IN PRINT — Tools that Work: Productive options for the shop

Most shop supervisors or maintenance managers have at least one secret -weapon in their tool crib. It could be a proven time or labor saver, or maybe a tool designed for lifting heavy stuff like tires and wheels. Tools that aid in -precision work, such as installing wheel bearings, can prove their worth many times over by reducing irregular tire wear and minimizing the possibility of a wheel-off.

Since there are literally thousands of tools or devices promising cost savings, ease of operation or increased productivity, we called some Canadian fleet maintenance specialists to find out which tools they just couldn’t live without. Not surprisingly, we received several tips on tire service products, which suggests tire maintenance is still a significant source of grief. 

One tool we came across was a tire demounting tool offered by AME, called Golden Buddy. It’s a lever-action tool that pries the tire free of the wheel in a single motion. 

“This tool is headache-free and allows us to remove a tire in under 10 seconds,” says Adrian Cimadamore, shop foreman at Premier Bulk Systems in Gormley, Ontario.

Tools for heavy lifting are popular, especially for wheel service. It’s not that wheels are excruciatingly heavy (although wide-singles sure are), but when you service 10 or 20 wheels a day the cumulative effect can generate -pretty high worker turnover in that department.

Chris Iveson, director of maintenance at Challenger Motor Freight, uses -portable wheel pullers to wrangle wheels that can become seized to the hub. The size and weight of the wheel can make this a -dangerous task to do manually.

“These wheel pullers are lifesavers,” he says. “Especially with wide-single tires.”

Still with wheels and wheel ends, a tool that has been around awhile, called Dr. Preload, has recently been acquired by Meritor. It allows technicians to set measureable and consistent bearing preload in about a minute per wheel end, without torque wrenches and dial -indicators. It does require the proprietary Temper-brand nut and lock ring, but the system supports any wheel hub currently available.

“We’ve done some testing, trying to achieve preload with torque wrench procedures, and we concluded it can’t be done reliably or repeatedly,” says Ray Piascik, vice president of marketing and sales at Temper Axle Products (now called Meritor Wheel Bearing Adjustment System). “Just a slight slip of the wrench and you can go very high on preload. That’s -really bad for bearings.”

Hub and bearing installation is an exacting exercise, and it can be complex. Bearing installation and adjustment procedures for non-preset bearing sets – described in The Technology and Maintenance Council’s (TMC) Recommended Practice RP 618 – include nine steps, requiring some diligence on the technician’s part. A slight degree of endplay is acceptable even though -bearing manufacturers will tell you a slight preload condition provides -optimal bearing life. The problem with preload is that it’s very difficult to measure, except in the case of this system.

Meanwhile, a unique tool for maintaining air systems is offered by Quebec-based Commercial Fleet Tech Support Group. Its Inject-Air Pneumatic Circuit Foggers inject a fog of lubricant throughout the air system, rather than pouring the lubricant in a liquid form.

“The finely atomized liquid, as a fog, will reach into the furthest parts of the air system rather than settling into the air reservoir,” says Claude Drouin, -founder and senior technical consultant. “Each 150-milliliter dose contains a -mixture of alcohol for water dispersion, and a lubricant to prevent the non–metallic parts in the brake valves – O-rings and seals – from drying out and becoming brittle, thus ensuring longer life and proper function of the valves.”

Valuable tools are not limited to those that can be stored in a tool crib. Overhead crane and work platforms have certainly proven their worth to a few carriers. Erb Transport in New Hamburg, Ontario uses both. Gerry Spachman, the company’s trailer maintenance chief, says the overhead crane is one of his greatest assets.

“We use it to lift the trailer bodies to remove the bogie for repairs,” he says. “We also use it to move old worn-out suspensions around our shop and then to bring the freshly rebuilt or new -suspension back into position to get reinstalled into the trailer. We don’t use it every day, but when we need it the crane sure makes life easier.”

Erb and Challenger have also designed platforms for high-level work. As provinces continue to introduce or enforce worker fall protection regulations, -platforms such as these are bound to become more common.

And our final must-have tool for any truck shop is the humble torque wrench. You surely have one, maybe a couple, but are they used regularly when remounting wheels? There are regulations in place in some provinces requiring wheels be torqued to specifications during re–installation, and then retorqued after certain intervals.

It’s easier and more convenient to use an impact wrench to tighten wheel nuts, but that’s not the proper procedure. A calibrated torque wrench is the only ap–proved method of tightening wheel nuts.

Whether it’s an overhead crane, a Genie Lift or a tire bar of some sort, the right tool is always a good investment for its intended application.   

Jim Park was a CDL driver and owner-operator from 1978 until 1998, when he began his second career as a trucking journalist. During that career transition, he hosted an overnight radio show on a Hamilton, Ontario radio station and later went on to anchor the trucking news in SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking channel. Jim is a regular contributor to Today's Trucking and, and produces Focus On and On the Spot test drive videos.

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