Archive for Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fix-It Chick: Replacing carbon brushes may help appliances, power tools

January 28, 2017


If you have an electric appliance or power tool that is losing power, sparking or turning off and on intermittently, replacing the carbon brushes inside the motor may give new life to the tool. Not all electric motors have brushes, but when they do, the brushes are often designed to be easily replaced.

Step 1: Read the owner’s manual or consult the parts list to help determine if the electric appliance or tool has carbon brushes. These little rectangular pieces of gray carbon material attached to a copper wire are called “brushes” because they brush up against the commutator inside the motor. The spinning of the commutator eventually wears the carbon down, making it necessary to replace the brushes.

Step 2: Unplug the appliance or remove the battery from the tool before disassembling anything.

Step 3: For larger appliances and tools, such as a vacuum, lawn mower or washing machine, the electric motor will most likely need to be removed to access the brushes. If this is the case, a professional repair person may be the best option. Carbon brushes on smaller appliances, such as power drills, grinders and kitchen aid stand mixers, are usually designed to be easily accessible. When possible, refer to the owner’s manual for instructions on how to access the brushes.

Step 4: For tools with easily accessible carbon brushes, use a screwdriver to remove the access plug or panel on either side of the motor where the brushes are. Remove the plug or panel with care, as there will often be a spring below holding the brush in place. Remove the spring and the carbon brush, making note of the direction the brushes are facing.

Step 5: For tools and appliances that do not have easily accessible brushes, remove the motor housing to access the brushes. The lead wire from the brushes should be easily accessible on either side of the motor. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to slide the lead wire clip off each spade connector. Depending on the design, remove the screw or slide over the tension clip holding the brush in place. Once accessible, remove the brushes, noting which direction they face.

Step 6: Replace the old brush with the new brush, reassemble the tool and test the equipment to make sure the problem has been solved.

— Have a home improvement question for Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at


Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 3 months ago

"Step 1: Read the owner’s manual or consult the parts list to help determine if the electric appliance or tool has carbon brushes." Huh? The first thing in the trash while unpacking a new appliance is usually the instructions. Who needs them??

Uh....what's is a "commutator"?

You know, this is a very good article, and being pretty mechanical myself, I find it very informative. But dangerous. Some folks do not know the difference between a volt and a motor brush (they are really not "brushes" like a hair brush). Messing with electrical appliances (even with the instructions) can be very dangerous, inside confined spaces of a metal body. Accidental short circuits against the medal cases can be very dangerous.

I always keep the instructions in a drawer in the kitchen ("If all else fails, read the directions") Not too many give much information about servicing the electrical or mechanical parts to the appliance. There are encouragements to take the item to a qualified repair shop.

Just my take on your personal safety with electricity

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