Few professions have as wide a range of tools at their disposal as mechanics. While it makes sense that complex systems like engines require a vast array of tools to maintain, the immense variety is still impressive. Even more impressive than the variety of tools themselves, is the variety in how they are powered. Most people are familiar with the basic hand tools, such as wrenches and screwdrivers, as well as power tools such as drills. The class of tools that is most unusual to many, and one of the most interesting to watch work, are air tools.
An air tool, also known as a pneumatic tool, is just what it sounds like: a tool that is powered by air. More specifically, an air tool is any tool that is powered by gas (not to be confused with gasoline, or “gas powered” tools), most commonly compressed, and most commonly air. One of the most well-known examples of an air tool is the blow gun. A fixture in most workshops, even those of the casual weekend hobbyist, blow guns are simple tools that are comprised of an air compressor, compressed air tank, and hose with release valve. When the valve is opened, the compressed air is released in a jet.
Air tools are used in a variety of capacities for a mechanic. Here is a rundown of some of the most common pneumatic tools found in a mechanics garage:
● Blow Gun: Mentioned above, a blow gun’s primary use is in cleaning. In many situations, a jet of compressed air is preferable to water or the force of a rag in cleaning a surface. For mechanics especially, blow guns can be used to clean dust or clear debris from small or delicate pieces of machinery.
● Air Drill: It may sound unnecessary when compared to an electric drill, but there some situations that are better suited for the pneumatic version. Air drills are lighter than their electric relatives, and provide the advantage of blowing away the swarf (material drilled out of the hole) from the drilling surface. When working with delicate machinery, this feature can be invaluable to a mechanic.
● Impact Gun: Racing fans will be all too familiar with the sound these tools make when used to remove the lug nuts of a wheel. While most people get by just fine removing their tires without help from an air tool, it is a mechanic’s best friend. Using an impact gun saves valuable elbow grease, ensures a snugger, more consistent fit to the nuts, and most importantly gets the job done faster.
● Ratchet: Similar in benefit to the impact gun in function, a pneumatically powered ratchet is another go-to tool for mechanics everywhere.
● Vacuum Gun: The vacuum gun is the more “responsible” brother of the blow gun. Instead of moving dust, dirt, and debris from one place to another (cleaning a location but not the mess), these tools use specially fitted bags to capture and clean. When working in a tight space under the hood, these tools are perfect for clearing a work area of debris without flinging it into the mechanic’s eyes.
In most cases the advantage of air tools is their delicate touch compared to other mediums. Although engines are big and bad when working right, mechanic’s are prized so highly for their expertise because these are actually extremely delicate and complex machines. It isn’t all about being tender with your vehicle that makes air tools so popular though. The opportunity to let air do some of the heavy lifting in regards to “righty tighty, lefty loosy” is certainly too good to pass up.