What are Your Favorite Laundromat Tools

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What are Your Favorite Laundromat Tools? (Part 1)

Pointers from Paulie B: Instruments that can make your life a lot easier

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having the right tools can make a world of difference for repairs, maintenance and any other project you might tackle in your laundromat. Using the wrong tools will not only make your job longer and harder, in some cases it can lead to damage, failure or even personal injury.

We all know and should have the basic tools: pliers, screwdrivers, drills, etc. But there are many other tools that will make your life a lot easier.

I accumulated and used many tools over my laundry career. In this column, I’ll tell you about the ones that stand out in my mind. I hope you’ll see that they can make your life a lot easier. Let’s start with diagnostics.

Multimeters — The No. 1 tool to help you diagnose your equipment is the multimeter, also known as a VOM or volt ohm meter. 

Once you know how to use one, it will help you greatly to diagnose an electrical issue.

You can use it to trace broken circuits, test batteries or fuses, or find out if a certain part like a drain valve is getting power. You can use the ohmmeter to measure resistance in a circuit to check if a part like a solenoid is faulty.

When you buy a VOM, it comes with an instruction book so you can learn how to use it. Or just Google “how to use a multimeter.” There are plenty of tutorial videos online. 

The better meters have capacitance settings that can tell you if a capacitor is good or not. (To avoid an accidental shock, safely discharge any capacitor before testing.)

Voltage Pen — This is a handy pen-shaped tool that’s very easy to carry. It saved me from quite a few shocks over the years.

If you want to know if a wire is “hot” (live with electricity), just place the tip of the pen next to the wire. If it’s hot, the pen will flash and beep.

Laser Thermometer — Point its laser at your sink faucets to read the water temperature, your air conditioning ducts to read the air temps, and inside your dryers after hearing those famous words, “My dryer’s not hot enough.”

Keep in mind that laser thermometers aren’t accurate when pointed at shiny surfaces.

If you need to measure the temperature of a brand-new exhaust duct, for instance, just place a piece of black electrical tape on the shiny surface, wait about five minutes for the tape to get hot, then point the laser dot at the tape.

Electrical Receptacle Tester with GCFI Diagnosis — Make your mat safer. I discovered quite a few incorrectly wired outlets over the years using this inexpensive device. You just plug it into an outlet to see if it’s wired right.

Soldering Gun — My soldering gun, along with my desoldering tool, allowed me to change motor relays that were mounted on a computer board. It was cheaper than sending the whole board out to be rebuilt. You just buy and stock a couple relays.

How does one repair broken plastic parts? Here’s another valuable use for a soldering iron. A good soldering kit will come with interchangeable tips you can use for plastic welding.

Again, look for videos on how to perform plastic welding. It’s not hard to do, and if done correctly, it’s much stronger than any of the plastic glues out there. The “welding rods” for this are actually cable ties.

Glues — I generally like epoxies because you can store them a long time without them going bad. They also make really strong bonds. Of course, Gorilla Glue, wood clue, contact cement and silicone glue all have their place as well.

There are some great uses for cyanoacrylate glue, which you may know better as Krazy Glue. It’s not just for perfectly matched bonds like a broken cup handle. When you combine it with things that can give it a matrix, or structure, you can bond almost anything.

For instance, you can make an incredibly strong paste from Krazy Glue mixed with baking soda. The result is rock-hard. You can even use a cotton ball as a matrix material. Again, there are plenty of how-to videos to be found out there.

Long Reach (11-inch) Needle Nose Pliers or Long Medical Forceps — Either of these was always one of my favorites. Have a lint ball stuck in a washer drain hose? Long reach needle nose pliers make for an easy extraction. A forceps works even better.

Socket Set, and Metric and SAE Allen Wrench Sets — Every mat owner needs a good socket set and Allen wrenches in both metric and SAE measurements. A good set should also have Torx and Star bits, because those screws are becoming more and more popular.

Adjustable Groove Joint Pliers — I suggest buying a product carrying a good name brand, and to get two sizes. These are very handy to have. They’re useful for all sorts of laundromat jobs, the most common one being as a substitute pipe wrench.

Ratcheting Automobile Radiator Hose Pinch-off Pliers — If you’ve ever had to drain a washer tub of water, you’ll appreciate how this simple automobile tool can pinch off a drain hose until you’re ready to release the water.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].