Monday, January 21, 2013

Stuff Worth Owning: Ace Hardware 10-in-1 Screwdriver

That's a long title, but there's no way to shorten it.  I don't remember what I was shopping for at the Ace Hardware in Clinton TN, but these bright yellow screwdrivers caught my eye at the checkout.  I'm not usually diverted by impulse items at the checkout, but ask my kids and they will tell you loudly that I have an especial weakness for tools in general and screwdrivers in particular.  Hell, I've even made screwdrivers when I needed a special one.  A display of screwdrivers next to the register can almost suck the credit card right out of my hand.

I can't find the screwdriver on Ace's website, but this is it:

The handiest tool in the junk drawer.  I paid about $8.00

Recently I had a bit of a meltdown with my Maytag Neptune laundry stack.  Now I'm a pretty good fan of Maytag appliances, but not the post-Whirlpool buyout models.  Maytag stopped being the standard of excellence sometime around 2000 or so.  Maytag had lost a fair portion of its reputation by the time of the buyout, but since then its reputation is completely gone.  It's only a division of Whirlpool now: a brand, not a manufacturer.  What made Maytag equipment unique and durable is no more.

But my Neptune pair is from a few years before the buyout.  Even so, it turns out the Neptune line is not without problems.  Get online and start looking up Neptune control problems, and you'll see this phrase a lot: "R11 resistor burned," and "Q7 Triac failure."  My machine's board had both of those fail.  The net result is that the machine won't spin out and clothes are sopping wet at the end of the cycle. When that happens, Maytag's pat answer is to replace the entire board.  The list price on a new board is over $200, but I lucked out and found a local electronics purveyor who had purchased an appliance dealer's old inventory, and wasn't fully cognizant of what he had.  My price: $60, including postage.  I only took the step of replacing the board after trying and failing to replace the burned resistor and triac.  Some people have successfully made that repair, but evidently my soldering mojo is so far limited only to plumbing.  I'll keep working on it though.

So what does it take to replace the board?  Look back at the screwdriver.

That's it.  I don't need any other tools to take my Maytag Neptune completely apart.  It takes one size of Torx driver (included in the driver's array of bits), two sizes of nut driver (take the bit out and there it is), and one size of Phillips driver.  Sometimes you need a regular screwdriver to pop an electrical connector loose: not a problem.  This one tool removes the door (not really necessary), top, front, control panel, everything.  It's not until you get even farther back inside the machine that you encounter fasteners that are beyond this tool's capacity.  At that point my entire upper body would be inside the machine.

To be completely frank I'm not a huge fan of multi-bit screwdrivers.  Too often you find the multi-bittedness of the tool is part of what makes it unacceptable in lots of ways: having nesting parts makes the shank really thick, so it's no good for getting deep-set screws in appliances, tucked far down in narrow holes.  Or sometimes what you need is a screwdriver on this side and a nutdriver on that side at the same time, to keep things from turning while you're trying to loosen or tighten fasteners.  With the multi-bit screwdriver, you only have the one tool at a time.

All of that said, I first made some exploratory forays into the machine and discovered at that time that the multi-bit Ace screwdriver answered every need.  I had gathered my ratchet set, a couple of different screwdrivers and even a Vise-Grip, just in case.  When everything was done however, all my tool cases were still closed and the Ace was in my pocket.  So when I got the replacement part in the mail, I didn't go to the shop at all.  I cracked open the junk drawer and reached for that chunky, bright yellow handle with the Ace logo and got to work.  20 minutes later, my first post-meltdown load of laundry was up and running.

I remember asking the young lady behind the counter where the tool was made.  She wasn't able to nail down the manufacturer - neither was I in research prepping for this post - but she did confirm it was made in the USA, so if nothing else that might be good enough.

Like I said, not a huge fan of multi-bits, but I'm a huge fan of this one.  Shop around, get a couple.  Put one in the car, one in the shop.

And one in the junk drawer.

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