15 tools we wouldn’t be without: Part one

Like a favourite pair of slippers, most people have a few firm favourites on their tool rack (or kicking about under the seat of the pick-up) – the first things they reach for when a disaster looms.

We’ve been asking a few of our machinery-minded contributors to nominate their favourite get-out-of-a-fix bits of kit.

Initially we set out to find the Top Ten Tools but there’s so much useful stuff out there that it’s somehow stretched to 15. In part one, we’ll be testing an inverter arc welder, an antifreeze tester, a tyre bead breaker and an unbreakable LED work light.

 

Some of the stuff we’ve chosen might seem expensive but quite often there are cheaper versions available if you shop about. (Just try typing the product name into Google Shopping and you’ll soon find the cheapest deal).

Next week: open-ended ratchet spanners, a nifty wrench and a handy screwdriver/retrieval tool, plus top-quality water pipe tools.

Inverter Arc-Welder

What is it?

As the name suggests, the Gysmi 165 a portable welder that you can sling over your shoulder and as long as you’ve got a standard three-pin power supply it will pump out up to 160amps – enough to glue two fairly chunky lumps of steel together.

How does it work?

Like other inverter arc welders it ramps up the power you get from your normal 13amp socket to make it possible to weld pretty much anywhere.

Why is it so useful?

At 4.6kg it weighs about the same as a newborn lamb or, if you’re arable farming, that’s probably just a bit heavier than a cartridge bag. That means you can climb ladders with it, clamber over dung heaps or just use it as you would a normal workshop welder.

Compared to the legendary but incredibly heavy Murex ‘Light Welder’ of a similar power that was commonplace 30 to 40 years ago, this is an awesome little box of sparks.

It’s also dead easy to set up, with buttons used to run up and down the power output shown on its digital display. Soft start function means rods don’t tend to stick when you’re starting a run.

An additional kit means it also has the capability for TIG welding but we didn’t try it out.

Who makes it?

It’s made by French firm GYS but sold here by Spaldings. Other companies such as Kemppi, SIP, Clarke and Silverline offer similar units.

How much does it cost?

Spaldings list price – £349.90

Click here for the best online price – £309.96

Anti-Freeze Tester

What is it?

A turkey baster-style syringe-type thing that tells you how low the temperature can drop before your coolant will freeze solid.

How does it work?

Having sucked up a good gulp of coolant from the rad or expansion tank, a glass float within the main tube bobs about in the liquid until it finds its level, giving a reading for the temperature protection your anti-freeze provides, effectively measuring its specific gravity.

Why is it so useful?

Simple, cheap bit of kit that could save thousands in repairs for cracked engine blocks and other frost sensitive gear.

Who makes it?

Virtually every tool supplier offers an anti-freeze tester. Obvious choices are Sealey, Draper, Laser, Dorman, etc…

How much does it cost?

Sealey list price – £15.54

Click here for best online price – £3

Tyre bead breaker

What is it?

A mechanical clamp that prises the tyre away from the rim without the need to take the wheel off the tractor.

How does it work?

A two-piece blade slips down between the bead and the rim and is clamped into position with one threaded handle. The second then pushes the tyre wall inwards and off the rim.

Why is it so useful?

It avoids the knuckle-smashing process of persuading a bead to part company with a rim. While the alternative trick of running it over with another vehicle is rapid, it isn’t good for the tyre and of course means the wheel has to come off the tractor.

Using the bead breaker is also a steady, controlled process so there are no surprise bangs or trapped fingers.

Who makes it?

It’s another Spaldings product.

How much does it cost?

Spaldings list price – £194.18 (no online alternative)

The company also makes a more sophisticated hydraulic version which pumps out 10t of force and costs £580.30

LED inspection lamp

What are they?

LED technology has really come of age over the last few years. These little dazzlers now shed a decent amount of light, don’ cost too much and of course the batteries last for ages.

We picked upon Ring’s cordless rechargeable version because it’s claimed to be “virtually unbreakable”.

How does it work?

It sits in a charging station on the workshop bench and when it’s needed can be clipped onto a front pocket on a set of overalls (honestly, it’s the most useful place but you do look like a bit of a geek) or lies on the floor shining upwards.21 LEDs pump out a dazzling 850lux – the rough equivalent to about 850 candles blazing away but not quite as hot.

It’ll run for about four hours but you notice it’s intensity dropping away after 1.5 hours. Charging back up to the max takes about four hours.

Why is it so useful?

Its rubberised casing makes it pretty bouncy so that it can survive being dropped off the top of a combine as well as being run over.

Who makes it?

Ring Automotive

How much does it cost?

Ring list price – £49.99

Click here for best online price – £44.99

There are loads of alternatives out there and equally useful are those cheap little round ones that are magnetic so will hang on to a combine side panel or an RSJ in a dark corner. There available anywhere, from petrol stations to plumber’s merchants. Expect to pay around £3 to £5 so we reckon grab a handful.

Similarly LED head-torches are ideal for jobs that require both hands . Depending on what you go for you can spend anything between £2 to £25.

Magentic bits tray

What is it?

A stainless steel dish that will stick onto anything ferrous and will hold on to loose bits and pieces.

How does it work?

Simple – it’s magnetic.

Why is it so useful?

Avoids scrabbling around in the dirt trying to locate all the bits you’ve lost when you kicked over the precariously balanced bucket you were using.

Rubberised magnet avoids damaging paintwork and will hang onto the dish’s contents even when stuck onto a moving wheel rim.

Who makes it?

This one is made by Teng Tools but there are loads of others.

How much does it cost?

Teng list price – £15.10

Click here for best online price – £8

Reckon we’ve missed some obvious tools you shouldn’t be without? Please let us know by emailing james.andrews@rbi.co.uk or join in our forum discussion