Hopefully, tool repair after a flood is something you’ll never have to deal with. Still, given that floods can be unpredictable, and many garages are located below ground level, there’s a chance that one day you might face a basement or a garage full of water, wondering if you can salvage your tools.
Let’s consider what you can save, and what you can’t, after a flood.
The Water You’re Dealing With
Flood water isn’t clean. In fact, it’s often mixed with sewage, mud, and other debris, which can do a lot of damage to your tools. However, there’s a difference between salt water and fresh water floods, with the former wreaking havoc on power tools and anything with a battery attached. It is possible to recover power equipment that’s been submerged in salt water, but it’s a much more involved process.
Clean, Clean, Clean
As noted above, flood water is dirty — very dirty. If you decide to clean out your garage yourself, you’ll need to protect yourself from bacteria and other grime that has settled and found its way into every nook and cranny of your tool kit. You can hire a flood clean-up crew to tackle the big stuff, but when you start to clean, make sure you are wearing gloves, goggles and a breathing mask to avoid exposure.
Deionized Water and Rubbing Alcohol
A freshwater flood means you can clean your power tools with tap water, but salt water floods require the use of deionized water to soak the tools and remove any traces of salt inside of them. You will most likely have to disassemble each tool to get all the nasty stuff out, and it’s worth using a second rinse of rubbing alcohol, then blowing everything dry before reassembling.
Even after all this work, you may still end up having to replace batteries and motor brushes, so you need to ask yourself if tool repair is worth the trouble, or if buying new tools might be a less strenuous route. Be especially careful of power saws, presses or anything with bearings that could seize due to corrosion.
Hand Tools, Too
Don’t skimp out on cleaning your hand tools, either. Floods tend to knock everything around, especially in a tight space like a garage, and combined with the nicks and cuts already present on the average ratchet or hammer, corrosion can easily take hold. Once these tools are clean and dry, lubricate anything that might need it (as you can assume whatever was there before has been washed away).
If it seems like the details of tool repair following a flood has to do with cleaning, that’s because it’s the single most important thing you can do to preserve your equipment.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.