how long does or should a power tool last

How Long Does a Power Tool Last? It Depends on YOU, Bro

Recently I had a thought—and yes, it does remind me of the cartoon version of Beauty & the Beast where he sings that thinking is a dangerous pastime—but I had the thought nonetheless–does my dad still have his old Craftsman electric drill? If so, does it work? And if it does, then just how long should or does a power tool last, anyway?

I decided to actually contact a few famous, reputable brands in order to ask them this very question, including DeWalt, Porter Cable, Makita, Ingersoll Rand, and Sears (Craftsman), as well as a few tool repair shops. I actually even sat for over an hour on one live-chat “hold” waiting for their answer.

Yep, I’m a very, very bored guy.

According to tool manufacturers and repair shops alike, how long a power tool lasts depends on a variety of factors such as correct usage, care, storage, climate, conditions, and time. However, industry professionals agree that the most important factor for a power tool’s lifespan is unanimously the user.

Most all of the companies and repair shops I contacted responded, and of those they got back to me in under 24 hours. They include:

  • Makita
  • DeWalt
  • Porter Cable
  • Sears
  • Shreveport Air Tool

For the manufacturers, I simply used the product service support contact forms or online chat where available. Only Sears was able to actually chat with me live and they were able to do so quite quickly, as a matter of fact. Kudos to them!

What they said varied a bit and others gave a little more detail but there is one key component to how long a power tool can potentially last, and that is YOU, my friend.

There are actually various factors which affect the lifespan of power tools:

  • Misapplication of the tool
  • Defective part(s)
  • Improper lubrication
  • Improper or lack of cleaning
  • Improper transport and/or storage
  • Improper use of accessories
  • Usage of incorrect parts or accessories
  • Usage of unapproved, aftermarket parts or accessories
  • Weather conditions and/or climate
  • Normal wear-and-tear over time

What do manufacturers say about the expected lifespan of a power tool?

Below is the answer I received from each manufacturer’s customer support:

DeWalt’s Response:

Unfortunately, there are so many variables to consider.  The type of tool is a big factor.  The length of warranty on a product can be used as a guideline. 

Our compressors usually have a 1 – 2 year warranty (these are high wear products).  Power tools (corded and cordless) have a 3 year limited warranty.  Hand tools have a limited lifetime warranty.

I have spoke(n) with customers owning electric power tools over 40 years.  The amount of usage and type of usage is a big factor.  After the warranty expires, repairs can still be economically handled, extending the lifespan.

When the point arrives that the repair cost is 30% of the cost of a new tool, the customer may want to consider replacing it, especially considering what the warranty coverage is on the new tool and what the parts availability is on the older unit.

This was a nice, long answer, and it is both reasonable and clear. It really is impossible to give a blanket answer to this question, as I already knew, but it doesn’t keep us from asking the question, does it?

Still, it’s interesting to note that you can get a better idea about the longevity prowess of a tool based on the type of warranty it has…that’s interesting, but I guess it makes sense. I guess I just never thought much about that and expected my tools to last!

Makita’s Response:

I really will not be able to give a specific answer to your question. Too many internal parts could give out/be defective. These parts can be replaced with new ones, thus allowing the tool to continue “living”. This can go on indefinitely. That’s an exaggeration but do you see what I mean?

Yes, I do see what you mean and I will go on living, as well, and thankfully without the current need for any new “replacements.”

Her response was okay but not very in-depth. However, she was right and said essentially the same thing that we’ve already established, as well as reiterating what DeWalt said: it’s just not possible to give a definite, clear answer.

I also see what she means about basically “transplanting” new parts to keep a tool going, more or less, indefinitely, although there definitely does come a time when certain tools (like my poor old 24V Black & Decker hammer drill, for example) just don’t have the support or supplies they need to keep being used anymore.

They also didn’t make any comparisons or mentions of warranty like DeWalt’s CS did.

Porter Cable’s Response:

I apologize for any inconvenience, as you mentioned there is no blanket answer because all the conditions you stated will determine the lifespan of any tool. Please understand quality and assurance is our top priority.

Thanks, Porter Cable, for the very proper, quick, to-the-point, no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase answer. I am sure that Santa Claus will make YOU his ‘top priority’ come Christmas Eve!

But seriously, it wasn’t an inconvenience for ME, as I was just looking for an answer I can’t really get. I’m just happy that they responded.

Still, again do you see that P-C states essentially the same thing Makita & DeWalt did, albeit in a much faster way so that he could get back to his World of Warcraft raid? A variety of conditions will decide the life of a power tool, much like the variety of healers you have determines whether or not you’re going to get a new chest piece for your character.

Okay, no more gaming references.

Sears’ Response:

(from live chat):

(CS): I completely understand your concern about the power tools. I confirm you that Three years is recommended life expectancy for power tools.
(Me): Gotcha — and this would be for a tool that’s used daily, under normal/acceptable conditions?
(CS): Yes, even it is used daily.

Well, apparently I had this conversation much, MUCH too early in the day, because I missed something.

When I actually went back and looked at the transcript of the conversation, I realized that she said “3 years” and I thought “Oh my dear Rick Astley, was she talking just about the warranty? Also, for which tools? Also, who in their right mind would just expect a power tool to last 3 years only?”

As I looked closer at the language she used in the chat, I also realized that she wasn’t a native English speaker and, most likely, knew nothing about the lifespan of the tools themselves, but rather just basic info about warranty.

My bad, everyone, my bad…now I feel like I caused us all to wipe. Oops, I promised no more gaming references, didn’t I?

My bad again!

I think that this conversation didn’t really matter, anyway, because if I were to dig deeper until I got a Craftsman product specialist, I think the answer would’ve been lined-up with the ones I got from the other guys.

Shreveport Air Tool’s response:

*I was referred to an article on their website about common reasons for air tool problems.

Well, the repair shop IS called “air tool” after all, so they didn’t have much to say about the longevity of repair tools. They did say, however, that their personal impression is that Ingersoll Rand tools in general seem to be the best, so take that for what it’s worth.

I do think that the cordless ratchet from I-R is “da bes,” and I wrote about that here, actually!

Still, if you read the article they referred me to (which was written by a guy who’s been doing pneumatic impact tool repairs since the 1970s), you’ll see the same exact things that the manufacturers told me: it’s mostly about variable conditions, but the largest one is on the USER.

You can read the full-length article about it on Shreveport Air Tool’s website here.

Conclusion: It’s all about you

Does this make you feel special? Is it too much pressure or responsibility?

The fact of the matter is that while some things–like faulty parts or accidents–are out of our control, the primary reason why our power tools don’t last as long as they could or should is simply because of us.

So how can we keep our power tools running well and increase their lifespan as much as possible?

Great question, which is the first thing I thought of after researching this article, so I decided to research a list of related questions about power tools in order to get answers to that very question. The result I came up with over the course of a long week is this list of important, helpful, general care, maintenance, and usage questions for power tools.

I hope this helps and, as always, have yourself a great week, will ya? I’m gonna go ride my electric motorcycle for a while!