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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

8 of the most lethal tools in your home shop

Working on cars is inherently dangerous. Just like driving, spinning wrenches on a vehicle requires respect and undivided attention. We all accept a certain amount of risk when taking on DIY projects, and I'm willing to bet that the percentage of people who have left every single one of their projects without a scrape or bruise to be less than one.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/8-of-the-most-lethal-tools-in-your-home-shop/
116 REPLIES 116
RJ
Detailer

Battery charger! I expected to see it first on the list. Also I think about how dangerous some jobs would be without some of those tools.

I'm 10 miles from our all-volunteer fire department - something always on my mind - esp. when cutting with the torch or tossing out an oily rag.
Callen
Intermediate Driver

One I would add is knowing when to stop for the day. When you are tired, but close to done, you figure you can just tough it out and push thru to get done. That's when mistakes happen. Usually for me it was my woodworking projects at my last house where I had to push the tools aside and clean up to put the car back in the garage at night, so I would push it to get done. Usually hurt the project, not myself, but the same applies to automotive work. I know doing MIG and TIG on thin sheet metal bodywork my quality definitely falls off when tired.
GeneLaRoe
Pit Crew

Reminds me of a couple of old rednek quotes. "Hey ya-all, watch this!" or "Here, hold my beer." Possible kicking in the old Darwin effect by removing yourself from the gene pool.
Air_and_Water
Instructor

I would add a hydraulic press. a 20 or 30 ton garage-style press is exerting so much force, but since things aren't moving very far or fast it can be deceptive as to how dangerous it is should something give way.
DonA427
Pit Crew

Great reminders. I comply with all of these and then some: I never leave any rag or towel in my garage if it has any petroleum residue. I check the heads of my chisels for mushrooming; a lesson I leaned the hard way when- at sixteen,I was splitting logs and part of the mushroom (size of a dime) went 3/4 through my lower leg. I always have two (2) phones within immediate reach when I'm doing something that might get me in trouble. I changed out drop lights with incandescent bulbs because if any gas were to leak or spray on the bulb it would likely crack the hot globe and cause a flare-up. I locate my larger fire extinguisher near the entry door and not in the back corner of my garage. For my garage compressor, I power it down at the primary power cord to assure it doesn't run non-stop when I'm not there. Thanks again for your helpful article. Don Antilla
RP
Intermediate Driver

The easiest way to take care of that oily rag is to put it in a plastic bag with water.
When I put my car on jack stands, the wheels go underneath it too.
Tinkerah
Engineer

Yes, wheel under the car. It's already in your hands and takes two seconds.
FloridaMarty
Instructor

I worked with a guy once who used to keep the exacto knife in his back pocket, blade up. One day he put his hands in his back pockets during break. Ouch. I rushed him to the urgent care to get some stitches. Felt bad for him, but he set the stage.
ed
Advanced Driver

It took me a long time to learn...there is no substitute for using the right tool for the job.
leusgs
Pit Crew

In shop class first day we were told the air compressor is the most dangerous tool in the shop.
You get air in a cut and you are dead. It happens.
Kyle
Moderator

I learned of this years ago and now cringe every time I watch someone using compressed air to blow dust or dirt off their skin. Compressed air is secretly very dangerous!
EventHorizons
Intermediate Driver

A long time ago I was told that the most dangerous machine in a machine shop was....wait for it...the humble drill press.

The reason was that the all the other machines are heavy and powerful and are duly respected.

Whereas with the drill press people would say "It's just a quick hole. Only take a sec!" and would not clamp it, put on safety glasses or take other basic measures.

Hate to admit it, but sometimes I'm guilty as well.
Tim2
Intermediate Driver

Bench grinder should also be on this list!
JSievers
Instructor

Great article. Spring compressors scare the s**t out of me. If you need to use one get the best that money can buy. I highly recommend a design that has positive locking pins or clamps that ensure the spring coils cannot come off the compressor hooks.
GlidingPast
Pit Crew

Totally agree having done a dozen sets. If I had the wall space, I'd have a Branick strut spring compressor.
JCC001
New Driver

The most dangerous tool in my shop is...me!
elvacarsdallas
Intermediate Driver

That makes two of us
5869Corvette
Intermediate Driver

All good stuff. Anything that creates dust or harmful vapour can be lethal. The problem is it can be lethal 20 years down the road when the lung cancer develops. Even if it’s just a quick a few seconds, whenever you are grinding, buffing or cutting take that extra second to wear the right type of mask. Do it!
JeffK
Pit Crew

Any sort of heat source should be included - propane or oxy-acetylene.

"Mach Jesus"? Kyle, choose your expressions respectfully.
Tinkerah
Engineer

I think Jesus would be honored.
toy83h2ssj53
Intermediate Driver

A most important piece of advice from my father, lo some 60 years ago, that has stood up well for me. And all my extremitries are whole and usable. "Never force anything, back off and find out why it will not come apart, or go together easily." Using a drill press without a vise is just asking for trouble. There is too much rotational force to hold back when it catches. A cross feed vise is also a plus if there is much repetition involved in the project.
Grinders - Widowmakers!!! Always buy quality grinding wheels, do not lay the grinder on the wheel, or slow it down on the work. Rest or store it without anything touching the wheel. The most dangerous time using a grinder is when it is starting, and a defective or damaged wheel can fly apart - always have the plane of the wheel away from your person. And when using the grinder, always have the sparks going away from you, and also away from anything, persons or otherwise that you cherish.
Knives - the advice on keeping it sharp is wise. If cut with a sharp knife, the cut will heal much more rapidly and show a much smaller scar than if caused by a dull blade. Best not to handle a knife so that it intersects your body in the first place.
CP66
Detailer

I used to work with a guy that was missing fingertips on both hands and what was left was heavily scarred clear up into his wrist areas from "accidents" at work. We were working on a conveyor one night and when he tried to turn it back on he couldn't due to my lock on the disconnect. He wanted to know why I was compelled to lock it out and I told him to look at his own hands and if that didn't explain it he wouldn't understand.
knucklebusted
Intermediate Driver

Good info!

For the first year of our marriage, my wife complained that I didn't wear a wedding band. It was way before the Internet but I found a picture of a degloved finger in a magazine and explained it to her. She never complained again. I also don't wear long sleeves or a watch while working on anything since I once made contact with a metal watch band, a fender and a positive battery post.
BN
New Driver

need to consider band saws
Javelinsrule
Pit Crew

Another one that should have been mentioned----A wire wheel brush----Hi-speed---flying wire--
Even if you are using facial protection I have seen those little wires bury deep in forearms, chest and stomach.
A many of persons have lost a eye when not using eye protection. My friend that was helping me on my 72 Javelin caught one of those flying wires in his cheek right below his safety glass'. There was about a 1/8th on a inch sticking out---when we removed it with a pair of needle nose pliers---it was darn near a inch long. If it had hit him a 1/2 inch higher he would be blind in that eye today..
merlebalke
Advanced Driver

A good friend of mine, who had worked on cars since he was a kid, was killed when a car he was working under fell on him.
ZZZPR
Intermediate Driver

Simple rule when using a drill press: If the workpiece is long enough, rest it against the left side of the drill press column. That way, if the bit catches, the piece can't spin.
Tinkerah
Engineer

That's great old technique that should be part of every drill press' instructions.
hyperv6
Collector

Air pressure.

Ever seen a tank blow or a split rim tire not in a cage blow?

Or oxygen tank lose a valve.

A lift or rack not used properly and drop a car.

JeffWP
New Driver

Can I just echo the warning on knives went to cut a piece of plastic sheet to make a stirrer, the little voice in the back of my head said put it on the bench, I ignored this and tried to "freehand" it. Sliced across back of two knuckles. Nine months of hand therapy later my fingers kinda work, will never look the same again and gripping things still hurts!
Tinkerah
Engineer

Two things: First: Trigger locks on hand held tools. I'm hard pressed to imagine a safe situation for them.

Second: Resist the temptation to grab the chips off the drill bit with your fingers until it has completely stopped turning. They can "Chinese finger lock" you and cut you all up.

Bonus: Don't prank the rest of the crew by rolling this across the shop floor:

CIMG1565.JPG

CIMG1564.JPG

Kyle
Moderator

Interesting point on the trigger locks. I have used one on my corded drill when using a buffing wheel to restore motorcycle plastics. It allowed me to slow the speed down and regulate it very nicely, but your are very right about how dangerous it is to have something with relatively high torque locked in a "run" position.
Tinkerah
Engineer

There ya go, a valid application I couldn't've imagined because well, I never buff anything. But I cringe at the thought of a dropped right angle grinder, locked "on".

Snailish
Engineer

I'm from a family of welders and family-run welding shops.

 

Not all of the techniques I have seen the elders and/or employees use would make the "safe" list... but nearly all that crowd never used the trigger locks on the grinders.

DUB6
Racer

Hmmm - my DeWalt ONLY runs locked on.  The switch has a detent that locks it.  You have to physically move the switch back off the detent to the off position.  And to my embarrassment, I must say I've never even thought twice about that issue until reading your post, @Tinkerah - now I'm going to live in mortal fear of that thing!

Tinkerah
Engineer

You must have the "buffing version"  DUB6.......Use it with mortal awareness I guess, and both hands on it at all times.

OMPguy
Intermediate Driver

Using a vise is not a vice.
Tom1
Pit Crew

Good point about leaving the hydraulic jack in place after setting the jack stands. I remember as a kid growing up when cars used bumper jacks the owner would be sitting on the ground, legs under car changing a flat tire. The car most of the time was at a slight angle and no stands. Now I cringe just thinking about it.
DUB6
Racer

Since I've become an old man, my eyebrows have grown bushy enough to hide it, but I had a small scar in the left one from a car falling off an old bottle jack (circa 1964).  Didn't have jack stands, but I had put a Chevy 14" wheel under the crossmember.  That wheel saved me from a crushed skull, I'm convinced!  😁

DaveH
Detailer

Best and cheapest thing to do is to make blocks out of trim ends of 2x4s and 4x4s. Stack them up and nail them together for your car's elevated height- they'll never crush and never tip over
drjim
Advanced Driver

Excellent advice, Kyle, especially for newcomers to the hobby. I've got plenty of battle scars and war stories from my decades of being a gearhead. The scariest one involved an improperly used spring compressor, which resulted in a hole in a cinder block wall.

Damn lucky nobody in the shop was in the way when the spring got loose.
JustinSchroder
Intermediate Driver

The jack and jackstand process I learned was to use the jack for lifting and the stands for standing. A Booty Check (Bumping the vehicle at each jackstanded corner with one's backside.) after resting the vehicle on all planned jackstands with no upward pressure from the jack.

Upward pressure from the jack takes away stabilizing downward pressure from the jackstands and invites sliding.

Also, the starter in an old, manual transmissioned car is pretty damned dangerous when one has a habit of parking in gear. Yikes.
SJ
Technician

Slide hammer, small sledge, any and all tools when it is cold.
TonyT
Technician

vice (noun)
Immoral or socially unacceptable behavior.
vise (noun)
A metal tool with moveable jaws that it normally mounted to a workbench or other firm surface. Used to firmly hold items to be worked on.
The first definition is the result of improper use of the second definition.
Common sense and accessing all the information available on the project needing attention will save time as well as preventing injury.
DaveH
Detailer

OK Karen
RickR
Pit Crew

#9: Battery Cables

Was installing 4 new batteries, wired in sequence, into my boat. Touched one of the
'live' cables with my wedding band for 0.6 seconds (carelessly I had removed my rubber gloves).

Of course, the ring heated to 200 degrees, cooking my finger. This was in late May. Did not
completely heal until yesterday.

No wonder most Mechanics (and Electricians) don't wear wedding bands......
SteveNL
Detailer

This is a good article. Over many years, I have used all of these tools and have been hurt with some of them. The first thing that I have always done was to take the guards off of my angle grinders....and I still have a scar on my wrist to prove it. I have compressed many strut springs without injury, but a professional mechanic I know recently broke his jaw, lost some teeth and was knocked unconscious when a spring compressor let loose. Sadly, respect and wisdom often comes from painful experience. The shop is a dangerous place.

I only have one piece of wisdom to add. Shop injuries are probably more likely to occur when we are tired, frustrated or angry. Sometimes a job starts going badly. Something doesn't come apart or go back together the way it was supposed to and we become exhausted or upset attempting to push through. That is a time when injury is more likely. That's when the old mechanic gets up, wipes down his tools, puts them away and turns out the lights until tomorrow.
DUB6
Racer

Amen - terrific advice @SteveNL!

 

Anyone who has seen the movie "Jaws" should remember the guys comparing scars.  Cool scene, but comparing angle grinder scars in real life is not really all that cool!  (and yes, I've got a pretty impressive one too)

jaysalserVW
Advanced Driver

Thank you for these very timely reminders, Kyle!
coop
Detailer

Was struck by this sentence "A vice will hold your workpiece in place,..." No guidance on which "vice" is best?? lol.

Anyway, I read/reviewed charts in a large academic center's Trauma/Burn ICU as part of my job. Many horrific things can happen "in no time" to people using little or no thought.