What you need to get the job done

If you’re an off roader, chances are you’ve got a bunch of tools in the garage. More than likely you also carry tools in your 4×4, just in case something goes snap in the night. Do you have what you need? Are you ready to step up to more advanced repairs and installations? Should you buy brand name tools, or will the cheap stuff suffice? Let’s explore!


We’ve all seen the low buck tools that sell for a fraction of the price of the name brands. Chances are, you’ve had one of those el cheapo wrenches spread open when you were trying to free a stubborn nut.

Sure, the top of the line tools such as Craftsman Professional, Snap On, Proto, Mac are expensive, but there is a second level of tools that are excellent and priced substantially less than the premium items. Among them are Craftsman Power Kraft and SK.

Our advice? If you can afford the very best, go for it. If you’re on a budget, it’s hard to beat Sears’ Craftsman. The most important thing you should look for is a good guarantee. Craftsman tools are famous for their lifetime guarantee; if you break a hand tool, just bring it back and Sears will replace it. Many other tool makers have been pressured to follow that lead. The lifetime guarantee does not apply to power tools.

Will cheap tools work? Yes, and some of them have a limited guarantee. For example, I have a large number of low cost screwdrivers, box wrenches, crescent wrenches, hammers, files and pliers. And the tools that I stash away in my off-road vehicles are carefully chosen low cost items.


END WRENCHES: When choosing end wrenches, your best bet is to get a combination set; one with a box wrench on one end and an open type on the other end. A proper set of end wrenches will get shorter as the wrench size decreases. This is a sort of built-in protection against over tightening.

Open end wrenches apply their force on two sides of the nut or bolt. Box wrenches apply force on all six sides of a standard fastener, so you’re always better off using a box end, rather than an open end, if you have the option.

ADJUSTABLE WRENCHES: Commonly referred to as Crescent wrenches, these are the most versatile tools you can carry. A 10 or 12 inch wrench will handle fasteners from zero to more than an inch.

SOCKET WRENCHES: These greatly speed up work compared to end wrenches, and can often work in spots where an end wrench wonts fit. You should have a full range of sizes from 114 inch to 1 1/2 inches (or the metric equivalent), and a good selection of extensions. Ideally, you should have 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch drive sets. However, if you’re on a tight budget, go with the medium sized 3/8-inch drive set and purchase a 1/4 inch adapter and 1/4 inch sockets.

Sockets are available in 4, 6, 8 and 12 points. The 4 and 8 point sockets are for square headed fasteners, while the 6 pointers are used mainly for power impact tools. For most general use, the 12 point sockets get the nod.

SPECIALTY RATCHET TIPS: In addition to sockets, you can purchase a wide variety of tips to speed up most jobs. They include swivels, screwdriver tips, torx bits, Allen tips and ratchet spinner attachments.

HOLDERS: Get a medium sized vise and attach it firmly to a stout bench. This will be one of the most heavily used items in your tool arsenal. While you’re at it, pick up a few cheap C clamps.

SCREWDRIVERS: Don’t take this common tool for granted, because an ill fitting blade can chew up a screw. Get a good selection of straight slots, and both versions of the cross slots, the Phillips and Reed and Prince heads. Cheap, ultra long screw drivers can be used for prying things loose. One step beyond the screwdriver is the best impact driver. This handy tool will loosen stubborn screws (or even nuts/bolts) by whacking it with a hammer and applying sharp jolts of torque.

PLIERS: Snap On makes more than 40 different types of pliers, but only a professional mechanic would need them all. You should have at least the following: double jointed straight jaw pliers, long nosed (needle nose), diagonal wire cutters, vise grips and Channel locks. Beyond the basics, you can also purchase pliers that remove/install snap rings and circlips, remove spark plug terminals, strip electrical wiring and remove brake springs, among other tasks.

HAMMERS: There are times when a hammer is needed to free a stubborn part. In addition to the garden variety claw hammer, you should have a round faced ball peen, a soft faced plastic or rubber hammer and a stout lead or copper hammer for tapping metal without damaging it.

SAWS AND FILES: Never cut corners on hacksaw blades; a premium blade will not only out cut a cheap blade, it will out last it many times over. Get two blades: one should be a fine toothed item of 32 teeth per inch for cutting harder steels, and a blade in the 18 to 24 teeth per ins range for coarser cuts on softer materials.

No matter how clean your hacksaw cut is, it must be dressed up with a file. You’ll need a selection of files from fine to coarse, with a variety of shapes, from round (rat tail) to flat.

TORQUE WENCHES: Every nut, bolt, or piece of metal has a limit to which it can safely be stretched or stressed. Pro mechanics say that an over torqued bolt is half broken. To prevent over tightening (or under), a torque wrench is a must! For light duty tightening, you’ll need a torque wrench in inch pounds; for heavy duty work, a foot pound wrench is needed.

Two types of torque wrenches are available: the dial type has a pointer that indicates the tonque applied, and the clicker type that makes a clicking sound when the pre set torque is reached. Usually, tire dial type wrenches are cheaper than the clickers, but work well providing you’re in a position to read the dial.

JACKS AND STANDS: These are must haves for off roaders, as we’re always swapping wheels, or crawling around under our 4x4s to fiddle with one thing or another. Get a decent hydraulic jack with at least a 2 ton capacity. Pick up four adjustable jack stands capable of holding the 4×4’s full weight.

LIGHTS: Get a good drop light and plenty of extension cords. The best one I’ve ever seen is by Snap On, and it has a super powerful magnetic base that lets you stick it against any metal surface and aim it at the work area.

ELECTRICAL TESTERS: At the very minimum, you should have a basic circuit tester that will let you trace out shorts, opens, or find a hot wire. Beyond that, a small ohmmeter can solve numerous puzzles.

Electrical Testers

MEASURING DEVICES: Acquire a tape measure, feeler gauges and a cheap set of calipers.

TIRE STUFF: A cigarette lighter powered portable air compressor can be a real life saver at times. You’ll also need an accurate tire gauge.

HANDLING LIQUIDS AND LUBRICANTS: Every home garage should have a decent selection of funnels and drain pans. Grease guns are cheap; mini guns are available for less than ten bucks. A one dollar turkey baster makes a great battery filler.

SPECIALTY TOOLS: You are limited in this area by how deep your pockets are. There’s a near-endless variety of handy tools designed for special jobs. Some you might consider are: gear pullers, pop rivet guns, tin snips, propane torches, tap and die sets, timing lights, hex head (Allen) wrenches, screw extractor sets, compression testers, welding outfits to name just a few.

METRIC OR REGULAR? Get both. Even though the world is slowly shifting to the metric system, it’s common to find both types of fasteners on American vehicles. And if you have an older 4×4, chances are all nuts and bolts will he US, Japanese and European 4x4s are fully metric.

POWER TOOLS: There are two power tools every 4×4 owner absolutely MUST HAVE in his home shop: an electric drill and a bench grinder. If you can only afford one drill, get the larger unit with a 1/2 inch chuck that will accept larger drill bits and accessory shafts. The bench grinder should have a wire wheel on one side and a grinding wheel on the other. You’re better off buying a small selection of high quality drill bits than a large number of cheap bits. To complement the drill, get a nice selection of wire brushes, grinding stones and small cut off wheels. This will help you make short work when removing rusted exhaust pipes, or corroded fasteners.

Other power tools worth considering are sawzalls, impact guns, soldering guns, small hand grinders, a one horse air compressor with a selection of blow tips, a polishing/buffing wheel (great for getting brush scratches out of your paint job), and a battery charger. Of course, the list of power tools is almost endless, and you could go nuts!


Nothing but the tooth, how to keep your choppers healthy

Do you go to bed without brushing your teeth? Are you too busy to floss? You may think that skipping brushing or flossing is not a big deal, but neglecting your teeth can lead to some serious health problems.

Cavities and gum disease are infections that can cause really stinky breath, incredible pain, and a lot of swelling. Left untreated, those infections can eventually lead to tooth loss. But there are simple steps you can take to prevent tooth decay. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to keep your mouth healthy for life.

You have a cavity so what?

Cavities known by dental professionals as dental caries are actually infectious diseases. Simply put, a cavity is a diseased spot in the tooth. It all starts with plaque, a sticky bacterial film that coats your teeth and gums. (That’s what feels slimy on your teeth when you first wake up in the morning!) The bacteria eat sugars from things you eat and drink, producing acids. Then, the acids eat away at your tooth’s hard outer coating, or enamel.

If you don’t brush and floss regularly to remove plaque or if you keep missing a spot that acid will eventually eat away the enamel entirely, forming a cavity. “The larger gets, the closer it gets to the nerve, increasing the chance of incredible pain,” according to Lynn Ramer, president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

A cavity will never just go away by itself. There’s no brushing the problem under the proverbial rug. “Left untreated, 100 percent of the time a cavity will spread,” says Dr. William Berlocher, a dentist who is also president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

If a cavity is caught early enough, your dentist will be able to fix your tooth with simple filling. First, he or she will give you a shot to numb the area so you won’t feel anything. Next, the infection will be removed and replaced with a special material, either a metal amalgam, which is a blend of various metals including silver, or a more natural-looking composite, which is made of glass or quartz mixed with resin. Caitlin G., a 10th grader from New Port Richey, Fla., had to get a cavity filled a few years ago. “It hurt a little bit, but not as much as I expected,” she says.

If you ignore that pain in your tooth, the infection will keep spreading right into the tooth’s root, forming a more serious and painful infection known as an abscess. At this point, the dentist will have to perform a more complicated procedure known as a root canal and remove the tooth’s nerve.

That’s what happened to Kokomo, Ind., senior Becca J., who has undergone two root canals. “Candy was my favorite thing,” she says. “I’d have some before bed and then go to sleep without brushing my teeth.” Becca knew there was a problem when she started feeling intense pain, “like a shock,” when she ate.

Becca was able to get help soon after she started feeling pain. Twelve year old Deamonte Driver from Maryland wasn’t so lucky the bacteria from his severely infected tooth spread to his brain, and he died. Deaths from tooth infections are extremely rare, but they can happen if the infections are left untreated.

Gums are important too!

If you don’t brush and floss regularly, you’re also at risk for developing gum disease. Not only will your gums bleed and swell, they’ll eventually pull away from your teeth permanently. You’ll be in pain, and your breath will smell. “Worst case,” Ramer adds, “you’ll lose your teeth.” While it’s more common to see adults with tooth loss from gum disease, if you consistently neglect your teeth, it can happen to you now.

Sweets aren’t the only cavity culprit. Sure, candy plays a huge role in tooth decay. But so do high sugar, high carbohydrate beverages, such as fruit juices and soft drinks. Even diet soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which can lead to tooth erosion. And according to Berlocher, “sports drinks are horrible for teeth.”

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a sports drink if you’re actually playing sports, but you definitely shouldn’t guzzle one all day long. And after indulging in the occasional sugary beverage, soft drink, or sports drink, you should immediately rinse your mouth out with water, Berlocher recommends. That can help wash away many of the sugars left behind by sweet drinks.

Brushing and flossing are no brainers. Caitlin keeps cavities at bay by brushing her teeth two or three times a day, as recommended by dentists. “I even floss while I’m in the car sometimes,” she says.

It doesn’t matter whether you use an electric or regular toothbrush, according to Berlocher. They both work as long as you spend enough time brushing. Two full minutes twice a day is the absolute minimum. Choose a brush with soft bristles to avoid irritating your gums, and make sure to use toothpaste with fluoride, a mineral that has been proved to help prevent cavities.

Flossing is an important part of oral hygiene because it helps remove plaque from between your teeth, where a brush can’t reach. It’s not important what kind of floss you use, though waxed floss can be easier. The key thing is that you do it at least once, and ideally twice, a day.

There are even some treatments that can help give you a leg up on cavity prevention. Sealants are a protective coating that your dentist can put in the pits and fissures in your back teeth those spots that are sometimes too small for even a single toothbrush bristle to reach. The coating can last up to 10 years, and it helps keep out cavity causing bacteria. And regular fluoride treatments can help strengthen weak spots on the tooth and prevent tooth decay.

Braces make brushing trickier. Don’t let braces keep you from staying on top of your routine. “Braces double or triple the difficulty of oral hygiene,” Berlocher says. “It’s harder to scrub away the bacteria.” Maneuvering around all those brackets and wires in your mouth can be tough, so it’s important that you take the extra time and effort to make sure your toothbrush has reached every exposed tooth surface.

And ask your orthodontist about a proxy brush. That has a special shape designed to make brushing teeth with braces more effective. “Antibacterial mouthwashes can also help,” Berlocher says.

Cavities aren’t the only things that can cost you teeth!

“Kids involved in sports who don’t wear a mouth guard are at a much higher risk of losing or damaging their teeth” than kids who do wear mouth guards, Ramer says.

And mouth guards aren’t just for football players you can lose a tooth in any sport, from wrestling and soccer to baseball and softball. “You don’t think it can happen to you until you’re standing there with your tooth in your hand,” Berlocher says. You can get a moldable mouth guard at a sporting goods store or a custom-fitted one from your dentist.

If you do get a tooth knocked out, don’t panic. Rinse it off, place it back in the socket, and get to a dentist right away. If that’s just too painful, put it in liquid milk is a great choice. Go to the dentist immediately because chances are he or she can put the tooth back.

Bottom line? Neglecting your teeth can have serious consequences, something Becca learned the hard way. “Take care of your teeth!” she advises. “If you don’t, you’ll end up in a lot of pain.”

Say It

Curtis S., a 10th grader from Spring Hill, Fla., has a fairly common fear. Going to the dentist, he says, “scares me to death. I really have to psych myself out to go.”

Twice yearly visits to the dentist are a crucial component of keeping your teeth healthy. Dentists and hygienists understand patient concerns and do all they can to make the experience pleasant. The next time you feel anxious or panicked, try these tips to calm your nerves.

Distract yourself. “I bring my headphones and listen to my iPod,” says Caitlin G. of New Port Richey, Fla. So long, drill noise!

Communicate your fears and concerns. “Tell your provider if you’re sensitive or scared: American Dental Hygienists’ Association President Lynn Ramer says. That way, he or she can address your concerns and maybe help you feel a little better.

Salvia a look at the unknown risks of this powerful drug

There’s a drug that has been generating a lot of buzz lately Salvia divinorum. Though salvia was originally grown by Native American religious leaders seeking spiritual visions, it’s gaining notoriety today as a hallucinogen. Salvia a plant related to sage and mint and also known as “Sally D,” “Magic Mint,” “Sadi,” “Ska Maria Pastora,” and “Diviner’s Sage” is currently making headlines because of increasing efforts to ban the drug and because there’s so much that’s unknown about its effects.

There is no doubt that curiosity about the hallucinogenic (reality distorting) herb is growing. In 2006, about 1.8 million people ages 12 and older reported using salvia at least once in their lives, according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study. About 750,000 of those people used it just for the first time that year.

The Experiment

People who experiment with salvia are often looking for an altered sense of reality. But they may get more than they bargained for. The drug’s actual effects are generally strong enough and in many cases frightening enough to discourage further or frequent use.

Salvia is usually described as a type of hallucinogen, a dissociative, that changes or blocks the senses, so you literally feel disconnected or separated from reality. The drug is extremely potent, and what’s happening in a user’s head is usually very different from how it looks on the outside. “Your friends just see you sitting there drooling, when in your brain there’s a ton of crazy stuff happening,” says 24 year old Daniel,* of New York City, who first tried salvia at age 18.

Duncan, 23, also of New York City, had that kind of experience. “I was being pulled towards the ceiling,” says Duncan, who tried salvia as a 16 year old. “Then I was terrified, then everything disappeared.”

The Experience

A person using salvia can’t ever be sure just how strong the effect will be. Salvia is sold in various amounts. Depending on how much salvia the user takes and the user’s mindset, reactions to it generally last from five to 15 minutes, though many users report feeling transported to a completely different world for what feels like a long period of time.

People who have used salvia say their experiences included feeling panicked; losing control; feeling confused; seeing shapes, colors, and lights; experiencing dysphoria (unhappiness or discomfort); and feeling as if they were floating, were becoming an inanimate object, and were in a maze or tunnel like structure. “I truly believed that I was about to leave this world behind and go to the next dimension, which was pretty scary since it was happening so fast,” says Daniel. He recalls feeling as if his senses were all mixed up and that he was experiencing a “severe disconnection from reality.”

The Effects

Experimenting with salvia could resemble a game of Russian roulette. Perhaps what’s most disturbing is that scientists and doctors know very little about the drug and its effects on people’s health. Also unclear are its lasting effects. “We do not know if salvia affects the developing brain, but we do know that the brain is not fully developed until the mid 20s, and introduction of drugs during this critical phase could have unknown and adverse effects on brain development,” says Bertha Madras, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Research is ongoing, she adds, but so far, salvia does not appear to be addictive, or habit forming. Still, Madras points out, “science has not caught up with this drug, and we do not know the long-term consequences. We are in uncharted territory with this drug.”

That unknown quality may also apply to users, who may have a hard time judging how much salvia to take. “The very high potency an active dose is the weight of a few fingerprints makes it relatively easy to overdose,” says Madras. “An intoxicating dose leaves you incapable of controlling your movements or even consciously knowing what you are doing.”

An overdose occurs when a person takes more than the medically recommended amount of any drug. But because salvia isn’t regulated, users might not realize they have reached that point until they lose control of their coordination and thoughts, which could lead them to do something dangerous to themselves or others. A user could panic and run, which could be serious if he or she ran into traffic. In addition, the person could fall, hit someone, rip off clothing any number of unpredictable scenarios.

Still Legal in Some Places … For Now

The loss of control described by most salvia users can lead to losses in stability, vision, and reaction time. Those reactions may be the basis for laws against use of the drug, as they might lead a user to risky or even deadly behavior. Stability, vision, and reaction time are, for example, all driving necessities. Driving under the influence of any drug can lead to crashes that could injure or kill you or passengers in your car and other people on the road.

Despite such safety concerns, salvia is currently legal in many states. At the same time, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration considers salvia a “drug of interest.” That means it could soon be classified as illegal nationally.

Drug agencies aren’t the only ones researching salvia. In some scientists’ labs, the drug is being studied for insight it can bring to how the mind works and whether it can be used to treat some neurological conditions. (See “Salvia in the Lab.”) But any medicinal research is in danger of going nowhere if salvia is abused, especially by teens. Delaware’s ban on the drug came on the heels of the 2006 suicide of a 17 year old regular salvia user. If the drug is banned federally, it will be difficult to buy and store, even for research purposes.

Even if salvia is legal in your area, don’t assume that playing around with it is a good idea. “Salvia is scary,” says Duncan. And Daniel agrees, offering this advice: “Never rush into anything, especially a potent drug that may seem harmless.”


Salvia’s active ingredient, salvinorin A, activates kappa opioid receptors (KORs), which are found in brain areas that control pain perception, mood, and memory. “By studying salvia, we hope to learn more about how our brains normally work and how KORs contribute to stress and depression;’ says Elena Chartoff, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. But first, researchers need to identify salvinorin A like chemicals that do not produce the hallucinogenic effects.

“There is good data showing that salvia may decrease craving for cocaine, and ongoing research regarding potential medical uses for chemical derivatives;’ says Dr. Bryan Roth, director of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Psychoactive Drug Screening Program at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. Some scientists believe studying the drug could help lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, among other conditions.

What to do before your workout

A baseball player tossing balls in the bull pen. A basketball player running in a layup line. Dancers limbering up backstage. They’re all preparing their bodies for more intense workouts. They know a good warm-up can prevent injuries and improve performance.

Why Warm Up?

Revving up for workouts isn’t just for professional athletes and dancers. Whether you play on a sports team, work out at your town’s rec center, or just go to gym class twice a week, warming up should be a regular part of your fitness routine. “A warm up is a group of activities designed to get the muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system ready for exercise,” says Lynn Millar, a professor of physical therapy at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich. “When your muscles are warmed up, they are more elastic and less susceptible to injuries like strains and tears.”

Teens are prime targets for those types of injuries. Many adolescents “get hurt in sports,” says Brian Robinson, chair of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association committee that studies high school sports safety. “They have a tendency to jump into activities too fast and too hard.”

Kimberly T., 17, still remembers the painful calf strain that sidelined her during her freshman track season at Franklin High School in Franklin, Mass. “I wasn’t getting in enough warm up time, because I was rushing to practice from other after-school activities,” recalls Kimberly, who is now a senior. “I wasn’t able to practice or compete for about three weeks. It was exasperating to be sitting when I wanted to be running.” When her injury healed, Kimberly became super conscientious about warming up thoroughly. She hasn’t missed a meet since.

How can you avoid a similar fate? Learn to tell warm up fact from fiction.

The claim: Warm ups just take too much time.

The real deal: A warm up generally takes 10 to 15 minutes, but the actual time can vary depending on the activity you’re about to do. If you’re gearing up for a tough football practice or volleyball tournament, you’ll need to commit more time. If you’re swimming some laps in the local pool or pedaling around the neighborhood, you can get by with less.

Start your warm up with a light aerobic activity. “It could be jogging, riding a stationary bike, jumping rope, or running in place,” says Robinson, who is also head athletic trainer at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Ill. It could also be a less vigorous form of the activity you’re preparing for. That’s why you see basketball players jogging up and down the court before game time.

Warm up activities expand blood vessels and help blood and oxygen flow throughout your body. They also get your heart pumping. Then, as your body temperature rises and your muscles and joints become warmer and more flexible, it’s OK to increase the intensity and add more variety until you’ve worked all the major muscle groups in your legs, arms, and torso.

The claim: You should stretch before your warm up.

The real deal: Stretching should be a part of your preparation, but not necessarily in the traditional hold-and-stretch kind of way (known as static stretching) and not until after your muscles have warmed up. Sports medicine experts now favor “dynamic” stretching, which involves moving as you stretch. Examples include high-knee walking across a field, forward lunges across a gym, and fast skipping from sideline to sideline. Those stretches run “joints and muscles through their full range of motion, which better prepares them for sports participation,” says Laura McNally, head athletic trainer at the Middlesex School in Concord, Mass.

The best time for static stretching is after your warm-up or workout. That’s when your muscles and tendons are at their warmest and most flexible. Stretching at this time “can also reduce soreness and stiffness,” says McNally.

The claim: A warm up doesn’t really affect performance.

The real deal: Coaches, athletic trainers, and sports psychologists disagree. A warm-up gets your head in the game because “it helps the mind and body shift from whatever mode they’ve been in all day to a mode that focuses directly on your activity,” explains McNally. “It’s a time to forget about the French test you just took and all the other things that might be stressing you out.” Plus, as your muscles warm up, so do the nerve endings that fire back to your brain and guide your balance and coordination. “Preparing your mind for sports and exercise,” McNally points out, “can mean the difference between quickly adjusting your ankle if it suddenly turns … and falling down.”

The claim: I’m in good shape, so I don’t need to warm up.

The real deal: Even Olympic athletes do it. They know that “being in good shape doesn’t diminish the need to warm up,” says Millar. “The idea of a warm-up is to get muscles and tendons ready to move optimally and minimize the chance of injury.” For example, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who won gold medals in beach volleyball at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, spent a lot of time setting, passing, and spiking the ball before the start of their big match. If warming up is good enough to help them bring home the gold, just imagine what it could do for you!


Are lithium ion powered tools really better?

When it comes to cordless tools, voltage means power. And over the years, we’ve witnessed a steady increase as toolmakers vied to emulate corded tool performance. To make each jump in voltage, from 9.6 to 12 to 18, makers simply packed more 1.2 volt NiCd (nickel cadmium) or NiMH (nickel metal hydride) cells in the battery pack. Go much higher than 18 volts, though, and tools get heavy fast. Over the past year, the same lithium ion chemistry that powers your laptop has begun to show up in cordless tools. Suddenly, the major toolmakers are rushing to get in on the breakthrough. To see how their designs stack up, we assembled the latest from Bosch, Makita, Milwaukee and Ridgid, for a hands on shootout. This is what we found.

The Li-ion Difference

It’s all about energy density the amount of power you get from a battery of a certain size and weight and li-ion has it all over the older chemistries. It’s the reason li-ion batteries power a range of such devices as cellphones, laptops and cameras.

But these are low drain and low heat applications. Figure 5 amps, tops. “Power tools draw 40 to 50 amps,” says Steve Steadings, head of product development at Ridgid. “With lithium-ion cells, the trick is to support a high discharge rate without overheating. We do this with computer circuitry built into the battery.” The electronics in the battery also protect against deep discharging, which can damage the battery and affect cycle life. In the charging process, the battery communicates with the charger to protect against overcharging, which generates heat.

Most toolmakers are using li-ion to up the voltage (without adding too much weight). But Bosch is using the technology to make lightweight tools even lighter with two compact, 10.8 volt drivers. Finally, li-ion exhibits better cold weather performance than NiCd, and holds a charge longer when sitting on the shelf. If there’s a downside to lithiumion, it’s the cost you’ll pay about a 30 percent premium over conventional technology for a cordless kit. And, battery packs cost about twice as much. “But,” says David Selby, director of engineering at Milwaukee, “the cost per watt hour is comparable and, at 2000 charge cycles’ two to three times that of NiCd “lithium-ion is competitive.” To make the switch easier, Milwaukee has an 18 volt li-ion pack that powers its older 18 volt drills, and Ridgid has plans for a new line of 24 volt lithium-ion tools that also run on 18 volt NiCd.

24 and 28 Volt Tools

Milwaukee and Ridgid high voltage systems translate into longer run time and less stress on the battery pack. What we liked: Both have a fuel gauge so you know how much charge is left. Downside: They do run a lot longer than 18 volt tools, but they’re bigger and heavier.

Li-ion technology is all about delivering more power in a lighter package. We weighed each battery and compared weight against voltage the results are shown above for our four samples, plus PM’s venerable shop tool, the Makita 18 volt NiMH. While all the new products beat the traditional tool, the real surprise is in the apparent efficiency of Bosch’s lightweight 10.8 volt pack. According to Bosch, higher voltage batteries that may see severe-duty handling and high drain conditions are built more ruggedly which adds to their weight.

TEST PART 1: Batteries

18 Volt Tools

Makita is betting that most of us still think 18 volts is plenty and, by and large, it is. What we liked: Trigger activated LED lamps. Three speed ranges on the drill make up for slightly less torque than high voltage models. Familiar size and weight. Downside: Shorter run time than the high voltage tools.

TEST PART 2: Drills

Users are concerned net just about power, but also about how much tool they have to lug around. So we weighed each drill with battery pack, and then drove and withdrew 1/4 x 2 1/2 in. lags until each pack died. Of course, the Bosch Pocket Driver isn’t designed for lagscrews. Yet, it’s hard not to be impressed by a less than 2 pound tool that drives as many lags for its weight as the top drill in our group. However, if endurance is a priority, the higher voltage tools have a clear edge.

10.8 Volt Tools

Bosch’s innovative drivers handle all the screwdriving and small hole boring chores most of us ever need to do at a fraction of the size and weight of the other tools. Instead of heavy chucks, both tools have 1/4 in. hex shank bit holders. The innovative I Driver features a pivoting head for tight locations, We found the Pocket Driver had a bit more oomph and it fits in your pocket. What we liked: Compactness, portability and light weight. Downside: None, For light duty work, these tools seem ideal.

Fitness helps you do everyday activities better and more easily

Have you ever wondered how to make your book bag feel lighter? Or how to keep your energy up through an especially tough PE class or game? The answer might be exercise.

You’ve probably heard about the ways exercise can be good for your heart, muscles, and bones. But you can’t usually see the ways that exercise helps those body parts. One form of exercise, however, can help you in ways that you do see every day.

It is called functional fitness. But what does that mean? “It’s moving the body the way that it was meant to be moved,” explains Cyndi Rodi of CrossFit Kids. That program teaches teens fun activities to boost strength and fitness.

Everyday Exercise

Functional fitness isn’t just an activity you do in a special class. “The thing about functional fitness is that it is in every part of your life,” Rodi says. When you do functional fitness activities, she says, “you’re teaching your body to move correctly and work well.”

Let’s look at the book bag example. Jeff Martin, a coach and program organizer for CrossFit Kids, teaches teens the best way to pick up heavy objects. One way he does that is by teaching teens a technique called a clean lift. That is when a weightlifter picks up a weight, pulls it up to shoulder level, and then pushes it up over his or her head. Weightlifters use the technique all the time. It is even in the Olympics, where it is called a clean and jerk.

You probably lift your book bag or backpack to your shoulder quite a few times a day. That’s halfway toward what the Olympic weightlifters do. If you ever have to reach above your head and shove it in the top part of your locker, knowing how to do a clean lift comes in handy. Ask your physical education teacher or a coach to show you how to do the move.

But functional fitness isn’t just about lifting heavy things. Sprints running short distances really fast are another way to develop your skills. Try doing several heart pumping activities consecutively, as teens do at CrossFit Kids. Do a sprint, then some jumping jacks, then a few push ups. An activity that challenges your heart and lungs is called cardiovascular exercise. And a strong heart and healthy lungs can help you do everything better, from running when you are late to helping your parents carry the groceries.

Whether it’s running, jumping, lifting, throwing, or just playing a game of tag with some friends, it feels good to be able to do all those things without getting hurt or tired. That’s the real benefit of having good functional fitness, according to Martin: “We were designed to do those things. We’re healthy when we’re able to do those things.”

Try the clean lift plus the burpee and exercise station challenge (both below). Then notice how they affect your ability to perform everyday tasks.


California teen brothers Keegan and Connor M. know the value of functional fitness. During the five years they have been going to a CrossFit Kids center, they’ve seen improvements in their everyday abilities as well as their athletic skills. Keegan, 15, has become a functional fitness fan. “It affects everyday life. It makes everything easier,” he says. “I play soccer, and especially in the second half of the game, now I can outrun the other players and last longer.”

Connor, 17, has had a similar experience. “I joined the wrestling team, and most of the kids started a lot earlier than I did, but I was able to take up things pretty easily because I was much stronger,” he says. But it’s not just about sports. “Anything that I have to lift up in [daily] life, it seems easier because I do so much lifting,” says Connor. “I lift so much heavier things in the gym that lifting something in real life is not a problem” He advises other young people interested in getting fit to find an experienced trainer, fitness expert, or coach and learn safe, proven techniques.

But you don’t need to be a power lifter to take the brothers’ advice. It applies to just about any fitness plan. “I would say to start slow at first but stick with it,” says Keegan. “And to just set goals”

Friendly Rivalry

For many people, a fitness motivator is challenging themselves to beat someone else at a task. That’s one of the ideas from the folks at CrossFit Kids. Gather some friends at a field or another place where you can run. Then, set up an area nearby with stations for exercises such as pull ups, sit ups, or other moves you like. Combine sprinting and the exercises, and make it a race whoever does all the stations in the least amount of time gets bragging rights for the day!

Push-Ups, Plus

You don’t have to say “excuse me” after doing a burpee, also called a squat thrust. This exercise is great for improving your functional fitness. Stand with your hands at your sides. Then, squat down and place your hands flat on the ground. Next, kick your feet back into what is called a plank position. That is the first step in doing a push up. Then, do a good pushup. (If you’re new to push ups, ask for help to make sure you are doing them correctly.) Next, pull your feet in, and rest your weight on your heels. Finally, stand up. Then, do another!