Special Tools Needed for Appliance Repair

Special Tools for Appliance RepairI’m going to insist that you need these tools on your appliance repair service calls, even though you may not think so.

I would then ask you in a few months, after running your own service calls, if you still think some of these are not necessary.

The good news is when I add up what I paid for everything listed here the total was under $30.  That’s quite a bargain for the essential role these tools will play in your work.

I’m not exaggerating, because many service calls would not get completed without them.

Security Bits:  $6.00 at Auto Zone
The first thing you will need is a complete set of security tool bits to open any fastener (a.k.a screws) you will encounter.  There is no standardization among appliances and brands, and I guarantee you will need more options than a Phillips, slotted or torx.  Try to explain to the customer that you can’t open up their appliance because you don’t have the right screwdriver with you!

Telescoping Magnetic Pick-Up Tool:  $3.50 on eBay
OK, mine was free, given to me by a grateful customer, and I loved the gesture at the time but wasn’t sure how practical it was.  Turns out it can save your life when you drop odd sized screws down into hard to reach spots of the appliance.  Spend the three bucks, and save yourself hours of dumb retrieval time.

AC Voltage Detector Pen:  $4.00 on eBay
I already had this inexpensive item in my toolbox.  You will use this constantly to check the presence of AC current at different locations within the appliance.

(Yes, the multimeter does this too, but with the pen, you can get a quick read without disconnecting any terminals and fiddling around with two probes.  Save the multimeter for when you need accurate voltage readings.)

The pen quickly reassures you that no voltage is present so you can avoid annoying and costly trips to the hospital for electrocution.

Fingerless Kevlar Gloves – $5.00 Online
This is the most subjective item in my list.  You may really find this unnecessary, and I won’t argue with you, BUT, I have finally gotten tired of all the nicks and cuts that come with the profession when you are sticking your hands in tight places to remove stubborn parts.

The combination of brute strength required and endless sharp edges of sheet metal surrounding your hands (not to mention exposed screws) adds up to continuous lacerations (mostly small).  Make up your own mind, I find it worth the five bucks.

Canned Air:  $5.00 at Wal-Mart
This is really handy on refrigeration repair to chill down any bi-metal thermostat so you can check it for continuity.  A 12 oz can last a good long time…don’t leave home without it.

8’ Test Cord:  $3.00 Homemade
This is just a standard household extension cord with the female end cut off and insulated alligator clips soldered on.  If you don’t know why this is essential, you need to read more of my blog posts.

Turkey Baster:  $1.00 at Dollar Store
This will earn you hundreds of dollars on your service calls when you need to defrost the ice plug in a refrigerator drain line, the classic case of “my refrigerator is leaking water all over inside.”

Empty out the freezer, pull off the back panel and start defrosting all that ice that has built up.  When you get down to the drain-through spout, the turkey baster will be the only effective way to run hot water over the iced-up area until it breaks free.  Completing a $100.00 service call with a $1.00 tool – that’s why I love this profession!

Ok, that’s my short list of things you really need to add to your toolbox for a very small investment.  If it looks like I get most my stuff on eBay and at discount stores, you’re right.  I love to keep the money I earn and hope this helps you do the same!  Please post your comments if you know of any things else I may have missed.

17 Replies to “Special Tools Needed for Appliance Repair”

  1. Will you have an opportunity to post most of the basic tools. I’m in the process of starting my own appliance repair business .

    1. Hi Aubrey – Good question! If you read my “Tools to Carry Into the Home” post, I list what I carry in my basic toolbox. Very best of luck with starting your business!

  2. Just starting out in Appliance Repair bizz for my self. Found out you are right about every item on this list. I would add jumper wires and a heat gun to this list too. I have been in trade HVAC and Appliances for 20 years.(always working for others) Currently doing appliance repair part time and weekends when I am not working my HVAC job with School District. Enjoy reading your blogs!

    1. Hi Mike – Congratulations on starting your appliance repair business! Yes, good suggestions to add to the list, I do carry both of those also. Best of luck to you getting up and running!

  3. Here’s a question that I’m contemplating. When you work on dishwashers and washing machines, pulling drain pumps and hoses, while a drain pan is necessary, what do you use as a towel ? I use towels now, but I am considering getting a set of those Shamwow towels because they absorb a lot of water and hold it, and it wrings out pretty well. That of course means less freezing in winter too.

    You have any suggested “super absorbent towel for appliance repairmen” perhaps?

  4. hi i am choosing a carreer in the appliance repair industry i clean and repair ovens at this current time but would like to gain as much info as i can on appliance repair if theres any more extra tools you use i would be grateful .

    1. Hi Ricky – If you haven’t already, check out my post “Tools to Carry Into the Home,” and add the following tools: A generic spanner wrench #TB123A to remove the inner tub lock nut on Whirlpool/Kenmore washers, and a 3lb drilling hammer to use with that wrench. I know some techs have a way to do it, without the $10.00 wrench, but why make things harder out there? Note that the Whirlpool OEM tool #14218862 is 4 times as expensive, but my generic wrench holds up just fine to my 3 lb hammer. I also recommend carrying the largest size flat head jeweler’s screwdriver which is great for unlocking tabs on wire harness connectors. Vise-Grip pliers, handy for all kinds of tasks. Thanks for the great question, and welcome to appliance repair!

    1. Thanks Sam – glad you liked the special tools post! Got one to add – removable blue tacky putty. You can get at Ace Hardware for less than $3, apply a small bead to your non-magnetic screwdriver and odd sized hex head screws. Particularly useful for picking up non-magnetic parts that fall into cracks and crevices.

  5. What type of insurance do you carry or do you self insure? I worked for a small company fixing appliances for 2 years and I’ve seen some damage done while repairing/installing/removing appliances. The biggest one was when a dishwasher was pulled out and slid back in causing a copper line to develop a tiny unnoticeable leak. The customer went on vacation right after the repair and came back to some damaged hardwood floors. I know that you can be extremely careful but still have mishaps every once in a while.

    Also, what’s a ballpark $ range for your truck parts inventory?

    I’m thinking about picking up a few apartment complexes as a side job.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Good questions! I carry 1 million in general liability for business, and 2 million in other injury or damages coverage. I completely agree with you that no matter how carefully and professionally you handle your repairs, unexpected things can happen and it is crazy not to have insurance coverage. I sleep better at night and work with more confidence each day knowing I am being responsible to myself and my business. I’m paying only $450 per year and it’s well worth it. As far as truck inventory, I carry about $1,000.00 with me, but I grew into this over time. When I first started, I carried a minimal amount (about $300.00), but the more I learned about what I needed on a regular basis, and with the reassurance that I was doing good business, I started to carry more stuff. I’m going to try to write a future blog post on this because it’s such a good topic – thanks!

    1. Good question. I choose not to pursue doing warranty work for the major brands based on a couple of things. Mostly because they have a reputation in the industry for not paying well (far less than you could bill for equivalent services) and secondly for being slow and difficult to collect even that!

      You are also required to be EPA certified to use refrigerant (not all that hard to get) and have the training and equipment to do sealed system work. I didn’t want to make that investment, as I found very few customers are willing pay for those repairs if the appliance isn’t under warranty. (That’s the price point where they usually decide to replace the refrigerator for a new one!) So if you’re not doing sealed system work solely for factory warranty, it’s not worth the investment in the equipment.

      I have not gone through the process of getting factory authorized repair work but I have seen both the GE and Whirlpool applications. They don’t look too hard to me but experience is a factor. Warranty work can also become a crutch distracting you from cultivating your own high paying customers. I have never regretted my choice.

      Thanks again for the great question, and good luck!

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