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As I was pulling some stuff out of the dryer, I noticed the clothes were actually dry.  When it was new, it sometimes took several full cycles to fully dry a load of clothes, but half a year later the clothes are dry before the cycle is over.  I started wondering, if a machine like my dryer has a break in-period, then what about my power tools?

How does the performance of a power tool change over time?  Is it a steady decline as soon as you un-box it, or does it start to operate more efficiently as you use it — until parts start to wear out?  It’s probably not as simple as that because there are many competing processes; the blades in machines like table and miter saws start dulling right away, decreasing performance, but the motor may increase in performance after a break-in period. Further complicating matters, as you use the tool you become more comfortable with its operation, which also may make it seem more efficient.

There are many mechanisms by which a tool could get better as it’s used more. For instance if you have a power tool with a brush motor it can take a while before the brushes wear enough to seat properly.  Rough edges soften, plastic and rubber grips start to conform to your hand over time, and new stiff mechanisms get smoother over time, hopefully without becoming sloppy.

Have you ever noticed whether your tools seem to work better as they age?  Do you go through any break-in rituals with new power tools?  Let us know in comments.

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19 Responses to Power Tool Break-In Time

  1. kurt says:

    How do you know that your cloths are just not lighter? Each time you wash something it gets lighter in the washer then it get lighter yet in the dryer as fibers fly off and form lint balls or just plain get ejected out the vent. The dryer could have broken in and many things do get better after a break in, I’m just busting stones on the dryer comment.

  2. rick says:

    Well, tools with an engine in it obviously require a break in period. i just bought a honeywell 2000i generator, but there was no documented engine break in. I guessed at a breakin for it. Seems to work well so far.

  3. shopmonger says:

    All tools will deteriortate, but in most cases the simple things can be correcte with some maintanence. Knowing what they are is the key to long and healthy tool life.

    Rick, most generators are broken in from the factory, in fact a lot of engine tools are broken in from the factory, this allows their tools to not only be tested, but properly broken in, and then sent ont heir way. this dramatically increase life expectancy,


  4. Mike says:

    several cycle? Sounds like you got a crap dryer!

  5. Dave says:

    Almost all engines need very little in the way of break-in, thanks to closer tolerance machining, more controllable surface finishes, and materials engineering.

    You can start a jihad about break-in very easily- here is an interesting take:


  6. rick says:

    interesting. I ran the generator at about 25% load for 30 min then 50% load for an hour. I read that the generators may have problems with no load as the piston rings wont seat…. but it wasnt the hard breakin described…. It was run at the factory, but I am not sure the 5 year old chained to a radiator in china did it right….. hmmm…. oh well, guess it now run in… in whatever condition it may be….

  7. mlocer says:

    I’ve had a few cheap coated pocket knives and hand saws ( tough paint/powder coat?? ) that needed to be broken in before they were up to the job, and the same with a few drills and angle grinders, I’m guessing that the grease in the gears or clutches was a little too thick or the wrong consistency

  8. fred says:

    I recall that the first few new cars that I bought (starting in 1968) came with instructions for break-in – that talked about limits on top speed, wanting to vary driving speed etc. My most recent cars did not come with manufacturer’s recommendations on this – but the salesman may have recommended taking it easy for the first 100 miles. Now that may have been good advice for reasons beyond break-in – but I wasn’t sure that he wasn’t just spouting old “wisdom” that may no longer be valid.
    When we recently bought a new excavator – we asked about break in – and the joke that came back was to try not to break the teeth off the bucket on frozen ground.
    What we have learned over the years is that that equipment failure rates do often follow a “bathtub curve” over time. If you buy a “fleet” of products all at once – you may expect to see an initially higher failure or problem rate (“infant mortality”) followed by a decline in failures as the problems are fixed – leveling off over time – and then rising again as things wear out and the product “dies of old age.” In the example of the excavator – we were naturally told to be observant for any initial failures or problems – like hydraulic leaks. We had none.

  9. NickC says:

    Another issue could be more of a learning curve then a break in period. Like with the dryer, over time you may have just subconsciously learned to put fewer clothes in the dryer so they are able to fully dry. Reinforced by a subtle positive feed back when you washed fewer, or the right amount of clothes you got better results. The suggested break in period is partly a don’t push it until you really know how it performs period. Congratulations, your dryer has successfully broken you in, and it only took it half a year.

  10. Actually NickC you are quite incorrect, you make a nice point, but I haven’t changed the number of clothes I put in it, conscienciously or subconsciously.

    There are a number of other factors that may have changed like are temperature and humidity. Or maybe gas pressure or the fact this dyer may have a stronger exhaust and pushed some lint blocking the ductwork.

    In fact when I bought the dryer and had it installed — yeah I could have done it myself, but I got my old washer and dryer carried away in the deal — there was in fact a break in period both the installers and the manual informed me of this, but it was only a few cycles.

  11. Do other people use the dryer? They might have changed the temperature and you didn’t notice. I like my dryer to be hotter than the fires of hell and damnation but you know, some people are just picky about having their clothes becoming the size of Paris Hilton’s.

  12. mr. man says:

    There are just too many warm body variables involved to allow untested product out the door. Therefore, all the equipment we manufacture is tested to delirium. The average test stand can run 30 hours or more. And failures do occur in that run in period. Once a customer takes possession, the product is designed to operate 3-5 years (with minimal maintenance) before replacement parts are required.

  13. Mister Peepers says:

    Perhaps your washer is removing more water from your clothes because it’s got a more balanced load, allowing the spin cycle to do it’s job better. The “initially less water in the clothes, or less clothes overall” theory seems pretty likely to me.

  14. JH says:

    Everything that has a bearing in it requires break-in just for the lubrication to even out. Everything that has a gear in it requires break-in just for the micropeaks to level out. The better the surface quality, the smaller the difference with break-in. However, as the surface gets a finer finish it takes longer and longer to properly break that surface in.

  15. joe bob says:

    Well, I don’t know about break in on other products but in the summer, in Texas, a condensing unit is run long and hard just as soon as the installation is complete.

  16. Alex M. says:

    For what it’s worth, heating elements are frequently sprayed with a corrosion inhibitor right before they leave the factory (after testing) so that the elements don’t corrode while being shipped and stored. This crap usually burns off pretty quick, though.

  17. Blind says:

    With regards to Fred’s comments about breaking in cars, my OPINION on the matter from what I’ve heard from engine builders, stickers/manuals with new vehicles, and internet guru’s is that the engine itself in cars is fairly good to go from the factory. The claim is that all engines are broken in at the factory to seat the piston rings before they ship out. I’m not 100% sure if I buy this, but I’m willing to accept that the cylinders won’t take much breaking in once they are in your hands (be it a hard break in or gentle break in procedure you prefer). However, all of the clutches and pads on your car (your clutch, your brakes, your a/c compressor clutch, etc) do need a gentle break in so that they will seat properly.

    So my last vehicle I started with a hard break in just to make sure the rings seated (this was done on a dyno because i was curious if it would be better) and then I went fairly gently until the clutch and brake pads wore in.

    Your mileage may vary.

  18. Average Joe says:

    1) Check to see if the dryer is plugged in; 2) “There is no more important safety tip than to wear this (points at glasses), your safety glasses.”

  19. greg ballard says:

    I have recently started running new power tools 3 times for 5 mins no load cool down in between. Does it help who the hell knows to many variables .The worse that can happen is that they lose 15 mins of life

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