Who do you spend the most time with each workday? Here is a hint: It’s not your parents, friends, boss, or spouse. The professional HVAC service technician spends more time with his or her tools than with anyone else. OK, you might say that tools are not people, but it is clear that they are vitally important.

Your tools are your livelihood. Use the correct ones and you become more efficient. Organize the correct ones and you become more productive. Become more productive and you make more money. Take care of your tools and that Ducati 999S gets one mile closer to your garage.

Today we will examine the tools you use to perform air conditioning preventive maintenance and troubleshooting.

Tool Carriers

What does the technician use to carry the tools into the house? The following are four common methods:

  • Five-gallon bucket — A tool organizer covers the bucket, providing pockets and pouches for the tools. This method offers easy access to all of the hand tools, plus additional room for drills and larger tools.

  • Leather tool pouch — Provides high mobility and easy access to standard hand tools. Many technicians carry the pouch by slinging the belt over their shoulder.

  • Canvas tote bag — Most bags come with hand pockets, which are good for organizing tools and provide easy access.

  • Toolbox — The oldest tool carrier, the toolbox is probably the most inefficient. Unless the toolbox has sections and dividers, tools pile up on one another, hindering access.

    Safety Gear

    Safety first. Safety glasses and gloves are a must. A rubber pad to kneel on or knee protectors should be considered. Remember to only use the tool that is designed for the job at hand.

    Hand Tools

  • Standard and Phillips head screwdrivers

  • Nutdriver set

  • Needle nose pliers

  • Side cutters

  • Slip joint pliers

  • Diagonal cutters

  • Tongue and groove pliers

  • Wire strippers

  • Allen wrench set

  • Three-piece adjustable wrench set

  • Refrigeration wrench

  • Torpedo level

  • Inspection mirror

  • Flashlight

  • Tape measure

  • Schrader core tool

  • Open-end wrench set

  • Jumper wire rig

  • Soft brush set


  • Digital multimeter (capable of reading volts, amps, and ohms)

  • Backup multimeter

  • Infrared thermometer

  • Digital sling psychrometer


  • Magnehelic static pressure test kit

  • Smoke candle

  • R-22 refrigeration manifold set

  • R-410A refrigeration manifold set

  • Backup refrigeration manifold sets

  • Battery-powered drill

  • Fluorescent trouble light

  • Vacuum cleaner

  • Cleaning tools

  • Hand sprayer or chemical injector

  • Pocket dial or digital indicator thermometer

    The professional technician works through preventive maintenance and diagnostic troubleshooting in a methodical manner. It is essential that in each step of the process the correct tool is close at hand and in good working order. Conscientious tool care and organization should be second nature for the advanced technician.

    Your tools are family. Oftentimes we take our loved ones for granted, and tools are no different. You may be rushing on a job and leave one of your tools behind. (We call this “orphaning” in the business.) Pay special attention when you clean your work area and put tools away so this doesn’t happen to you. Adding a member to your family is an adrenaline rush. Just make sure you take good care of the little fellows and they will provide years of enjoyment.

    David E. Rothacker is a member of the National Comfort Institute’s Advisory Board and a National Comfort Team Founding Member. For questions or comments on Tech Basics, contact Rothacker at ewizaard@hotmail.com.

    Publication date: 05/19/2003