Greetings and Happy Spring from Middlebury! Winter may still have its grip on all of us here in Vermont but I assure you that spring is coming! 

Over the last few months we have discussed some basic field repair techniques for power tools. The last of this three part series is going to deal with the power cord.

The power cord is the most important part of your tool when it comes to safety. A damaged, shorted, or frayed cord can cause improper tool function and electrical shocks.

To ensure workplace safety, Vermont’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA), and the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspect the health and safety of conduct and equipment used on jobsites. If an electrical cord for a tool is deemed unsafe, they cut the cord off, disabling the tool until a proper replacement is made. VOSHA/OSHA rules for the work site no longer allow “replacement” plugs to existing cords. The rules now require the replacement of the entire cord with a factory matching cord.

Finding the correct replacement cord and replacing it can be a hassle! If you want your tool to be up and running again and be worry free, without doing the work, we, at rk MILES, can get your tool running safely in a couple of days. (Most of the cords we get in for repair typically have frayed cords. We find a simple replacement of the entire cord is the best and safest option.)

If you want to do the replacement yourself, there are things to consider before you jump in.

Typically power cords are sold in gauges. A 14-2 label means the cord has two wires, and the 14 represents the gauge, or thickness of the inner wire. A 12-3 label means that there are three internal wires, (the third being a ground) each with a gauge of 12.

Power cords come in all different lengths, sizes and functions. Some tools have easily replaceable cords such as Festool and Milwaukee who used click lock features (see middle image, right). Most other cords are hard wired (see bottom image). Please note: Some cords may require a trained professional.

Make sure to check with your user manual or call us and we can tell you what the right cord is for your tool.

On the router pictured below the top was removed to expose the switch (which is where the power cord attaches inside the tool) Best way to remove the old cord is to simply cut it and then remove the small ends. The ends are usually held in with screws to the switch. If your switch does not have removable ends, then splicing with a wire nut is necessary.

Thanks for you interest in rk MILES and our blog! Look this summer for more tips and tricks on power tools and accessories. Later this summer we will be discussing pneumatic tools and their do’s and don’t. Remember rk MILES is concerned with your safety. Before attempting any work on a power tool unplug it from a power source or remove the battery. If you are uncomfortable performing any of the repair tips we have discussed, bring your tool down to rk MILES and we will get you back on track!

Jon Glinski
rk Miles- Middlebury


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Greetings from rk Miles tool department! Summer is over and the hard work you have completed around the house and on the jobsite has done a number on your power tools! All of those beloved power tools you have been using have wear parts that need service. Through this 3 part series we can get that tool back in the field with some simple tools and little bit of know-how from rk Miles. In our last installment we discussed carbon brushes and their role in the power tool. Now, onto switches.Today we will be discussing the switch or VSR (Variable Speed Switch) and its role in the power tool. There are two types of switches: Regular on/off switches as found in circular saws, routers etc., and VSR switches, found in any variable speed tool such as a cordless drill. Standard on/off switches, sometimes called toggle switches, are usually the type of switch that will go bad with little to no warning. One minute the tool works fine, the next time the switch is pulled nothing happens… Very frustrating. There are no serviceable parts in toggle switches, which means the unit needs to be pulled and replaced.

VSR switches will start to show signs of wear. Unlike the toggle style switch, VSR switches can be defective and still work. A defective VSR switch may last years for turning on and off the tool at full speed but can lose all its ability to regulate the speed of the device. The switch will develop “dead spots,” making the tool turn on erratically or not at all. The “dead spots” that develop in the switch will make certain speeds of the tool not work at all. Eventually the switch will make operation of the tool impossible. Again at this point the entire switch needs to be replaced.

When replacing a switch make sure the battery or cord is disconnected. All of the screws that hold the tool together will need to come out. Once inside make sure to make note of where all the wires go. With today’s modern cell phones, taking a picture with your camera-phone is a great way to document how the wires should go. Usually a switch is held in with two screws, however more may be present. When replacing a switch only use hand tools for tightening screws because getting the screws re-tightened to just snug is all you will need.

While your tool is opened up- this is a good time to clean the inside of it. Dust dirt and debris can work its way into the tool. Too much dust and dirt can cause the tool to overheat and, as we discussed in the last article, too much heat causes most tools to fail. Clean the dust out with a little compressed air. Do not use any cleaners or chemicals as there are exposed electrical connections present.

Once your switch is installed and the case put back together, test your tool. If it does not work, the next step is to check all of your electrical connections. Going online and typing the model number of your tool into a search engine should give you a schematic of the tool like the one shown here. If you get stuck with your tool and nothing seems to help… stop by rk Miles and we will be glad to help you!!

Remember, trained professionals are the ultimate caretakers of your equipment and this guide is to be used to get you out of a jam and just give you a little information as to how your tools work. As a general rule always remember…. Work smart and make safety a priority! Have fun out there!

Jon Glinski
rk Miles- Middlebury



drill guts
 drill parts

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Written By: Jon Glinski – r.k. Miles – Middlebury, VT
Most people today own some sort of electric or battery operated tool. If you are one of these owners who use and abuse your tools, breakdowns can come unexpectedly and at the worst time. Getting your tool back up and running can be easier than you may think. Does your tool have a funny smell when it operates? Sparks when the motor starts or stops? Does it seem to have a lack of power? Have you noticed that it just does not have the performance it did when you first bought it? If so there are some simple maintenance items that may help you get out of a sticky situation and get that tool back in the field.Whether it is the carbon brushes, a switch, or a power cord — all three of these items can cause a power tool to malfunction. Your tool may not even have stopped working all together it may just be working intermittently. With a couple of simple checks you can diagnose a simple problem right in the field or tell when its time to hit the repair shop. Let’s get to it!


Every electric tool has carbon brushes. Always found in pairs, carbon brushes are what power your tool and put the electric current to the motor. Brushes are user serviceable and typically a flat head screw driver is the only tool you need to replace them. Brushes perform other functions within the tool as well. If your tool is equipped with an electronic brake it is the job of the brushes to slow the motor down with a small pulsing reverse current. Cycling a thousand times a second it can bring a spinning saw blade to a dead stop in less than a second. When brushes wear out this function can get weak or stop all together. Most people who use their tool less frequently, such as a homeowner, may never have to replace the brushes. Contractors and handymen on the other hand, who use their beloved tool all day long, five days a week, will be replacing brushes if they wish to keep the tool properly maintained. Brushes are a very cheap maintenance item and having a extra set on hand can be invaluable.

When tools are worked hard and start to generate heat or smoke STOP WORKING IMMEDIATELY. Heat builds up and can start to deform the brushes and possibly crack them. Motor damage will soon follow! Heat is what wears out brushes the fastest. The brushes can, when overheated, glaze over and cause the tool to malfunction.

A glazed and or worn out brush will have tell-tale signs…..

1. Lack of power
2. Weakening or failure of the electronic brake system
3. Sparks and or smoke *
4. Intermittent operation (start and stop)**

*When you notice a tool start to smoke, unplug it from the power source or remove the battery – this is a good time to go grab a bite to eat and let the tool cool down. It may be possible to continue work after the tool has cooled off but I would recommend checking it over first.

** intermittent operation can also be a switch or cord. I will be covering these topics in the following two installments of this series.

Now that we know the tool has a problem let’s take a look at the brushes and some typical brush locations. I could write all day long on the types of brushes and their holders, but a picture says a thousand words so here are some for you. Basic tools such as a screwdriver and pair of needle nose pliers are all you need. And remember ALWAYS REMOVE the BATTERY or UNPLUG the POWER TOOL BEFORE SERVICING BRUSHES

Your tool may differ from the ones pictured here. Consult your owner’s manual and it will tell you the type of brush and its location. If you are unsure of where your brushes are and how to replace them bring your tool to r. k. Miles and we can help you. (I think this is the whole point of the exercise!!) With proper maintenance your tool can last a lifetime. Please be careful when trying to perform any service on power tools.)

Remember, trained professionals are the ultimate caretakers of your equipment and this guide is to be used to get you out of a jam and just give you a little information as to how your tools work.


Jon Glinski works at rk MILES’ Middlebury store. Look for Part 2 of his Tool Repair Blog to come!

Questions for Jon, call or email him: 802-385-1134 direct



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