 'about' $AU440. It was time for another quote on new drill and I bought a BSZ 18 IMPULSE at $AU520 discounted to $AU350. I tearfully disposed of my otherwise good drill. Most tradesmen I spoke with do not muck around, when their power tools die, they buy a new one. They often can upgrade to a later model anyway and, with cordless, if they were to repack the battery casings at an acceptable price, the drill is worn and may not outlast the repacked batteries. Such waste is not restricted to woodworking tools. Sad.
Posted: 4:56 am on August 19th

Fabuladico Fabuladico writes: It depends on the tool. I have a lot of hand tools by Craftman. They're guaranteed for life so they're easily replaced. Power tools are a different story. Several of my power tools have been repaired. One circular saw I had, I sawed through the cord almost immediately. Naturally I replaced it. Some of my older power tools came with oddly short cords. These too were replaced. A saber saw I had simply had a worn set screw. I replaced it.
On the other hand I have a pretty good collection of old cordless power tools. The batteries wear out, and often the unit can be replaced a nearly the same cost as the batteries. Major tools like table saws, I replace, but I may canibalize it first. I still use an old miter gauge, and an old fence on occasion. Other parts are also interchangable. I keep old drill bits promising to sharpen them, but never do. Other tools like planes are simply a lot of fun to restore.
Posted: 2:22 am on August 19th

tuppance tuppance writes: I try to fix any cord power tools. I have saved some gas driven tools for parts. With cordless, the repair is too often more costly than a replacement. I recently had a cordless drill over 5 years old go south. The problem was the charger and batteries. I purchased a replacement for less than the cast of a new charger and batteries. Hand tools never wear out and they have a personally. I have had tools that are almost 100 yrs old. In fact many of them have wood handles etc. that are now of cocobolo or other exotic woods. Tracker
Posted: 11:11 pm on August 18th

unionlabel unionlabel writes: I have more than one of the same kind of cordless tool. I usually use one predominantly, then when it gives up the ghost, I keep it for cannibalization. I also do that with some of my buddies old tools. You would be surprised at the number of repairs that can be made on other tools. I have a couple of friends who are machinists with small shops at home. I generally can have them fabricate a mechanical part that is better than the original. My corded stuff is always a repair.I like to restore old tools and make them sing their song in the shop again. By the time I'm done replacing bearings, having gears made or learning how to set a particular tool up without the manual or even a parts assembly picture. They become part of you. The new stuff today, not so much.
Posted: 7:07 pm on August 18th

rboe rboe writes: I have a finish sander that gave up the ghost. I bought a replacement sander but have not tossed the old one yet thinking at some point I'll have a look at it to see if it can be replaced.

On many cordless drills you can unscrew the battery pack, inspect, test and replace the individual cells for a song compared to a factory wrapped new one. You do have to do some soldering.

But with the new lithium ion ones coming out it may be a good time to upgrade. Or do both. Can't have too many good cordless drills.

I have an old sandcat belt sander I'd love to repair but no parts. It really fit a niche. Same with a Roto-zip. Less than an hour on it and the switch fried. They came out with a new model and orphaned the old line. [insert tool rant here].
Posted: 6:06 pm on August 18th

carver carver writes: Some power tool fixes are more practical than others. Dead batteries on an otherwise functional tool are readily fixed. The replacement cells are usually better than new. Perhaps your survey, without getting too long and complex, should reflect this.
Posted: 9:46 pm on August 16th

gtpreacher gtpreacher writes: I have found that if I but a new tool, the old one starts working again. Example: I had a small cordless drill that I used for years. It was good for small jobs around the house and was a two speed drill. The switch went bad (I thought), and it would only work on the low-speed setting. I bought a new drill to replace it, intending to junk the old one. As I picked up the old on to take it to the trash bin, I pulled the trigger, and it worked in worked like a charm in both low-speed and high-speed modes. It has been working just fine ever since. Do tools get jealous?
Posted: 10:46 am on August 16th

Carya Carya writes: fonda, it would not seem practical to use an old cordless drill with a power supply. These drills require so much current that an AC power supply (to provide 12 to 18vdc) would be large and cost-prohibitive. The batteries used in these tools have very low internal impedance and pump out several times the rated amps/hour in current. For a tool with a 3AH battery, it might be 10-20 Amps under load. That will still provide less torque than a new corded.

One of those car batteries in a cart with the automatic (120vac) chargers would work but only with heavy guage wires to the drill. Again, seems impractical.

If you cannot find replacement batteries for a cordless or have the internal cells replaced, time to junk it.

Posted: 10:37 am on August 16th

DennettFarm DennettFarm writes: If the power tool is sound and only the batteries need replacing you should have the NiCad battery packs rebuilt. The new batteries will be as good or better than the originals. As an example, check out
Posted: 8:21 am on August 16th

Chesster Chesster writes: I fix it and buy a new one.
"What's taking you so long to make that table I wanted?"
"Well dear, my power drill broke. It took me three days to get the parts, but I fixed it. I better buy a new one in case this old one breaks again. I don't want to waste any more time getting that table built."
I have two or more of most of my power tools.

Posted: 10:50 pm on August 15th

RalphBarker RalphBarker writes: I haul out the spare, continue to work, and then repair the broken one later. Doesn't everyone buy two of everything, plus spare parts? ;-)

Seriously, for me, the repair/replace question is one of economics vs. features. If the repair is cheap, it has a chance . . . unless the features of a new version are too attractive to pass up.
Posted: 10:18 am on August 15th

nubian nubian writes: It depends. I have a thing about my old (friends) tools that I have growwn fawn of. I like it when they have the well used look. Particularly when they remain funtional. So the first thing I do is try to repair the tool myself. If I can find replacement parts and it's a tool that I really enjoy and replacement parts cost is equal to a new one I get replacement parts - unless the new one has some serious new options not on the old tool (assuming they are options I covet).
Posted: 8:04 pm on August 14th

nubian nubian writes: It depends. I have a thing about my old (friends) tools that I ahve growwn fawn of. I like it when they have the well used look. Particularly when they remain funtional. So the first thing I do is try to repair the tool myself. If I can find replacement parts and it's a tool that I really enjoy and replacement parts cost is equal to a new one I get replacement parts - unless the new one has some serious new options not on the old tool (assuming they are options I covet).
Posted: 7:47 pm on August 14th

Jim D. Jim D. writes: If it's just batteries, I'll have them rebuilt if the tool seems in good enough shape to last thru another set.

On many other tools, I've replaced brushes, bearings, and various other parts.

I have about five or six DeWalt 14.4 volt tools, along with maybe six or seven batteries and four or five chargers. The tools are very durable, so I'll probably keep on rebuilding those batteries - a couple at a time - for quite a while into the future.
Posted: 4:39 pm on August 14th

Tonto2 Tonto2 writes: I owned a commercial sign shop and on several occasions had cordless drills that would not work in reverse after considerable hard use and I also had a corded shear that quit. After bringing one drill and the shear to a local repair facility and paying $15 for a repair estimate for each that ended up being almost the cost of a new tool I opted for replacement.

If you can do the repair yourself for a fraction of the cost of a new tool then you should do it.

However, if the cost of repair approaches half the cost of a new tool and the failed tool has seen considerable service you will end up with a used tool that may fail for another reason and make you wish you had gone for the replacement.
Posted: 12:57 am on August 14th

toobguy toobguy writes: Depends - if cost effetive and the tool is of generally high quality I will fix it - subject to parts availability. Otherwise - replace it. Case in point - I had the motor on an older Fein vac start to burn up. Ended buying a new Fein Turbo II - about double the repair cost, but... improved mofel/features and a new 3-yr warranty. Toss up, but went new. A Bosch ROS awaits it fate - probably get a backing plate in this case. Sander works well, I like it, so I'll fix it. So as I said - it depends. Now as to junking it- well, I suppose I should get rid of those old broken tools if I'm not going to fix them!
Posted: 12:47 am on August 14th

briansdad briansdad writes: Like many things, the answer for me is... it depends. When my 24V Bosch batteries died, I went online & got an after-market pair quite reasonably (it's been 2 years and they are still going strong). of course, the fact that I have a set of 4 tools that use the battery made a difference.
Other things like a broken switch or worn out sander platten are easy cheap fixes so i do those also.
I tossed a router with stripped threads.
Posted: 12:02 am on August 14th

SonofClark SonofClark writes: If you are just working around the house like me, then think about weaning yourself off cordless tools. I did it a long time ago. Changed them all for good quality 110 V equivalents and a good extension cord built for the loads, but very flexible. Have not bought a battery (or sent one to the landfill) for ages. And the fact that a new tool + batteries is cheaper than the replacement batteries has become completely irrelevant.
I feel bad about the greenhouse gases that go into running my tools. On the other hand, batteries have to be recharged. Any guess what the byproduct is of generating the power to recharge your batteries?
My power tools will be going with me, and the toxic mess I'll leave behind will be a bit smaller than it might have been.
Posted: 3:51 pm on August 13th

rkopman rkopman writes: Someone asked about converting their battery powered drill into a corded version. I've never done it, but I can't see any reason why you couldn't hook up a 12 volt power supply to the drill. You could probably find one that fits inside the battery pack case, drill a hole for the cord and you'd have an electric drill. That said, it might be easier and cheaper to go buy an electric drill and be done with it. Then again, you won't get the satisfaction of knowing you "created" an electric drill from garbage if you buy a new drill.

Personally, I got tired of replacing my crappy Ryobi battery powered drills every 18 months and just bought me a shiny new Festool drill. And I'm taking it with me when I die!
Posted: 12:43 pm on August 13th

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: "I replace brushes and cords, but by the time a portable tool needs bearings replacement is usually the way to go."

Makes perfect sense to me.

Posted: 9:31 am on August 13th

wdwerker wdwerker writes: I replace brushes and cords, but by the time a portable tool needs bearings replacement is usually the way to go. I keep buying the same cordless drills because the kit is cheaper than 2 batteries, so I have 6 drills and only 7 working batteries. Stationary shop machines are worth putting bearings or even a new motor in. When my 1/2 hp motor in my bandsaw burned up the replacement was out of stock, but a 1hp was available at the same price. Learning to repair and maintain your tools is essential to earn a living doing woodwork. Old appliance or computer cords often work well on my routers.
Posted: 6:33 pm on August 12th

davcefai davcefai writes: I try to repair but the problem is that a tool my experience multiple failures and end up costing you more than you planned.
My very comfortable 25 yr old Elu MOF96 Router did this. Bearings, then brushes, followed by electronics (twice). Only the bearings were a "cost" item because I fixed the others myself but for some people this would have approached the cost of a new router.

Fonda, if your cordless drills are 12V you can hook them up to a UPS battery which costs about 20 Euros - say $30. Works a treat and you get a long time between charges.
Posted: 5:15 pm on August 12th

firemanbsa firemanbsa writes: It depends on the cost of repair and the avalibility of repair parts vs quality of tool. I personally have rebuilt my air impacts several times for less than 1/3 the cost of a new impact. When the handle of my DeWalt 18v recip saw broke off, a local dealer had a tool only sale and I bought a replacement saw for less than 2 handles would have cost. I kept the old saw and have use parts from it to repair other tools. I try to buy only "quality" tools that with proper care and maintenance should last most of my lifetime. The cordless tools that I have bought I will be able to purchase batteries for most of my lifetime, or will be able to send them in to be rebuilt. In my "day job" I have found that you need to buy the best quality that you can afford, it's the cheapest in the long run. Most of my mechanics tools are Snap-On, I have yet to have one fail me that was not covered by a great warranty. You gets what you pay for.
Posted: 1:14 pm on August 12th

tooltunafish tooltunafish writes: If the old tool is a good quality USA made tool and the new option is only to buy a made in China model, I will always fix the old tool.
Posted: 11:49 am on August 12th

MBerger MBerger writes: I have great envy for woodworkers who buy up old woodworking machinery and revive them. Phil Lowe's shop is almost entirely stocked with 50s era stationary tools that he has restored and they are some of the best machines I've seen. Not sure I'd repair an old router before buying a new one, but a jointer, maybe.
Posted: 11:34 am on August 12th

Beckum Beckum writes: It seems like a lot of you are focusing on the battery powered tools. Here's a thought for your dead battery packs. Most of battery packs are a group of AA size cells and they can be replaced. Good deals for the cells can be found on E-Bay, among other places. As far a your big, corded tools, Provided they are quality tools, you should be able to get most of the parts for them. Bearings are one of the things that go out the most and you can get them, no problem. Doing the repairs yourself is where you're going to save money. Having those same repairs done for you at a shop is usually cost prohibitive to making the repairs.

What I always tell people about repairing anything is that everything can be repaired. It is a matter of how much you are willing to spend. Sometimes the repair costs more then a replacement. Sometimes the tool is of such quality that cost is not the issue. In the end, it is your tool and your money and the choice is yours.

I work on a tight budget and most of my larger tool were bought in some state of disrepair and in need of something. I consider myself lucky in that I have dabbled in so many areas that I can do my own repairs about 90% of the time. There are some things I always have done either because I don't have the specialty tool for the repair or I don't feel comfortable doing it myself. Given the time and the internet to research the parts, I only have one left to fix. And it is a back-up.

Best of luck in all you do,
Posted: 11:20 am on August 12th

stephanc stephanc writes: It all depends on the tool. I like buddgood tend to buy the same brand of replacement tool if that is what's required. Having 2 or 3 battery operated drills sometimes works very well. I have also repaired old tools that have been given to me by my grandfather and my dad so hopefully I might give them to one of my grandsons.
Posted: 10:41 am on August 12th

winner winner writes: Edwin,
When purchasing a cordless power tool I suggest choosing a manufacture who has a complete line. They usually come with several batteries and a charger. When one battery goes bad there are several more to choose from. Of course, eventually all batteries will become exhausted. This being the case keep an eye opened for battery sale specials. I check out the Power Tool Lines repair facility where there are often good deals on batteries.
Responding to 'fonda's comment "-could they be modified some way so that one could use them as corded drills". Currently I've not seem such a modification however, it's an idea that desevers some consideration. It would seem a battery case could be used to house a transformer etc.
Posted: 10:35 am on August 12th

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: In the past, I've repurposed partially broken tools and home appliances. I've also scavenged old power tools for still-working switches, cords, etc. It's a good idea to keep some of this material on-hand - especially the cords - for easy repairs to other tools.


Posted: 9:22 am on August 12th

buddgood buddgood writes: I am too much of a "green" person to throw away good tools simply because the batteries don't work and it's equally as expensive to replace the batteries as to buy I new tool. For that reason, I usually buy the same brand of battery powered tools w/ the same 14.4 volt batteries so that I get multiple batteries to use w/ different tools. I also look for sales on those batteries. I am not a conspiracy theorist but it has occurred to me that the manufacturers have built in planned obsolesence.
Posted: 8:34 am on August 12th

ErichThompsonNC ErichThompsonNC writes: Again, it depends. If it's a tool that has worked well I'll try to repair it. If it hasn't worked well for me, I'll use the occasion to upgrade. Sometimes with battery tools I can bu a new tool for less than the batteries. That's how I get multiple drills using the same batteries - a real plus in production work. Bottom line, I don't want to choke the landfill with three year old tools.
Posted: 6:35 am on August 12th

Blackwill Blackwill writes: really would depend on the price of a (comparable) new tool, and, as PastorFranc mentions, the sentimentality or "feel" of the old one. I've got a corded drill which was placed on my workbench under a leaky pipe, and the collet is now rusted. Whether I replace it or repair it will depend on how badly it is rusted, and how much I have in the "unfortunate but totally avoidable expense" budget.

Of course, the leaky pipe (and workbench top) will need to be repaired first ;)
Posted: 1:00 am on August 12th

PastorFranc PastorFranc writes: An August storm blew rain into the first floor of our home and it ran down into the workshop below covering a number of power tools. The insurance company adjuster said that they should be scrapped, but I was particularly fond of the Craftsman 12.5" planer and the Porter Cable plunge router, so I took them to a repair shop where I was promptly told again to throw them away and get a new tool. Perhaps I have grown sentimental about my tools, but the all-steel Craftsman planer with only two cutting knives does a beautiful job, and I know exactly how to set up my work to produce good results. I don't want a new learning curve trying to figure out how to make a plastic DeWalt do the work at a quality level I can accept. And the plunge router is a beautiful piece of equipment that seems to fit in my hand and produce beautiful work every time I use it. Is it cheaper to buy replacements? Sure, but I don't think the equation should be based on cost alone.
Posted: 10:44 pm on August 11th

gdblake gdblake writes: Depends on the price of the tool, how well it did the job before going south, and the cost of repair. If it's a tool that gets the job done and the repair cost is substantially less than replacing the tool I fix it.
Posted: 9:44 pm on August 11th

fonda fonda writes: I have a nop. of cordless drills which do not seem to have usable batteries any more . I have wondered if they could be modified in some way so that one couold use them as corded drills . I find the best thing about these drills is the slower speeds they turn a t so that one can use them for tightening screws . While the ability to use them far from a power outlet is a plus I an usually using them in my shop and this particular blessing is not a necessity. If I could use them "on line" so to speak I could continue to benefit from the tools till they packed it in . Thanks. Fonda

Posted: 3:18 pm on August 11th

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker

ABOUT THE EDITORS MAILBOX editors report from the woodworking front lines. Check in every weekday for news, information, projects, and answers to questions from Fine Woodworking readers everywhere.

Learn about our new format!

Archive: Temporarily unavailable. Stay tuned and sorry for the inconvenience.