Can I resurrect my nonresponsive cheap hammer drill?
January 23, 2023 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I bought a cheap corded hammer drill a few years back. Yesterday I tried to use it to mix concrete as I didn’t have anything else powerful enough. It worked okay but today it’s totally unresponsive. No noises or motion at all when I press the trigger. Do I throw the drill away? Or is there a straightforward fix I’m not finding on YouTube?
posted by sirion to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
 
I have a Harbor Freight one somewhat similar to that -- have you tried pulling the trigger and adjusting the speed dial on the bottom of the handle, to see if the dial has dead spots? The hammer/drill/hammerdrill lever near the trigger shouldn't affect anything, the motor should still turn regardless of how that is set. Even if the mechanism is siezed the motor should still hum from trying to turn.

Pulling the trigger and no noise usually means something electrical, meaning the motor isn't getting power -- the trigger switches in cheap tools are usually barely more than two wires that get pushed together, and the strain relief is mostly cosmetic, so if it were me, and the only other option is the trash bin, I'm comfortable enough with electricity that I'd open the tool up and check the connections from the plug wire to the trigger to the motor and see if I can see anything broken. If you're not comfortable working with mains current, I wouldn't recommend it though.

That is the tradeoff, though, with cheap tools. If you used a cheap tool long enough that it breaks, that is evidence you should buy another one but spend a bit more for quality so that one lasts you longer.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:22 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Double check that the outlet has power and you didn't trip a breaker.
posted by unreasonable at 8:22 AM on January 23 [7 favorites]


If you have a multimeter and a basic understanding of its continuity function (put probes together, get a beep) or its resistance function (zero resistance means good switch, very large resistance means bad switch), you should be able to open up the tool (5 or 6 screws?) and test whether the problem is the switch or not.

I have replaced switches like that many times -- as others have pointed out, they are often cheaply made and get dust in them. I use the parts diagram from the manufacturer or something like ereplacementparts.com to find the part number I need, then shop around for lowest price+shipping cost. Best guess $11 for the switch, $15 for the shipping. It's ALWAYS the shipping that makes me wonder if it's worth it.

Happy to type out a detailed "how to" if googling "checking continuity on a switch" doesn't get you what you need.

I doubt this would be a brushed motor, but the brushes are the next thing I'd check. Harder to replace if you've never done it before, but not hard objectively. They are consumables, really, and designed to be replaced.

Edit: Just saw it's CORDED not CORDLESS. It may be brushed, then. The parts diagram or exploded view would help you there.

Edited again: Corded means do everything unplugged, of course!
posted by AbelMelveny at 8:37 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I've never seen a harbor freight tool that was easily opened and repaired. Just get a new one. I actually use a Ryobi corded drill to mix mortar and concrete. [not a professional, just occasionally, and then let it rest to cool down].

The $59, or $39 refurb on Amazon. It's an amazing drill for the price. Just do a bit at a time, and keep your hands away from the vents because it'll get hot!
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:05 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Came to say basically what The Vegetables did.

I think it probably overheated and melted a fusible link designed to keep it from catching fire. Lots of times things with motors will heat up when you stop using them because the motor motion was pulling in air that cooled things down just enough. And because energy in the magnetic fields shows up as a current pulse when you release the trigger as they collapse through the windings.

And it’s probably not designed for that to be replaceable.
posted by jamjam at 9:21 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Well, never bought a thing from Harbor Freight. If opening it up easily is off the table as others are saying, I retract my comment as that would be Step 1.
posted by AbelMelveny at 9:29 AM on January 23


If your harbor freight is nearby, just walk in with it and tell them it died. They may just give you a new one. I get the impression they do that a lot.
posted by fritley at 9:42 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Lots of times things with motors will heat up when you stop using them because the motor motion was pulling in air that cooled things down just enough.

If something with an electric motor has been used for a long and heavy job (drill, food mixer, anything really) that it was struggling with, you should immediately afterwards run it unloaded for a minute or two to keep air flowing through its innards and cool it down.
posted by Stoneshop at 10:37 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


Seconding the suggestion to check the breaker (and/or GFCI if that applies to your outlet). My partner and I borrowed a hammer drill for some stucco work on our house a couple years ago and for whatever reason, it had a ton of back EMF that repeatedly tripped the circuit.
posted by aecorwin at 2:51 PM on January 23


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